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

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A Challenging Valentine’s Commission

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

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.

 

Split Bangle

Split Bangle

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!

I made this!!

Well, I had made one decision at least … I would make a ring.  Great.  Fantastic.  Now what?

With my background being in law and not, I thought, a creative bone in my body, how was I going to even come up with a design for this ring, let alone actually muster the skills to craft it.  Help!

Fortunately, at Flux n Flame, there was no need for me to worry.  I was very lucky to have an extremely enthusiastic and talented jewellery designer to guide me (almost by the hand!) through the day.  Fran Barker (who is sadly no longer teaching at Flux n Flame) was to be so inspirational and helped me out of a tight spot or two on that first day.  I’m not at all sure that I would have caught the jewellery-making bug so badly if it hadn’t been for her!  You can see an example of her stunning work below.

Frank Barker Jewellery

A stunning handmade ring from Fran Barker's Peacock Collection

After poring over design after design in the books which had been made available to us, I still wasn’t confident that I could attempt any of them.  Finally, I decided on a simple plain band ring to be cut from silver sheet.  Now the fun was to start in earnest.  After measuring my finger and working out what size ring I needed to make, I then had to master the first evil thing that every budding jeweller has to face – the jeweller’s saw and piercing blades. Don’t sound too scary, do they – but believe you me, there is nothing more frustrating when you start out on this path than learning to pierce out a shape in metal – just when you think you’ve got it, PING, your saw blade snaps in two and you find yourself spending the next 10 minutes fighting to fit a new blade into the frame.  And it does this again and again and again …aaagghh!!

Good practice though, as you really do need to get this technique under your belt.  Having marked up and finally managed to pierce out the rectangular piece of silver that was to miraculously turn into a ring, it was suggested that I might like to add some texture to the surface to provide a bit of interest.  I chose to have a go at reticulation, which produces a rippled effect on the surface of the sheet.

Of course, during the heating process to achieve this finish I took things just a tad too far, and ended up melting a tiny hole in the silver sheet.  Ruined.  Or, if you have Fran’s positive outlook on things, just a minor challenge to be overcome!

“You could decorate the band with some silver and gold balls – it’s great fun making silver balls, and they will cover up the hole so nobody will notice” .  Positivity … just what I needed to hear as I hurled all my tools off the beginner’s workbench!

Making tiny silver and gold balls was fun, and I wouldn’t have got the chance to have a go but for my mistake.  Always look for the silver lining to each and every cloud.  Here’s the finished article – not exactly perfect, but a perfect first attempt.

Ana's first ring

Reticulated wide silver band ring

And so my journey in silver has thus far taken me from there to here:

 

 

Sterling silver twist ring with Rainbow Topaz gemstone

Sterling silver twist ring with Rainbow Topaz gemstone

Where will it lead me next?