Jewellery making classes: silver pendant

May 3, 2008

So I thought that for my first few posts I’d talk about the jewellery I made at evening classes at Central St Martins. Everything is a bit scratched and wonky (and the photos aren’t great), but it’s my first ever attempt at making jewellery and it was all a bit rushed, so I figure that’s okay. I’ve added a jewellery making glossary which covers some of the terms that will be used here.

Silver Pendant:

domed and textured silver pendant on a snake chain

MATERIALS: standard silver sheet, silver snake chain, findings (silver jump ring, silver bolt ring, silver chain ends)

TECHNIQUES: annealing, roll printing, hammering/planishing, soldering, doming, filing, sanding, polishing findings

TOOLS: cutter and guillotine, hammer, rolling mill, cardboard, scalpel & cutting mat, textured fabric, doming block and punches, hammer, mallet, circle stencil, wet and dry paper, half-round needle file, soldering tools, buffer (rouge mop), ultrasonic cleaner, barrel polisher

PROCESS: I can’t remember the exact order of the process, but I think it went something like this:

  1. Anneal silver sheet and cut in half using a guillotine (one piece for each side of the pendant).
  2. Texture silver pieces. My design was a very simplified version of a stellate neuron: I cut out the shape in cardboard and also used some textured paper to give the surface an interesting appearance. The texture was applied by sandwiching the cardboard and fabric between the silver and a brass sheet and pushing the ‘sandwich’ through a rolling mill. The ‘nucleus’ of my design was achieved was achieved by making hammer marks with a small hammer.
  3. Cut pieces to desired shape. (I used a circular stencil to work out the approximate size of circle that I wanted for the pendant and cut each piece using a hole cutter).
  4. Re-anneal and then dome each piece on the doming block.
  5. Prepare the surfaces for soldering by running them across some emery or wet and dry paper in a figure of eight. Start filing holes (to thread the chain through). Do this now to provide a vent, to avoid explosion when soldering.
  6. Solder the two pieces together with silver hard solder.
  7. File and sand the edges so that they aren’t too sharp and finish filing holes for the chain to go through.
  8. Thread the chain through the pendant. (Ideally the holes would have been large enough to allow threading the chain through after the findings had be soldered on, but this wasn’t possible in this case.
  9. Solder on the findings using very small pieces of silver easy solder – first the chain ends then the bolt ring (no time to solder the jump ring so I just closed it using pliers but ideally I would have done this while soldering the ends on).
  10. Give the chain ends a quick polish on the rouge mop (a good way to hold the chain against the buffer is to place it on a piece of leather). Remove excess rouge with the ultrasonic cleaner.
  11. Barrel polish.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • A piece will rarely turn out the way that you envisage at the beginning but the results can still be very pleasing. For example, the textured surface of my pendant was completely different to what I expected, and initially I had not intended to thread the chain through the pendant but rather behind it using a finding (at the last minute I decided against this because I couldn’t be bothered with the extra soldering and it seemed like it would put the piece off balance in some way).
  • Adding fine texture to a piece can result in a ‘frosty’ kind of appearance because of all the little crevices that can’t be reached by the polisher.
  • Soldering findings to a snake chain can be tricky! The solder likes to run into the chain and make it solid. Luckily I started out with a very long chain because it took me three goes to get the soldering right and I had to cut a bit off of the ends each time I messed up.

IF I HAD MORE TIME: I would have soldered the jump ring.

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