Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Marvelous Malachite

A New Setting for an Old Stone

There are some interesting the things to consider when designing a piece of jewelry.

Someone recently brought me an old brooch. Although she liked the green stone (a malachite cabochon), the setting is dated and she prefers silver jewelry. She asked if I could create a ring featuring her stone.

Photo: about to free the stone from the gold-tone brooch.

Of course one can create any piece of jewelry to hold any stone but some considerations come into play. The major ones are:
1. will the owner love the design and get pleasure from wearing it?
2. can you actually make what you designed or are there technical booby traps?
3. will the design properly protect the stone?

In this case, the third point is especially significant. Malachite is a soft stone, ranking 3.5 - 4 on the Mohs hardness scale (diamonds are 10; talc is 1), so it is easily scratched. I used my saw to cut open the old setting because any attempt to pry the cab out of the bezel would certainly cause damage.

Such a pretty cabochon

Here is the stone, after I got it out of the setting and gave it a gentle polish. It is unusual in that both sides are gently domed (cabs normally have a flat back). The best thing about that is, since the side that was the the front on the pin is slightly scratched, I can use the other side for the ring. This stone also has an unusually wide girdle. That will make securing it easier (possibly why it was cut that way so long ago).

Exploring Ideas

A round, faceted stone is a round, faceted stone and is amenable to any number of settings. Stones with individual character are a bit more fun to design for. Malachite is characterized by the darker lines that run through it. This one is also an interesting, elongated oval shape — ideal for a ring.  Below are a few rough sketches I made to explore ideas. All of these feature a tapered shank, widening as it approaches the stone.

The top sketch features a bezel setting and dark lines carved into the the flat back plate to draw attention to the lines in the stone. I like it but it offers very little protection to the surface of that stone. Some alteration would be required.

The second one is a bit harder to visualize. The stone is held by four small claws and surrounded by a wall of wire tall enough to guard the stone. The side view shows it as if the wall were transparent.

Design C is like B but slightly open at top and bottom. That offers the same protection but a bit more visual interest. "D" has the tapered shank extended over the sides of the stone (but leaves to top and bottom exposed). I think D would be a great look for a tougher stone.

Time to ask the owner if any of these hold any appeal for her. If not, the old saying is, "Back to the drawing board."