Remodelling an Emerald Ring into a Pendant

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This lovely oval emerald came into my workshop last year for remodelling. It was set in a 14ct yellow gold ring with diamond and palladium shoulders. The ring was quite a bold, chunky piece and it’s owner wanted it remodelled into a lighter weight but sparkly pendant.

Emeralds are naturally quite fractured stones, prone to breaking and cracking so one like this that’s already been damaged or has natural flaws is much safer in a pendant than a ring. I barely breathed as I broke it out of the collet setting but it came out intact and has a beautiful, deep green colour.

Having this stone around is actually one of the things that inspired me to paint my new workshop deep green.

Melting the Gold:

With the emerald and diamonds removed from the ring I could gently heat it up, melting the solder and removing the palladium shoulder panels. After that I could melt down the ring itself knowing that there was only gold (and a little gold solder) in the crucible.

The resulting ingot of 14ct gold was a beautiful, warm yellow colour that really suits the green stone.

Rolling Wire

I worked the ingot down to make a thin, round wire (for jump rings), a rectangular length of wire and a small, square section of sheet.

From the sheet I cut a circle and lightly domed it to make the central part of the pendant. The rectangular wire made a bale for the pendant chain. The bale is just the right width for the diamonds from the shoulders of the ring to fit along it. I blue tacked them into place to check I had the spacing right before cutting it down and shaping it.

I’m using a calibrated, pre-made claw setting for the emerald that’s also 14ct yellow gold. To this I added a small jump ring made from the recycled, round wire and pieced the entire pendant together:

Assembly

Once set I pieced all the parts of the pendant together, using the round wire I made from the original ring. With the emerald now in it’s setting I couldn’t solder the rings together so instead they were welded closed with my PUK welder.

The pendant has a beautiful, sparkling motion to it as all three parts move independently and there’s now much ore light in that gorgeous green stone.

Emerald Pendant in Recycled 14ct Yellow Gold

Adding Strength to a vintage REGARD Ring with a gold liner

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I’ve seen REGARD rings in the past which usually have words spelled out in precious stones. That’s not as gaudy as it sounds. In those rings the first letters of the gems convey a hidden message. So a Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire and Turquoise set ring is for your ‘DEAREST’. Victorians loved a good encoded message and layered everything with meaning – even flowers. While I’ve repaired stone set rings in the past I’ve never seen one like this.

Silver REGARD Ring:

This Victorian silver ‘Regard’ ring came into the workshop after years of wear. The entire piece had thinned with age but the owner wanted to keep wearing it. Instead of simply replacing the shank I was asked to line the entire ring with sentimental gold, layering on even more meaning. I think the Victorians would have approved of this!

I melted down an inherited, 9ct yellow gold signet ring so that I could form it into sheet:

I rolled the gold from the signet ring out into an ingot and then down into 1mm thick sheet. As I went I hammered the centre of the ingot out, forming a wider section that would eventually form a backing for the REGARD plaque:

Re-shanking the Silver Ring:

The back of the silver band had thinned in both width and thickness and the original hallmark was largely worn away. Since I was going to cover that particular bit of history up anyway I replaced the whole back of the ring. This widened it and kept the scale of it more in line with the rest of the piece.

I used steel binding wire to hold the new back of the ring in place and I soldered it together with hard/high temperature silver solder:

Assembly:

With all the pieces of the new ring assembled I joined the re-shanked Regard ring together with the new, 9ct yellow gold liner. This was a tricky soldering job but I used silversmithing style ‘stitches’ (raised spikes of metal that you lift up with a pointed graver) to hold the Regard ring in place and stop it sliding about when the solder was molten. A lot of easy, lower melting point solder vanished between the two layers but after heating it up twice I had a neat seam around the top and bottom of the silver band.

After filing back the rough edges and smoothing out the joins from the re-shanking the new/old ring is far sturdier and ready for a few more decades of wear:

Changes Ahead

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As the pandemic took hold in the UK my partner and I bought our first property. We managed to exchange contracts the Friday before the March pub closures, when the idea of lockdown began to seem real.

I say ‘property’ because it isn’t a traditional house. In fact we’ve bought the ground floor of a retail unit on Penryn High Street. Over the summer we’ve negotiated our way through planning permission and obtained the right to convert it into a live/work unit. A team of great local tradespeople have helped us to build a flat at the back of the property and now it’s time to begin work on the front. 

This space is going to become my new workshop and a gallery – my first retail building. In the past workshop visitors have been welcome, but only by appointment. Now I plan to have proper opening hours, offer a much bigger repairs and alteration service and sell work directly from my own window. It’s an incredibly exciting move. 

Work began last week on the new workshop space and I’ll be announcing the opening plan soon.

Making a 9ct Yellow Gold & Diamond Ring

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I began this commission just after the COVID19 lockdown started in the UK. Having a workshop to retreat to has been invaluable and I’m so lucky that I was able to work through the outbreak and stay sane!

This piece is a little more geometric than my usual work but the client had a really clear idea of what they wanted.

Making the setting:

In the past I’ve bought pre-made settings for jobs like this, cast by large companies. It’s cost effective but my usual suppliers were closed so I went back to basics and made my own. I used the very clear instructions in Sonia Cheadle’s book Mounting and Setting Stones to draw up a flat version of the setting.

I cut a paper template for the setting, sawed it out of a piece of gold sheet and bent it basically round with a pair of pliers. After soldering the join I did the final shaping in a collet block, which trued it up nicely.

Forming the ring:

With the setting made I turned my attention to the band of the ring. I began with square wire that I added a rounded profile to. From there I measured out the length of metal that I’d need (leaving the excess in place) and hammered the ends to a taper. I kept the angles symmetrical so that, as they end of the wire fold around, they form shape of the shoulders.
Once the wire was fully rounded I could slot the setting into the front, filing little notches into it so that it sat at just the right level.

It takes me a while to be satisfied that I’ve got a setting in straight – I’ll often move it several times before tying it into place with steel binding wire. Once I had it though I soldered it into place, relying on the wire to keep the placement while the ring is hot and the solder flows.

Once the structure of the ring was fixed I measured out the final length of the arms of the band and cut them down to match the drawing. At this point I paused in production and sent the ring off to the Assay Office for a hallmark to be applied. I tend to do that at this stage so that any damage incurred while marking can be easily repaired, without risk to the stone.

Setting the diamond:

Once the ring was hallmarked I used a heat mouldable plastic (called White Morph) to hold it securely and support it during setting. I cut a seat of the stone using a selection burrs and lightly filed the edge of the bezel a little thinner.

With the help of a handy strip of blue tack I worked the metal over the edges of the stone to hold is securely in place. I trimmed the edge back with a flat scorper and then gave it a final polish.

The finished ring:

I was really pleased with the final result, I think I’ve captured the design drawing and the client was delighted.

Stevie Nicks Bangle Re-creation

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Last summer someone set me the challenge of re-creating a pair of bangles worn by Stevie Nicks in the 1970’s. They appear in photographs of the singer song-writer throughout that period but there aren’t many clear shots of them. A trawl of the internet yielded a few clear pictures, just enough for me to work out how to approach the project:

Armed with these photos I sketched up a version of the bangles and my customer added some finer details. She wanted pale, white opaque stones in the silver (rather than what appear to be rose quartz in the originals) so I used oval moonstones. The have a beautiful strong, white colour and faint luminescence.

Design:

Making the bangles:

From here I began by making the settings for the stones as getting these right would give me a central point for the rest of the piece. I balled up silver with a flame to create the little balls or pebbles around the setting and built a traditional ‘cabochon’ wall to hold the stones:

Once I had the centre details I worked on forging the bangles themselves from thick, rectangular silver wire. Hammering it out allowed me to flare the ends and create a smooth transition between the narrow back of the bangle and the wider front.

With that in place I could cut and shape the silver before filing out the hammer marks to leave a smooth surface:

One of the trickier parts of the operation was holding the bangle in place to solder the setting into the piece. After some experiments with binding wire and unstable stacks of soldering blocks I settled on using steel cotter pins to pinch the metal and keep it in line while I heated it:

When the bangles had cooled I removed the steel pins and cleaned off the soldering residue. I took them back to my wooden mandrels to do some final shaping and them began cleaning them up with a series of finer and finer sandpapers.

After the clean up I polished the surfaces and fitted the stones, hammering down the edges of the settings to keep them securely in place. Working around the stones leave small marks in the metal which I again, removed with sand paper before taking the bangles back to the polisher for a final brightening:

Polished bangles

Finished Bangles

A quick scrub to remove the excess polish (which is showing up as black grime in that last photo) and they’re finished. I’m quite pleased with how much they evoke the originals!

Silver Fishes

New Sterling Silver Fish Pendants and Earrings

I’ve been nursing these designs for a while, sketching them out and refining them. I wanted to make something reflective of the beachy feel of coastal Cornish towns like Falmouth. Something fun but wearable that would sit well with all the stripey, seaside clothing that I see here in the summer:

These sterling silver fish began life as wax carvings. I got into working with wax a couple of years ago and it’s a wonderfully quick, expressive medium – I know that I’ve sung its praises on the blog before!

Working with wax is incredibly forgiving, cut too much away and you can just melt some more on! For me wax is a fantastic bridge between a drawing and metal as you can turn the carving around in your hands as you work, fully appreciating the emerging 3D form.

Wax Carvings

From here I send my wax fish to a casting company in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter where they are added into their lost wax casting process – going from wax to silver. I then hand refine these raw castings, perfecting the master patterns which are molded for re-production.

The moulds made from these master patterns allow me to build whole shoals of little fish. I have them cast to order by a small, family company who make a point of using recycled metal in all of the silver work that carry out for small jewellers like me.

Cleaning my castings:

Back in the workshop I cut away excess metal from the castings then file, sand and polish each fish by hand. Though the fish come out of a mould they’re all very slightly different as small flaws occur here and there and the pressure of my hand on the sandpaper varies across the day.

I make links to hang the fish from with silver wire, wrapping it around a drill bit to make them uniform. I cut the rings loose from the spool with a saw before they are fitted to the fish with pliers and individually soldered into place:

As soon as they’re assembled the silver fish are ready to wear. Personally, I like jewellery that I can leave on for days, sometimes weeks at a time – so I’ve designed these to be sturdy and wearable with just enough movement in them to make a statement.

Fancy a closer look? The fish are on my Etsy store here.

Hammered, Organic White Gold & Diamond Engagement Ring

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This lovely little ring left the workshop recently for a proposal on a coastal road trip. It’s inspired by the local, Cornish seaside, the shape of the waves and the bride-to-be’s wish for something a little unconventional but still clearly an Engagement Ring.

Making the Ring:

I began with a length of 18ct white gold wire and forged its ends into points. I added layers of small hammer marks, building up an even texture across the metal’s surface. This left the wire ‘work hardened’ and tough to bend so I heated it to an annealing temperature, restoring malleability to the gold. Once cool I could begin to shape it into a ring.

I formed the ring around a steel mandrel, a conical former, which aids in the shaping of the majority of the rings made in my workshop. I bent the ends of the wire past each other, allowing me enough spare metal to form the twist which will come to hold the diamond.

After some careful measuring I pulled the arms of the ring around into a spiral, refining the shape by hammering it across one of my smallest silversmithing stakes. I filed the arms a little, taking more weight from the front of the ring and restored little patches of texture that got damaged along the way. With some gentle manipulation I fitted the tapered diamond setting and soldered it into place.

I check throughout the process that the ring I’m making actually looks like the drawing – and this one matches up well. So from there I refined the setting a little, dropping the height and got the diamond in place.

A final polish to take out any last sandpaper marks and the ring is done. After chatting about it with the customer we’ve left the 18ct white gold un-plated, which lets the natural, grey/silver colour of the metal shine through and it looks warm and splendid:

 

Makers Revolution – Craft Market in Penryn

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Since moving to Cornwall I’ve been getting to know other local makers through the Etsy Maker’s Cornwall group and have fallen in with these revolutionaries – a group of people who wanted more local, affordable places to sell contemporary craft. In that spirit we’re seeking to take back shopping in person, meeting makers, feeling products and seeing before you buy.

Here’s our first press release, manifesto and market date for later this month – we’ll be open in Penryn on 22nd September.

Local Makers launch Makers Revolution Cornwall with their first craft market

Makers Revolution Cornwall is a new initiative set up by a group of local artisans in order to create more grass roots events to support artists and makers in Cornwall. The Revolution will kickoff in September with its first market, showcasing some of the most skilled and original makers in the region.

The movement has evolved from a simple online discussion about local craft events to become an active response to the group’s shared concerns about shopping becoming a screen-based activity, which encourages an automatic process of consumerism that lacks considered action. As more shops close, the circle tightens and more people shop from home, losing an important sense of connection to the items they buy along the way. The Maker’s Revolution Cornwall recognises this as an opportunity to empower and support makers and local businesses in taking action themselves to set up the events they need to happen.

Market Organisers:

The group of six makers originally met online via the Facebook Page ‘Etsy Makers Cornwall’, where they found that many local makers and artists felt that they were sometimes excluded from larger profit-driven selling events through price, location, experience or competition. In a county with a high proportion of self employed residents, it was agreed that a more supportive solution could be found by harnessing the power in collectivism to overcome the struggle of sole trading.

‘’Definitely some events don’t consider things from a sellers point of view so capitalise on entrance fees but don’t put enough money into marketing, ‘’ explains Keri Valentine of HumbleCottage in Penryn. Sally Atkins, who runs Sally’s Shed in Lostwithiel agrees: ‘’Often the only people who are destined to make a profit are the organisers. There’s a place in the wider community for truly people driven events – not prescribed by organisers or governing bodies – but a place to come together, build relationships while creating an experience the customer doesn’t get online.’’

Armed with a manifesto and a growing social media following, it seems the group have hit a chord with small creative businesses in Cornwall and have been inundated with applications for their first market. It is hoped this will be one of many more events run by makers, for makers. Almost 30 artisans will be exhibiting and selling their work at The Makers Revolution Cornwall Market No 1, which will take place at the Highway Community Centre on Church Road, Penryn from 10am-4pm on 22 September. All are welcome.

To find out more, visit Makers Revolution Made in Cornwall on Facebook or MakersRevolutionCornwall on Instagram.

#makersrevolutioncornwall
makersrevolutioncornwall@gmail.com

Recycled Engagement Ring

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I was recently asked to remodel a shop bought engagement ring. It was made in a design which just didn’t suit the customers lifestyle and as a result of this the diamond had come out the setting. The customer wanted to continue to wear the sentimental stone but felt that it would simply break again if I repaired the current ring.

Now this lady freely admits to being heavy handed so the new ring had to be super sturdy, low (to avoid catching on things) and needed to suit her other rings. The metal that I had to work with was 18ct White Gold but the customer has a soft spot for red gold and wanted to incorporate some of that too.

We worked out a design with a stripe of red gold, which would add a splash of colour but still match the rest of her white gold wedding set. She also loved the idea of a really handmade finish so hammering the surface was a good way of achieving this.

Recycling the Old Ring:

I began work by sawing the old 18ct white gold ring in two and rolling these halves into new pieces of wire. I bought square, 9ct Red Gold wire, and rolled that down to match the white gold. I bent these wires round into rings, soldered up the joints and was left with three rather thin new rings:

Making the New Ring:

I layered these thin rings up (double and then triple checking that I had the red one in the middle!) before clamping them with cotter pins. These held everything in place while I soldered the stack together. You can just see in the photo that I’ve lined up the solder joints in all three of the narrow rings so that I can find it again. I’ll cut the final ring here to add the setting for the diamond.

Once the ring had cooled and I’d cleaned it up I filed the surface smooth and could begin to see neat stripes of colour appearing.

I textured the ring by gently hammering it against a steel mandrel. Using the ball head of a hammer I built up a texture of small, round hammer marks which catch the light beautifully.

From here I cut through the ring and filed out a gap to fit a tapered circular tube. This will form the new setting for the diamond. I soldered this into place (conveniently forgot to take a photo) and the main structure of the ring was done. From there I polished it, sent it off for hallmarking in Birmingham and set the stone.

Finished Ring – Recycled 18ct White Gold, 9ct Red Gold & Diamond:

The resulting ring is a really nice blend of the old and the new. Using the original gold and a sentimental diamond keeps a connection to the past but provides and new ring that can be worn and enjoyed.

 

 

Tidal Rings: Carving a Shaped Wedding Ring

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TIDAL RING SET:

In the spring I made an 18ct yellow gold and aquamarine version of my Tidal Ring, which formed part of a set of wedding and engagement rings. I’d never designed a matching ring for this piece and sitting a straight wedding ring next to it wouldn’t really work. With that in mind I decided to carve a matching ring from wax, which could then be cast into gold.

Carving wax is wonderfully freeing as shaping the material is comparatively quick and there’s very little material cost involved. It allows you to experiment, try new approaches and is a way of working that I’ve really come to enjoy.

MAKING:

Here I used pre-drilled wax tube and widened out the central hole to give the correct ring size. I roughly shaped the top of the wax tube and then gently heated the engagement ring. The warm gold sunk into the wax, melting away unnecessary material forming a near perfect copy of it’s profile.

Using the correctly shaped top edge as my point of reference I measured out the width of the final ring, cut it off the tube and removed the rest of the extra wax. I then shaped the lower side of the ring, leaving me with a rectangular wedding band:

Marking the centre point on the rough wax ring I carved the knife edged profile onto the band. I also trimmed the width of the ring here and there, finessing the shape and giving it a following, natural feel. Throughout the process I tried the wedding band up against the engagement ring, ensuring that they would sit together correctly:

When I was satisfied with the shape I passed the ring along to my casting company and received an 18ct yellow gold ring back. It fitted snugly against the engagement ring but still had the rough, slightly grainy texture left by the lost wax casting process.

FINISHING:

I filed away the sprue, the little lump of metal on the back of the band which had allowed the molten gold to flow into the mould. Then I gently filed around the front of the band, defining that knife edge and finishing the surface fully. I polished the interior of the ring (as a smooth interior surface is so much more comfortable to wear) and added a lightly pitted, matt texture to both rings.

Setting the deep, watery blue aquamarine into the engagement ring made the rings come alive. They’re now happily on the hand of their delightful new owner:

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