Friday, 4 November 2016

Lapis X Two

Making Bright Blue Studs, Step By Step

I went back to lapis lazuli — one of my favorite stones — for this pair of stud earrings.

The stunning blue of lapis lazuli, prized since ancient Egypt, looks fabulous on silver. I made a pair of lapis studs for myself a few years ago and they remain one of my favorite pairs.

For this set, I decide to use my riveting hammered to texture the sterling silver, creating a series of cross hatched lines instead of the dimples a ball peen would produce. This photo shows a piece of sterling sheet after the hammering. The dimpled look can be seen around the circles I previously cut for my sunstone studs. You hammer texture before cutting a piece from the sheet to avoid distorting the edges.

Making the Parts

Bezels are the most common setting for round cabochons. They hold the stones securely and the look of a silver edge around lapis is quite elegant.

This pair of 8mm stones required a thinner strip of fine (pure) silver than I had on hand, so I used a pair of cutters to very carefully cut the wire along its length. Next, I shaped two pieces to fit around the stones and used flush cutters to trim them to the exact lengths I needed. After checking fit, I soldered the ends together to make the silver circles.

Fitting & Assembly Comes Next

Here are the parts. The bezels fit perfectly so I  am ready to move on.

Getting a Great Finish Takes Work

To end up with a mirror polish on the silver, I start with a file, smoothing the outer edges of the discs. In some cases, even the top and bottom surfaces will need filing.

There Are No Shortcuts

In total, the silver for studs like these gets treated with four grades of sandpaper (from 400 to 1000 grit) before the bezels are soldered on. That is just the first polishing/finishing stage for any piece of jewelry.

I make earring of this type quite often, varying the finish I give the silver and the stones I use. One thing I always do is set the stones near one edge and mount the ear post opposite. This is to ensure that the studs — both of them — will always sit properly on your ears, with the stones at the bottom.

Polishing — Stage Two

Once the solder work is completed (including putting ear posts on the back) final polishing begins. Those four grades of sandpaper leave a slightly rough finish. The final stage, to remove sanding marks and bring up a brilliant polish, involves five levels of these polishing discs. (And people wonder why handcrafted jewelry is more expensive than similar looking items at a big box store!)

Protecting the Stones

Final step is to cover the silver with painters' tape while using steel stone setting tools.

For the record, apart from the files, papers and polishers, this simple pair of earrings called for one anvil, two hammers, three different cutters, a soldering torch and charcoal soldering block, a couple of pairs of jewelers' pliers, a rotary tool, and a steel burnisher. Yes, I have lots of tools ;-)