A passion for silversmithing

STERLING SILVER : Noun, meaning silver of 92 and a quarter percent purity.....

Sunday 12 July 2015

Wedding rings for a very special couple

Good friends Donna and Trefor are getting married in September, and Donna asked me to make their wedding rings. Am honoured and terrified in equal amounts!

Donna wanted something bespoke, original, very textured, possibly an anticlastic spinner ring. Between us we came up with ideas which evolved through the making to the finished rings.

I tried various methods to get a deep rough texture, hammering, reticulating, and eventually found this brass texture plate.
I had to put it through the rolling mill a few times to get a good all over texture.
Next step was to bend it round with my half round ring bending pliers
And then file the edges so they meet, with no gaps, then solder the join.
Donna loved the idea of using beaded gold wire for the spinning ring. This is hard to source and the first strip I bought from the USA was really flimsy and not up to the job. This one was a better weight. I had to sand minuscule amounts off the inside so it could spin freely.

I splay the edges with a large ball bearing and a hammer. I know some people do this by hammering the edges with a chasing hammer, but I find this works well. I work round the ball bearing putting even pressure on all sides. I splay one edge, then put the spinner ring on before splaying the other edge.

After polishing .....

Trefor's ring is made with the same texture sheet, but I used a slightly thicker silver sheet.

Deciding on the finish......


Trefor decided to go for an oxidised satin finish, which really emphasises the texture. It contrasts beautifully with Donna's shiny ring.

This image is after I oxidised Trefor's ring and before sanding it.
And the final finished rings.....

The wedding is Sunday 27th September. Here's wishing them a wonderful day and a wonderful rest of their lives together




Thursday 28 May 2015

A new ring from an old ring

So my Mother had a beautiful art deco ring set with marcasite and a dark green shiny semi-precious stone. I think the stone is Jade, but not sure. As a young girl I remember her wearing this ring on a rare night out with my Father.

One of the claws and a marcasite was missing and the ring was much too small for any of my fingers. I tried to repair the claw and did a reasonable job but ruined the marcasite in the process.

It's a stone that needs to be worn so I decided to make a new ring using the stone. Something quite ornate and in keeping with the era.

I used scallop bezel wire (from USA, as can't find it for sale in the UK) and twisted some wire to set round the edge. The shank is a nice weight D wire.

Really pleased with it, love wearing it!

Saturday 14 February 2015

Solid gold oak leaf pendant

My lovely friend Sharon asked if I would make her a necklace to resemble a miniature oak leaf she had found in her garden. The leaf is the size of my smallest fingernail, and quite perfect!

She gave me some old gold jewellery to melt down, pieces that had sentimental value, but that she wasn't going to wear again. Hmmmm, no pressure then.....

I have melted lots of silver but only very small pieces of gold before, and had no idea how difficult it would be to melt larger peices of gold. It seemed to take forever, with my fiercest burner on my torch, and just wouldn't melt fully. I tried it on my solder block, on my charcoal block and in a clay crucible. I googled it , with visions in my head of ruining my friends jewellery with nothing to show for it. Apparently it needs flux to melt and is also best done in a graphite crucible. I got a crucible from ebay for a few quid and had another go after adding flux to the gold. It was slightly better but I still couldn't get it molten enough to flatten it to go through my rolling mill. I ended up with a blob of gold, too fat to go through the mill. I resorted to sawing it through the middle and finally had a piece thin enough to roll in the mill. It took about half an hour and lots of huffing and puffing to saw through it. Phew, I was relieved to at last have piece to work with.

I put it through the rolling mill again and again, tightening the rollers as I went and annealing the gold to keep it soft. I got it down to about 2mm thickness and large enough to cut the leaf I wanted.

Next step was to cut the shape with my saw, with a thicker blade than I usually use. I captured the precious gold dust in my leather square that I keep on my lap when sawing.

Looks pretty rough at this stage, but I know I can turn this into something beautiful now. The next stage is to imprint the leaf pattern. This is done in the rolling mill with a synthetic leaf skeleton. The gold needs to be annealed and soft to get the best imprint, and I am careful to make sure the main spine of the leaf runs down the length of the rough gold leaf shape.


Looking good at this point, very happy with it. I put double sided sellotape and a piece of latex glove on the imprinted side to protect the pattern while I work on the edges.

It takes some time with sandpaper, files, and emery boards to get the edges smooth and soft and rounded, all the while being careful not to mark the pattern or the back. Next stage is to attach a bail. I use a piece of gold wire from a gold padlock, and hammer it a little to resemble the stalk of the leaf. Fiddly to attach, but being a leaf it doesn't have to be perfect. The last thing I do is curl it in a leaf like fashion using my pliers, protecting the surface from the pliers with a piece of thin leather.

It then goes into the tumbler for a few hours then I give it a final polish with rouge and my Dremel. I love how it has come out!






Wednesday 12 November 2014

Reticulated twig rings

I had an order this week from Heather. She bought the reticulated ring set for her daughters 21st birthday. Her daughter is an art student interested in natural processes and designs.

So just for you Bryony, happy birthday, this is how I made your rings :)

I use 1.8mm sterling silver wire. It comes in a neat coil, but for these rings I have to bend it about a bit and generally 'lose' the newness.

I heat it with my blowtorch to keep it soft and annealed, which makes it easier to work with as the metal hardens the more it is 'worked'.

Then I reticulate the silver, basically heating it evenly until the surface begins to melt, then quickly removing the heat before it does melt. I keep this up till I get the finish I am after.

I cut the blackened wire to 3 lengths using my ring sizer then I shape them up using my ring mandrel and a rawhide mallet, check the size again, then solder each ring closed with some medium solder. I pickle them to remove the oxidation from soldering then do a final reshape on the mandrel.

Meanwhile I melt some 9ct gold scraps to form the bead. When you melt silver or gold it pulls together into a ball. I do this in a charcoal block with a well in the middle as I find it gives the smoothest finish to the melted metal. I then solder the ball of gold to one of the rings.

Next I pickle again to clean, then I blacken the rings up using liver of sulphur.

This emphasises the texture and makes them more organic looking and rustic. Next they go in my barrel to tumble for a few hours to polish and strengthen them and voila, done. Sometimes I need to polish them some more with my Dremel, but these ones are good straight out of the barrel. I hope you like them. I have a set of these and love wearing them.