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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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 

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

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

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