MATERIALS: 3mm diameter standard silver wire (about 7cm), 0.6mm standard silver sheet (1.5cm x 1.5cm) and 3mm fine silver bezel strip, 8mm cabachon (transparent green semi precious stone – not sure of the name)

TECHNIQUES: ring forming, annealing, sawing, soldering, filing, sanding, bezel forming, stone setting, burnishing, polishing

TOOLS: wheatsheaf ring gauge, triblet, vise, rawhide mallet, saw and blades, soldering tools, ring clamp, flat file, wet and dry paper, fine wire, end cutters, scissors/snips, bezel pusher, burnisher, steel wool, tripoli mop, rouge mop, ultrasonic cleaner

PROCESS:

  1. Use a ring gauge to determine the desired ring size. Mark the ring size on the triblet.
  2. Anneal a piece of silver wire (best to have some excess as the ends won’t curve very well). Use a mallet on the wire over the triblet to form a ring shape. To close the circle mallet the ring at the highest point. Make the ring a bit smaller than the desired size and then gradually move toward the marked size.
  3. Saw at the middle of the intersection of the wire ends. Saw through again and solder using hard solder.
  4. True up the ring on the triblett with a mallet and make sure that it is flat.
  5. File and sand the bottom and sides of the solder seam to hide it.
  6. For the bezel: make a fine wire loop and place over the cabachon. When the wire loop fits perfectly over the gem, unravel the loop and use the wire to measure the length of bezel strip required. (If anything, it’s better to cut the strip a tiny bit shorter than you think you might need, as it can be stretched a little if necessary.). Trim the height of the bezel if necessary (it should be roughly half the height of the stone).
  7. Form the bezel strip into a circle on a triblet and check that it fits the gem well (isn’t too big). Solder using a small piece of hard solder (be careful because fine silver has a lower melting point than standard silver). Check the size and stretch on a triblet if necessary.
  8. Sand the edges of the bezel so that it is even and fits snugly against a silver sheet without any gaps.
  9. Solder an oversized piece of silver sheet to one side of the bezel strip. Use an excess of silver medium solder placed on the outside edge of the bezel and concentrate on heating the base. Use end cutters to cut off the excess silver sheet and then file and sand the outside of the bezel to form a nice little cup.
  10. Place the ring in a ring clamp. File a flat space on the outside edge of the solder seam, where the bezel will sit. Clean up the ring and bezel with steel wool or emery in preparation for soldering.
  11. Carefully arrange the ring and bezel and solder using an excess of silver easy solder. (file or sand afterwards if there is too much). Make sure all the solder has melted before pickling.
  12. Gem setting: clean the inside of the bezel using some steel wool and place the gem inside the cup.
  13. Use a bezel pusher to push the bezel up around the gem and then a burnisher to finish this off (and to shine the bezel).
  14. Polish the ring using the tripoli mop. Clean using a soft brush and detergent and if the desired result is achieved proceed to polish with the rouge mop (black caking may mean that you need to go back and do more tripoli polishing before continuing with the rouge).
  15. Clean off any excess rouge using the ultrasonic cleaner. (Note that it’s possible for poorly set stones to become unstuck in the ultrasonic cleaner).

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • I screwed up this ring up at almost every stage! The main thing that I learned was that many mistakes in jewellery are fixable, at least to some extent.
    • I put the gem and bezel cup in the same bag and they got stuck together (the gem had to be drilled out).
    • I thought the all of the solder had melted when joining the ring to the bezel but it hadn’t. My teacher had to resolder but the bezel was soldered off-centre the second time around.
    • I used the wrong technique with the bezel pusher and mangled my bezel quite badly (this could have been fixed with a sharp enough tool, but unfortunately there wasn’t one to hand).

IF I HAD MORE TIME: I would have filed and sanded the ring solder seam more.

◊ If you want to work out the exact length of metal required for a ring the formula is:

Length required = Diameter of the desired ring size X ∏ + double the thickness of metal

P.S.:

This week is Coutts London Jewellery Week so there’s plenty of special jewellery stuff going on:

Catwalk shows
Satellite parties
Collection launches
Exhibitions
Open houses
Promotional offers
Educational seminars
Window displays
Cocktail receptions
Treasure hunts
Bling & Buy sales
End-of-year shows
Sales
Auctions
Workshops
Demonstrations

MATERIALS: standard silver

TECHNIQUES: wax carving, filing, sanding, polishing (actual casting performed by someone else)

TOOLS: various wax carving tools (rasp, ring sizer with cutting blade, some general tools that could be used for carving and sanding the wax), wheatsheaf ring gauge, hard wax, steel wool, wet and dry paper, half-round needle file, soft brush, buffer (tripoli mop and rouge mop), ultrasonic cleaner (+ tools for casting)

PROCESS:
My ring model was formed from a round wax tube with an off-centre hole. My instructor had cut the tube into individual rings.

  1. Use a ring gauge to determine desired ring size (if the ring is for you you can just keep trying your finger until the ring is the desired size).
  2. Use a wax ring sizer with cutting blade to cut a hole to desired size.
  3. File or cut the wax ring to desired width and thickness and then use whatever tools necessary to carve the desired shape.
  4. Use a file and steel wool to get the ring as smooth as possible – it’s much easier to remove scratches in wax than it is to remove scratches in silver.
  5. Send away for casting (perhaps a future post on this process)
  6. File or saw any remaining ‘channels’ on the newly cast ring and then sand (file heavily scratched areas, if any, and sand, initially with a coarse paper, say 300-800 and then with a smooth paper (1000-1200).
  7. Polish using the tripoli mop. Clean using a soft brush and detergent and if desired result is achieved polish with the rouge mop (black caking may mean that you need to go back and do more tripoli polishing before continuing with the rouge).
  8. Clean off excess rouge using the ultrasonic cleaner.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • It’s very tricky to get scratches out of crevices but it’s still much easier to spend ages doing this with the wax ring than it is trying to get scratches out of the silver ring.
  • My finished ring has numerous scratches on the inside because I was too scared to file/sand down the wax or silver ring too much, thus making the ring a size too big. I should have made the ring a little bit smaller to account for smoothing the inside of the ring. Alternatively I could have smeared some melted wax to fill the scratches.
  • A solid silver ring is much much heavier than a wax ring! Every gram of wax will weigh 10.6 grams in silver (even more for gold!).

IF I HAD MORE TIME: I would have put some more thought into the design of the ring (it’s difficult to think of a design that’s carvable when put on the spot). I would have also spent more time carving to get a better shape and more time filing and sanding out scratches – firstly on the wax ring and then (if necessary) on the silver ring.

Brass keyring

May 22, 2008

MATERIALS: brass sheet, brass wire, split ring

TECHNIQUES: piercing, sawing, filing, sanding, soldering (making a chain!)

TOOLS: letter template, double-sided tape, saw and blades (size 2), counterpunch, drill, flat file, needle files, wet and dry paper, rod for forming chain links, soldering tools, barrel polisher

PROCESS:

  1. Use double sided tape to stick the letter template onto the brass.
  2. Counterpunch and then use a drill to pierce any compartments where you will need to gain access with the saw.
  3. Thread the saw through a pierced hole and saw along the edge of the template. Repeat with all of the other compartments and then saw around the outside of the template.
  4. File and sand the edges of the design.
  5. Form numerous jump rings by winding brass wire around a rod (the result is a ‘spring’) and then cut through the spring with a saw.
  6. Align the ends of a jump ring (use pliers to create tension) and Solder using a small piece of silver hard solder. Do the same with another jump ring. Link the soldered rings to a third jump ring and solder this shut using silver medium solder.
  7. Bend a short and thick piece of brass wire (to make a loop at the top of the keyring). File so that the wire ends fit snugly against the edge of the keyring. Solder on using fairly large pieces of silver hard solder. Connect the chain to the loop using a final jump ring, soldered using silver easy solder.
  8. If pickling gives the keyring a copper plating this can be removed using a soft brush, detergent and pumice and/or steel wool.
  9. Barrel polish and attach a split ring to the free end of the chain.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • It will take a lot of practice to get sawing technique correct.
  • Make sure you have plenty of saw blades handy as they break often, especially when inexperienced.
  • Size 2 is a good blade size for many sawing jobs.

IF I HAD MORE TIME: I would have taken more care when sawing and spent more time filing and sanding away teeth marks around the edges.

Wide silver ring

May 10, 2008

with hammer marks

MATERIALS: Standard silver sheet

TECHNIQUES: annealing, hammering/planishing, sawing, soldering, ring forming, ring resizing, sanding

TOOLS: triblet (ring mandrel), barrel polisher, hammer, saw and blades, soldering tools, mallet, wet and dry paper, scribe, vise, (ideally pendant drill), ring stretcher

PROCESS:
This was made very quickly.

  1. Cut silver to desired width using a guillotine.
  2. Use a hammer to texture one side.
  3. Use a mallet on the sheet over a triblet to form a ring shape (perhaps a little smaller than the size that you want).
  4. Use scribe to mark where to cut through to get rid of the ends and saw as marked.
  5. Check size (cut off more if needed) and then ‘saw through’ the cut to make sure that it’s smooth for soldering.
  6. Solder using silver hard solder.
  7. Sand as necessary and use hammer marks to cover the solder seam.
  8. Resize if necessary.
  9. Barrel polish.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Wide rings are very difficult to remove from one’s finger! Although in general you should make rings a little smaller than desired and stretch if necessary, with such a wide ring I should’ve probably made it a bit bigger. Actually, in hindsight I would not have made it so wide.
  • Be careful when resizing – the solder seam can break. If you need to re-solder use a solder with a lower melting point.

IF I HAD MORE TIME: I would have done more work cleaning up the finished solder seam – I didn’t get any time to hammer the outside or sand/file the inside. I would have liked to have used a pendant drill to sand the inside of the ring.

slightly domed circular cufflinks with a
transparent blue enamel layer

MATERIALS: standard silver sheet, silver cufflink fittings, transparent blue enamel powder

TECHNIQUES: annealing, doming, soldering, enamelling, filing, sanding

TOOLS: cutter, barrel polisher soldering tools, wet and dry paper, flat file, kiln, enamelling tools

PROCESS:

  1. Cut metal sheet into 2 circles of desired size (using hole cutter).
  2. Anneal and gently dome each circle using a doming block.
  3. Sand the edges by moving in a figure-of-eight on emery/wet and dry paper.
  4. File the back of the cufflink fittings so that they will fit snugly onto the domes.
  5. Solder the fittings on using hard solder. When soldering make sure the barrels are ‘out’ (as they would be when wearing them) so that they don’t melt, and only attach tweezers to where the steel pin connects the two parts of the fitting to avoid bending the heated silver.
  6. Prepare the enamel. Crush the powder (or rock) in water using a mortar and pestle until it is the consistency of a fine icing – rinse numerous times, lastly with distilled water and place in a small container with a little distilled water covering it.
  7. Prepare the silver for enamelling by brushing with a glass fibre brush, detergent and water. The final rinse should be with distilled water (wear gloves to avoid getting glass fibres in you hands!).
  8. Use a fine art brush to dab on the enamel. Apply an even coating – not to thick or thin, too dry or wet. Blot excess water and place on top of the preheating kiln to dry out (until the enamel looks like frost crystals).
  9. Place the cufflinks on ceramic fibreboard and stilts and place in the kiln (I think around 900-1000 degrees, but perhaps this depends on the type of enamel). Check after a minute or so – it’s better to check to early and have to return the item to the kiln than it is over-fire. If the piece is still looking crystalline it probably needs more time, but if it looks kind of smooth and glassy (but perhaps a different colour to what you were expecting) then it’s probably ready to remove. Place the items on top of the kiln for a few minutes before moving them elsewhere so that they can cool down slowly.
  10. Pickle after enamelling but don’t leave in the pickle for too long as it can affect the colour.
  11. Use a diagrit to remove excess enamel from the edges.
  12. Barrel polish.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • The kiln is very hot and can melt silver so it’s best use a reasonably thick sheet. Also always use hard solder (or enamelling solder).
  • Enamel can be re-fired (adding more enamel, cloisonné wires etc. as you go)
  • Enamel is best used on a recessed area where it is protected. Before I had a chance to remove excess enamel from the edges of one my cufflinks, the enamel started flaking so I had to retouch and re-fire it.
  • Colour results can be unpredictable. Luckily the light blue transparent enamel that I used turned out to be a lovely shade.

IF I HAD MORE TIME: I would have done some more sanding to make sure the backs were a bit smoother and tried to get a more evenly domed surface.

Hmmm. Must do some future posts on enamelling.

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.