Saturday, 25 July 2015

It's Done

Final Post for This Project

Since I have posted most of the process, I thought I should also post the finished product. Here it is.

After all my fear about setting these lovely stones, I think it has a certain elegance.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Project Update

More Work on That Custom Order 

Over the past few days, I have been making progress on the two part pendant for my client's stones. I soldered the prong settings onto the two silver elements, then began attaching fittings on the back of them.

The Necessary but Not So Glamorous Part

Soldering 101 – put it together and keep it together.

This photo shows the back of the upper element of the piece, a diamond shape of reticulated sterling. The prong setting is in place on the front and the square wire bail has been soldered on. I am about to attach the loop for the lnking chain.

The yellow is a coating of yellow ochre – applied to the bail – and to the setting on the front – to lock in the solder on those joins while I do the next soldering job (do not want to have things falling off). A pair of soldering tweezers on the right holds the silver loop I need to attach. To keep the element level while I press the loop into position (after melting some solder onto the attachment spots), I have the tip of another pair of tweezers supporting the bail area and a stack of dirty old nickels supporting the area I will be pressing on (solder won't stick to them).

I hope all that makes sense!

Getting the Hang of It

After I got all the parts soldered, I joined the two elements and hung them from a chain to check how they will hang.

Nice and level - that's a good thing. With that settled, I undid the tiny chain fitting between the parts and set the sparkling zircon on the top element. This is the first time I have set stones that did not belong to me. Intimidating!

The Easy One Done

The photo on the right shows the stone in place. It was pretty simple -– I just had to open the prongs up ever so slightly, slip the stone into place and – very gently – tighten the prongs onto the zircon.

Part Two: Not Quite as Easy

The prong setting I bought for the beryl presents a slight problem. The prong tips are fine for the stone size but the depth is not quite right. The stone's pavilion is a touch too deep for the frame of the setting.  The photo below shows the solution to that difficulty: a small file and a lot of patience. I will file down the frame until it will let the stone settle into the prongs properly. It's a slow process – file and check, file and check, repeat as needed. I do not want to file too deep and have to take the element apart and solder on a new prong setting!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Memory Lane

Islay, Scotland, 2004

No jewelry here today. It's too hot in the shop to go firing up a torch so I spent some time on the computer sorting through some old photo files. I thought I'd just share a wee bit of a fabulous trip we made in 2004.

I am thoroughly Canadian and very proud of my paternal ancestors. They have been here since long before Canada was a country (United Empire Loyalists who fled to Upper Canada, a British Colony, in the 1700s). On my mother's side, however, I am half English and half Scottish. Tracing those roots some years ago led me to discover the island of Islay, one of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland.

In 2004, a group of Islay descendants were planning a "Gathering of the Children" on the island. We had been to Islay twice before, so I debated about going yet again. It's a verra lang way from Vancouver, ye ken? But the promise of spending time with fellow researchers, gaining access to local records, plus one more chance to try to locate an elusive family grave, made it seem well worth the time and expense. In truth, we simply yielded to Islay's magic.

The "Children" June 2004

Above, the group gathered for a "class photo" on the last day of sessions. That evening, we all attended a formal dinner at the Machrie Golf Club & Hotel. It was the only formal party I ever attended where the men were way more glamorous than the women!

The Kintyre Peninsula 

Our route to the ferry at Kennacraig took us along the Kintyre peninsula and, having some time to spare, we took the road that roughly follows the Crinan Canal.

Despite a very heavy Scottish rain storm, we enjoyed the tiny town of Crinan where I took some photos of the boats moored in the harbour.

I have developed a deep love for this part of Scotland. We had the good luck to tour much of Scotland some years earlier — from Edinburgh to Inverness to Wick, then back south to follow the Great Glen (nope, no Nessy) to Fort William and Glasgow. Enjoyed all of it but the west is my favorite.

On the Ferry and On Our Way

I took this as the ferry pulled out of Kennacraig. That is a fairly typical Scottish sky for June, although we were blessed with great weather for most of our time on Islay.

On two previous visits, we had searched pretty well all the cemeteries on the island. I kept hoping to find the grave of at least one of my McCaig ancestors.

By 2004, I knew for sure that my GG Grandfather, Colin McCaig was born on Islay and baptized at Bowmore. Of course I knew, being tenant farmers, they would have been very poor but I still hoped that there might be a headstone for someone in that family.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

I guess I was meant to come back a third time. This is the headstone of my GGGG Grandparents. It is in the old Kilarrow cemetery not far from Islay House.

If you have enjoyed this short trip, Google Map Islay and see more of that lovely isle.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

What a Pretty Pair

Custom Work Can Be Such Fun

A delightful customer asked me to come up with settings for several lovely stones she purchased some years ago (see post 20 June). I began work on a brooch for her Iolite but I'm dealing with the very demanding job of creating the actual setting (as opposed to the jewelry item) for the stone. My first effort was a hair too big. Cut it down – and made it too small. I feel like Goldilocks :-)

Knowing that a change is as good as a rest, I decided to set that aside for awhile and come up with a pendant to incorporate two more of the stones.

It fascinates me that, when I first began looking at the four gemstones, I instantly felt the zircon and the beryl should go together as one pendant. Before I mentioned that to the client, she said she would like exactly that. Love being on the same wavelength when doing custom work.

First, a Sketch

So, how did I come up with a design? Pretty simple process. I put the stones on my bench, on a piece of soft leather, and start moving them around. When a pattern started forming in my mind, I picked up a pencil to sketch what I pictured. In this photo, you can see the stones very roughly positioned on a piece of reticulated sterling. Beside them, a sketch of a two-part pendant, the parts linked by a very short bit of chain.

Fine Tune the Plan

My next step was to do a sketch, to size, as a pattern for cutting the pieces from the silver.
Oh my gosh, those stones are pretty.

Working in Silver

I made a couple of photo copies of that final sketch. One of many hard-learned lessons – if you destroy the only pattern while cutting the silver, it takes time to draw it again! Then I glued one of the patterns to a piece of reticulated sterling and made the cuts.

Above: the ink marks are to guide me in opening up the back of the pendant. Below: sorry for the fuzzy photo but it gives a pretty good idea of how this will look.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Stunning Striped Stone

Dyed Onyx

When I was at the BC Gem Show in April, I spotted a delightful piece of dyed onyx. Basically black but with a staggered set of brown, tan and white stripes running across it. Quite irresistible!

Setting the Stone

The stone is 2 mm wide and 2.3 mm high. I decided to bezel-set it and mount it on a sterling silver rectangle to create a one-of-a-kind pendant.

Here, I am testing the fit of the fine silver bezel. I wanted it just high enough to capture the stone without being conspicuous from a head-on view. As with all bezels, especially rectangular ones, you also need a very snug fit.  At this point, that fit is about as good as it gets.

Back Plate and Bail

The next two photos were taken as I dealt with positioning the bail on the back place and filing away some bezel material on each corner so I can burnish the metal flat onto the stone at the end. I also soldered on a simple tube bail and cut lines into the backing to carry on the lines that divide the stone.

The photos also show a hint of golden brown in the lower left corner of the onyx. I cut away most of the sterling plate behind the stone so the light can shine through. Those colors and patterns are way too nice to hide.

Texture and Finish

I wanted the stone to be the star of this show, so I gave the back plate a matte finish with a brass brush and a touch of soap.

I brought the bail to a mirror shine and deepened those lines at each side of the stone.

Once finished, I photographed the piece leaning on my Apple mouse to show the scale (overall measurement is 1 1/4 by 11/2 inches).

There are better photos of the piece in my etsy shop. See them here: