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


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

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

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!

Elemental 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.


Perfect Symmetry

Examples from the ‘Symmetry’ collection

I am absolutely thrilled with the way this ring design is taking shape.  Whether gemstone set or simply honed in silver, they are graceful pieces, their perfectly symmetrical design is very pleasing to the eye and they sit gracefully on the finger.

I have been working on them now for a week or so, and have a small collection coming together.  This will include an unset ring with a highly polished finish:

Design sketch for the plain 'Symmetry' ring

Another set with an absolutely stunning deep violet blue Iolite gemstone (this has to be seen – at their best, Iolite gemstones have a more exquisite colour than many Tanzanite stones):

Design sketch for gemstone set 'Symmetry' ring

Other possibilities are for a second gemstone ring set with a small but prettily pink Tourmaline and I am contemplating an unset plain satin finished one too, but am undecided.

The work is progressing well and they should be ready to send off for hallmarking by the middle of this week, I can then get them photographed and uploaded to my Adornments Studio.

I hope this short post has whet your appetite to see the finished pieces; I’ll do a post on my Latest Design page giving more details about their construction as soon as they’re ready.


Too Hot to Handle?

Salamander, Spirit of Fire

Salamander, Spirit of Fire

The perfect gift for the fire sign in your life!  This beautiful and utterly unique pendant is handmade in sterling silver and is bezel set with an 8mm round facet cut twilight topaz gemstone.  It is hard to even begin to do justice to the beauty of this gemstone with a photograph; when light catches it, it positively shimmers with vibrant flashes of orange, pink and yellow.  Really quite breathtaking and very reminiscent of the colours visible at the heart of a roaring fire.

The raised surface design of flames dancing upward was achieved by etching the design into the metal using an acid solution.  The desired design is adhered or painted onto the surface of the silver with a resist and, after covering up those areas where you do not want the acid to reach, the piece is submerged into a weak acid solution. The acid will slowly “eat” away the metal around the design to leave a raised pattern on the surface.

The drop from the top of the bail to the bottom of the pendant is approximately 5 cm, with the outer diameter of the piece reaching just over 3 cm.

This piece is currently listed for sale in my “Adornments” Studio ~ click here to view.

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