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.