Friendship with a Twist

Maori Single Twist Silver Pendant

Maori Single Twist Silver Pendant

I always feel especially happy when I’m asked by a friend to create a bespoke piece of jewellery.  On this occasion, it was even more special as it was to be a gift commissioned in celebration of a 40th birthday and the design had to reflect both the birth date and, more importantly, the significance and value of a long-standing friendship.

I had suggested something along the lines of a Celtic Claddagh, representing love, friendship and loyalty, but my friend had a very definite (and very different) idea in mind. She told me that the birthday girl was fond of large, bold pieces of jewellery.  After some research, she had decided upon a Maori Friendship Twist as the perfect solution.

The single twist is a Maori tribal symbol and is often given and worn as a token of love and eternal friendship.  As we also wanted to represent the November birth stone (in this case Topaz), I thought I’d add a twist of my own to the Twist (so to speak) and came up with this design:

Maori Twist Pendant sketch

Maori Twist Pendant sketch

Adding the wave effect ‘arms’ to the centre of the design presented me with the ideal location in which to set the beautiful Swiss Blue Topaz stone I had bought to compliment this piece.

So, with the design parameters all now met, it was time to set to work.

I started by converting the design sketch into a black and white image that I could apply to thick silver sheet using transfer paper.  My choice of method was influenced by the fact that I wanted to create a 3D effect where the twist overlaps to form the bail loop. Rather than tracing out the flat design and then using my piercing saw and files to achieve the desired grooves in the metal, I opted for etching the shape onto the silver, thereby allowing the acid to eat away the metal to create the effect I wanted.

Once the acid had completed its work, you can see below the initial stages where the shape has been pierced out of the metal and the initial filing completed:

Maori Friendship Twist - Work in Progress

Maori Friendship Twist – Work in Progress

The next task was to fabricate the bezel setting for the stone and then solder that into place between the ‘arms’ which would appear to hold the gemstone at the centre of the pendant.  A circular bail of half-round wire was then made and attached to the bail loop.

After the usual processes for finishing with emery paper, Tripoli and Rouge polish, the stone could be securely set within the bezel.  I am very pleased with the result and am happy to say that so was the lucky birthday girl!

Sterling Silver Maori Friendship Twist Pendant

Sterling Silver Maori Friendship Twist Pendant with Swiss Blue Topaz gemstone

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A Musical Symmetry?

'Symmetry' Pendant - Artist's Impression

Sterling Silver ‘Symmetry’ Pendant

I had been puzzling for a while about how I could make a pendant to compliment my ‘Perfect Symmetry’ collection of rings.  Initially, I wanted to create something based around a circular design in recognition of the rings’ shape, but I could find no pleasing way of  incorporating the symmetrical scroll elements whilst also maintaining a true circle form.

Eventually I decided to just take a straight piece of round silver wire of significant diameter, taper the ends sufficiently to enable me to create the scrolls, and then play around with this and a pair of half round pliers until the metal took on an interesting shape.

Tapered Silver Wire in 'Symmetry' shape

Tapered Silver Wire in ‘Symmetry’ shape

Tapered silver wire and bezel with Iolite gemstone

Tapered silver wire and bezel with Iolite gemstone

After a good deal of bending, hammering and annealing, a good shape seemed to present itself.

Continuing with the twining tendrils theme, I added a further piece of scrolled wire to the top of the pendant to create a bail.  I am really pleased with this small detail which enhances the overall effect of the piece.

'Symmetry' Sterling Silver Pendant

‘Symmetry’ Sterling Silver – a work in progress

The bezel will be filled with a 6mm round deep violet Iolite stone, the companion to that used in the ‘Symmetry with Iolite’ ring.

On seeing the design sketches for this pendant, a colleague commented that it looked a little like a musical treble clef symbol; it’s not quite, but I’m now thinking how I could use that idea for a future design!

'Symmetry' Collection - Iolite Pendant and Ring

‘Symmetry’ Collection – Iolite Pendant and Ring

Of Silver and Ice

'Fossils in Silver' Pendant with Ice Blue Topaz

‘Fossils in Silver’ Pendant with Ice Blue Topaz

Having achieved a more three dimensional effect by shaping and doming the etched fossil shapes to make the cufflinks, I wanted to play around a little bit and see what other pieces this design could work with.

Having etched and pierced out the spiral fossil design in two sizes, I thought I’d start with the small piece (a little more tricky to work with as the detail is finer, but less to lose if all goes awry) and adapt the design into a pendant. Although I now know it works and will no doubt be tempted to make a plain silver version, I wanted to enhance this piece with a small gemstone. I chose an ice (or sky) blue topaz, only 4mm in diameter, but which I thought would provide a good focal point.

'Fossils in Silver' - early steps with the pendant

‘Fossils in Silver’ – early steps with the pendant

After some careful preparation of the piece with files and emery paper, I constructed a bezel to fit the stone from bearer wire and drilled holes into the pendant where I wanted to place both the gemstone and the bail. Before marking out and piercing the hole for the bezel, I used a doming block and punch to raise the design into a convex form.

'Fossils in Silver' Pendant - raised design element

‘Fossils in Silver’ Pendant – raised design element

Above you can see the result of forming the metal. Once the bezel was fitted and soldered and the bead bail soldered in place, a thorough cleaning and finishing had to be completed before the stone was set. A final buffing around the bezel to remove any inadvertent setting marks and a good polish and the piece was complete.

The finished pendant is now with the Assay Office for hallmarking and I’m ready to tackle the larger version for which I’ve reserved a stunning 7mm round London blue topaz – can’t wait to see the result!

A Mosaic of Fossils on Silver

Fossils in Silver Cuff Bangle

‘Fossils in Silver’ Cuff Bangle

Having experimented with a pair of stylish cuff links to determine how well the beauty of nature’s design could be incorporated into my work in silver, I was so pleased with the outcome that I just had to continue the theme with additional pieces.

I have had some success in the past with my cuff bangle designs and so I wondered how best I could incorporate the detailed patterns so typical of an ammonite fossil shell onto such a piece. I wanted to capture the delicate tracery of the swirling surface markings in as much detail as possible in an attempt to create a mosaic-like effect on the surface of the silver.

I have found that etching the silver produces pleasing and fairly consistent results, but this time I feel the effect was truly special. You can see below the strip of etched silver shortly after the resist had been removed using a brass brush in warm soapy water.

Sterling Silver Sheet etched with Ammonite Fossil design

Sterling Silver sheet etched with fossil shell design

The etch is so sharp and clear that the seamless pattern of differing sized fossil images across the surface really make an impression and the fine lacework of lines have achieved the mosaic effect I was looking for; I am hopeful that once polished, the finished piece will be quite beautiful.

The next step was to clean up, shape and finish off the sharp edges of the silver sheet by filing, emerying with wet & dry paper and finally polishing before the piece can be shaped to snugly fit the wrist. Below is a close up of the work in progress.

'Fossils in Silver' Cuff Bangle - a work in progress!

‘Fossils in Silver’ Cuff Bangle – a work in progress

Fortunately, the sheet metal had already been carefully annealed before work began and so was still soft enough to easily shape on a bangle mandrel; no further heating was required and some gentle forming with a raw hide mallet rendered the decorated piece of flat sheet into a perfectly beautiful cuff bangle.

'Fossils in Silver' Cuff Bangle

‘Fossils in Silver’ Cuff Bangle

Now all that is left to do is give this a pre-polish with Tripoli, clean off the residue and then give the whole piece a final polish up with jeweller’s rouge to leave it sparkling.  Can’t wait to see the finished piece.

Fossils in Silver

Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Only a short distance away from my home in the New Forest, you arrive at England’s remarkable Jurassic Coast, the cliffs and beaches of which trace 100 million years of history.  This stunning coastline was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 2001, but it is not just its natural beauty that attracts, it is the geology and the amazing number of fossils found in the area that bring so many visitors to walk the coastal paths and explore the cliffs and beaches.

Fossil-hunting here began in Victorian times, often pioneered by men of the church, mostly because they were among the few in society who had the luxury of the time and sufficient wealth to devote to studying fossils.

Often the easiest fossil find, particularly for the novice hunter, is the ammonite, and  it is the beautiful symmetry of the ammonite’s spiral patterns that caught my interest and I began thinking about how I could incorporate this into a piece of jewellery.  Because the spirals of their shells resemble a curled ram’s horn, they are named after the Egyptian god Amon, whose human form had a ram’s head.  When ammonites died, their hard shells fell to the ocean floor and became covered in sediment.  Over time the sediment became compressed and hardened to encase the shell and it is this that is sought by eager beach-combers today.

Ammonite

Ammonite

There are many tales and superstitions surrounding this now long extinct creature; the fervently religious were thought to believe them to be snakes that had been turned to stone by St Patrick.  Carrying one was thought to give protection against the evil eye and sickness.

I have tried to recreate the visual beauty of their perfect spiral staircase form in my designs and this is an outline sketch of an idea for cuff links.

Sketch design for Ammonite-inspired cuff links

Sketch design for Ammonite-inspired cuff links

The concept has rather taken on a life of its own and these initial thoughts have so far extended to two pendant designs with matching earrings and an unusual etched cuff.

So I am now hard at work developing these ideas and bringing the concepts to life – a collection of ‘Fossils in Silver’.

Silver Fossil Cuff Links - Artist's Impression

Silver Fossil Cuff Links – Artist’s Impression

Elemental Spirit of Earth

DRYAD, SPIRIT OF EARTH

Sterling Silver Dryad Spirit of Earth Pendant set with Imperial Topaz

Sterling Silver Dryad Spirit of Earth Pendant set with Imperial Topaz

With this piece I have continued the Elemental Collection theme; you may recall my earlier design representing the element of Fire (Salamander, Spirit of Fire) ~ here we move on to the Earth element.

I felt this beautiful Celtic knotwork tree image was a perfect representation for elemental earth, and the name ‘Dryad’, being the name commonly associated with a tree spirit, certainly fitted the piece’s theme to perfection.  The tree’s roots stretch down far into the earth beneath it and the stunning cinnamon coloured Imperial Topaz gemstone set at the foot of the tree gives the sense of a light and rich soil from which the tree can forever draw its nourishment.

This piece can be seen at my stockist’s in Colchester, Handmade at 6 Sir Issac’s Walk.  If you’d like a similar piece made just for you, please get in touch – my contact details can be found at the top of the page.

I will be continuing this theme with similarly styled pendants for both Air and Water, so please do keep in touch if you’d like to see the results.

Ana

Here be dragons … a Gothic~style bracelet

‘GOTHIC~STYLE DRAGON BRACELET’ 

Gothic Dragon Bracelet ~ Artist's Impression

Gothic Dragon Bracelet ~ Artist’s Impression

I’m not precisely sure where my inspiration for this bracelet came from.  I am particularly fond of the Medieval period and feel that the imagery and heraldry from that time must lie behind my decision to etch a Dragon Rampant on the centre piece of this design.  Add to that the dragon claw clasp and scroll connecting brackets and we really are stepping back in time!

I started by piercing and etching the three panels from a sheet of sterling silver; each piece was then shaped and formed to resemble a shield.

Gothic Dragon Bracelet Sketch 1

The panels are formed

The next step was to come up with a decorative way of connecting these elements together.  I felt I wanted something a little unusual to make this piece stand out and so had a bit of a play around with some silver wire to see what I could come up with.

Gothic Dragon Bracelet Sketch 2

The connectors start to take shape …

Having managed to successfully shape all six lengths of wire to a similar profile, the next step was to file down each of the ends to an even taper.  After filing and emerying to produce a smooth finish, pliers were employed to bend the wire ends into the scroll shape.  Patience was needed in earnest now, as to form each of these scrolls by hand and achieve a consistent shape is not easy.

Now the fun really starts!  Finding a way to secure each connector to the edge of its panel, holding that firmly in place whilst soldering the two together and incorporating the chain links between the connectors of each element to form the bracelet, all at the same time, was no mean feat.

Gothic Dragon Bracelet Sketch 3

The scroll connectors in situ

With careful attention to detail, the soldering was successfully achieved.  The final construction stage was adding the claw clasp; this was a much less stressful operation!

After the usual round of emerying, cleaning and polishing, the three main elements were given an oxidised finish to lend further weight to the brooding gothic theme and give a more ‘aged’ appearance.

Gothic~Style Dragon Bracelet

The finished bracelet …

I am rather pleased with the result; a lot of work, but it paid off in the end.

I think I might be keeping this one for myself!

Ana