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Local jeweler takes home gold in design contest
ap Jeweler pic
Tom Hill shows off his handmade gold motorcycle, which won first prize in a national competition. The wheels on the bike actually rotate and the kickstand goes up and down. - photo by Alena Parker / Coastal Courier
Local jeweler Tom Hill of Gold Mender Jewelers recently brought home the gold when he won first place in the Master Independent Jewelers Organization's National Jewelry Design Contest in Colorado.
Hill outshined other professionals from across the country with a palm-sized 14-karat gold motorcycle boasting diamond-encrusted handlebars, a cubic zirconium headlight and ruby taillights.
Submissions were unidentified and jewelers at the spring convention decided by popular vote which entries demonstrated the best elements of creativity and uniqueness.
Hill made the motorcycle and entered the contest at his wife's urging.
Although entries for jewelry design contest were not required to be wearable pieces, Hill's was the only design that could not be worn.
Given that his submission was very different from the others, Hill said he was shocked to hear the announcer call his name.
Working on and off for about a year, Hill constructed the golden bike to demonstrate to customers that his business can fulfill nearly any customized request.
"You got an idea, I can probably do it," Hill said. "Somehow, somewhere we can put together something for you. It's just limited by the customer's imagination."
His own Harley-Davidson inspired Hill's prize-winning piece.
His love for motorcycles moved him to make his model as precise as possible; Hill studied pictures and used them as design guides to help him decide where to place the engine, and how to correctly space the wheels.
In order to be very specific with the tiny details, Hill constructed the motorcycle with a hands-free laser-welding machine.
"Usually we use a torch to weld stuff together," he said. "This was not put together using conventional methods."
Hill said the project's biggest challenge was molding flat sheets of gold into shape.
Hill, who has worked in the jewelry business since 1976, said the industry's many advances allowed him to bring his vision to fruition.
"In the past, I couldn't have built this with a torch. There's just no way," he said. "This allows you to do things you never could do before."
Hill's company, Gold Mender, uses laser welding to repair or craft pieces that require careful precision and controlled melting.
"It just makes doing intricate, detailed work so much easier," Hill explained. "You can weld with a laser beam and it doesn't build up heat like a torch does."
Hill, a licensed gemologist, schooled at the Gemologist Institute of America, said he was proud of his entry and all the careful attention he paid it.
"Everything that moves on a regular motorcycle, moves on this," Hill said.
The award-winning motorcycle currently is on display at the Gold Mender business office, but is not for sale.
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