A passion for silversmithing

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

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.

Saturday, 18 October 2014


Absolutely nothing to do with jewellery making, but I can't resist a post about my new kitten Molly. My husband Paul is VERY anti cuddly pets, and though I had a cat when we met and married nearly 30 years ago, when it died we never got another pet (apart from fish which leave me cold)!
Our daughter Bryony's friend needed to re home Molly, and Paul very reluctantly agreed we could give her a home......only because she was black and white, his hockey club colours, and because Bryony pulled the sympathy card having just had a major thyroid op!

She is beautiful, funny, and very very very naughty, gets into EVERYTHING, and seeks attention all the time. She was quite bitey and scratchy when she arrived, not surprising as we were her third home in as many weeks in her short life, so I tried the gentling technique, just massaging and stroking every bit of her at every opportunity. She is now pretty cuddly, though still naughty.

If I don't look at you, you won't see me.....

Blending in.......

She has brought fun into the family, already can't imagine life without her....though last week we nearly lost her. The lawn man was driving away in his van when he heard a miaow ...she was in the back of his van!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Large cabochon sterling silver rings

A friend of mine Denise wears a large labradorite sterling silver ring, some 40mm by 25mm, with gorgeous blue green and grey hues. It's her signature ring that she wears every single day, and it is much admired and commented on. Most of my rings are quite delicate and not to everyone's taste, and I wanted to experiment with something bigger. I bought a labradorite cabochon off ebay, measuring 32mm x 20mm, and sold the ring before I had even made it to a friend of Denise's!

 I had difficulties soldering the bezel to the base, couldn't seem to get the bezel completely flat so there were gaps that the solder wouldn't fill, but all in all am pleased with the finished ring, and my customer loves it.

(The photo below is a rare one of me with reasonable looking nails....they are usually ragged and scruffy from being in the workshop.....one of the only downsides to silver smithing!)

I found some bargain cabochon's whilst visiting my sister Sue is Blandford Forum the other week. We strolled into the town and there is a small shop on the right on the way down the hill into the market square called aurora gems that I hadn't seen before. It sold a right mixture of beads, gemstones, rocks, as well as crystals and some finished jewellery and I found a marquise labradorite cabochon ring for £20 which I couldn't resist.

They didn't have any marquise cabochons for sale but the elderly chap behind the counter produced a tray of stones amongst which were some oval 20 x 10mm cabochons, labradorites, carnelian, aventurine, and jade. They were only around £1 each, (I would normally expect to pay £3 minimum, even as much as £6 for similar stones elsewhere) so I bought most of them.

For the carnelian ring I used some sterling silver D wire for the shank, and cut out the back of the bezel base to let the light shine throught the stone. Just sold my third one of these by word of mouth which is great!

I personally prefer the marquise cut to the oval, and I want to try making one of these next, though I expect it won't be easy to get neat corners like the one I bought, but practice makes perfect!!

Monday, 14 July 2014

New lovelies

Some new lovelies for my etsy shop Tripoli and Rouge...
This necklace is made from a heart shaped glass cabochon. I have used loose chain from Silvercitybeads which is already oxidised and has a lovely vintage look to it.

This one is forged from a square of sheet silver, which I hammered and shaped to form a coil. I oxidised it for added depth and to make it look vintage. The chain is one of my favourites from Cookson gold, belcher no 3.

This one is made from a pebble of recycled sterling silver. I have left the pebble quite rustic and organic and oxidised, not polished, and I have set it in a scalloped bezel setting. I have been searching for scalloped bezel from a UK supplier and couldn't find any, so had to buy it from the USA. There are so many materials that I struggle to find from UK suppliers, especially some of my favourite cabochons, and invariably have to source from elsewhere which then means buying in small quantities to avoid customs charges.
The scalloped bezel looks lovely but it has it's challenges. It needs to be seamless, with even scallops all round, and I had to stretch it in my roller a few times to get it spot on. Easy to overdo it and waste the bezel strip! Same chain as the heart above, so pretty and goes perfectly with the pendant.

This one I love, I wanted to recreate a seed I found in my garden....I think it is from an ash tree. Starting with sheet silver, I cut out the basic shape using my jewellers saw, and sanded the edges to get them smooth. I made the centre groove first, using a strip of fine wire placed on the silver through my rolling mill, then I put through the mill again with a course feather to get the finer lines. I annealed it before shaping it using pliers. Oxidation emphasises the texture.

And this one, just a simple hammered and domed pendant, with a drop of silver in the base of the dome. Heavily oxidised, and hangs from the belcher no 3 from Cookson gold.

Lastly, a simple twist of 1.5mm sterling silver wire.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Nature's inspiration

Am always on the lookout for inspiration, usually from nature, and these lovelies are in my studio waiting to be used in some shape or form.

A beautiful heart shaped leaf from Corfu,

Dried seaweed from Corfu,

always a favourite, dandelion seeds,

fading hydrangea petals,


and seed pods collected by my friend Sharon, not sure what plant these are from but aren't they gorgeous!

a thistle head,