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.

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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

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!

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils in Silver Cuff Bangle

‘Mosaic of Fossils in Silver’ Cuff Bangle

Following on from last week’s post, here are some images of the finished Cuff Bangle.  I’m delighted with this piece and already contemplating how I can use this stunning etch design on another creation.  Perhaps a necklace with three etched drops of silver each with a few highlights of 24ct gold?  Mmmm, worth a little thought …

Any ideas or suggestions gratefully received!

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

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

Simple Elegance in Silver

‘Deco’ Collection – Artist’s Impression

This collection is still very much a work in progress.  I felt these pieces had an ‘Art Deco’ feel to them, hence the collection’s title.  They are hand crafted out of sterling silver sheet; there’s a lot of piercing (sawing) and filing to be done to achieve a professional finish here, so the pieces are rather time consuming to work on, but all the more satisfying for that.

I am attempting two finishes on the surface of the silver with these – as there is a three-dimensional effect created by cutting grooves into the sheet, one side will be polished to a mirror finish, the other given a matt satin texture to help emphasise the perception of depth created by the design.

'Deco' Pendant ~ Design Sketch

'Deco' Earrings ~ Design Sketch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I anticipate making  a couple of different sizes and weights in the pendant ~ one to complement the necessarily lighter and smaller feel of the earrings, the other a larger and more substantial piece; it’ll make something of a statement all by itself, though could still be paired with the earrings quite successfully.

Progress is slow but steady and I am hoping to have these ready in a week or so.  An update will appear here when they’re  completed.

Ana

The Legendary Celtic Knot

Celtic Knot Work Sterling Silver Pendant with Black Onyx Cabochon

Celtic knot work is perhaps the most widely recognisable art from early times. Despite extensive study, the Celts remain one of the most elusive and unknowable of ancient cultures. This stems largely from the fact that the Celts appear to have relied extensively on an oral tradition for the passing on of knowledge and skills. Though it is without doubt that they were an educated people, written records of their beliefs and traditions are few.

The artistry of the Celtic knot is regularly seen by around 450 AD and, following the Christian influence on Celtic culture, this art form began to be incorporated into early Christian manuscripts, perhaps the most famous and lavish of which is the Irish Book of Kells ~ an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament recorded in Latin in circa. 800 AD.

There are a great variety of knots, swirls, plaits and other motifs which make up traditional knot work. Can any meaning be attributed to the various knot designs? Well, although probably more folklore than absolute truth, the knot is often referred to as the ‘mystic’ or ‘endless’ knot and is associated with endings and beginnings ~ as the knot has no true beginning or end, it represents the infinite cycle of birth and rebirth of the spirit and emphasises the timeless nature of the soul’s journey. It can also be seen to represent the uninterrupted life cycle of nature and the turning of the wheel of the year through the seasons.

In this way, the Celtic knot has become a symbol or talisman and is often incorporated into items of jewellery, clothing and other ornamentation and given or acquired as a charm against misfortune and ill health. Today, it is often given as a gift with good wishes for health, longevity and good luck with all new projects or endeavours.