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


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.


Salamander – Spirit of Fire

Salamander – Spirit of Fire

Winter just had to be the right time of year for me to explore the element of FIRE.

With such a sudden cold snap upon us in Britain, the dancing flames of a roaring fire are an hypnotic distraction from the freezing temperatures outside and provide the inspiration for my latest project – Salamander, Spirit of Fire.

Salamander - Spirit of Fire

Salamander - Spirit of Fire design sketch

This piece is designed in sterling silver and combines 2.4mm sterling square wire with 1.5mm sterling sheet to produce an overlapping circular pendant within which sits a disc of silver etched with the flickering flames of a warming fire.

I am currently working on the bezel which will be soldered into the base of the silver disc to play host to a stunning twilight topaz gemstone. The stone is 8mm in diameter and, on catching the light, flashes with a mixture of warm colours – amber, yellow, deep pink. It’s a stunning gem and I feel it really excels as the representation of the heart of the fire.

Salamander - Spirit of Fire

Salamander - Spirit of Fire design sketch

Salamander - Spirit of Fire

Salamander - Spirit of Fire design sketch

The outer ring of the pendant is cut and the ends filed into shape; file marks are removed with increasing grades of wet & dry paper until a smooth finish is achieved.

A mandrel and mallet are then used to shape the pendant.

The central silver disc is then marked up on silver sheet, pierced out and then the design of the flames is etched onto the metal using a nitric acid bath. This process takes a little while; the nitric acid solution shouldn’t be too strong otherwise a large number of bubbles form on the surface of the silver as the metal reacts with the acid and this produces a rough texture which may not be what you’re trying to achieve.

Once the flame design is in place, the disc can be hand finished to form as perfect a circle as possible. Having made the bezel to fit the gemstone, a recess is then pierced out of the lower edge of the disc into which the bezel will be soldered. The sketches above show quite clearly how the bezel setting works in practice; the narrow ledge just inside the rim of the bezel is what supports the stone in the setting; the rim of the bezel is then pushed over the girdle of the stone to hold it in place.

The stone is the finishing touch to the piece – it is only set in place after all finishing, polishing etc. is completed. Even the hallmarking of the piece with my personal mark at the Assay Office in London will be done before the stone can be set – just in case!

Salamander - Spirit of Fire

Salamander - Spirit of Fire design sketch

Above you can see the stone in situ.

An oxidised finish will be given to the etched part of the design to provide some contrast with the mirror finish of the outer ring of the pendant.

This piece should be available for sale on ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade in January 2011. Please keep an eye out for it – I’ll be tweeting when it’s ready. This might be THE perfect gift for the fire sign in your life.


A Pendant called Kalea

KALEA is an elegant handmade sterling silver pendant comprising circles within circles, bezel set with a 9mm round cushion-cut faceted Teal Blue Topaz gemstone. The split bail design is simple but adds interest to the piece.

The outside circle of silver is approximately 30 mm in outer diameter and 2.4 mm thick, the inner circle approximatley half that diameter and 2 mm thick. The Teal Blue Topaz gemstone, being cushion cut, catches and reflects the light beautifully.

The piece is quite large and is designed to be worn high up around the neck, at the throat. It thus comes with an elegant solid silver rigid wire choker, with a decorative ball & hook catch. The silver choker is 1.5 mm thick and 42 cm around.

A statement piece that will definitely become a talking point!

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