Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tutorial: Make a Simple Geometric Charm

geometric diamond cut-out silver charm jewellery tutorial

So I'm going to attempt writing my first tutorial - let's start with a simple project for a beginner at silversmithing. A small charm like this is a great first project, being versitile to wear - on a charm bracelet, necklace, or turn into earrings - and you don't need a lot of equipment to make this. I opted for a geometric diamond design which is a good oportunity to practice accurate piercing, but other geometric designs will work just as well (see my post on geometric designs for inspiration).

Materials and equipment needed:

15mm x 15mm of 0.5mm width sterling silver sheet
2 x 0.5mm heavy sterling silver jump rings
A silver chain, if wearing as a pendant - I use a 18' trace chain

Piercing saw and 2/0 blade
Needle files
Drill and drillbit (I used 0.8mm)
Piece of wood
Optional: Soldering equipment (torch, soldering block, flux, hard solder, pickle)
Barrelling machine or pendant drill with radial discs
Chain nose pliers

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

4 Jewellery Goals before 2013

4 simple goals before 2013 from

This is a nice idea from A Beautiful Mess blog: they set a challenge to write 4 simple, rewarding and action-oriented goals to achieve before the end of this year, to pull us through the busiest time of the year. The aim is to set goals which make our lives richer and happier.

I thought this might be a good opportunity to set myself some silversmithing / jewellery-related goals, to give myself something to aim for by the end of the year. As it's my hobby, achieving these goals will definitely make me happy and feel accomplished.

1. Launch an online shop / presence

One of my primary goals to make my growing hobby more sustainable is to launch an Etsy store and website, offering some one-of-a-kind pieces and some standard / personalised items. I’d also like to be able to take commissions. Hopefully this will allow me to offset the growing cost of silversmithing tools and sell pieces I don’t want to keep for myself (my collection of silver jewellery has to have its limits!). There is quite a lot of work involved in taking this step, but it’s a good goal for me to have.

2. Make something beautiful for my Mum's 50th birthday

About 5 years ago I promised my Mum that I’d buy her a ring for her 50th – something that she’d love and wear every day, possibly with a sapphire or opal (both her favourite stones). Then this year, when I started silversmithing, it seemed natural to aspire to make her a ring instead. Not an easy goal, as I’ve bought her an expensive opal and she would like it made in 18ct gold, so there really is no room for error – hence I have been trying to build up my skills to finally tackle this goal. Her birthday is at the end of October, so it’s an apt goal to achieve before the end of the year.

3. Learn an 'advanced' technique

I was a complete beginner to making silver jewellery at the start of 2012 – by the end of 2012 I’d like to say that I have attempted, and if possible mastered, a few advanced techniques. There’s a real sense of accomplishment knowing I’ve tried to do something new and it’s worked out ok. I’m not going to specify a specific technique right now, but there are a few in some of the books I own that I’d love to try.

4. Make a silver casting

Among my most recent tool purchases are some wax carving tools and jewellery wax. I think that casting opens up a whole other world of jewellery design possibilities, so it’s on my list to try carving something and get it cast in silver. This might also link to Goal #2, as I’m leaning towards casting the ring shank for my Mum’s present.

My reward for achieving each of these goals? I’m going to treat myself to a little something from my Amazon wishlist or HotelChocolat :)

Have you set any goals to achieve before 2013 – jewellery or otherwise? Would love to hear about them!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Design of the Week: Opal drop necklace

I've had a pretty crazy couple of weeks and haven't been able to post as much as I would've liked - fortunately some of that was because of good things, like a long weekend in Paris with my boyfriend (Eiffel tower, Disney, Champs Elysees, Laduree macarons).

I've been back in the workshop the last couple of evenings though, busy making new things which I'll be able to share soon. For now though, I'm long overdue a Design of the Week post so I'm going to have to cheat - this one is something I created quite a while ago. I love wearing it though (wearing it right now, in fact) - it's quite delicate and goes well with workwear.

Here's my opal drop pendant - made from sterling silver. It's a black opal - but looks blue in most light, with lots of green flash. Opals are one of my all-time favourite stones; I have spent a fair bit of time browsing the internet for opals to buy since starting this hobby!

The bezel was slightly tricky for me when I made this, as I had never set a pointed stone before. The trick is to press in from the corner and file it down bit by bit, until the bezel is properly pushed over. The rest of the pendant is made from slices of various silver tube (which made me put a chenier tube cutter on my wishlist, as it's not as easy to cut as you might think!).

Black opal silver drop pendant necklaceBlack opal silver drop pendant necklace

Tomorrow, I've organised a last minute photoshoot in London, with a proper model. I've been planning, but as an amateur photographer I feel a little bit nervous as I don't know the model personally and don't want to waste her time. Fingers crossed I get some good shots out of it!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Lucky news!

Occasionally, I enter the odd competition or buy the rare lottery ticket, but I very rarely ever win. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Much to my amazement and delight, I got an email from Cookson Gold saying I’d won their August Shopping Spree competition from their new magazine! The prize was a hefty £200 worth of products from their website which I had the luxury of choosing!

Obviously, I was ecstatic at the thought of free Cookson goodies – amazing to get a good boost to my small-but-growing workshop and treat myself to some things I wouldn’t normally have the money to get. 

Cookson Gold competition prize
Cheesy shot of me with my winnings by my workbench

Choosing what to get in my ‘spree’

I was in a bit of a quandary trying to decide exactly what to get, and the right balance of bullion to tools. Did I splash it all on one big item on my wishlist, like a rolling mill? Or did I spend it all on silver sheet and wire, to shore up raw materials before Christmas? Or did I buy lots of little things to try and make the prize as big as possible?

I ended up with a bit of a mixture – decided to buy some tools, some silver and some little things. I’m especially happy with my new Knew piercing saw and Vallorbe swiss needle file set – I own cheap versions of both these and being able to upgrade for free to the best versions makes a huge difference, especially as I use both these tools on every piece. 

(I guess this is where all the advice about buying the best tools you can afford really rings true. I find the reality usually is, you can only afford basic because you need so many tools to start off with)

My prize...

Cookson Gold prize parcel box
So exciting - like Christmas!
Opening Cookson Gold prize box...
Lots of packaging inside the box...
Cookson Gold prize
Yay, goodies! Tools at the top, silver at the bottom
So, I got...
- Knew Concept saw
- Saw blades
- Vallorbe 6 needle file set
- 7 hole disc cutter
- 1.5mm letter punches
- Solder cutting pliers
- Iron binding wire
- Silver sheet in 0.5mm and 1mm
- Loose belcher chain
- Silver wire - selection of square and round

Thank you very much, Cookson!!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

International Jewellery London review

International Jewellery London review

International Jewellery London is a huge trade show which comes to Earl’s Court each year – and since this is my first year of jewellery-making, this was also the first time I’d heard of it. Intrigued by the publicity around it, I asked some fellow forum members on the Cookson Gold forum whether it would be worth my while trying to attend, given that I’m only a small designer-maker and not strictly ‘trade’ (yet). Their advice was to go for the gems and the inspiration.

So, I applied as a designer-maker, got my ticket, took half a day off work and went. Was it worth it?

Go for the gems

When I got to the exhibition centre, I was pretty much stumped with where to start. Earl’s Court is HUGE. I glanced at the map, strode off in one direction, then made a silly little twirl and went back to the map to understand it properly. My first stop was the gem stalls – I finally deciphered the huge map and made my way to that area.

International Jewellery London higlights, a.e.ward
Amazing chandelier and bar; browsing jewellery; A.E.Ward's extensive gemstone stall
I got cornered whilst browsing some diamonds on a stall by some man who demanded to have one of my business cards, know what I did, how big my workshop was, where it was based – all in a very interrogative style which was a bit intimidating! He made me feel really out of place and put me a bit off kilter after just arriving – I managed to escape and felt a bit better when I found stalls with more affordable gems.

The huge displays at Marcus McCallum were really inviting, but the crowds meant I couldn’t get too close. Then I spied some opals at Laroche Opals, and spent some time perusing their displays of loose opal stones. I couldn’t resist getting a couple of particularly pretty ones to add to my growing opal stash!

I had thought that would satisfy my need to buy something pretty – but then I stumbled across A.E.Ward. The rows and rows of stones were amazing – they had such a huge range of nearly every gemstone I could think of, and the clearly marked prices made it easy for me to get tempted. I ended up buying a few stones – three sapphires, a ruby and a beautiful teal tourmaline – and had to hold my breath when paying the bill. In total, I spent about £200 on those and the opals - quite a lot for me as a hobbyist!
Gemstone haul from IJL
My gemstone haul: sapphires, ruby, tourmaline and opals

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Design inspiration: Geometry theme

Sometimes I find that having a particular theme can give me the best inspiration for new designs or provide a really good starting point to using some of the techniques for design creativity that I previously shared.

This week, I’ve been really inspired by geometry designs. I love all the angular shapes, the symmetry, architectural elements and strong lines. It doesn’t all have to be about the traditional straight lines either – there are some really great designs with curved lines or circles (perhaps just one way to adapt a pattern). Here are some of my favourite geometric jewellery designs created by other artists:

Sources for geometric patterns can be found all over – in building design, art, interestingaerial maps, children’s colouring in books, crop circles… there should be no end to different sources of patterns out there.

Have you created any interesting jewellery pieces using a geometric design theme?

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