Sunday, 31 January 2016

Glorious Garnet

The Saga of the Garnet Brooch

Herewith, the somewhat long and involved story of a custom made brooch, created to showcase a client's hand-cut garnet. Like all jewelry projects, it began with a sketch.

In this case, the client had a design in mind so the sketch was doubly important to be sure we were both picturing the same thing!

Her cardinal cut stone required a custom made setting. While a cage or prong style would secure the gemstone, I felt it would be too delicate for the slightly medieval look of the piece, so I set about creating a stepped bezel for it instead. If you find process interesting, read on;-)

Making the Bezel

To make a stepped bezel, you cut two lengths of fine silver (more pure — and flexible — than sterling) and solder them together. One strip is slightly narrower than the other and, if you shape it perfectly, the stone will rest on the shelf created by the difference. These two photos show the steps involved.

Step One of the Stepped Setting

Measuring for the strips. Accuracy throughout this process is essential. The first step was to cut the lengths, making one sufficiently narrower to provide a lip for the gem to sit on while allowing the outer strip to wrap up over the edges of the stone.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Not only is the width of the two strips vital, but the
wrapping is also very demanding. Here, I have begun cutting slots into the inner strip, and partway into the outer one, so that the metal will fit tightly around the stone. Each of the six sections has to be precise. If they are too tight, the stone cannot go into the bezel; if too loose, it would fall right through. In this photo, I was making those cuts using a paper tracing of the stone to check which corner came next. I also had, off camera, a list of the exact measurements for each of the six sides.

A Piece of Many Parts

This photo, taken well into the process, shows the elements. The dagger-like piece — the background for the jewel — is copper. It will offer a nice compliment to the red gem. This also shows the bezel and the silver square the stone will sit on.

Sometime, We Adapt as We Go

The piece of square silver wire was intended to frame the highly pointed sterling silver square. In the end, both the client and I felt it might be visually too heavy, so that part was abandoned.

Progress Reports 

Still to ensure that we were still on the right track, I cut a brass version of the square and we did consider using it instead of the sterling but, in the end, silver won out.

When I am doing custom work, photos like these ensure that the client knows where I am going with the project. The photo on the right is an example. Although (apart from the untrimmed end of the bezel setting) this looks like the brooch, nothing here is soldered so anything can still change. Backing up, once you start soldering a piece, ranges from very difficult to just start all over.

Soldering is Messy

There is no denying that soldering metals makes them just plain ugly. This photo was taken after I had soldered all the parts together (including the pin hinge and catch on the back of the piece).

Yuck. It all looks so gross before polishing, doesn't it? Never fear, it does get better.

My Green Insurance Policy

As I have mentioned before, when setting stones into a finished piece, the last thing you want to do is have a tool slip and scratch the metal. Green painters' tape wraps the setting while I position the stone and bend the bezel over the gemstone. Here are two shots — starting on the bezel and after it is secured.

Ta-Da, "The Reveal" (So TV of Me)

It's always a thrilling moment when you start stripping off that tape and revealing the actual piece. Will it be as beautiful as you hoped? Will the stone be showcased as the client wanted? Will the setting be really, really secure?

The Finale

Love the deep red fire in that garnet. I think the client's choice of copper was perfect. And, when all was done, I applied a thin coat of archival wax to help keep that copper bright. When it begins to darken (as all metals do), she need only go at it with good quality metal polish then re-apply and polish the wax.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

One Done

Hair Pin It Is

Last fall, I took part in a Creative Jewellers Guild casting class, learning to invest, then burn out organic materials and cast their shapes in sterling silver. In October, I blogged about the experience. At the time, I was uncertain what to do with one of the items. After much pondering, I decided it would do very nicely as the filial on a hair stick, so I ordered a package of them from an etsy seller. They arrived yesterday and that fit in very well with today's plans.

The Sevilles Are Here

I married a guy with a sweet tooth and one of his favorite things is homemade marmalade, so, every January, we watch for the arrival of Seville oranges in the local market. They came in a few days ago and the first batch of marmalade was produced yesterday.

Clearly, that amount will not cut it for a true aficionado, so there is more peel simmering on the stove this afternoon.

What To Do?

At this point, apart from an occasional stir, there is nothing to do for a couple of hours on that front but I can't run off to the shop because one does need to keep an eye that the pot is simmering, not boiling. The hair stick project came to mind as an ideal solution.

An old sheet to protect the table, a tray to capture the wee bit of mess that would result from filing the stem to a pointed end to fit the existing hole, and that project could be done while the orange peel simmered.

Perfect Timing

It was perfect. I finished the hair ornament just before the peel was ready to proceed to making the jam. Here is the result.

That quick snapshot makes one thing clear -- getting good photos of this will be tricky.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Polish Flint Oval

Set It At Last

I bought a lovely oval of Polish Flint a couple of years ago but I seemed to always be working on other projects so it languished in my stash of pretty stones. Then, last fall, I decided to get serious about giving it a home.

First, I cut an oval to match the stone from sterling silver sheet. Next, knowing this will be a hefty piece, I cut a pattern of five holes in it to lessen the weight. I also cut a length of pure silver to form a bezel for the stone and soldered it into place.

Not Very Pretty at This Stage, Is It?

This photo shows the item after soldering the bezel into place and before treating the piece in the pickle (a mild acid bath). There is no glamour at this stage but the pendant is taking shape. At about this time, we were approaching the holiday season with all its demands for baking and decorating, so the poor stone was set aside once more. This time, however, I did come back to it.

The next problem was to design a bail. Maybe influenced by my current interest in jewelry with a medieval feeling but I decided to give this a fairly large bail fashioned from a hunk of reticulated silver. I felt a piece this size (about 2 inches by 1 inch) could handle the visual impact.

Bezel Mounted

Making the bezel involved a fair bit of work. The first step, cutting a pleasing shape, was simple enough. Shaping it was another story. It is a pretty solid bit of silver so not easy to bend. I had to anneal it a couple of times as I worked with various forming tools and some judicious hammer blows to get it ready to attach at the top of the piece.

I also tapped a series of randomly placed dots into the back plate for visual interest and brought the silver to a slightly frosted shine. I think the final work is worthy of the stone.

Handsome Pendant For a Handsome Stone

I am very fond of Polish Flint with its rich, earthy tones. This stone is a form of jasper that is only found in limestone that was laid down in Poland during the Jurassic period.  Kind of neat to wear a stone that came into being 160 million years ago.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

January 2016

Planning Begins for a Medieval-themed Brooch

My goodness, I haven't been able to work at my bench for soooo long. First it was all the holiday baking, then I let the shop get cold so I could use it to store some of that baking, then, once we got to the New Year, we hit a spell of really cold weather (for here, that is) and there was no way to get the shop warm enough. One simply cannot make jewelry while wearing mittens. Luckily, one can do sketches in the cozy house!

First Sketched Ideas

I have a lovely cardinal cut garnet waiting to be set for a special customer. She wants a brooch with a medieval feeling so I did up a couple of sketches for her (below).

The design on the left is close to the look she is after, so I decided to create a mockup in copper and brass first (below). If I get to something that hits the mark for her, I will bring out the sterling. Love being back at the bench!