What is gold and silver fuming?

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What is gold and silver fuming?

One of the aspects of lampworking that I find amazing is called gold and silver "fuming".  Very few artists out there have a good understanding of fuming, and even less in the general public.  This guide will explain the basics of fuming though there is much more once you dig deeper.

It's applied to the glass by taking small snips (separately) of pure gold and silver and putting them into the flame of a torch.   To do this, one takes a small diameter glass rod and heats the end up until molten, then smashes it onto the piece of metal which "grabs" the metal (this is done separately with both gold and silver).  These rods are then referred to as the "gold punty" and/or "silver punty".  With each metal, as it's put into the flame, it starts to vaporize/ smoke and the glass that is to be colored is held in the path of the vapor and it then deposits onto the glass which can then be encased and manipulated.

Here is a short sequence of pictures showing me creating and using a silver/ gold punty (silver in the pics) and using it to create a fumed latticino cane (1. gold and silver snips, silver punty i.e. silver stuck to the end of a molten rod of clear glass, 3. fuming a clear rod with the silver punty, 4. the rod fumed with silver and gold and lines of clear glass encasing some of the fume, 5. the finished cane colored blue (from the silver) and gold/ orange (from the gold that I fumed on the other side of the rod, but didn't include that step in the pics).

Then that cane can then be used to make marbles such as this one (called a "Fumed Latticino Twist):

For those who aren't aware, gold and silver fuming have what are called "transmitting" colors and "reflecting" colors. Simply put, "transmitting" colors are the colors you see when light has passed through the fuming before reaching your eye and "reflecting colors" are the colors seen when light only reflects off of the fume- none passes through. Gold gives a light pink appearance and silver a yellow with respect to the transmitting colors but when light is reflected upon the metals the entire rainbow is possible depending on the amount of fuming and how it is affected in the atmosphere of the flame.

I personally always include pictures of my fume work with both white and black backgrounds to help demonstrate this unique feature so that people can see "now it's here, now it's not" aspect.  These two pictures below are of one of my "Fumed Sunflower" marbles- this is the same marble; one picture has a black background showing the reflecting colors, and one picture has a white  background showing the transmitting colors.

Here is close up from the side of the same "Fumed Sunflower" marble- notice all the colors when a black background is present.

Fuming has been around only since the late 70's/ early 80's, so it's still very new in the big picture of the glass world but is becoming more popular as time goes by and more people learn about it.   Artists have tried several other metals through the years to see what other colors might be possible, but only gold and silver produce such an array of colors. 

The best conditions to view fuming are with good lighting and depending on what you want to see (reflecting or transmitting colors), a light or dark background.   I find sunlight to be the best light to look at fuming in as it has that inherent spectrum within it which really tends to bring out the best in fuming.  Some of the best fuming is VERY subtle and can only be seen with very bright lighting conditions (such as direct sunlight) and a dark background, otherwise it may be confused as lacking color in the first place!

Overall, fuming is a subtle way of coloring glass with the use of gold, silver, and some finesse.   Mastering the application of fuming takes years for most people as it has so many variables to keep track and retain control of.  Not being fully aware of whether it's too much (or too little) of either metal, the wrong flame atmosphere (or too long/ short of an exposure to the right flame atmosphere), or other problems can make fuming not very desirable and inconsistent at best.  It takes a lot of dedication and practice to attain real control of a puff of smoke and create the image seen in your mind...   But once the basics are mastered, many beautiful colors and textures are available to the artist to apply.

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