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.

Monday, 10 February 2020

February Notes

I've Been Working on the Chain Gang

Winter is a work indoors kind of season and, while there is electric heat in the shop, on really cold days it is nice to operate in the house. As my last post showed, chain weaving is one of the things that can be done in the comfort of the living room. Many designs do not need soldering and — unlike 3mm gem stones — these parts will not vanish forever into the carpet if I drop one! So, with a tray of jump rings close by and a pair or two of pliers, even your knee can be a work bench;-)

As You Can See ...

... there are many, many patterns for weaving chains. Below are just a few that I have assembled over the past couple of years.

At the top is the Celtic pattern I am working on right now.

Next down, a simple pattern of larger square wire rings linked by small round wire rings.

Below that, the most basic chain possible. It's made up of identical heavy wire rings. Good look for a guy.

The last two, bracelet and necklace, were made up in different weights of wire. The design is created by interlinking the rings in pairs.

Here's a Custom Style

If you have created an unusual piece of jewelry, you may want a custom design chain for it.

This is a design I wove for a chunky hunk of rock that I mounted in a sterling silver pendant.

I soldered the large rings shut then stretched them into ovals and used a hammer to flatten and texture each one before linking them up with trios of small round rings. I think the finished product is quite handsome.


All that weaving, especially with the finer wires, can wear a pretty serious split in your finger!

Monday, 20 January 2020

New Year, New Project

Weaving Rings of Silver & Gold

Someone asked if I could make a longer version of a Celtic pattern bracelet that is in my etsy shop <> and, it being a nice winter project (i.e. less time in the shop, more in the house), I got started the other day.

Making 120 Jump Rings

The pattern for this bracelet requires jump rings made with both sterling silver and gold filled wire. FYI, gold fill is produced by using heat and pressure to apply a layer of karat gold to a base metal such as brass. The resulting layer of gold is much thicker than with gold plating.

For this Celtic bracelet, I needed 48 sterling rings with inside diameter (i.d.) of 6mm, 24 gold filled the same, plus 48 gold filled with i.d. of 3.5mm, all made with 18 gauge wire. The first photo shows the larger mandrel with two coils of sterling already wound and a supply of gold filled ready to start. Below, coils and rings. Pretty, aren't they?

Two Ways to Cut

To obtain rings, you must cut the wire coils. These photos show two ways of doing this, one with a jeweler's saw (kinda slow) and one with a manufactured cutting device where a circular blade on a rotary hand piece operates in a guide system to cut the rings (really fast). I did some each way to show you here.

The wooden structure attaches to my bench and helps guide the saw — cutting straight matters.

Go Fast; Stay Safe

Hand cutting produces very little dust and what there is stays close to the saw. Mechanical cutting produces more and it tends to fly around. As you can see, a good respirator and a pair of safety glasses are essential equipment.

Cleaning Up

No matter which method you are using, the cutting is difficult unless you apply a lubricant to the blade or coils — or both. In this case, I used bees wax. Sewing supply stores sell it in rounds that make it very easy  to apply.  That's great but you need to remove all that messy wax before you start weaving the bracelet.

I cleaned this batch of rings by putting them in a small jar with hot water, a tiny bit each of soap and ammonia. A few moments of vigorous shaking and they were ready to pour out into a strainer and pat dry in a towel. Note double strainers — I do not want to send any of those babies down the drain!

Sorting Them Out

Once the rings were dry, I had to sort the three types so I could start weaving them into the pattern.

Lower left, the mixed rings. Top left, 6mm sterling (these are the structural rings). Top right, 6mm gold filled (capture rings). Lower right, 3.5mm gold filled (joiner rings).

"Two for pile A, one for pile B, two for C". Repeat.

And Away We Go

The beginning of the bracelet is in the center of the photo. With woven chains, it's often necessary to use a bit of thread or wire to hold the first ring – or pair of rings. Because I always have knitting beside my favorite chair, I just grabbed that pink stitch holder. Works perfectly and is easy to open and slip off later. The pattern is made by opening rings, threading them together with the pairs of large silver rings joined by pairs of small gold filled which are captured by the larger gold filled ones. As I go, I carefully close each ring with the pliers.

Hmm. Looks like I will be weaving for awhile — it's a nice occupation for cold winter days.