It’s a truly happy day for any artisan when they receive, completely out of the blue, a request for a special one-off piece.
That happiness, however, soon turns to anxiety and a mild feeling of panic when you find yourself faced with a design conundrum – the bespoke item you’ve been asked to make is something you’ve never attempted before. Aggghhh!!
This is exactly the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago. I was asked by a loving husband if I could make a beautiful, classic silver bangle for his wife for Valentine’s Day. His wife had seen this particular piece in a jewellery shop window, but alas it had been made with white gold and, with a price tag of over £700, was a little out of reach for my romantic client! He wondered if I could possibly design something similar in silver.
Now, as you will know if you’ve read some of my early posts, I am still very much a journeyman on the jewellery-making road and, although I have made a wonderful wide cuff bangle for a friend in the recent past, this piece was something very new for me – even with some design adjustments to make it truly unique.
As he described the bangle to me over the telephone, I doodled something down on paper and then e-mailed it to him to see if it was something close to what he had in mind. After a little toing and froing, we agreed on the design below.
Split bangle design sketch
By this time I had come to a decision as to how I would attempt to construct this piece. I dismissed my first idea, which was to cut the design from silver sheet of the right thickness (approx. 2mm), drill a hole along the centre line and then proceed to pierce the centre split out of the sheet. I am sure this technique would have worked effectively, but my concern was the time it would take me to true up the edges of the cut sheet after piercing out the outline of the bangle – I could foresee many hours of filing and emerying to get flush, smooth edges.
Instead, I decided to work with rectangular silver wire. After cutting two strips of wire to the desired length, I fastened them tightly with binding wire and then soldered both ends together to a distance of a couple of centimetres, effectively fusing the ends to form a single piece. This left me with a narrow split down the centre of the two pieces which, on bending to begin to form the finished bangle’s shape, opened fractionally, allowing me to insert a wooden wedge.
On fastening the bangle between the rubberised jaws of a vice, I was able to hammer the wooden wedge further and further into the split, thus causing it to open to gently form the navette shape that characterises this bangle.
The squared ends of the bangle then had to be rounded off with a hand file and the whole surface finished using graduated grades of wet and dry paper, tripoli and, for the final polish, rouge.
Eh voila! The finished bangle.
I am thrilled with the result and I am pleased to say that my client is too – it now just remains to be seen whether his wife will be as happy when she receives it tomorrow …I’m keeping everything crossed!