The Gift ~ A Silver Stocking Filler!

Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

I thought it might just be the perfect time to do a ‘giveaway’, what with Christmas just around the corner, and this beautiful woven silver bangle just desperate for a new home!

My intention is to make a collection of these bangles, each of differing widths, so that they can be bought as a set and worn stacked together on the arm.  This bangle will fit an average female wrist, being 21 cm in diameter, and the band is approximately 4 mm wide.

I started with three lengths of sterling silver wire of around 1.6mm diameter.  The three lengths were bound tightly together with iron binding wire and then the ends fluxed and soldered to hold them firmly together and in place.  Next, the bundle of wires was secured in a vice and, using a pair of mole grips to hold one end, the bundle was twisted around and around to form a uniform spiral.

Woven Bangle - Work in Progress

Woven Bangle – Work in Progress

Twisting the silver like this causes it to work harden significantly; before any further progress could be made with the piece it had to be annealed (heated) to relax it and make it malleable once more.  The next step was to flatten the spiral.  This could be done easily with a rolling mill (if I had one), but my methods are more basic but probably a lot more satisfying – the use of a hammer can be very therapeutic! Using a hammer and a steel block, I flattened out the spiral into a long piece of woven silver that I could then shape into the bangle.  As you hammer the twisted metal, the weave loosens and the pattern starts to appear.  Repeated annealing is necessary during this process to keep the silver workable.

Once the correct thickness and length is achieved the piece is cut, fluxed and soldered together to form a circle.

Woven Bangle after soldering

Woven bangle after soldering

After the finishing processes of filing, emerying and polishing, you have the finished piece all dressed up, but with nowhere to go …

Thus the ‘giveaway’: I’ll be doing this via Twitter and tweeting regularly over the next week to get as many involved as possible.

For the chance to receive this beautiful handmade solid sterling silver bangle free of charge, you will need to follow me on Twitter (@anabenedicta) and either retweet one of my #BangleGiveaway tweets or give me a mention including the #BangleGiveaway tag – simple!

The closing date for this giveaway is Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 12 noon GMT – the winner will be chosen at random from all qualifying followers using Twitrand and will be announced by 6:00pm on 16 December.

Go on, join in the fun and win a beautiful free silver stocking filler this Christmas.  Good luck!

Handmade Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Handmade Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Please note that only UK entrants will be guaranteed to receive the bangle before Christmas; overseas entrants are welcome but may not receive their gift until January 2013 as I am unable to guarantee international postage times.

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

Wearing a Heart on your Wrist

Solid Sterling Silver Celtic Knot Heart Charm Bracelet

Solid Sterling Silver Celtic Knot Heart Charm Bracelet

I’ve a real passion for Celtic knotwork and after the success of the Celtic Cross pendant I was longing to explore more ideas.

Charm bracelets are still proving very popular, so I thought I’d have a go at creating my own version of this style.  Working with a large link trace chain in solid sterling silver for the bracelet element, I chose a knotwork heart design from which to handcraft a single silver charm.

Heart Charm - work in progress

Heart Charm – work in progress

The detail of the design was hand-pierced from solid silver sheet, then filed into shape and formed.

Silver Heart Charm attached by figure of eight link to bracelet

Silver Heart Charm attached by figure of eight link to bracelet

The charm is then attached to a custom made figure of eight link on the chain via a jump ring.  Additional charms could be added to the bracelet chain, but I am all for classic simplicity and think that the beautifully detailed Celtic knot charm needs no accompaniment.

‘Heart’s Desire’ Sterling Silver Celtic Knotwork Charm Bracelet

The Solace of Success

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross Pendant

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross Pendant

What a relief when a challenging piece of work you took on with gritted teeth turns out well; even more so when the result is so much better than you could have hoped and leads to another commission!

This beautiful Celtic Cross pendant did give me one or two sleepless nights, but my client was so thrilled and enthusiastic about the result that I have to admit that every moment was worth it.

The whole piece was hand pierced using a saw frame with blade and then each and every element of the detailed design had to be hand finished with file and emery paper; it took time and patience, but I hope you’ll agree that all that work has paid off with interest.

I now feel confident enough to tackle another similar project, and am currently playing with a few designs that I think will make a good home for a stunning facet cut blue moonstone that I have in stock.  I’ve been wondering for a while how best to use it and I think I might well have found the perfect answer.

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross design hand-cut Pendant

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross design hand-cut Pendant

Infinite Possibilities

Infinity Fossil Pendant

Infinity Fossil Pendant in Sterling Silver

Another variation on the ‘Fossils in Silver’ theme, this time making use of the perfect symmetry created by the seamless  joining of two ammonite fossils to create a representation of a figure of eight on its side, which is customarily associated with ‘Infinity’. This symbol might also be used to depict the ‘ouroboros’, the alchemical sigil designating the cyclical nature and endlessness of all things.

This is a solid sterling silver piece which is both bold and beautiful. It is enhanced by a black silk necklet which has been threaded and knotted through the pendant’s integral bail loop.  A stunning complement to that little black cocktail dress now that we’re racing headlong towards the Christmas party season … grab it while you can!

Infinity Fossil Pendant in Sterling Silver

Infinity Fossil Pendant

Infinity Fossil Pendant in Sterling Silver

Infinity Fossil Pendant 

The Devil’s in the Detail

Celtic Knotwork Pendant, hand-pierced from Sterling Silver - work in progress

Still in its rough, unfinished state, a Celtic knotwork pendant, hand-pierced from sterling silver

I’m certainly not the greatest wielder of a saw frame in the world, but I’m also not easily discouraged by a piece of work that involves a good deal of piercing; I break my fair share of saw blades in the process, but doesn’t everyone?

On the other hand, I did quake slightly at the thought of making this commissioned pendant – not so fearful of the actual piercing, but rather in the amount of careful finishing necessary to bring all those cut edges from their initial rough state (despite my prudent choice of a fine-toothed blade for the job) to a smooth and highly polished finish – they say the devil’s in the detail and this piece is certainly proving to be solid proof of the truth in that old adage.

My client wanted quite an intricate pattern for the knotwork, but didn’t want the piece to be too large.  Thus, this piece is no more than 2.5 cm in diameter – you can see below the starting point with the design etched (not a necessary step to transfer the design, but I find it useful) onto the silver sheet before any drilling or piercing commenced:

Celtic knotwork design etched on silver

Celtic knotwork design etched on silver

Once I had the design in place, the next step was to identify and mark which areas were to be removed with the saw and then, using a centre punch, mark out a seat for the drill bit in each area.  After drilling all the holes needed to give access to the saw blade, I set about the task of carefully threading the saw blade through the metal, getting it up to tension in the frame and then piercing out as accurately as possible the design from the metal.

Pierced design completed - finishing yet to begin!

Pierced design completed; finishing process yet to begin …

Now begins the task I am least looking forward to; the painstaking work of filing, emerying and polishing each and every nook and cranny to get as perfect a finish on the piece as I am able.  As you will see from the first image above, the pendant has been domed slightly and this will help access some of the smaller, more awkward areas as the doming process stretches the metal and opens up the gaps in the design a little.  Lastly I’ll make a chunky bail out of silver wire and solder that into place.

I can foresee quite a few hours of rather tedious work ahead before I can present the finished piece …

Ancient Sea Creatures Immortalised in Silver

The 'Fossils in Silver' Pendant Collection

The ‘Fossils in Silver’ Pendant Collection

My collection of ‘Fossils in Silver’ continues to grow.  This group of pendants all developed out of the original idea for the fossil cufflinks which started me down this particular design path.

Having seen how well the shape worked when dapped using a doming block, I started playing with ideas for creating a pendant.  My first attempt simply took the same outline as the cufflinks, enlarged it slightly, formed it with block and punch to give it greater structure and depth, and finally adding a bead bail to make a simple but effective everyday wear pendant.

'Fossils in Silver' Plain Sterling Silver Pendant

‘Fossils in Silver’ Plain Sterling Silver Pendant

From there it was a simple jump to consider adding a gemstone.  I repeated the small pendant design, but this time enhanced it by setting a 4mm Sky Blue Topaz gemstone into a bezel placed at the heart of the silver fossil.

'Fossils in Silver' Pendant set with sky blue topaz

‘Fossils in Silver’ Pendant set with Sky Blue Topaz

Finally, I decided to ‘go large’!  The last pendant in the set is, I think, the most stunning.  It follows the basic pattern of the others but is much bolder.  It is embellished with a large, beautifully deep coloured London Blue Topaz gemstone.  I have also pierced out a shaped integral bail and the whole piece is set off to perfection with a knotted 1.5 mm thick Spiga (plaited) sterling silver chain.

I really love the overall effect of this piece – I have no doubt that it will get noticed!

'Fossils in Silver' Pendant set with London Blue Topaz

‘Fossils in Silver’ Pendant set with London Blue Topaz