Saturday, January 23, 2010

Don’t you just love rubies?

Red, passionate and with a very special sparkle to them. These stones, actually more rare than diamonds and a kind of sapphire are considered special by many –including me. So, when I got hold of this fantastic large (almost 8 mm in diameter) round cut ruby from Mozambique, I felt inclined to produce something special, and so I did (well, I think at least). Here’s the somewhat lengthy process, reminding quite a lot of the Silver flames ring.

I started out with the bezel. It was important to me, that the brim to be pushed over the stone was fine silver, to ensure a snug and secure fit. However, I also wanted to be sure that the tall setting I wanted was sturdy enough to withstand quite a lot of pressure, and so I created an outer layer of 0,4 mm fine silver and shaped into a cone using my bezel block.

Now I made a preliminary sketch of where I approximately wanted to go. I often change the design as I work and so it also happened here.

Once I was sure it would fit the ruby, I created a smaller cone of 0,5 mm sterling silver to be fit inside the outer one for the shoulder to carry the stone on. After a lot of fitting, filing and refitting, it was perfect and I soldered the two cones together:

After grinding the shoulders to a perfect sloped fit, I started working the ring shank. When I had hammered the 4 mm thread and started cutting it, I decided to split one of the ends into two and cut off bits and pieces along the shank to give it it's "grown" nature. Of cause that also meant quite a lot if filing...

Then a thorough annealing (the silver was VERY hard from the planishing)

I spread the two ends and filed them roundish before shaping the ring shank, using the bezel as a guide and trying it on again and again as I worked.

Here the basic shape is finished.

Now I wanted to give it life, let it look almost grown, by adding the tube settings and balls of silver and gold. This part is enormously fiddly and so I forgot to take pictures along the way, but here I have finished all the soldering and filing and have just set the large ruby (sorry about the blurry picture).

The end result after oxidizing with LOS and polishing was sumptuous and very special indeed.

I am really very happy to see how my designs start to become more and more distinct and bold while keeping the romantic flow of Art Nouveau.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A stubborn heart

Valentines is just around the corner and I’m creating jewelry with hearts – of cause. I have made a number of dainty little beauties which are neat, but I got the urge to create something bigger and a tad different. I love jewelry with details on the back or other little secrets that only the bearer knows of. And so I set out to create a locket-style necklace –or rather a kind of silver folder, which means HINGE. It’s been a few years since I made a locket and it’s difficult – you easily end up soldering everything together. However, I had chosen a simplified way of hinging the thing and arrogantly thought that it would be a walk in the park. Little did I know, that I was to embark on hours and hours of frustration where everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

But first I created the bezel for the garnet cap, sawed out the front heart and the back and the pieces of tubing I needed for the hinge. I was planning on letting the hinge double as a bezel, creating a fairly simple design.

And then onto soldering………………………….. it all together :-(

Looks neat, right? What you don’t see is that all parts are very much sticking together, not letting anything move whatsoever! I swore loudly and trampled around the workshop before sitting down and unsoldering it. I hate unsoldering. It’s messy, much more cleanup-time and just not very satisfying. It all stuck because I didn’t use any kind of block. I could also have used another cool technique which one of my fellow Etsyans advised me of using hard solder to JUST forming a ball, then carefully taking it apart and soldering it with medium solder, not allowing the hard one to melt too, but to allow it to keep everything in place.

So, what now? Well, I soldered the middle part of the hinge back onto the back part (cleanup) and though that I could just use this part as a guide when placing the tubes of the upper part and then remove the back part when the flux had crystallized and was holding things in place. So though, so I did and here is the result:

OF CAUSE it doesn’t fit! The tubes are flush with the base they have been soldered on –which is too “high” Doh! More swearing and trampling –actually I gave up that day. Next day I braced myself and thought “I’d be damned if this piece will have me –I’ll show it who’s in charge” and came up with another solution: I found a piece of copper of the same thickness as the back plate silver sheet and slipped it under the front heart –staying far away from the hinge parts of cause. Again using the back part as a guide, I now succeeded in soldering the tubes on in the position they ought to have. See!

And the hinge works!

Now for a LOOOOONG time of cleanup and sanding –and then more sanding when it turned out that I had of cause created fire scale during the battle – and then finally for the decoration. I wanted a few words of love on the inside, for the bearer only to know, and a scrollwork decoration on the outer layer, plus a little 14 carat golden heart that I had sawed out and domed. Here you see how I again used the copper sheet to stabilize IF the hinges would in any way think of moving while I was soldering on the heart.

Final cleanup, then LOS and a finishing polish and I was ready to set the cab and string it to the burgundry leather cord. And here it is –tadaaaaaa!

It was a struggle, but I am actually quite satisfied with the outcome! Now I guess I should be creating another little folder while I remember how ;-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Big girls love power tools!

It’s just been my birthday and my family and boyfriend took pity in me and together bought me a Foredom flex shaft instead of my Dremel. “What’s wrong with your Dremel?” you may ask, eyeing your own version. Well, mine had a minimum speed of 10.000, which meant that it was WAY too fast to remove any metal with for instance a setting burr or any drill. It just went dull :-( AND I missed a foot pedal –so much more convenient!

Due to it’s fast action, it was also almost impossible to control and even when concentrating real hard, I could never write something nicely with it –it just slipped away. It was decent, but I wasn’t satisfied. This pendant for instance:

It can be argued that it’s a coarse style – I know it’s not prettier because I was unable with my current tool, which is just so not satisfying. So I caved in and decided to buy another machine (girls can’t have too many power tools ;-) After discussing the topic on my favorite forum with my fellow metal smith Etsyians (thank you CG), I decided to go for a Foredom –the Volvo of flex shafts.

Last Friday, the day arrived, when we went to my favorite dealer “Ravstedhus” in Southern Jutland (paradise to ppl like me) and shopped:

1 Foredom SR Flex shaft
1 Hand piece with interchangeable cuffs
1 Tube cutter
1 Besel block for round bezels
Plus a few materials, now I was there.

Happy happy me!
And here is the box of goodies this morning, ready to be installed in my workshop:

Pretty soon I had exchanged the Dremel with the Foredom

And did a testrun:

Compare to the talisman, if you please –it’s a huge difference for a first try!

And so I immediately set out to cut some amber, which I haven’t done for ages. Am planning on a quite weird ring themed “octopus”. Let’s see how it turns out, but I tell you: Working with the Foredom is bliss! Wish I had done that ages ago…

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Photo shoots –now with model!

It sucks being a perfectionist. That means that I can never “just” take a picture. Noooo – I have to get the entire light and background setting up –or even get myself a model! Last week I did both. First with my pretty cousin Laura, who modeled briefly for my chain (which sold shortly after. I’m sure it’s due to her ;-)and then another photoshoot of jewelry with the help of my good friend Michael who has a super cool camera with macro lens and a creative streak that works well with mine. 

The light box I created a while ago (see my post here) and it works decently. I added my bright light (yes, I get depressed in winter and use it to cheer up a bit) to create even more light.

With Laura we had another situation. She is slender and all, but still way too big to fit into the light box. The solution is here:

1) Behind the door opening to her left is the 500V work lamp propped on a ladder and screened off by a white sheet

2) To her right the bright light

3) In front (and held by me in my left hand while shooting with my right) a cheap halogen lamp to make the jewelry and especially the stones sparkle



Does it work?

Well enough, considering :-)

And, as always, when working with a model, the last pictures come out the best. As I said: Laura is pretty, and she does quite decently on these first pictures.

After a break and some laughs however, she transformed into a model. I just went “woooow!” Isn’t that amazing? The brooch she is wearing is from my full-body-jewelry piece Rapunzel, which I will put on sale on Etsy soon. But so far it’s exclusively seen here ;-)

Thank you Michael and Laura!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

When intuition takes over

I got this amazing stone sent to me from Thailand. It’s a orange red 0.85 CT spessartite garnet from Namibia –not very large, just 6 x 5 mm, but oh so lovely! For this ring the only thing I knew was, that I wanted to bezel set the stone, use a few smaller orange sapphires and probably slice up the ring shank. But no sketches were involved, which is rare. I went completely intuitive about it!

But first the ring shank. A while ago I purchased quite a bit of 4 mm thick wire. I needed it for a specific setting and only a wholesale supplier had it –but wouldn’t sell less than 250 grams to me! Since I don’t have a rolling mill, I had been looking at all that lovely silver for ages and not knowing what to do. But now I do! I wack it with my hammer and use it for organic looking ring shanks, yes I do:

Then I cut off the approximate length I wanted and sliced it from one side. Sawing 2 mm thick silver takes forever and it gets very hot! I bent it (again: tough job when it’s that thick, even thoroughly annealed) and decided to slice the other side too

While that one cooled off, I created the bezel setting for the garnet from a piece of tube and shaping it oval and conical using a bezel block (my latest favorite tool!). Then I fixed it to the end of a redundant file with some tar and ground out the shoulders for the stone to sit on.

First joint –the bezel to the ring.

I popped in the stone and put the ring on. Now what?

This is when I used white a bit of time in my mind shaping those 3 left over flames one way or another. When I was satisfied with the picture in my head, I set out creating it in real life and added the two smaller bezels for the sapphires (again two pieces of tube).

Very deliberately I used an extra coarse file to shape the flames and left it like that. I like this structure as a contrast to the shining stones!

And here is the finished result: More pictures of it can be found in my Etsy shop here.

I love this one and will work like this a bit more often.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Don’t work too long -or shit happens!

This is the sad story of what happens if you get stubborn and work too long and until too late. There is a happy end though!

I had set out to create an open ring with 3 branches, carrying a flower, a large bezel set stone and a butterfly. It’s winter, so I’m dreaming about the warm summer days and hence chose a large citrine, a juicy green peridot and some warm gold to set off the silver.

Here the bezel is about done, the ring shank is roughly there, I have cut the flower from a piece of 1 mm sheet and I’ve happily laid out the stones that I was considering to use: A large, dark citrine, lucious peridots and perhaps a few yellow sapphires for good measure:

At this stage I wasn't entirely setteled on the finished design and kept myself open to changing the design I had in mind as I went. This is how I usually work and the result is usually quite good. Then I domed the flower, shaped the bezel conically and soldered it together.

After attaching the butterfly and filing off all surfaces of the ring shank, I soldered in the 5 little golden balls and set the peridot in the flower. Then I started setting the lovely citrine. And then disaster struck! I hadn’t filed the walls of the bezel thin enough, had to apply too much pressure to fit it over the stone – and BROKE it! I was almost crying! This stone was so special and I had saved it up for an equally special design :-(

Okay… after a few deep breaths and looking at the clock – I had now spent 13 hours in the workshop (yes, creating other stuff too) and it was 10 in the evening, I decided for a plan B: I cut off the upper brim of the bezel, freeing the damaged stone and filed it flush. Then I found a new stone, slightly smaller. I happened to have a light amethyst that would fit, so I cut new shoulders for it in the now smaller bezel. This time I didn’t want to make the same mistake and filed the sides very thin to make sure that the setting would be easy. Alas, I filed away too much, which became evident when I pushed the bezel over the stone – a crack formed along the edge, leaving the stone to rattle around. Now I was seriously almost crying!

But I just refused to let all this work being in vain, so I took a few pictures to remember the design:

And then I cut off the entire branch holding that unfortunate bezel. I smoothed the cut out to invisibility and repositioned the butterfly.

It’s a completely different ring, but after the initial disappointment, I started to value it for its own beauty. It’s simpler and the butterfly gets to play a more distinct role. When you wear the ring, the butterfly is hovering about 5 mm above your hand, while the flower appears to be nestled between two fingers opposite. I’m happy with it, but I will most definitely create a new version of the 3-branched original design, since it was more sumptuous –and I love sumptuous *grin*

And THEN to bed!!!