Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Thinking of Spring

Turquoise Stone Dangles — Like Clear Blue Skies

Not that there have been many blue skies in my part of the world lately. March has been stubbornly grey and wet — really, really wet. I suppose one good thing about that is, since the garden is basically underwater, I have lots of time to work at my bench. Maybe it was a longing for blue skies that prompted me to order a pair of tiny (3mm) turquoise cabochons to make into earrings.

First, Assemble the Parts — and Do Not Lose Any!

Every time I work with really tiny gem stones, I am grateful to my friend Debbie from TheHandmadeForum <https://www.etsy.com/pages/thehandmadeforum> who sent me several storage options. She uses these tiny pots for her excellent, all natural lip scrubs – see some here <https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/228261395/lip-scrub-cherry-sugar-lip-scrub-lip?ref=shop_home_active_49>. They are also perfect for keeping wee stones safe. Rio Grande uses sealed bags to ship stones. Good for mailing as they cannot escape into the shipping box but, once I open the bag, I need a way to corral the stones. You can just imagine how easy it would be for these 3mm beauties to "vanish" leading to a long, frustrating search or bench and floor!

Safety Gear for a Jeweler

To make these dangle earrings, I need to use some high powered tools.

I have a hobbyist's drill press the lets me accurately position small holes for the ear wires and I use a jeweler's rotary tool (seen here) with a sharp steel bur to ream out holes in sterling tubing so I can set the stones into them.

Both operations produce dust and fine shavings of metal. The mask and safety glasses protect me from those. I also have an industrial respirator that I wear when polishing finished pieces as that requires a finer level of filtering for the compounds used.

Tube Setting for Small Stones

This photo shows the tubes, reamed out, cut to length and soldered onto the reticulated sterling earrings. The ear wires are on standby. I attach them last.

Three mm is Not Always Three mm

As you can see, one stone dropped into the tube perfectly. When I went to mount the second, (here held on a bit of Fun-Tak) I found the stone was a hair too big. I used that cylindrical diamond point bit — hand twisting it to avoid damaging the tube — to make the hole a bit wider and deeper. I bought a set of those several years ago. I have not used them often but they sure solve problems nothing else will tackle.

Stone Setting Tools at Work

These tools are what I use when bezel or tube setting stones. The lower one is a bezel rocker and I use it — as the name suggests — by placing it against the top of the tube or bezel and rocking it back and forth to press the metal onto the stone. I start by working on opposite sides of the stone while pressing the stone into the setting with my thumb. That anchors it. Then I move around the stone being sure that all of the circumference is settled.

The other tool, my curved steel burnisher is great for giving the top of the setting a final smoothing. I also love using it to give a bright polish to the edges of a piece. That touch is especially nice on the smooth edges of reticulated items as they have a more muted finish.

Finished and Ready for Their Close Ups

You can find these pretty things — and many others — in my etsy shop <https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling>