Thursday, 21 May 2015

Special Gift

Building a Pair of Custom Earrings

Someone contacted me recently about creating a custom pair of Lapis Lazuli stud earrings to be a gift for her mother's birthday. I am always honored to be trusted with such a special assignment.

I will use this blog spot to walk her (and you) through the process, step by step. For the first two steps, see my blog of May 18 (below).

Prepping the Parts

Left: I have cut the squares from hammered sterling silver and used a file (bottom of photo) to clean up the edges and round off the corners. Certainly do not want the recipient to be stabbed while putting them on!

At this stage, I also sand the flat surfaces (using 400, 600, 800, and 1000 grit papers) because it is virtually impossible to do a good job of that after the bezels are mounted (one of many self-taught lessons!).

The next photo shows the bezel material – a narrow strip of pure (as opposed to sterling) silver. Here, I have wrapped it around the stone and am about to use a Sharpie to mark the spot to cut.

Fine (pure) silver works best for bezels because it is much more pliable that sterling. It is also delicate and wants gentle handling. It takes only a split second to melt a bezel!

Left: both bezels have been soldered closed. To do that, you have to flatten the shape a bit. The bezel on the left has been rounded on that steel mandrel. The mandrel also lets me slightly stretch the circle if necessary to fit the stone.

I create each earring separately from this point on because stones can vary – ever so slightly – in diameter and each bezel must fit perfectly to keep the stone secure. If the first of the pair is completed before I assemble the second, I do not have to keep checking the which stone goes on which earring.

Ready for Setting

Right: the bezel is soldered to the square stud and I am ready to set the Lapis cabochon. You can't see it but the ear post is mounted on the back. All soldering must be done before you can set stones.

I always drill a hole through the plate if I am mounting an opaque stone or create an almost totally open back for a clear stone. It is very useful if I need to remove the stone. That is rare, but can happen if a stone is slightly off round and has to be repositioned to drop all the way into its bezel. Once the stone is in place, I use a highly polished steel burnisher (see below) to push the bezel onto the stone, working from side to side first, then around the top.

With the stone secured, I do the final polishing.

Set & Polished

Pretty Pair Ready to Ship

Happy Birthday!