Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jewelry casting 1:1

I have a wild imagination when creating jewelry. I love curvy and romantic shapes and sometimes, sheet and wire just doesn't cut it as a medium. If I for instance want to create a little dragon, I need true 3D and the only way to get that is through casting.

You can cast in a number of ways, for instance sand casting, which I often use as a quick solution. However, noting beats ”cire perdue” or ”lost wax” casting when it comes to 3 dimensionality. And that requires really large and expensive equipment in your workshop or help from professional casters. Luckily I have the latter and so in august I threw myself into creating the ”Dragonling” plus a number of other elements I had wanted for a long time.

So, in order to end up with a lovely piece of jewelry, I started with wax. Very hard, non-yielding wax, which can be cut into very thin and delicate shapes. I had been working with it before, but on a much smaller scale. Now I got ambitious. I wanted a whole collection of leaves and flowers to play with, some settings for drops and of cause the little dragon I had been dreaming about for over one year.

When you work with wax you become a true sculptor. This is the same process Michelanngelo uses when he starts with a piece of marble, knowing that inside of it the perfect David is hiding.

So here is an example of my process: I wanted to create a pendant featuring large drops of stone or pearl and hence needed the settings for the drops. Therefore I started out by carving the seat for the stone intended to go there – in this case a drop-shaped and very lovely amethyst. I use my trusted Foredom flex shaft motor (yep, this is basically the drill they use at the dentist. The sound is also the same ;-)

Then I roughly cut the shape I wanted for the setting and sat back, turning it between my fingers. Was this right? Was this what I wanted? Maybe a tad deeper here and this one a bit to the left?

Slowly I worked through the various stages, constantly refining the shape...

Until I used a scraper (how very non-power-toolish in the old school and very nice way) to shape and smooth the surface until I was satisfied. This will do – for now.

Same drill with the Dragonling, the flowers and leaves. In the end I had a nice collection of stuff to be cast and hence collected the various elements on branches for the caster to work with. Here are some of them:

So, what happens at the caster? Well, he glues the branches onto a stem of wax together with other items to be cast, thereby creating a whole tree. The tree is fixed to a rubber base and after finishing, a iron tube is slipped over the whole thing, resting on the base. Then he fills the tube with plaster and puts it into a vacuum in order to remove any bubbles (which would create some very unfortunate shapes on the finished casts).

When the cast has cured and dried, it is put into an oven where it is heated up to a very high degree – melting the wax out of the tube. Now the wax is truly ”lost”. In the meantime, he starts up the centrifugal casting machine by melting the metal needed. In this case silver. At the right moment, when all has the right temperature, he inserts the very hot tube into the machine and starts it. Automatically it shoots the liquid metal into the tube, pushing it into all the nooks and crannies.

See a video of how it is done here.

When I receive the casts they look dull and almost white. Nothing resembling the shiny silver to eventually come out of this.

Now, this is when I could just cut out the pieces and use them. They would be true one-of-a-kind items. However, I wanted more – I wanted to be able to use the same shape in a number of different ways and so I had to have replicas made. Oh dear... the process isn't over yet – at all!

Back at my bench, I shaped (some were a tad too thick) and renovated everything as well as possible. Renovating means smoothing and shaping it into how exactly I wanted it to look in future – all of the future copies that is, because whatever flaw will be on that ONE little flower, will be replicated at all the following copies. Hence being really anal about your finishing process is due!
Then they were all put together in new branches. Flowers on one branch, leaves on another, drop bezels on a third and dragons on the side.

Off to the caster again to have made rubber moulds. Why rubber? Doesn’t silver melt rubber? Yes it does and no, silver is therefore not cast into these molds. Wax is. So, out of these moulds I had 10 wax copies made, each featuring one of each flower, leaf etc.

Back to my work bench. Now I took all the branches apart and reassembled them into branches featuring identical wax flowers.


And off to the caster for the 3rd time.

One week later I had silver versions of the branches with all the identical flowers etc. Why that many identical ones? Partly because it is a way to produce several of your favorite pieces, enabling more than one to get it, partly because I will use these as part elements in jewelry. These will still be one of a kind, just with lovely, 3D flowers for instance.
So, one final renovation and then off to the caster for the 4th and last time in order to have moulds made of each of the branches and cast silver versions of them.

Here we are: several months of work has finally paid off and I feel like a dragon on its treasure. Mine! All miiiiine! Now off to play with it. Here are some of the finished pieces that have come from this batch and I am nowhere near done!

This amethyst pendant is the result of the carving process pictured in the beginning of the article. Purchase this amethyst art nouveau drop necklace at Etsy.

 Here is a version in pure, polished silver with a black onyx drop.

Once again, the slender version now with an opaque purple heterosite.

Here is the chubby version of the drop necklace with a matte surface, gildet with 18 carat gold and holding a pearl

Most of the casts can be used as part elements. I have as a starter created 8 different rings with flowers.

There could be many more variations. For instance with bigger stones in the middle, cast in gold or just combined differently. This is where your imagination kicks in: What would you like? What combination and colors would make your heart go boom?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Its november and the last stubborn leaves desperately cling to the trees here in Copenhagen. Their light and golden colors serve as quite a contrast to the gray surroundings. We love the color GOLD...

In Latin, gold is called Aurum –what a beautiful name! We like gold jewelry, as gold is aesthetically beautiful – but also because gold symbolizes wealth. In the Danish Welfare Society it is not crucial to have a lot of gold, however, in India it is. Actually it’s estimated that around 25 % of all the gold ever extracted from the entire planet is currently held in India. “More is more” seems to be the parole – which is also the case in this overwhelming (and quite representative for the taste) commercial:

In Scandinavia, we seem to prefer silver over gold. Nordic women like this metal, because it seems to fit their light skin tone better. I, myself, often wear silver – but I do love the glow of gold, too. Therefore I often add gold elements to my silver jewelry. The two metals – especially if the silver has been oxidized – in my opinion compliment each other beautifully. However, I make gold jewelry as well. How about these little beauties:

14 k gold in the shape of a slender, culy ring with a champagne colourd diamond. Find this curly gold ring at Etsy at 650$

Delicate earrings made of 14 k gold. Find these golden curly hoops and their exchangeable pendants at Etsy at 210$

Sumptuous and very romantic 14 k gold ring with Wesselton diamonds. Etsy holds this feminine gold ring too at 1152$


So what’s this “carat” exactly about?
Gold is usually not just gold, but alloyed with a number of other metals. Carat tells you how much of the metal at hand is actually gold. There are several reasons as to why gold is not completely pure. First, it is expensive; to lower the price, the gold is diluted with other metals. Second, pure 24 carat gold is really soft – and must thus be extremely thick to keep its shape. When mixing gold with other metals the gold gets harder (and also harder to work with) than silver.

If you own a piece of gold jewelry, take a close look at it. It will have a stamp inside – if not, it is not gold. It is stamped with a number, often 750, 585 or 333.

Custom made engagement rings made of hammered silver and polished 14 k rose gold

This indicates the purity of the gold:
• Pure 24 carat gold contains 1000 BAC gold
• In 18 carat gold, 750 units of the 1000 are gold – approx. 2/3
• In 14 carat gold, 585 of the 1000 are gold – approx. ½
• In 8 carat gold, 333 of the 1000 is gold – and thus only a third of this metal is pure gold

Not just yellow!
How do you dilute gold to a cheaper and harder metal, while keeping its golden color? Most typically copper and silver is used as alloy metals. Copper adds a warm and red color to the gold – and silver ensures that it does not get too red. Copper is actually quite hard compared to gold and silver and thus the gold gets harder the more copper you add to it.

You might have figured out by now that red gold or rosé gold is made by alloying gold with (almost) clean copper. This creates a pretty rose color and is really hard, which has caused a lot of swearing in the workshop, whenever I used red gold for my jewelry. Yet, the end result is quite enchanting and beautiful.

When mixing gold and silver it gets a green nuance. I have not been working with “green” gold yet – however, I will do one day, as green is my favorite color.

White gold is alloyed with palladium and silver. In the USA, nickel is often used. In Europe this is prohibited because it tends to provoke a bad rash, so keep this in mind if you buy white gold in USA. By the way, white gold is not as fine and light (almost looking like po-lished silver), as you might think. Appearances can be deceptive, as white gold – unless it is a very expensive alloy – almost has the same light gray color as a deer. As such a delicious and luxurious color that goes well with diamonds – however, a lot of people prefer the completely white look.

So what to do in order to get the light color? You cover the white gold with a layer of the extremely expensive but also very hard metal rhodium. Such a rhodium plating is very durable on necklaces and earrings. However, when it comes to rings, it will eventually be worn off. That is why many who have bought e.g. white gold wedding rings will find that they look darker and matte after a couple of years. In order to make your rings look new, take then to your goldsmith and have them rhodium plated once again (I offer this service, and it costs some hundred DKK each time).

The Infamous Blue Stamp
In Denmark, as in most of the world, gold and other precious metals MUST be stamped. It is simply illegal to sell it without a stamp. This way the industry attempts to avoid fraud. To produce and sell gold, you have to have a name stamp – mine is CAS – and in order to get such a name stamp, you are to be signed up at the FORCE Institute.

Friendly representatives from the FORCE Institute regularly and unannounced visit goldsmiths to test if they abide by the rules. If your alloys turn out to contain less gold or silver than you stamp it, it is a very serious matter and in the worst case scenario you might end up in prison. Hence, as goldsmiths we make very sure to stamp our jewelry with name and correct carat.

How Expensive is Gold exactly?
Gold is expensive, that is a matter of fact, but to put it into perspective, I can tell you that 14 carat gold is roughly twenty times as expensive as silver. These gold prices are ever changing in relation to the World Market and the world situation.

In earlier days, gold provided a guarantee for the value of money – and theoretically it still does. One assumes that 50 % of the gold in the world is used for jewelry, 40 % for in-vestments (this gold you find in gold bars stacked around the world in national banks) and 10 % for the industries. At the moment, gold is very expensive. As a consequence of the recession, people place their money in “safe” values instead of “unsafe” shares. People trust in gold and therefore the price of gold has risen since 2008. In September this year, the gold prices reached their all time high.


Why does a PC want gold?
We like gold in the shape of jewelry – and due to aesthetic reasons. However, what makes gold special is its ability to effectively lead heat and electricity and not corrode. Gold simply does not change. Even after thousands of years, it still shines as beautifully as the day it was forged into a piece of jewelry.

Imagine archaeologist Howard Carter’s reaction in 1922, when he pushed a candle through a narrow opening in a sealed door, and here found Tutankhamon’s golden treasures in the scorching Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Carter fell completely silent at the sight of the golden surfaces lit up by the candle in his hand. The treasures had remained there for over 3000 years, before Carter found them, and yet glittered like they had just left the hands of gifted goldsmiths. When the people behind him impatiently asked him what he saw, he answered: “I see wonderful things.”

Because gold has this ability to stay completely clean, as well as being a superior conductor, it is often used for surfaces and cables in the electronic industry.

A Dirty Affair
Unlike lead, gold is not toxic. Unfortunately one of the most common ways to mine gold is very toxic. A lot of goldmines extract gold from rocks by crushing the rocks and rinsing them with cyanide. The cyanide dissolves the gold, which is thus extracted by this toxic fluid.

The process and the ways in which the toxic waste is handled obviously is extremely taxing on the environment and the people, who work in this industry. If you want to know more about this part of the gold industry, follow this link

Recycled Gold
Considering the above, buying gold has suddenly lost a bit of its shine. Luckily, you do not have to wear gold from such mines. There are, in fact, other more sufficient and sustainable ways to extract gold – and gold that is already extracted can be recycled again and again.

When a goldsmith works, waste is created – often in the shape of little pieces of metal that has been filed off from a larger piece of gold. These scrap pieces are then sent off for refinement, where its rinsed, melted and recast, to be sold again to me at my providers.

However, I never send off my gold for refinement, since I always reuse my scrap gold for new jewelry. Likewise, if you have gold that you want transformed into new jewelry, I can create a brand new piece from your old gold. I either cast the shape directly in sand, or else in a thick sheet or stick that I mill thinner or pull down in order to create wire.

It aint all gold that shines...
Sometimes it is too expensive to have a piece of jewelry made of pure gold. Fortunately, there are other methods to obtain the beautiful and warm look of gold. You can for instance electroplate your jewelry with a thin layer of gold. However, eventually this layer – especially when it comes to rings – will wear off. The process can then be repeated as long as the piece does not feature delicate stones such as opals, pearls, corals etc.

You can also gild jewelry by using a technique called keum-boo, where you merge gold foil onto the jewelry and a while ago, I tried this technique with a very good result. Furthermore, there is also gold leaf – the thinnest and finest material after silk thread.

To illustrate just HOW thin it is: If you take a little piece of gold with a diameter of 5 mm and hammer it until it gets flat, it will measure 0,5 square feet. It is so lightweight that you have to turn your head when exhaling in order not to blow it away.

By the way - It is said that the rich Shoguns of ancient Japan sometimes committed suicide by inhaling gold leaf. The gold leaf covered the insides of the lounges strangling the person from within. Well THAT is a stylish way to end your life, if you have set your mind to so!

Now you are a lot wiser about gold or aurum - number 79 of the Periodic System… For the geeky reader of this newsletter, you can read more on gold and its physical and chemical properties and also its significance for the world economy here.

If you are more interested in the jewelry, come see other pieces in the gallery – not least of Signe Njust, who is our resident gold expert.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Fairytale Princess Crown

Ever wanted to feel like a real princess with a golden crown? Well, I did – ever since I was a small girl. I drew lots and lots of princesses – just like my own daughter does it now – and all were of cause adorned with this tiny little crown, which seemed to balance effortlessly on top of their heads.
Well, today I am a goldsmith, in posessionof both the tools and means to create one, and so I decided to let this old childhood dream come to life. Here is the journey, which started with around 2,5 meters of silver wire:
I had made many – as in MANY - sketches in my sketchbook and finally decided on the one where the elegant curves of the art nouveau whiplash line I love so much had the best balance. Then I set out producing the first panel, taking notes as I went in order to make the creation of the following a bit easier.
So: One piece of roughly 27 cm 1,5 mm thick silver wire would form the base. I bent one end a bit and ran up a drop of silver, which I then smoothed soft again. Then I set out with my pliers, working to create the basic shape, which I then partly went over with a hammer on Grandpas anvil. Then the next 12 cm, which got the same treatment before they were soldered together. Then a test – does it still look right? Yup, it does!

A third piece of 1,2 mm wire was shaped and soldered on with the 3 bezel settings and here is what that looked like straight after:

Grimy and all, but the shape is as I wanted it!
So far, so good – now make another 4 identical panels!

And then the seriously difficult part: soldering it all together on a piece of half round wire. The difficult part is to make the solder flow, which requires a more or less even heating of the entire piece, without melting the thinner wires.


Now for setting the stones. That wasn’t entirely easy and I had to come up with some sort of support in order to be able to use the force required to push the bezels over the stones. A piece of wood came in handy…

All 15 stones set and the piece nicely polished, ready to be gilded

And here we go: One princess crown, covered in 18 carat gold and with 5 lively dancing pearls, individually mounted to each curl. What a stunner! I am very, very satisfied (and somewhat relived, to be honest ;-)

If you just GOT to have it, the good news is: You can! Buy it in the gallery in Copenhagen, internationally at Etsy or Amio in Denmark.

I brought the crown along with me to the Mama Gena book release in Copenhagen on 27th of october, where we crowned her "The Pleasure Queen" with it. I was rather proud to see my creation on the head of this fabulous pleasure powerhouse!

PS: Want to see another take at a princess crown? My very talented colleague Tess created one for her recent wedding – and what a stunner that is too!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Support the Breasts– with a BOOB-Bracelet

October is the official international breast cancer awareness month, supported by numerous organizations. This is a cause that I most happily support bydonating 5% of the profit from the sales of my BOOB-bracelets this month. Additionally, I have donated a bracelet to the Danish association “Forældre og Fødsel” (Parents and Birth) which supportsbrand new parents in being so – especially focusing on the challenges of breast feeding.

So, why this focus on breasts? Well, apart from the fact that they generally are lovely and present an aesthetic detail that I happen to like a lot about my own physical appearance, this is a rather important cause in my opinion. One of my friends survived breast cancer which takes one hell of a woman (and a lot of luck)! And I have my own, painful experiences with breast feeding

I have the most wonderful daughter of 7 years, who was rather difficult to breastfeed when she was a baby. But I knew, that my milk was the best I could give her, and so I stubbornly fought on for half a year, when I – after no less than 4 rounds of mastitis – had to give up. That had the sad result, that the first half year of my daughter’s life meant a lot of pain to me, which complicated developing a loving relationship to her and probably contributed to the postnatal depression that I developed. That took some time to shake off again, but luckily she and I have catched up on the love a long time ago. However, it left med extremely aware of the challenges freshly baked mothers and their babies face in that first period, where breastfeeding is so overwhelmingly vital.

One of the challenges of nursing, as most mothers will know, is the fact that the breasts need to be emptied equally and evenly on both sides in order to avoid said mastitis. Alas, when having a nursing brain, the world turns sort of incoherent and your tunnel vision is solely focused on the tiny life in your arms. In that situation, remembering which boob is next presents a surprising challenge.

This is why I developed the BOOB-bracelet. It consists of a set of cockily domed boobs made of silver with either copper or gold nipples. The boobs are placed on – very appropriately – an elastic bra strap, which enables the nursing mother to easily move the bracelet from one arm to the other – thereby serving as a reminder when her own brain fails. The challenge is of cause to remember to actually do it… It is a somewhat cheeky piece of jewelry, which also appeals to strong women, who would like to support the cause – or just proudly display their gender (if in doubt).

The BOOB-bracelet costs 700 kr for a set with copper nipples and 850 kr for a set with golden nipples. The bra strap is by the way not closed – this is a detail each woman has to do for herself with needle and thread, ensuring that it fits just her. Buy the bracelet in the gallery or at Etsy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The dragonling has landed

Lately I have been working quite abit with wax. Leaves, flowers and - especially - a little dragon that I have been dreaming about for over a year! However, wax is still a bit new to me, and hence I have been fumbling a bit around. But now it happened - the dragonling suddenly emerged just as I had pictured him!

After being cast, it looked like this:

Polished version:

And then I mounted it on a ring, encircling a lovely amethyst:

I have had a mold made of the dragonling and hence can produce quite a few of them. In other words, we're looking at the very beginning of the "Dragonling collection"! Right now I'm wearing this beata version, trying to figure out how to improve it. At least bend down the tail and maybe the claws a bit. Then perhaps a somewhat wider, but uneven ring shank?

I actually made a video of my qualms!

So, dear reader... what do you think? What would be the ultimate dragonling - ring (that's funny to say out loud! :-)  )