Sunday, 25 October 2020

Earrings Always Fit

 Dished Dangles

My etsy shop <DixSterling> made several sales lately (Christmas shoppers, I think) so I am restocking my "shelves" this month.  I thought I would share the process for this pair of earrings I finished and listed yesterday. 

Simple = Sanding

This is a simple, clean design. Pieces with a lot happening (texture, stones, etc.) may not show a tiny rough spot but these certainly do. That means . . .

. . . sanding and sanding. Grits, in order, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200. You work the first across the piece, the second at right angles, third, same as first, etc. It takes time and is followed with a lot of fine polishing. For that, I use 3M discs, then jewellers' rouge and, finally, a buffing cloth. Not all creative work is actually creative!

Storage Tip

Pieces of sandpaper in use are wrapped around paint stir sticks but any jeweler has to have several sheets of each grade on standby. I used to be frustrated by the way, kept in a drawer, the sheets tended to curl. I finally came up with this solution:

I store them sandwiched between two pieces of pine shelving atop a cabinet beside my bench. When I need a new sheet, out it comes nice and flat and easier to wrap tightly around a stick.

I will close today's blog with the words of B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry: be calm, be kind, be safe. 


Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Sunstones in Orbit

July to September Project

Bench work goes slowly in the summer. Some days, the grass wants cutting. Some days, the garden needs weeding. Some days, the shop is just too hot. Between such interruptions and its fussy nature, this project was started in July and finished on September 2. 


In July, I started on this and did get one pair made with Kyanite stones. These — the prototype — are mine. They are a bit tricky to make as you must get a solid join where the bezel-setting meets the wire circle. After wearing mine a few times, I decided it would be worth the time investment to make a pair or two for DixSterling's etsy shop.

Preparing the Bezels

Here are the parts: 8 mm cabochon sunstones, silver square wire circles, backings for the stones and bezel wire (here being marked for size).

I wound the wire circles on a one-inch mandrel and soldered them shut, then used a file to flatten a spot to attach the bezels mounts. 

Tools of the Trade

To make bezels, I wrap the stones, mark the length, cut the bezel wire and solder it closed. By that time, it is bent off round and is sometimes a hair too tight. Both problems are easily solved with a steel bezel mandrel and a rawhide mallet. It takes only a few taps (flipping the bezel to keep in even despite the mandrel's taper) to round and stretch the bezel until it fits. This is much better than if I have made the bezel a bit too big and that requires removing a small — usually very small — section and re-soldering. 

Almost Done

I love these 3M radial polishing wheels for my rotary tool. They come in many grits and the finger like parts get into most spaces — even tight ones like where these bezels meet the circles. 

Now at DixSterling on etsy.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

July = Rubies

My Canada Day Effort

It's raining. No BBQ today! Did this instead.

For the full story of making these "chopstick" earrings, see my post of November 2018. This is today's work — final stages — of a ruby-set pair.

All that painters' tape protects the silver. The bezel pusher is steel, after all.


Happy Canada Day

Monday, 15 June 2020

Perfect Peridots

A Pair of Earrings — Slightly Mismatched on Purpose

I am beginning to get past the COVID funk and start creating again. The cedar sprig was a few days ago. On Saturday — while cleaning up my bench — I found a forgotten strip of rectangular wire about 1/4 inch wide. Eureka!

Preparing the Parts

Knowing my gem inventory held a pair of 4mm peridots, I came up with a design for a pair of earrings.

I cut two strips of the wire, each 1 1/2 inches long, and reamed the ends of a piece of 4.5 mm sterling tube two hold the stones.

In this photo, the strips are on the bench beside the burr I used to ream the tube. Foreground, the tube sits in my flush cutter held in the bench pin ready to be cut.

Solder Ready

My original plan was to simply set the stones, slightly overlapping opposite side of the strips and just above the bottom of the drop earrings.

I looked at them for awhile and decided to use a different approach — and achieve a more amusing result.

Symmetry is Nice: I Find Asymmetry More Interesting

So I mounted one setting at the bottom of the drop and the other a half inch higher.

Here, after sanding, the pair are about to get polished, and polished, and polished. It takes six grades of these 3M polishing discs to bring silver to a mirror shine. (That's one reason why artisan jewelry does not sell at box store prices).

Protect That Polish While Setting the Stone

I like to do stone setting atop a suede sandbag to protect the back of the item. I also use painters' tape across the face as a way to avoid scratching the piece. No point in doing all that polishing just to scratch the surface and have to start again. Those steel burnishers are great but they can raise havoc if your hand slips. The tape also stabilizes the work which makes setting easier.

Ready For Their Close Up

When the sun comes out again, I will take photos of these and list them for sale at <> Wouldn't they be a great August birthday gift?

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Cedar Pendant

Casting Mounted on a Pendant

When I poured molten sterling into a flask holding a piece of a real cedar branch, I had no sure plan for how to use the silver casting that I obtained. Some months later, I decided to create a brooch and set it with four cubic zirconia for sparkle. Once I put it all together, it seemed a bit too bulky so I carefully clipped off a small sprig. Here is the final brooch.

Recipe For Leftovers

The clipped bit from the casting wandered about my work bench for months — many months.


Then, the other day, it wandered close to a rectangle of reticulated sterling that was trimmed from a larger piece some time ago. I suddenly saw a way to combine those leftovers into a lovely pendant. Of course, a bail was needed, so I cut a short length of sterling tubing.

Here is the piece of tubing, slit to fit over the top of the rectangle.

I have had that jeweler's saw forever. It's one of the first tools I bought when I took a "learn to make jewelry" course many years ago. It has certainly served me well for more than 20 years.

Polish It Up

And Done

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Love my Copper

Fire Painting is SO Cool

I confess, what with the need to secure household supplies, avoid people, bake bread, dig a veg garden, and wash my hands... and wash my hands... and wash my hands, I have not been in the shop nor posting here recently.

This afternoon, with very clean hands,  I decided to post something about fire painting copper. I have done many pieces with this technique and am always fascinated by the results.

One Method, Many Colors

This photo shows the variety of colors that result from dropping red hot copper into a pot of dry evergreen bits. I find cedar is especially good for this but I usually throw in a few bits of pine as well. The material has to have a fairly high resin content. Once the hot metal goes in, you put a lid on the pot and wait a few minutes before peeking. If you are not happy, you can reheat and repeat. As you can see, reds tend to predominate but some pieces come out with lots of greens and golds.  One thing to remember is to do any soldering before the process as reheating could destroy the effect you just achieved. My ring (center top) is the only soldered piece here and I did the soldering first. As soon as the solder flowed, I put the piece in the pot as usual.

The other option, of course, is cold connections, as seen in both pendants.

Take a Closer Look

Here are closeups of some of the pieces, making it easier to see both the colors and the patterns.

On Their Way

This pair of earrings was shipped out (under strict COVID-19 procedures) on April 23 and should be at their forever home in a day or two.

Enjoy the colours and stay safe.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Social Distancing

So Back to the Bench

Picking up where I left off — way back on January 20 — I finally set about finishing that Celtic weave bracelet in silver and gold filled wire. The pressure to complete it by the end of January vanished when the woman who said she wanted it changed her mind. A day in the life of an etsy seller, I guess.

At least getting back to my studio was a way  to take my mind off the current state of the world; working metal kinda demands concentration.

In my last post, I showed a number of chains. All were are created from links. At any given moment, I might need an 18 gauge sterling ring with a 4.5 mm inside diameter or a 14 gauge with a diameter of 6 mm.

Storage Solution

Whenever I produce a batch of rings, I make more than the project of the moment requires. Of course I end up with lots. I suppose every jeweler finds their own storage solution but this photo shows mine.

The top row is made up of all those rings, each size in a container recycled from a brand of probiotics. The lower row contains various fittings and findings in containers from a brand of diabetic test strips. My wonderful husband built the perfectly-drilled wooden racks. Handy solution.

Finished — in Time for Mother's Day

One, yeah, that bracelet. I added a clasp today. Once it's polished in my tumbler, I will take the photos and add it to my etsy shop. The lady who asked doesn't want it, but I hope someone will. Might be a great Mother's Day gift!

Stay Home. Stay Safe.