Saturday, 20 June 2015

Iolite Pin

From the Vikings to My Bench

I am starting work on a custom order for a sterling silver and iolite lapel/scarf pin. For those who are not familiar with this beautiful purple stone, here are a few facts from the International Colored Gemstone Association.

"When Leif Eriksson and the other legendary Viking explorers ventured far out into the Atlantic Ocean, away from any coastline that could help them determine their position, they had a secret gem weapon: iolite. The Viking mariners used thin pieces of it as the world's first polarising filter. Looking through an iolite lens, they were able to determine the exact position of the sun, and navigate their way safely to the New World and back.

The property that made iolite so valuable to the Vikings is its extreme pleochroism." 

How is that for a word? Pleochroism simply means that, depending on how the light hits it, iolite changes from violet blue to almost clear.

Those who believe gem stones have special powers say that iolite can stimulate the imagination and promote psychic vision.

Iolite Powering My Imagination?

When I began looking at this lovely emerald cut specimen, perhaps the stone itself helped me imagine this setting as it was the first and only one I sketched for it. Happily, the customer also felt it was just right. She and I also agree that reticulated sterling silver will display the stone to maximum advantage (see previous post on reticulation).

Just a Bit Like Dressmaking

If you were going to make a dress, you would start with a pattern, pin it to your fabric and cut out the pieces. To make a piece of jewelry is somewhat similar.

Working from the rough sketch above, I took accurate measurements of the stone and drew up a pattern. I photocopied it a couple of times (insurance — if I mess up and need to start over, I will not have to create a new pattern).

You can't pin anything to a piece of metal, of course, so I glued the paper pattern to the reticulated silver. I angled it to take advantage of the texture in the silver and to minimize waste. The excess silver on the end will be put to use later for a pendant and I will probably use the trimming under the pattern as embellishment on another item later.

Cut, Trim and Fit

The next step (which was a bit tricky) was to use my jeweler's saw to cut out the piece. I started with the full outline, then drilled and cut to create the opening in the center that will be behind the stone. Finally, I carefully cut the two slots. My skill with a saw has improved over the years, but it's far from perfect. After cutting, I had to take my files to clean up the corners and even up the edges. In this photo, although there is still filing to do, I am able to place the stone almost exactly over its final position. That lets me be sure I did not make any measuring errors and also, for the first time, lets me see how the stone will look in this setting. Interesting to see how much darker it looks here, isn't it?

At this point, it becomes possible to imagine this pin on someone's lapel. I think it will look quite lovely there.