Friday, October 16, 2009

Jewelry Making 101

Welcome to the world of metal smithing. Above are photos of a cone and a two part hollow form (sphere bead) made from copper. These were last week's homework assignments. It is quite a different process to the pre-fabricated ready-made jewelry making world we live in today. The industrial age has relieved jewelry designers of many of the time consuming and labored steps required for the simplest of tasks. Today, we can buy inexpensive closed jump rings and bezel cups but there was a time when jewelers did everything by hand. To be a great jewelry designer, it is important we learn these age old skills so there is a laundry list of techniques we have to include in our midterm projects for my metal arts class. Things like hollow forms, textured metal and wire, rivets, soldering, cabochons in bezel settings and of course, a concept paper explaining your piece at length.

We first created a "mochette" which is a sample of our design made out of paper and other supplemental supplies. This allows us to work out construction issues before we cut into the expensive materials plus helps us estimate how much metal we'll need to order to make our project.

I came up with this necklace which has three flowers of varying sizes and designs. The center flower bezel would be set on a metal swivel attached with a rivet onto a lip soldered to a hollow form. A little twist (no pun intended) on a locket. I thought I'd use 3 different sized wires to create the "chain" and have them swirl and loop with soldered leaves like miandering vines. The entire piece is to be made of sterling which I ordered from H. Schmidt & Son (208 Precious Metals) on ebay. Their prices are incredible and they totally worked with me to get the right amounts and gauges for the projects.

Once I received my materials, I cut out my flower shapes and wire to create the flowers.

I tinkered with the cabochons and flowers arrangements before I decided where I wanted everything.

Next I hammered the flowers and wire to create some texture. Did you know that the word "Smith" is derived from the verb "to smite" which means to strike with a tool? This hammering causes the metal to get hard (work hardening) so I had to anneal the silver (heat the metal to a super high temperature) so I could bend the petals to create dimension. The annealing caused some discoloration which I will remove later in the process after I've added patina.

Next, I had to bend bezel around the stones and solder the ends together, then to a flat piece of silver to create a bezel cup. I have not burnished the setting closed (that is why it looks unfinished) because I still need to patina and solder the settings to the flowers and to the necklace.

For the center flower, I created a wall for the locket and soldering the top on. I still need to set the rivet and cut the locket hole before I can do the bezel for this stone.

Next I'll do some patina, filing/ cleaning up, plus finish hammering /forming the necklace from wire and solder on leaves. Then I'll solder the flowers together and on to the necklace. The final steps will include burnishing the bezel and bending the closure. I simulated the finished look a little for the photos below. I hope it all comes together as planned but we shall see.

I had ordered these really amazing stones to go into it but I didn't realize they were coming from China so they may not arrive in time. No wonder they were so inexpensive, right? It is probably better that I save those beautifies for when I am more experienced anyway.

The wire petals above were soldered together (this is not as easy as it seems and took many times at the torch). I wanted to set the stone with wrapped wire but this technique is also more advanced than I expected so I may not go that route- we'll see.

This is my mess - I love the contrast of all the tools and the itty, biddy stones. You should see my finger tips. No ink stains or matted glue in this craft, but lots of little cuts...ouch. More to come as I progress... Happy Friday!

1 comment:

  1. Wowsers, it looks great, Jilliene! After the new year I'm going to look into taking some metal smithing classes. I've taken some in Seattle but I haven't invested in all the soldering stuff yet... my studio is in the basement so I need Jason to put in a venting system from my work table. :)