Tag Archives: jewelry design

If you can remember, way, way back, before yesterday

I was getting ready to make this.

Willow Jasper

Poor photo 

Then my family came.

And went.


I really liked the lightness of this design, but for some reason, which I can’t remember now, I went a different way with it.

Now it’s heavy and Victorian looking and only people who like heavy Victorian looking things will perhaps buy it – which leaves out most of the population.

Is this self sabotage I wonder.

To make jewelry which is not to the taste of the majority of people.

Or is it a genius scheme to save me from ever parting with my beauties.

We may never know…

So this stone, which is beautiful by the way and now happens to be one of my new favourites, had to be pried from its setting twice because one of the balls kept falling off.

We won’t mention names.


Carrasite Jasper

I hate it when this happens and for it to happen twice, each time after I had cleaned it, blackened it, polished it and smiled with satisfaction at it, just sent me right over the edge.

The best way I’ve found to pry a stone from its setting once you’ve pushed the whole bezel collar over and sat back thinking it’s done by golly, is by using a scalpel.

I used to use one of these double ended pottery tools


Because I’ve got loads of them hanging around.

But even though they look thin, the knife-edge is actually a little too thick and it’s also easy to bend.

So, after much deliberation, like a nano seconds worth, I went to the scalpel.


Which seems more dangerous, and it is, but sometimes we have to blow caution to the wind and just get down to business.

Just gently slide the blade down in-between the bezel collar and the stone and wiggle it slightly until a small opening occurs, then slowly move it around the stone. Sometimes you can’t slide it and have to push it down again to make another opening.

The key is to do this slowly and to not push the collar too far out from the stone all at once. It’s best to do it in little movements as you work your way around the stone.

If you try to move it all at once the collar will get marks and crinkles in it so you want to do the least damage to the collar as possible.

Otherwise you may as well throw it in the bin and start over.

The tip of my scalpel blade snapped off which makes it easier to use. In fact you might want to take a small section of the point off to begin with so that you don’t have it fly into your eye when it decides to do it for itself as that wouldn’t be good.

Needless to say, always use your safety glasses as well as crossing your fingers.

So, there you have it.

I sincerely hope that you won’t ever have to take your stones out because your balls fall off, but if you do, know that there is hope.


And now…

I’m going to share with you my latest adventure into jewelry making where I seemed to have fire scaled the living daylights out of an innocent piece of silver…

I have to tell you the truth, up until now I hadn’t given much thought to fire scale.

I’d heard the word bandied around the jewelry channels often enough and yet, as with many things that cross my path, I didn’t think they were talking to me.

Those colourful papers with school activities and happenings would come home from school in the kid’s backpacks and I would just put them aside thinking they were meant for other mums.

Until I missed the event and wondered why no-one told me.

Yep. That’s the world I live in.

I think it’s called dissociative.

I call it happily going on my way and ignoring the stuff I don’t want to deal with.

Like fire scale.

Then, as I was making my latest piece, I was taken by how beautiful a piece of silver was that I had just soldered.


I mean, look at it.

And I was wondering if I could make a piece and somehow protect this finish.

But I believed it was just the flux having a field day with the heat and that it would just come off in the pickle.

Actually, I haven’t pickled that piece yet, so I still don’t really know.

Ah, the wonders of experiment.

Anyhow, somewhere in the back of my head the word ‘fire scale’ started to wake up, and now I think that’s what it might be.

Here’s a good article on fire scale.

So onto my latest piece.

Which might bore some of you because it’s pretty much like all of my latest pieces.

I bought a nice piece of Peruvian Blue Opal from Shirl.


I didn’t like the shape, but I liked the stone.

So I had a few drawings hanging around and decided to make one…

or two…

You know how it is.

First up I re-cut the stone to fit my design and polished it through all of the grits of the Jool Tool.


I do like how I can now adapt stones I’ve already bought, and for that I think the Jool Tool is worth it for me.

So here it is in its sketch.

I’m kind of over the big leaf design, but for some reason here’s another.


I made the opal, and it’s friend, a collar.



But felt that to just solder this onto a sheet of silver wouldn’t look good as it needed some more substance.

So I rolled out one of my silver pancakes that I’d melted down from my scraps.

Because I wanted chunky.


Decided where I wanted the dimension.


Used that sticky film paper


To cut out the shape.


And then decided it needed to be stamped.


I then soldered the collar onto it.


And that’s when that beautiful surface design happened.


The back didn’t look quite as good though.

That must be the copper coming to the surface.

Still kind of interesting though.


Because I wanted the stone to sit down further into the design I then cut the inside out of the bezel.


This also reduced the weight of the piece.


I try to saw as close to the inside edge as I can otherwise I’ll spend a lot of time filing away the excess.


I want the stone to pass easily through to the bottom.


Next I tidy up the edges of the bezel where the stamping may have distorted the shape and see how it looks on the sketch.


Now I solder it onto its new back plate, which is 22 gauge silver sheet, making sure to leave enough room around it to be able to give it a ‘step’.


Here it is trimmed to its final outline.


And now a much needed chip break.

I don’t usually eat them, but S brought me in some.

I think just to make sure I was still on the property.


You can see from the last photo (above the crisps) that I have traced a line around the inside of the bezel where I want the collar to fit against the stone.

I now also decide on the design I would like to put on the back.


I draw it onto the inside of the bezel because it’s easier to saw it out this way. I also always use a sharpie pen because I find that pencil rubs away as I’m sawing and so I lose the shape.

I don’t cut it out before I solder the first part of the bezel onto it because I want to make sure the design is exactly where I want it to be.

I drill the holes.


And cut it out.


And at the same time cut away and file the extra from the height of the bezel collar.


As you can see above I’ve already cut out the leaf shapes.

You can snip them out of scraps, but here I’ve used my saw as I haven’t got any scraps left.

They’re all repurposed pancakes now.

Oh well, live and learn.


Then I put them onto the sticky tape and use my chasing tool from Larry to make a leaf design.


Which I then solder onto lengths of 20 gauge wire.


I cut a length of 16 gauge wire for the main stem and soldered it onto the top of the bezel.


I then filed down the excess back plate to follow the curve of the stem.


And checked it on the sketch.


I wrapped the leaves around the main stem and soldered them onto it.


I do this very gently.

I move my torch in and out of the piece that I want to solder, all the time watching the surrounding area.

With practice you can see when another part is going to melt and so then I will quickly take my torch away, then bring it back in again slowly.

Depending on how many different solder points I have sometimes I will do this in batches in-between pickling the piece.

This is because often, before I can get to a different solder point, the flux has become grubby and the solder won’t flow so I can just manage three or four points at a time.

I just have to be patient (not easy for me) and go into my zen place.

If you are going to try this know that it is possible and just takes practice.

I only use easy solder for all of my joins from the beginning to the end of the whole piece and I am able to do it so keep at it.


I added some balls then pickled and sanded it, bringing it to its pre-finished state. Trying to get all of the excess solder and my new friend, fire scale, off and then I smothered it in Black Max.

Because I like to live dangerously.

Oh, and I decided on that little ball thing hanging from the bottom.


I buffed it a little bit and then set the stone.


I prefer to use the bezel roller.

I started with the square pusher thing, and did find that easier at first, but I like the smoothness of the roller.

It’s worth practicing with if you can take the pain of constantly pushing it into your fingers when you begin.

And voilà.


Yet another viney, leafy piece.


I really need to get some new designs going.


If you read the Ganoksin article on fire scale (linked above) you will have read this line.

“Traditional polishing apprenticeships lasted from three to five years”

No wonder I find the polishing part the hardest.

Aint got no time for five years though so I’m just going to have to keep on winging it…

A little Monday riveting.

Yesterday I decided to practice my riveting

I’ve only ever done it once before so I thought it was high time to give it another go.

I call this.

The Lots and Lots of Rivets Bracelet.


And just in case you’d like to practice your own riveting

Here’s the How To.

First up you will need to make the jump rings.

I used 14 gauge sterling silver wire and made my rings on the #9 mandrel. You can use any jump ring mandrel around 9 ish mm, or whatever size really. Just adjust the gauge of the metal if you use smaller links otherwise working the metal won’t be as manageable.



Wrap the rings in tape to hold them together as you use your jewelry saw to separate them.

Although you can use your wire cutters, sawing gives the rings a nice flat cut. If you choose to use your wires cutters turning the flat side of the cutters for each cut ensures that the inside of the rings have flush ends.


Pull the rings apart.


And hammer the ends flat.


But don’t do this.


Because it really hurts.

Now reshape the rings around a pair of round nose pliers.


Making sure that the ends overlap enough to drill a hole through both ends.


After using your center punch to place a guide dimple in the flattened end, use a ring holder or pair of old pliers to hold the ring in place while you drill the hole.

The metal can get very hot when you are drilling it and can easily be whipped away from your hand. Holding small pieces of metal this way is much safer and you’ll be less likely to lose an eye.


Now clean up the ends.


You will need to make around 21 of these for a 7 1/2 ” bracelet.

Next take some 19 gauge sterling silver wire and make a small ball at one end with your torch.


Thread the wire through the drilled hole and through this nifty rivet making thingy which you can find – HERE. and gently tap the top of the ball with your hammer to flatten.


Cut the wire about a quarter inch proud.


And ball this end up also.


This is a bad photograph, but if you gently heat the wire from below it will eventually ball up.



Cut half of the ball off and then hammer this side to flatten the rivet.


Note: This is not how I was taught to make rivets so really I’m cheating a bit here.

To make a ‘proper’ rivet, or at least the way I was taught, is to thread a piece of wire through a hole which has been made using a drill bit that matches the gauge of the wire you are using. Cut the wire a millimeter or so proud either side of the piece of metal to be riveted, and use your riveting hammer to alternate hammering the ends flat.

If done correctly this spreads the metal out and over the edges of the drill hole thereby securing the two pieces of metal you want to join.

It should produce a clean, round ended rivet.

Here’s a nice little you tube tutorial just on riveting – HERE.

This is what I wanted to practice so don’t ask me why I didn’t.

So back to my way.

Now make it some friends.




And find it a clasp.


And voilà.


Your lots and lots of rivets bracelet.


And with some left overs.


A handy pair of earrings.


I wasn’t particularly happy with my rivets as I thought they were a bit clumsy. I’m also disappointed that I hadn’t made the rivets the way I was taught although I had specifically wanted to do this, so, I shall be out there again today to practice some more.

Maybe not on a whole bracelet as I immediately made another one trying a different approach as soon as I decided that I didn’t like the rivets on the first one.


I still didn’t do it the way I had first intended.

I know.

Don’t question me.

This time I used a thinner gauge wire (16 gauge) on the #8 mandrel, and instead of hammering the balled ends I just left them as part of the design.

I cut and bent half-inch lengths of 20 gauge wire which I then thread through the holes and balled up at the same time.


It needs a little more cleaning, but now I’m not sure about this one either.




All in all a hard day at the office I’d say, but only one injury so it can’t be all bad.

Today I leave you as I venture once more into the fray. If you don’t hear from me again I will have most likely hammered myself into oblivion.

It was nice knowing you all.

As if the funk wasn’t enough

I’ve now hurt my back!

Maybe it’s due to too much sitting at the jewelry table.

Here’s an update.


The bezel is still a little off, (well o.k., a lot off), and I’m not sure I’ve got that much wiggle room to straighten it.

I’m going to try though as it will bother me the whole time if I don’t.

I’m thinking of compensating for the slant of the stone by shortening the left hand link at the top. Actually that piece of wire should have been longer and wrapped a little more around the top.

Oh well.

I’m alternating this piece with a new one.


I’ve just finished the bezel setting, but forgot to photograph it.

This is a nice little piece of Mexican turquoise, and that little black dot next to it is a watermelon tourmaline. All that’s left to make is the large leaf and the dangly bits.

I will leave you with the new addition to the family.



Don’t talk to me about it.

The boy brought it home from college, and however pretty its colouring, and however cute its little chirping sound is,


S named it Guinness. I call it The Beast.

Don’t look at it.

And finally, a photo of my bench when I left it last night.


Not too bad, (you can just see the setting for the turquoise in the lower left corner), but I won’t win any awards for most tidy worker.

Off to work on the bezel.


I got it figured.

And not a moment too soon.

As you know I’ve been having a bit of trouble with the Sneak Peak.

First off, you should never sneak peak anything because then you’re committed, and once you’re committed it all starts to go terribly wrong, and once it all starts to go terribly wrong, you’re stuck with having to come up with something. And, if you’re me, you can’t let it go and it starts to niggle you all day, every day, and begins to wear you down until you can’t think straight, you can’t sleep, (you can still eat though so you know that, even if you do go out of your mind, you won’t starve to death). You even decide that you would be willing to sell your first child just to solve the mystery of the non flowing solder. But you just have to go on alone as none of your children live with you anymore, and the one time they would have come in handy, the ONE time, they’re not available to sell. Darn it.


Yes, it took me almost a week of fret and tears, but I did it!

I won the battle.

(Told you I would.)

So, if you remember, here is the Sneak Peak from hell.


I had all good intentions.

I was going to show you my process, from the initial sketch through to the end piece.

And, it started off fine.

Drawing the design.


Fitting the bezel wire around the stone.


Soldering the bezel wire.


Sanding the bottom flush.

(Don’t look at it!)


Tracing the design onto the clear sticky back paper stuff.


Sticking the clear side to the silver sheet,


and cutting out the base.


Sanding the base,


Soldering the collar onto the base.


Twiddling and soldering the wire to make the stem.


Cutting out the other little bits of the design.


Until they all fit perfectly




Oh yes everything seems fine and dandy until –


Eventually I had to give it up, not forever you understand, just for a brain rest.

So I got out a new design, because I am, after all, a sucker for punishment.

Here it is.


I found it a stone.


And made it a collar.

But, the darn collar wouldn’t solder to the base!

That’s when I started to get really ticked. I’ve been soldering for ages now, and haven’t had this much trouble but once before – with the Amethyst, which is now banned from the studio.

I cleaned the silver. I pickled it, I sanded it, I filed it. I agonizingly worked it until the collar was so flush with the base that the bottom of the stone would never see the light of day again. I did ALL of the things you’re supposed to do, but the solder just wouldn’t flow. I tried all the different fluxes I’ve got. I threw away my pickle and made some more. I nigh on nearly went bald from pulling my hair out. I even dreamt about the darn thing.

The only difference I could see was that the pieces I’m making now are bigger.

And that’s when I had the hallelujah moment.

When I first started to make jewelry I bought myself a small head for my torch as the one that came with it was like a gigantic flame thrower, and, during my student phase, sizzled up every bit of silver it even looked at into a sorrowful blob mess. And the smaller head worked great …



So, I changed the head back to the larger nozzle, the flame was now able to evenly heat the larger surface of silver, and, oh for heaven’s sake, the solder flowed like a dream.

So simple.

So annoyingly simple.

So here they are.

The nightmare pieces.


Mexican Agate cabochon


Indonesian Coral Cabochon

I don’t ever want to look at them again!

What left overs?

But first.


Is it possible that this is my bench? This organized, clean, ready to make wonderful things, bench?

I think it is.



What to do with those left overs.


That pile of, what can I do with all this scrap silver, stuff.


That, I know I can send it back to RioGrande to get credit but I can’t be bothered, stuff.


Because it’s so much more fun to play with my flame throwing torch thing.


And make pretty cool, very hot, silver balls instead.

Side Note.

Remember I told you about Willow. How she doesn’t like my studio, and can never settle?

Well, here she is staring at me, imploringly, because it was too cold to keep the studio doors open, and she just barked constantly if I let her stay outside.


She wasn’t interested in the, now cooled down, molten silver ball.


She just wanted out of there.

So, what to do now with the newly formed, just hanging around for the next adventure, blob of silver?

Well I decided to roll it through my rolling mill until it became a nice big round disc.

This one turned out just under 1″ in diameter, and is about 2mm thick.


I then found two small stones that I liked from my stash – which is getting a little out of control, but we won’t talk about that.


And wrapped them in bezel wire.


 I then soldered the bezel wire into collars for the stones.


 And voilà! The stones fit!


Next I cut a design in the silver disc being careful to keep it within the circumference of the bezel collar to be soldered to it.


As Willow watched, imploringly.


Then I soldered the two bezel collars; one onto the left over silver disc, the other onto a small piece of sheet silver.


During which Willow changed positions, to more comfortably stare at me imploringly.


I placed the stones back into the bezels to see if they still fit, and was, as I am always, pleasantly surprised that they did.


(She’s just being pitiful now.)


Next step. Trying to ignore Willow, I filed down the sides of the second bezel collar flush to the backing. You’ll notice that it’s nigh on impossible to keep a well manicured hand if you choose to make jewelry. Don’t judge me! I do it for art.


 (Now it’s getting just a tad creepy.)


And then I filed smooth the solder joint of the first bezel.


Is she finally settled?

She still looks a bit put out to me, but at least the staring has stopped.


This is a bit of a fuzzy photo, sorry, but I next soldered a little loop on the top of the second bezel.


And then soldered another ring through that one, and onto the left over silver disc.

That’s a bit tricky for me as invariably something unsolders itself when I’m not paying attention.


This time it was o.k., however, and now there’s no way those rings are opening.

(I forgot to photograph it, but I then popped a small silver ball on the bottom.)

(See that bench? Still clean. It’s all a little, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Spooky.)


All that was left was to file down the bezel collars to the best height for the stones.


Push the collar over onto the sloping side of the stone with the bezel pusher.


And finally, after only a few cuss words when the bezel pusher slipped once too often – the finished item.


Here it is cleaned up.


Top – Blue Variscite
Bottom – Burtis Blue turquoise


As usual, I’m not sure that I like it, but it does look somewhat better than the scrap heap I started with.

My biggest problem in jewelry making is finishing it. I never quite like the look I get at the end. Sometimes it turns out fine, other times I feel as though it’s just a little off.

One day I’m going to be super good at all this stuff.

The Green Bellied Corfunculus

I wanted to show you this one’s progress so I started by looking at my doodles.

To get in the mood.

Then I found a stone and designed around it.

And included a little bit of the left over filigree experiment.

I traced the finished shape on some sticky back clear film (which I forgot to photograph) but here’s the general shape

Next I wrapped the stone in bezel wire.

Like so.

And then everything went to pot and I forgot my good intentions of showing you my process and delved into the world of turquoise jewelry design ponderings until –

lo and behold

The End.

So now all I have left is to present you with this.

And its story.

Green Bellied Corfunculus

Today Marcos Haverbrook, Royal Jeweler to HRH Significanta Regina of the Kingdom of Spry, made this outstanding piece to commemorate the upcoming Festival of Awkward Flowers which is to be held in honour of Cornelius Audenberry III, intrepid botanist to the Queen. Audenberry arrived safely back from his latest expedition to the small islands known as The Bora Kowlandis last month and has since been documenting his discoveries with the aid of Haverbrook, and Trevor de Manous, Royal Painter. The Bora Knowlandis, which are located in the Black Fur Waters of the Jinta Ocean, is home to hundreds of extraordinarily rare botanical species, including the Green Bellied Corfunculus which has been so beautifully captured in Haverbrook’s exquisite work as seen above.

Also to be shown at the festival will be a selection of de Manous’ vivid representations of Audenberry’s field sketches. Including this one of the Startled Bee Trap which Cornelius found growing near the north shores of the third island known as Lower Knowlandis.

The Festival of Awkward Flowers is to be held next month in the Royal Gardens.


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