Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Where Does the Time Go?

Almost February —

And I haven't posted a thing here since November.

To be honest, I haven't been at the bench much, either. That whole "put Christmas together and then take Christmas apart again" business eats time. I did, however, get to one very important project for one very important lady in our family this month. Follow along as I make a pair of birthstone earrings.

Rhodolite Garnets

I suppose everyone knows deep red garnets are January's birthstone, but many may not be familiar with the less common rhodolite version. If you want to learn more about these (or any gemstone) this is an excellent resource <>

Pretty in Pink

These lovely stones are purple tinged and pinker than regular garnets. My photo doesn't really do the color justice but you can see why I thought they would make a special gift for a special lady. (That's FunTack on a cuticle stick holding one!).

Yes, Size Matters

The old saying, "Measure twice, cut once" only tells part of the tale. Equally important is "Be accurate". When I first started making jewelry, I bought a small brass caliper and found it a fine tool for checking the gauge of a piece of sterling or marking lengths for cutting sheet or wire. Once the lure of stones began calling to me, however, I found it a slightly awkward tool for measuring tiny stones. I love my digital caliper and use it constantly. In this photo, I am checking the exact diameter of a setting bur to use for tube setting the stones. The jar of yellow stuff, top right, is a lubricant to protect the bur. Of course, you do not need to use it — provided you like buying lots of burs!

More Measuring

While most women probably do not hold a pair of dangle earrings together to be sure they are the same length, I think it matters, so a ruler and pair of dividers are also useful measuring tools.

Marking & Cutting 

The design  I came up with involved setting the tube mounted stones into the edges of some rectangular sterling wire. I rubbed a bit of pencil lead on the end of that tube to lightly mark the position for the hollows. I held the bars touching to ensure that each earring would be the same. I followed up with a fine marker so I could do the cutouts. Fussy bit of cutting. When I first started, I doubt I would have tried it!

Test & Adjust Fit

 These two photo show the earring in my bench vise being filed to shape and the two parts being checked for fit.
I love that vise with its removable rubber jaw covers. I can pivot it to almost any position to get at the piece I am working on. It holds things for cutting, filing and sanding — and frequently keeps me from totally removing skin from the fingers of my left hand!

Filing is an essential part of making any piece of metal jewelry. The process is used to refine shapes, as above, and to remove deep surfaces scratches (because you can't always avoid a few of those — silver is soft). Like any jewelry maker, I own several files in different shapes and sizes and could not function if you took any of them off my bench.

Once the tubes were a snug fit into the hollows, I soldered them in place. Next, I soldered a pair of sterling rings onto the top back of the dangles to hold the ear wires. After that, lots of polishing.

Lastly, Add the Sparkle

If you follow this blog, you know that I like to wrap a piece in painter's tape before I start setting stones. After all the sanding and polishing, I sure do not want to have a steel burnisher slip from the edge of the mount and score the face of the earring.

I hope the recipient will enjoy these for many years. I like the design so I may make a few with  different stones for my DixSterling shop.<>

See you in February ;-)

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