Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Less Garden = More jewlery

September 24

So happy to hear that the rings are being loved in their Scottish homes ;-) Postal service was pretty swift. I expected 9-10 business days but they got there in 9 days, period.

I'm doodling hearts these days for someone who is looking for a brooch as a Christmas gift. Heart designs can be a bit banal, so I'm just letting ideas drift from the pencil.

I'm fond of a couple of these ideas, especially the ones that are open. It's kind of like two hearts when you do it that way. I'm also wondering about using some copper to create a contrast.

The two on lower left would be fairly heavy gauge wire, bent to heart shape. The crossing line should make the brooch strong enough. Obviously, brooches get a lot more handling than pendants.

Each of the designs incorporates a sparkling, tube-set garnet. (Have you noticed my love affair with tube setting stones?)

If you stop by here, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these.

When not doodling, I've been trying to complete that moonstone over abalone pendant. Hard to believe that I started on it in July! That's what gardening does to productivity ;-)

Some of the parts on my bench. The moonstone is positioned in its setting to check fit, but I have not burnished the bezel onto it. There's soldering still to come.

Also (see below) lots and lots and lots of sanding to get the surfaces smooth. No delightful campground this time, though.

I will use four prongs to hold the abalone. To mount them, I'll drill holes where the prongs should sit on the backing plate. The photo on the right shows the four wire prongs and the drill I selected. Those dandy digital calipers let me measure so that the hole and the prong are a perfect fit.

Next steps will be drilling, then soldering the posts in place. After they are positioned and shaped to hold the abalone, I will solder the moonstone setting onto the piece. Final polishing, then stone setting and it will be a pendant on its was to DixSterling.etsy.com ;-)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Summer Ends Today

September 22

In the Vancouver area, it seems summer was blasted away. Wild winds, heavy rain. Ouch. Scurried out last evening to harvest more tomatoes so the storm wouldn't get them.

Since every cloud has to have its silver lining, I stayed indoors this morning and finished the swinging circle earrings. 
Also photographed them and made up the etsy listing. I like this design, although it's a bit fussy to assemble the tiny hinges. I wear a similar pair a lot. Maximum sparkle with minimum weight. Think I'll get back to the abalone pendant next (unless I get washed or blown away!).

Friday, 20 September 2013

Jeweler or Farmer?

September 20

Bet you thought I'd givien up blogging ;-) Nope; just busy.

When we lived on the river, my gardening chores took a few minutes every day or two. Now that we have all this land (well, a bit of land), I find tending the garden is taking a lot of time. It's not that I hate gardening but it sure messes with my DixSterling activities.

Sterling Circle Earrings

I've been working on this pair of earrings -- off and on -- for several days now. The design is not hard to fabricate and the end result is quite charming (I made a pair for myself a couple of years ago and wear them frequently). The photo shows the elements.

I start by punching out two pairs of sterling circles. These are 3/4 inch and 3/8 inches in diameter. I use the 3/8 punch to cut a crescent in the circumferance of the larger circles to admit the smaller ones. A length of fine wire, soldered to the large circle, and another of fine tubing, soldered to the small circle, create a hinge mechanism. Before soldering, I use a riveting hammer to texture the surface of the larger circles and take a moment to put my jeweler's mark on the back or each. Also before soldering, I use many grades of sandpaper to pre-polish the surfaces. Once the elements are as finished as I can make them before assembling the pieces, I slip the wires through the tubes and solder the wire ends to the tips of the crescent cuts. Add sterling silver posts and they are ready for final polishing. All in, the creation of these probably takes about seven hours (most of that is sanding and polishing time). So, I should be able to make a pair in one day, right?

The Harvest is In

One reason the jewelry making is so slow is the vegetable garden. Here, posing beside the unpolished earrings, are four of my perfectly ripe, utterly delicious, cherry tomatoes. The actual harvest has been a couple of brimming quart baskets of these plus about the same of large tomatoes. Then there were the zucchinis. 'Nuff said about them.

So, I've been busy weeding, watering and harvesting. It all takes time. Also, with so much food ripening all at once, I have been making zucchini breads and muffins. I am about to make some tomato and onion relish with some of the larger ones. The little gems are delicious for a lunch salad. I just cut them in half, top with feta cheese and sliced basil, drizzle on the olive oil and season with fresh-ground salt and pepper. It's a lunch I invented to serve to distant relatives who joined us for lunch in a tiny village in the south of France years ago. That lunch is not only delicious, it brings back happy memories.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


September 11

Two photos today of the rings with stones.

Photo # 1: the one in the ring holder has had esge of tube mount burnished onto the topaz. The other has stone in place but not yet burnished.

It seems to me (and likely to client)  that these have taken way too long. A bunch of annoying paperwork regarding the sale of our previous home reared up and demanded hours of battles with bureaucrats. All done now, so spent this afternoon on the much more pleasurable tasks of polishing and stone setting.

Photo #2: finished pair. It's up the the client now: approved or no?

Monday, 9 September 2013


September 9

A snail sticking with the program

That snail is on the underside of our carport canopy. I can't imagine how long it took for a snail to get up there and out to the approximate center but there he (or she) sits. All that effort to end up pretty well 10 feet off the ground and 8 feet away from any path back down. Guess we will have to do a snail rescue ;-)

I'm persevering myself today and trying to get that pair of rings finished. Here is a progress report.

Photo 1

The ring on the right just came out of the pickle pot (mild acid bath to remove soldering residue) following soldering on of the tube setting. While that one was soaking, I started the multi-step process of polishing with the ring on the left.

That is a first level polish and produces only the faintest hint of a shine. I will do a lot more polishing before I set the stones, so I need a few more hours to complete these.

Photo 2

Just a bit more polishing to go now. It is so rewarding when something starts to resemble jewelry! I will wait for morning to set the stones. Always goes best when one's eyes are fresh! I could not bear to mess these up now.

Final step, submit them for client approval. If they pass muster, package them up and off to Canada Post they go.

I hope this step-by-step has entertained and informed you.  I enjoyed posting the reports. Not sure what that snail thinks about it.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Stone Setting 101

September 5

It was a delightful long weekend. Nice campground, great weather, our dear family to share it with. Got home Monday, emptied motor home fridge, did laundry, made dinner, done. Tuesday was eaten up with the vegetable garden. Harvested a huge bunch of cherry tomatoes and three zucchini (one stupidly large!). Wednesday, grocery shopping and appointments in town that blew most of the day.

Today, weather is back to a normal, sullen, Vancouver rain. The good news? It gets me get back to the bench to start on settings for the rings.

Topaz Time

Photo - top left: one of the rings, the length of tube (you cannot really see but it has been reamed out to receive the stone). Top right; one of the gemstones, held on a stick with a bit of adhesive putty, and the burr used to create the setting (you can see how it echoes the shape of the stone). Bottom right: jewelers' calipers to measure stone depth and an artists' compass to mark the tube so I can cut it a touch deeper than the topaz.

This is the finicky part. All that sanding was just dull, repetitive work. This stage demands care and concentration because the setting must fit the stone to perfection. Too shallow and the stone could pop out. Too deep and the setting will fold over too much of the gem's crown.

This is how these will look when they are finished. the photo shows the depth of the tube setting.

Not far to go now. Make second setting. Solder each setting to a ring. Set the stones and polish.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Labor Day's Labor

September 1, 2013

Quick update. 

The picture shows that custom-order pair of rings with four of my sanding sticks and one mini-stick. I was working on them (but not too hard) over the long weekend while camping in the lovely Fort Langley Campground at Brae Island in the Fraser River.

Most jewelry-making requires a bench and a bunch of tools but this part of the process was easily carried out on a folding table set up beside our motor home. While my husband read and our daughter and her partner went for a LONG bike ride, I sanded the afternoon away quite happily.

Hope everyone else had a happy Labor Day (or Labour Day) weekend as well.