To my friends, followers & anyone wearing #DixSterling,
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Sparkling New Year.
I purchased several 3 mm faceted topaz stones a few months ago. First, I set a couple into a pair of "chopstick" dangle earrings (recently sold). Next I started trying to design another pair of earrings.
My final selection was this elongated diamond shape. I planned to tube-set the stones low on the sterling shapes, centered between the points.
A pair of rings at the top would allow these to swing from sheperd hooks. I love setting faceted stones in motion so their sparkle is accented.
These are the final sketchs. I applied glue to the back of each so I could attach them to a sheet of sterling silver.
The saw is an artisan jeweler's best friend. Apart from wire work or cast pieces, pretty much every piece of jewelry is cut from sheet metal — in this case, 20 gauge sterling silver.
In this photo, one earring has already been cut and I am about to start on the other. You can see the "ghost" of one of my amber studs on the left edge of the silver.
Piercing (i.e.sawing) metal was the first skill I was taught and it took a long time to get the hang of it. The classic beginners mistake is to take a death grip on the saw handle and try to push the blade through the metal. I shudder to think how many blades I snapped over the years (and how many straight lines were anything but). In time, it got better as I learned to hold the saw lightly and let it move at its own pace.
With the shapes cut out, I placed two of my stones, still in their protective plastic pockets, in posiiton to see if the dangles would end up looking as I hoped.
Also shown in this photo, the sterling tube I needed to set the stones and the 3mm burr that I used to prepare the tube for the topaz.
This picture shows the tube and the hollow that the burr created.
The black marks on the tube are from the rubber grips on my vise. The tube gets pretty hot while the burr does its work and that causes a slight melting of the rubber, making a bit stick to the silver. Not a problem as it burns off when I solder the settings to the background.
Here are the prepared dangles, the topaz stones, and the shepherd hooks ready to become earrings. Well, there was the little matter of endless polisihing first (below).
Just waiting for me to attach the second shepherd's hook.
Some time back (actually a few years ago), I picked up a tall cabochon of iridescent Laboradorite at a local gem show. From time to time, I would look at it and try to decide: a ring or pendant? The stone is feldspar and has internal layers which can be fractured if the stone is struck. A bit risky for a ring, then.
Some stones "speak" to me quickly. Others take their time. One afternoon this summer, the stone sat shimmering on my bench along with various bit of silver left over from previous projects. A large circle of square sterling wire caught my eye. Hmmm, the diameter of that circle is a match for the length of the Labradorite. Why not?
Having decided what to do, I had to figure out how to do it.
Pretty clearly, I would need to capture the stone in a setting that could be mounted on the circle. I considered using a prong setting but decided a bezel would give the stone more protection.
In this photo, I have wrapped the stone with fine silver bezel wire and marked where to cut it. Also shown; the stone, a piece of sheet sterling to back it, and, above that, the wire circle.
A few more steps here: backing marked and cut, pierced (because letting light reach stones never hurts), and a bail formed of reticulated sterling. Just look at the blue flashes in that stone.
That steel "T" pin is positioned to keep the bottom of the piece level with the top, which is raised by the thickness of the bail.
I was able to solder three joints: setting to ring (top & bottom) and ring to bail in one go. The ceramic honeycomb soldering block is ideal for this. Set atop my firebrick, it lets the torch heat penetrate under the piece.
Two photos below: test the fit (whew) and use a burnisher to push the bezel over the stone.
To make this pair of dangle earrings, I cut matching circles from 20 gauge sterling silver. These are 3/4 inch in diameter but could be any size.
You can't get a great final polish on a piece of you don't start working on it from the beginning. And, yes, that is one of many lessons I learned the hard way. 😏
I sanded the circles with grits — ever finer from 400 to 1200 — all mounted on paint stir sticks. As you can see, I use a piece of sticky side out painters' tape to hold the pieces while sanding. Even so, I sometimes find I am chasing a piece that has managed to pop off and spin across the bench — or floor.
These will need holes near an edge so I can hang them from shepherd hooks when they are finished. I could set up my Dremel drill press but, when I only need two holes, it is hardly worth the bother.
Another lesson I learned the hard way is that you can't just hold a piece on the bench pin with fingers while drilling. Amazing how fast silver heats up. Painters' tape to the rescue again. That disc in a jar lid is bees wax from a sewing supply store. Drilling goes faster and drill bits last longer if you use it to lubricate the bit.
A chasing hammer and a steel anvil are the tools I used to produce the finish on this pair. The dimpled texture is just one of many finishes that could be applied. It can be left like this or treated with patina to darken the hollows.
I have two of these hardwood doming blocks that can curve pieces as gently — or steeply — as the maker wishes. The work is done with wooden dowels that have smooth faces shaped to work in the various hollows. You can see the one I used here behind my hammer.
Note to self: I must clean up that hammer!
After many stages of polishing with 3M discs for the surfaces and a steel burner to shine up the edges, the dangles are ready for their shepherd hooks and a listing at DixSterling on etsy.
I have made several of swinging circle earrings over the past few years. They are fun to wear but a bit fussy to produce so here's how it's done.
Here I have used a sharpie to mark correct position for the tube. If this is wrong, nothing works!
This is where it starts to get tricky. With the tube soldered to the stud, I have to thread the fine wire through it and solder the ends of the wire onto the tips of the larger circle so the stud sits within that arc. The yellow ochre blocks solder flow. It ensures that the solder will not attach the wire to the tube. That would keep the circle from swinging. The last step is to solder on the ear posts and . . .
It has been some time since I was seen here. Post Christmas ennui or COVID-19 depression? Whichever, I have been away from my bench far too long so decided to start with a simple, seasonal project — heart dangle earrings.
I hand-drew the design on a piece of 20 gauge sterling silver and cut the first one out then used it as a pattern for the second.
Once I had both pieces, the finishing work began. My sanding sticks get a real workout. For anyone who has never worked silver, these are just wooden paint stir sticks with various grits of sandpaper wrapped on tightly. You can't cut and work silver without making at least a few scratches (well, I can't). These make sanding those marks away fairly painless — dull, but painless. Each time, with ever finer grits, you sand at right angles to the last. All it takes is lots of time.