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:

I’ve moved

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Welcome to the new workshop!

After an eventful journey to Cornwall (which we completed on the back of an RAC rescue lorry …) I’m now unpacked and making my new workshop feel like home. I couldn’t have made this move without the help of dear friends, the support of family, cooperation from my new landlords and the unparalleled care/support/cheerleading/dinner-making of my partner, Craig.

I’m now looking forward to quiet, sunny days sitting and making, with the radio on and a cup of tea at hand. Roll along summer …

All Change: Relocation Plans

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With the turn of a fresh, new year it’s time to announce my big plans for 2018:

 

At the beginning of March 2018 I’ll be closing my workshop in the Jewellery Quarter and moving my business to the Cornish seaside. I’ll re-open in a brand new studio near Falmouth sometime in April, before properly introducing myself to the South West at the Contemporary Craft Festival, in June.

Moving is a change that I’ve thought about and talked about for a long time, much of my work is inspired by the coastal landscape and so it makes sense to work surrounded by that environment. I’m really excited for this new chapter in my working life and the prospect of such easy access to the sea!

I still plan to run wedding rings workshops, attend shows and, of course, take on commissions but there will be a short gap in proceedings while I move all of my tools. Look out for further updates as I clean out and pack up the current workshop.

 

Inherited Pearl Ring

posted in: Commissions 1

This ring began when a client brought me a row of pearls that she’d inherited. I work with pearls a lot, I trained as pearl stringer after university and so I have a good understanding of them and an appreciation for their qualities.

The main issue with any pearl taken from a row of pearls is that it has a hole drilled all the way through it. This usually makes it unsuitable for setting into rings or studs, as you’re restricted by the visibility of the hole.

However, this client wanted a ring to allow her to keep one of the inherited pearls close to her and after a little thought we came up with a design that would allow this.

Design:

Her saltwater pearls are a wonderfully warm, creamy colour so while the bulk of the ring would be silver I added a touch of 9ct red gold to bring out this warmth. The high sides of the setting are designed to protect the relatively soft pearl which is riveted into the ring using the existing drill hole.

In the end we opted for a fusion of designs A & B, squaring the corners of the box holding the pearl and making the setting entirely out of red gold.

Making:

Soldering the gold setting onto the silver ring was a tricky process. The whole thing needed to be kept square and parallel or the two sides wouldn’t grip the pearl correctly. After a bit of trial and error I rigged something up on a honeycomb soldering block that kept it all in line so that I could solder the two metals together.

A bit of cleaning up followed that before I could polish the ring (to bring out the hammer marks on the silver) and check the fit of the pearl with a piece of wire:

Once it was riveted into place the pearl sat perfectly within the red gold ‘box’ setting and balanced the ring nicely. It’s a neat, geometric solution to using a pearl from a necklace and I love that I’m allowing inherited jewellery to continue to be used and enjoyed.

Finished Ring:

Snowflake Diamond Engagement Ring

Sketching the Ring:

This ring evolved from a request for a classic, dainty ring with lots of sparkle and a contemporary twist. A lot of sketching ensued and I eventually narrowed it down to an asymmetric, cluster style ring using a mixture of diamond shapes. I love pear shaped stones, so being able to use a few of those was a bonus:

 

My very accommodating customer gave me free rein to chose the diamonds themselves and I found a beautiful, clear D colour stone for the centre. I matched the outer stones to this for a unified feel and set to work drawing the final design up in CAD.

Making the Ring:

With the ring rendered fully on a computer I printed it in casting resin, a process which allows a 3D printed piece to be put through traditional lost wax casting production. The result was a perfect replica of my original drawing, cast in platinum. I checked it for size (as shrinkage occurs during the casting process) and stretched it a little to make it a size I.

The 3D printing and casting process left a rough texture on the surface of the ring so I filed and sanded it gently, removing marks and smoothing out the profile of the knife edged section on the band of the ring. After that I polished the whole piece, bringing the platinum up to a bright shine:

Finished Ring:

Fully set the final ring is pretty stunning and has a beautiful, delicate sparkle. The polished platinum sets off the diamonds beautifully and the asymmetric layout of stones really works. This ring has now gone off to it’s new home:

Cuttlefish Cast Wedding Rings

Back in the spring I made these beautifully textured, cuttlefish cast wedding rings. The unique markings are left by the cuttlefish bone that the ring is cast from, making each one an individual.

Yellow Gold:

The casting process begins with melting down casting grain, in the case I used 18ct Fairtrade Yellow Gold which is a wonderful warm, yellow colour:

Pouring the Gold:

Using my torch I get the metal up to a molten temperature, rolling it around in the crucible to ensure that it’s moving freely. I then hold my breath and chose a moment to pour it straight into the mould, keeping the heat on the gold all the way:

Cleaning the Cast Ring:

Once free from the mould the ring is fairly rough and edged with little tendrils of metal which escaped the mould as the heat burned the cuttlefish bone away. I file these off easily and then saw away the ‘sprue’, the funnel of metal where the created by the gold entering the mould:

After that I thoroughly sand the inside of the ring, leaving a smooth interior surface suitable for hallmarking and engraving:

This polishes up to a beautiful gloss and I burnish the outside of the ring to bring out that wonderful cuttlefish texture:

At the Gordon Russell Design Museum

posted in: Events, exhibition 2

Earlier this week I installed an exhibition at the Gordon Russell Design Museum, in Broadway. The Museum offered members of the Worcestershire Guild the opportunity to display their work within the Museum Collection, a wonderful setting for handmade craft.

Upstairs at the Gordon Russell Design Museum

The Museum:

The Gordon Russell Design Museum is housed in the Gordon Russell Company’s original design office, a thin, barn-like building tucked behind the High Street in the Cotswold village of Broadway. It’s filled with a chronological display of work from Gordon Russell himself through to later production pieces made by the company he founded.

He championed the fusion of the machine and man-made, embracing technological advances in production but conserving craft hand skills. It’s an ideology that I really appreciate as it neither dismisses modern technological advances or neglects the hand-making that I enjoy so much.

Open the drawer:

For the duration of the show my work will be housed within this 1950’s Utility Chest of Drawers, Dressing Table and Mirror. Made in English beech it was designed by David Booth for Gordon Russell Ltd. The piece was mass-produced and purchased in the early 1950 from Heals of London. It reflects Gordon Russell’s idea that good design and quality workmanship should be affordable and these pieces, and many like them, decorated many English homes from the 1950’s onward.

In the top drawer you’ll find new pieces from my Riverside collection, alongside best sellers like my Circular Leafy Pendant. Visit the exhibition from 22nd August to 17th September 2017 at the Gordon Russell Design Museum in Broadway.

Press Forming Silver (for Jewellery)

I’ve had a lot of fun carving wax to make 3D forms lately but it’s been a while since I did any press forming to make a piece. This week I started a pebble shaped pendant that will be set with a constellation of topaz and diamonds. I made a note to document the process, to show my press forming method:

Press Tools in MDF and Acrylic

Press Tools:

I make press tools from MDF, which is easy to saw, or acrylic sheet, which is not so easy. The heat from sawing continually sticks the saw blade into acrylic (which can be incredibly frustrating) so for short runs/one off moulds I use MDF instead. I re-enforce both materials with nickel sheet, it’s tougher than silver and gives a nice, crisp edge to your forms.

 

Silver for  Press Forming:

Press formed work can be made in silver, copper, brass and a lot of other metals. The harder the metal the tougher a press tool you’ll need to work with it. I find that sterling silver doesn’t stretch that well under the pressure which I can apply with a hand operated fly press so I use Britannia silver instead. Britannia has extra stretch/flexibility and is legally hallmark-able in the UK.

Pressing:

I tend to go softly, softly with press work, building up the depth of the piece over several pressings instead of trying to stretch the whole thing in one go. I start with annealed silver sheet (this particular piece is also pre-textured) and sandwich it between the press tool and a sheet of firm rubber. Above this I add some cut down rubber, around the size of the mould, to give an extra push into the press tool.

Once I’ve got things started I’ll change around the positions of the rubber pressing pieces. I move the smaller, shaped pieces of rubber into the dips in the silver and then cover them with the larger sheet. I then press this, which forces the depression in the silver deeper:

As I go along I measure the depth of the pressed silver using a vernier gauge, ensuring that I’m pressing each half symmetrically for an even shape. I like the two halves to be symmetrical but I judge by eye when I feel that the shape has gone deep enough.

Cutting out the pieces:

Next step is to cut the pressed forms from the silver sheet, allowing the silhouette that I’ve been working on to appear. This part is always a little magical, until you get to the filing! I file the excess metal off the back of the cut-outs, removing the blocky edge from them and allowing them to join together smoothly.

Soldering Pressed Forms:

Soldering together and then reheating a hollow form isn’t advisable, you run the risk of exploding the solder joint as the trapped air expands on the second re-heat. This usually means that I put a couple of discreet drill holes on the back of a piece, to allow air to escape, but this particular pendant will be stone set so I can drill the setting holes in advance and solve the problem that way.

I stick solder the two halves together, keeping as much excess solder off the front and back faces as possible.

Cleaning Up:

After that I clean up the solder joint, fit a loop for the pendant chain and finish off adding drill holes/texture to the front of the piece. It’s now ready to hallmark (by laser, to avoid crushing anything) and set. Look out for the finished article appearing on the commissions page soon.

Casting a Recycled Gold Ring

posted in: Uncategorized 2

I was recently asked to convert a selection of a customers old and inherited gold into a new piece for her to wear and enjoy. We planned a sculptural ring that would be a bold, statement piece. I began by carving the ring in wax, translating my drawings into 3D to get a feel for the ring that I wanted to make.

 

As we particularly wanted to recycle the clients own gold into the new ring I chose to cast the ring myself, so that I could guarantee that her gold was used for the final ring. Melting the gold is a fairly simple process, however the casting itself was a learning curve for me.

I initially chose the sand casting method as it’s noted for the accuracy of the impressions that it gives. I used a Delft sand casting kit where an oily, red, almost clay-like sand is used to form a single use mold for the piece that you wish to cast. The process of loading the mold is simple, if a little time consuming, and allows you a lot of control over how to pour the metal into the form.

After a few attempts it became clear that the process wasn’t quite as simple as I was hoping. Melting and pouring the gold was relatively easy but the high temperature required to keep the gold molten made it difficult to ensure that the metal flowed properly around the mold. Several castings came out only partially filled:

The cold sand sucked heat out of the metal and prevented it from filling the mold. I tried variations on the layout of air holes, the entry position of the metal and even the angle at which I poured the metal. The most complete casting that I managed to yield was pitted and too imperfect to work with.

I read through a lot of troubleshooting information online but couldn’t find a concrete answer to the problem.

In the end I decided to go simple and try cuttlefish casting the ring instead. It’s a method that I haven’t used since college and wasn’t my first choice because the cuttlefish bones can transfer their distinctive markings onto the final casting. However, the sand casting wasn’t working out so I figured that it was worth a shot.

I pushed the silver master pattern into the cuttlefish which yielded a surprisingly smooth mold, though it did require quite a bit of force to make a complete impression. I carved extra air escape points into the cuttlefish and a funnel, to pour the liquid gold into. This method worked first time, I think because it was easier to keep the temperature of the metal high once it entered the mould.

A cuttlefish mould can only be used once, pouring molten metal into it destroys areas that it touches, burning away the cuttlebone.

Cleaning up my final casting was easy and I was delighted with how neatly the mould had filled. I cut away the large sprue, which indicates the point at which the gold was poured into the cuttlefish and refined the shape of the ring to bring out that crisp, knife edge.

Once sanded and polished the final casting is a beautiful copy of the silver original that I made. The ring carries a 9ct hallmark but mixing up the clients old 9ct & 18ct gold actually resulted in a 12ct ring. The unpredictability of alloying family gold in the workshop is always fun and this ring has a wonderfully warm, red overtone:

 

Morganite & Yellow Gold Ring

On the left is a costume jewellery ring and, on the right, a 9ct yellow gold, morganite and white sapphire ‘copy’ made to order for a client who loved the feel of this ring but not the materials!

An aspiring jewellery designer herself the client had an existing mold, made a few years ago, which she had never used to produce a ring. I was able to use that mold to produce wax copies and then modify them to suit the styles of stone setting that we had chosen.

I filled in the top of the ring with extra wax and carved new setting faces onto the inner slopes. This provided a better surface to set the beautiful, cushion cut, Morganite that we’d chosen.

Once cast the ring looked quite rough so I set about cleaning it up at the bench, taking off harsh marks left from adding wax and removing the fine, matt texture that had been left by the lost wax casting process. After fully sanding the ring I polished it, bringing the whole surface up to a uniform finish. With the central stone selected I matched up nearly 30 small, white, sapphires to form a glittering band around the top edge of the ring.

After setting the ring with the cushion cut Morganite, and a band of white sapphires, I plated the top face with bright, white rhodiumm. This pale canvas really brings out the colour of the Morganite and makes the peachy tones of it pop:

 

Silver Tea Infuser

As a serious tea drinker I’ve always liked the idea of making some small pieces of silverware for use with tea. This year I’ve challenged myself to work on a larger scale and have begun by designing a tea infuser:

It’s evolved a little from the original biro sketch, which I doodled at the end of last year. Most notably I’ve changed the ‘handle’ to make it a better match for my Riverside collection.

The bowl of the teaball is spun from silver sheet before returning to the workshop for me to make and fit the internal mechanism. I opted with a handmade screw thread fitting here but will probably modify that on future infusers to use a lighter method of closure!

One of the most challenging aspects was drilling the holes in the bowl. Marking out an exact pattern is difficult around a curved surface and I was very aware of the risk of breaking a drill bit in the silver. I marked the holes from the center point outwards, placing them in concentric circles and spacing them as evenly as possible:

Once that was all arranged I finished the lid with a leafy handle and polished the infuser to a glossy shine:

 

Tanzanite & Silver Constellation Bangle

This lovely little commission was designed to celebrate a 45th Birthday. It’s patterned with a scattering of 45 tiny blue tanzanites and a myriad of small drill holes:

 

Bracelet Sketch Silver
Bangle Sketch

 

It began as a simple, oval wire bangle which I polished and then matt finished with a heavy, stippled texture. After that I marked out the pattern of the constellation before drilling it and marking the bangle up for setting. A mixture of 1mm, 1.5mm and 2mm tanzanites are set around it, flush with the surface of the silver.

The final piece is a subtle collection of silvery blue shades. The blue of the tanzanites matches beautifully with the soft gleam of the silver:

Silver and tanzanite bangle

 

 

New Jewellery: Riverside

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Those who follow me on Instagram will know that I’ve been working on some brand new pieces lately, using the leaf motifs from my Riverside series and building them into larger, more complex pieces.

I’ve also sought out an unusual collection of semi-precious stones to work with and had lots of fun incorporating them into some show pieces for the winter season:

Silver and Ryolite Necklace
Seedling Silver and Ryolite Necklace

Commission: Aluminium Fire Lillies

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Becca Williams Aluminium Metal Fire lillies

 

I recently finished this interesting commission, made entirely in aluminium, nickel and brass. Aluminium is an especially interesting material to work with as it’s so much softer and more malleable than silver. It moves about easily and allows you to achieve some really soft, organic shapes.

Fire Lillies (Gloriosa) are the national flower of Zimbabwe which is the home country of the chap who ordered this. The flowers were part of his wife’s wedding bouquet ten years ago, hence his choice for the sculpture.

Here’s how the flowers came together in the workshop:

The sculpture was made to celebrate a 10th Wedding Anniversary it’s designed to be used as a jewellery stand with hanging space on the stamen of the flowers:

Metal, aluminium Fire Lilly Jewellery Stand

Project: The Contemporary Jewellery Exchange

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Last summer I got involved in the international Contemporary Jewellery Exchange, a project created and managed brilliantly by Olga Raben, a Norwegian Jewellery Designer and Maker. Contemporary Jewellers from around the world are paired up by Olga, based upon the style of their work. They then get in touch and swap a few messages, gathering a sense of each other before secretly making a piece to exchange.

I’m a big fan of the postal service and letter writing so this project was really exciting – plus I got to meet another jeweller and work to commission for them. I was paired with Lynne Glazzard, a jeweller and enameller based in Yorkshire who has a wonderful eye for texture and the landscape. She uses etching in her work too and has a back catalogue of pieces which features some beautiful little silver buildings:

After we exchanged some long and detailed facebook messages we decided that I would make a ring for Lynne and she would make a necklace for me. She liked the use of pearls in my work and I told her how wonderful I thought her little houses and buildings were. That settled we then had to keep our work a secret, get it ready for a postage deadline and send them to each other as a surprise.

I had a lot of fun working on the ring, it felt incredibly open ended, while many commissions can be resistrited by a lot of perfectly logical specifics. I toyed with ideas for etching, playing about with the patterns that I wanted to use and eventually settled on working on something evocative of sea spray (Lynne was living by the coast at that point) with a bubbly, watery feel to it.

I used pearls, because Lynne had mentioned them, and set them securely in cup settings (like my tidal rings LINK) sitting at jaunty, wave rocked angles. I also mixed a little 18ct yellow gold in there, to really bring out the colour of the dark pearl:

Lynne’s piece to me was a gorgeous little bundle of textures, in the form of a slanted dwelling on a square link chain. Clearly my love of birds had come across too because there’s an enamelled charm hanging from the necklace too!

Lynne Glazzard for Becca Williams 2
Lynne Glazzard’s Pendant for me

 

It sits really well on me and is such a great piece for days when I want to make my jewellery a real statement. You can see the rest of the matches online at the Exchanges Facebook Page and it’ll soon be available in a book, from the website.

 

Commission: Antique Silver Coin Bracelet

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Every now and again I get asked to make something really traditional. It’s almost always a lot of fun, if a bit of a puzzle sometimes! This customer contacted me regarding her selection of silver threepence pieces, which she wanted made into a bracelet. It needed to be in the traditional, scaled,style, linked together using over 200 tiny silver jump rings.

I’ve never worked with antique silver before but these coins are sterling (they’re all dated between 1911 and 1919) they behaved just as any other sterling would. They soldered easily and neatly using standard silver solders.

I added two rings to each coin before stringing them together into the finished pattern. I then soldered closed each ring along the chain (for added security when it’s worn). Finally I made a little bridge of chain to connect the catch to the bracelet.

The finished piece moves beautifully through your hands, fully articulated by all of the little links. It’s a great little tactile piece of wearable history.

Commission: Recycled Diamond Earrings

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Sometimes I get asked to recycle old family jewellery into something new and these earrings are a great example of this:.25 carat diamond studs

They’re simple, classic diamond studs but they’re made from one new diamond and one old one, taken from a client’s unworn engagement ring. It seemed a shame to leave this sentimental stone in a box so I matched another diamond to it and now she has a great pair of wearable earrings with a personal story.

 

Original Engagement Ring shank with the brand new Diamond Earrings
Original Engagement Ring shank with the brand new diamond earrings

Commission: Palladium and Ruby Engagement Ring

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Ruby Palladium Engagement Ring

This palladium engagement ring is designed to sit as a pair with the diamond one that I made last year, for a couple of ladies who are getting married this summer. I was a joy to make the ‘other half’ of their engagement rings so that they have a set with such similar characters.

This ring needed to be very practical and include a favourite gem of the bride to be: rubies. With that in mind it seemed that using small, flush set stones would be best as she’ll be able to leave it on all day at work without worry.

Palladium and Ruby Engagement Ring Sketches

The original ring had a twisted, raised ‘edge’ which ran all the way around it, highlighted by a bright polish against the matt finish on the body of the ring. I’ve accentuated this twist at the front of the new ring, widening it to give me space to add a little thread of rubies that sit within the curve and ‘flow’ around the ring.

We’ve kept the same, durable matt finish on this ring which really shows off the polished edge of the wave and the sparkle of the subtle sparkle of the stones:Ruby Palladium Engagement Ring by Becca Williams Jewellery Designer

 

Exhibition: Made with Love in Leeds

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Each spring the Craft and Design Centre Gallery in Leeds holds a show celebrating the romance of British Craft – this year there’s a distinctly birdie theme to the show, with work featuring our feathers friends from jewellers, ceramists and glassmakers alike.

My Riverside collection will form part of the exhibition alongside these other makers (plus a few more):

See the full line-up here

Small Business Saturday: shop small this weekend

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This Saturday, the first in December, is Small Business Saturday. Born out in the USA Small Business Saturday is sponsored over here by American Express and is a grassroots campaign designed to promote indie retailers throughout the country. Unlike the usual holiday campaigns this one has a bit of heart in it, designed as it to promote small businesses, bringing great things to the market.

So, to celebrate, I’m getting involved by offering 20% off this weekend to help with the Christmas shopping. Just type the code ‘shopsmall15’ into the coupon box on my website’s checkout for a cheeky festive discount.

 

Small Business Saturday Facebook sq2 copy

New Stockist: John Lewis Birmingham

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This week sees the opening of the new John Lewis store in central Birmingham, right above the remodeled New Street Station and Grand Central shopping centre.

It’s not normally the kind of thing that I’d blog about (despite the architectural interest of the building) but John Lewis have done something pretty special with this store. Working in conjunction with local business groups they’ve set aside space in the Jewellery Department for a Jewellery Quarter concession of sorts, featuring the work of six Jewellery Quarter makers.

I was selected to take part earlier in the year and have had to keep pretty quiet about it until now but, with the store finished and opening tomorrow here are a few images from last night’s preview:

They’ll be selling my Flotsam and Estuary ranges, from now until after Christmas.

Looking back: workbenches

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Sorting through a pile of her old, film photographs my little sister just dug out this black and white image. It’s my first workbench, in a cold lean-to attached to my parents house, that we built when I finished university.

I had barely any machinery, just my university hand tools really, but it’s where my Flotsam range began and where I first made the choice to stick at being a jeweller. I’ve had two other works-paces since then, a small square one that I sublet from some other makers and my current home, all on Hylton Street in the Jewellery Quarter.

Sometimes it dazzles me, just how far I’ve come in seven years:

First and current workshop sm
The workshop then [2008/9] vs the workshop now [2014/15]

Exploring: Perrott’s Folly

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Last week, as part of the Hidden Spaces project (in conjunction with Two Towers Brewery), I got to go along to explore the inside of one of the city’s seldom seen historic buildings: Perrott’s Folly.

Originally built in 1758 it once stood in a country hunting park but now overlooks a mixture of Victorian and 20th century housing, within sight of Edgbaston reservoir. It’s a slightly strange sight, huddled on a suburban street but the crumbling interior still manages to evoke a sense of past grandeur.

Here’s what I saw:

Commission: River Ring in Silver & Topaz

Last week I finished off this Eternity Ring, a commission inspired by the Braided River ring that I made a couple of months ago. It’s a silver wedding anniversary gift and is designed to sit alongside an existing topaz engagement ring.

It needed to have a slightly simpler feel to it than the original ring so I did a few sketches and we eventually settled on just the two ‘waves’ but added a more obvious line of stones – to evoke the feel of a traditional Eternity Ring.

Topaz and Silver Ring Sketches

Putting it together required some tricky soldering to line up and fix the settings (which sit in a wave, not easy to mark out):

Making  Topaz and Silver Eternity Ring by Becca Williams

and then to add the wires which made up the wave outlines:Making  Topaz and Silver Eternity Ring by Becca Williams 2

Topaz and Silver Eternity Ring by Becca Williams

After a couple of tense moments under the flame I polished it up to a glossy shine and set it with a single sky blue topaz and four clear, white topaz.

The final result looks pretty special:

Eternity Ring Blue & White Topaz by Becca WilliamsEternity Ring Blue & White Topaz by Becca Williams 2

Commission: Palladium & Diamond Engagement Ring

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At the start of the year I made this diamond and palladium engagement ring, for some friends who will be getting married next year. Now that the proposal has happened (and she said ‘yes’) I’m safe to post the photographs without ruining the surprise!

Palladium Diamond Wave Engagement Ring

This ring was designed to be really wearable, but still have a substantial bit of sparkle about it, with a prominent central diamond that’s set quote low – so as not to scratch and catch.

It has a really subtle, curved knife section band, with a comfortable rounded side which sits on your finger and a soft point that faces outwards, forming that bright, polished line which runs around the band and draws your eye right along to the diamond.

The diamond itself is Canadian, a beautiful Princess Cut which is securely set in a bezel.

Here’s how it was made, from drawings to ring:

 

Commission: ‘Braided River’ Silver & Topaz Ring

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I love an original commission and the brief for this one was sent to me by a hydrologist (who studies water and is especially fond of rivers). She wanted to replace her engagement ring and use the blue topaz that had originally been in it in something new.

She sent me some images of braided rivers, to see what I could come up with and I couldn’t have been happier! I find aerial landscape photography particularly fascinating plus, way back in sixth form I did one of my first ever jewellery design projects focusing on rivers!

A while spent playing around with the idea of interwoven tributaries eventually formed into this:

Silver Topaz Ring Design drawings

A wire wrapped silver band where the strands of silver flow around and under the setting like a river ’round an island.

Here’s how this tricky bit of soldering came together:

making the silver and topaz braided river ring Making Silver and Topaz Braided River Ring Collage 2sm Becca Williams Jewellery

And finished up in a band that made a really personal new ring that my customer loved:

silver and topaz braided river engagement ring

New Work: Birds

The late winter/early spring is always a quiet time for me. In a good way.

This year my first selling show will be in May so I’ve had the luxury of a lot of time to work out some of the ideas that I’ve been carrying around for a while. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen a few of these but, now that I feel like all the elements that I’ve been making are coming together I wanted to post everything in one place:

There are birds and leaves and little tapered silver twigs for them all to sit on … they’ll be evolving into final pieces over the next few weeks so keep a weather eye on instagram to see how things are going.

Inspiration: Richard Long & Pamela Rawnsley

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Last week I attended the first of what will, hopefully, be many lectures in the memory of Pamela Rawnsley, an inspirational jeweller and silversmith who died last year.

pamela-pots-752536410
Vessels by Pamela Rawnsley

 

She was very much driven by her love of the landscape, something that comes through very clearly in her work and for that reason when the Contemporary British SIlversmiths association organised the lecture they asked a favourite influence of hers, artist Richard Long, to speak.

The first piece of his work that I ever saw was probably his most iconic:

Richard Long, A Line Made by Walking, 1967
Richard Long, A Line Made by Walking, 1967

A Line Made by Walking. Simple, utterly effective and a distinctly human thing on the landscape.

It seems to be the thing that’s gone on to influence many of his other pieces, over and over, through the years. He said at the talk that ‘replicating his walking and his line making [over time] has formed a point of view‘. His endless walking and making and leaving of lines has come to define him, to build the work of his life. Apparently it didn’t seem like much at the time, just a sculpture that was made, like so many others, while he was out walking, but returning to the essence of it so many times over the years has given it deep significance.

Richard Long, A Line in Bolivia, 1981
Richard Long, A Line in Bolivia, 1981

Richard Long Road Stone Line, China, 2010
Richard Long Road Stone Line, China, 2010

Alongside lines he builds circles:

Richard Long A Circle in Antarctica
Richard Long A Circle in Antarctica

both starkly (like this white one in Antarctica) and in beautifully subtle ways like these circles in South America:

Richard Long ACONCAGUA CIRCLE Argentina, 2012
Richard Long ACONCAGUA CIRCLE Argentina, 2012

Richard Long, A Circle in the Andes, 1972
Richard Long, A Circle in the Andes, 1972

These are probably the ones that I like best, because they dare you to believe that they occurred naturally and make you re-evaluate the landscape that you’re seeing and your place in it.

To find out more about the Memorial Fund, or to donate to it. click here.

Exploring: The Mineral Galleries

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Yesterday I went down to London, mainly to go to a lecture but also, as I was in the neighbourhood, to spend the day at the Natural History Museum, somewhere that I’ve never really lingered very much.

Mineral Galleries, Natural History Museum

I’m so glad that I did. It’s treasure trove of fascinating exhibits and, though I didn’t find as many fossils as I’d hoped for on display I did discover the Mineral Galleries, up in the roof, which yielded an astounding array of colourful textures and surfaces:

mineral Samples, Natural History Museum sm

Some of these macro shots are almost reminiscent of a coral reef, with the minerals forming either beautifully organic structures or some really rather mathematical constructs, all effortlessly intersecting angles and sharp lines.

Plus, tucked away up there, I found two whole cases of silver mineral samples, some of which reminded me very much of those that I saw in Edinburgh, in January, all long, coiling wires that occurred naturally as the silver formed:

Silver Mineral Samples, Natural History Museum, London 2015

The two samples on the plinth are particularly large examples of these natural wires and are still attached to the rocks upon which they grew. They were found in Norway in 1834 and 1886 respectively, they hail from the Kongsberg Silver mines and are now housed in the Museum’s Vault exhibition space.

Craft & Design Magazine: Diary Writer 2015

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I’m incredibly pleased and proud to be this year’s Craft and Design Magazine Diary Writer.

Becca Jewellery Diary Writer Craft Design Magazine

Each year the magazine chooses someone working in the contemporary crafts and gives them a chance to write an article for each issue, forming a diary of what’s going on in and around their practice.

This year they picked me! The first issue landed in the workshop today and I’m super excited! So, what are you waiting for? Go buy one or, better still, get a subscription – it’s a wonderful source of information and inspiration.

Exploring: What I learned in the National Museum of Scotland

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The National Museum of Scotland, set in the heart of Edinburgh, is a veritable treasure trove of interesting objects and specimens from around the world.

Naional Museum of Scotland 2 copyHere’s what I learned when I visited last week:

– Silver, as a naturally occurring mineral, can grow into beautiful leafy dendritic crystal structures and coiling, wiry masses like this:

silver wire– In 1843 it was acceptable to ask Whalers to bring you back bone samples for your collections. But you had to remember to tell them not to carve things on them during the long voyage home:

Whale Jaw Bone with Scrimshaw, National Museum of Scotland– Birmingham was home to one of the country’s only specialists in lighthouse light construction: glassmakers Chance & Co

– The Museum houses a large collection of the internal workings from Lighthouses, and companies like Chance and Co made their construction into an art form:

ImageGen– The Flapjack Octopus is incredibly cute.

Tidal Pearl Rings

Becca Williams Tidal Pearl Ring 300dpi

 

Looking back at the blog, as I tend to do at this time of year, it’s become pretty obvious that I’ve made a fair few rings recently and, on balance, I’m pretty happy about that.

For a while I’ve been asked at shows and fairs if ‘I do that as a ring’ and whether I ‘make rings to commission’ (answer: yes, I’ll make anything to commission …) and I’ve spent some time during 2014 designing rings to sit alongside my existing work (like these stacking Flotsam ones) and to inspire new collections for the coming year. Here’s the final new addition to the online store in 2014:

Estuary Rings

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Back in September, at the Malvern Autumn Show, I got asked to make some smaller earrings for my Estuary range and, when I did, it became pretty obvious that they’d look really cute on rings too!

So here they are:

Becca WIlliams Mini Estuary Earrings Etched Silver Ring 72dpi

 

… and here’s how they came together:

Handmade Britain: Chelsea Nov 14

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Handmade Britain is just over a week away and, with some wonderful exhibitors on show here’s who I’m particularly looking forward to seeing:

beautifully layered colours from Linda Barletta/Sheen Pottery

Dish by Sheen Pottery
Dish by Sheen Pottery

 


raw edged silver vessels from Edward Mahony at  CreatStudio

Hand Raised silver vessels by CreatStudio
Hand Raised silver vessels by CreatStudio


richly coloured leather bags from Jane Hopkinson

Jane Hopkinson Leather Bags
Jane Hopkinson Leather Bags


delightfully textured metal from Jenny Balson Jewellery

Jenny Balson Jewellery
Jenny Balson Jewellery


looping, sculptural rings from Ellen Monaghan

Ring by Ellen Monaghan
Ring by Ellen Monaghan


and soft, subtle glazes from Sian Patterson

Sian Patterson Studio Ceramics
Cylinders by Sian Patterson Studio Ceramics

see the full exhibitor listing here

Commission: Penstemon Pendant

I just recently sent this freshly finished commission out to a customer, who requested it as a 40th Wedding Anniversary gift.

Penstemon Pendant Commission 10 Becca Williams Jewellery

His wife is particularly fond of penstemons – a tall distinctive plant with these bright, trumpet shaped flowers, a little like a fox glove. I started looking at the shape of the plant and flowers, then drew up a selection of designs to chose from, going for a bold, graphic interpretation of the plant:

Penstemon Pendant 1 Becca Williams Jewellery

My customer settled on the full silhouette of the plant – which was a lot of fun to delicately saw out and polish! The interior is gold plated, like my Estuary series, which adds a lovely contrast to it and the back is subtly engraved, above the hallmark, with the customers wedding and anniversary date:

I am assured that it was very well received and, now that their anniversary has passed, I can share the pictures without risk of spoiling the surprise!

Etched Estuary Rings

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Estuary Etched Silver Rings 7The stripey, coastal etching on my Estuary collection has long been a favourite of mine and, for the first time, I’ve gotten around to putting it onto some rings. I went with a plain, simple band to really make the most of the etching and I’m really happy with the bold, distinctive way that they’ve turned out.

They’ll be on my stand at fairs all winter and at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds too.

Commission: Screw Post Tidal Earrings

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Every now and again I get asked to alter one of my existing designs, or make something new, for someone with un-pierced ears. Finding earrings without the standard, pierced ear fittings can be especially tricky so I’m always happy to help when I can. There are a couple of good options available for people without pierced ears – either a hinged, clip style earring (which, I find, can sometimes lose it’s grip a little after wear) or, my personal preference: screw backed earrings.

These are made with neat, screw fittings which can be looped around the earlobe and then gently screwed onto the ear, to grip but not pinch – meaning that each person can chose the perfect pressure setting for them. Of course, these fittings take up more room than the standard, pierced earring post so clip on earrings are generally larger, to hide the fitting. I made this screw backed version of my Tidal studs earlier this month and just managed to tuck the fittings behind the earring – keeping the crisp silhouette that I like so much.

Here’s how they were put together:

Making Gold Screw Fitting Tidal Earrings Becca Williams 1Making Gold Screw Fitting Tidal Earrings Becca Williams 2Gold Screw Fitting Tidal Earrings Becca Williams 10

 

Workshop: Extraction for Jewellery Polishers

posted in: Workshop 4

For many years I have got by in my workshop without a proper, large scale polisher. Oh, sure, I have a little barrel one (which is just brilliant) but not the full on, rotary kind. If things have needed a good, glossy polish I have either made do with a tiny polishing mop, mounted onto my pendant motor, or borrowed a friends larger polishing machine.

Well, no more! Back in the spring I found a local, third-hand polishing motor on eBay for a song and have finally had it re-wired, got it installed and ready to go. Of course, you don’t have to do much polishing to realise the value of extraction, while opening the windows is a fine start it is by no means enough when you’re using something that kicks out as much dust as a large polishing motor. Getting covered in polishing rouge is annoying but the real danger is combustible dust hanging around the workshop and getting stuck in your lungs.

Now, I’ll admit that I know very little about woodwork/carpentry and while I’ve seen some fine home-made extraction systems constructed entirely from cardboard boxes and gaffer tape, I really did want to get something a little more official – that I didn’t have to build. Most jewellery supply companies only stock ridiculously expensive, all in one extraction solutions which I’m sure are brilliant – but which would be like a sledgehammer to a walnut in my little workshop.

Moleroda Jewellery Polishing

Thankfully, there’s eBay. I found a nice, friendly little outfit in Salisbury, called Moleroda who have an eBay store here and a comprehensive website here. They specialise in polishing stuff and do a nifty little fold-up plastic polishing hood that can be cut to fit your machine, and a vacuum to use as an extractor, all in one listing. Having looked about a fair bit it’s easily the most cost-effective solution that I’ve come across and it solved all of my problems in one go.

So I bought one of these.

The dust hood does a surprisingly credible Transformer impression:

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood

in it’s flat pack state but it folds up very quickly (and simply) and is held together by yellow electrical tape, which is included in the parcel:

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood, folding

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood, fitting

I did have to cut the triangular, side ‘wing’ sections off (mainly to avoid them extending over the edge of my very skinny polishing table) but the sturdy, corrugated plastic didn’t seem to mind this and holds together very well without them. I’ve secured the whole thing down with a few tiny panel pins and it is, so far, very stable.

The dust hood has a pre-cut hole in the centre of the back, for inserting the hose of a vacuum but, as you can see, I don’t really have an abundance of space to work with behind my polisher – so I’ve opted to fit the extractor on the side – cutting a new hole in the plastic (again, not too tricky a maneuver):

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood - side fitting

and have used the angled head (that comes with the vacuum) to get the whole thing positioned correctly. That seems to have worked a treat and, now that the hoses are all connected up, I have a fully functional dust catching and extracting system to keep my lungs safe and my workshop tidy.

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood with extractor fitted

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood and extractor, fitted

Commission: Bird Bracelet

A few weeks ago I made this cute little silver bird bracelet, as a wedding gift:

 

Becca Williams silver chain bird silhouette bracelet 3smsq


With one catch but two chains the layout makes the little birds look like they’re just swooping past each other in the air as they hang on your wrist.

Here are a few work in progress images:

… do get in touch if you’d like a commission of your own

Lake District Lithographs – Alan Stones

posted in: Exploring 0

While in the Lake District last month I stumbled across the Mere Gallery, just above Lake Windermere. In their window and across their walls were a series of stark, black and white lithographs by local artist Alan Stones. I was very much taken in by their simple sense of space where swathes of blank, white paper are offset by comparatively tiny, delightfully detailed prints of birds and people, landscapes and activities, almost lost in the white space but, thankfully, not quite.

Here are a few favourites to enjoy:

Arc Alan StonesArc

Take Wing, Alan Stones Take WingSkein (vi) Alan Stones Skein (vi)Climb (ii)  Alan StonesClimb (ii)

Craft at the Three Choirs Festival, Worcester 2014

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This year the annual Three Choirs Festival returns to the city of Worcester for a glorious week of music in the historic Cathedral.

The Worcestershire Guild of Designer Craftsmen will, once again, be celebrating the event by hosting a contemporary craft fair in the Cathedral grounds, presenting a selection of work from local designer makers.

 

Worcestershire Guild Craft Three Choirs Poster 2014

Alongside the Worcestershire Guild will be members of the Cotswold and Herefordshire Craft Guilds, both of whose home cities also play host to the Three Choirs Festival, on alternate years.

The show opens on Saturday 26th July and runs until Saturday 2nd August, opening from 10am to 8pm each day.

The Standard Works – Jewellery Quarter

13 Standard Works Jewellery Quarter 2014 Becca Williams sm

Built in 1879 the old Standard Works building dominates a large stretch of Vittoria Street, on the far edge of the Quarter, and has long been one of my favourite buildings in the area. Disappointingly derelict for the best part of two decades it has thus far avoided all attempts to turn it into residential property, or to resurrect it for industrial use – until it was finally sold, just a few weeks ago, to the Ruskin Mill Trust, a further education organisation for young people with learning and emotional difficulties.

With plans to build specialist teaching rooms, a theatrical space and even it’s own artisan bakery the team behind the conversion of the space are ambitious – with an eye to fit the project into the community and recall some of the buildings’ past with the inclusion of jewellery education workshops in the scheme.

So, last weekend, the people behind the project allowed a bunch of curious locals with cameras into the building to get a sense of what the project is about and have a tour of this remarkable building.

 

Here’s what I saw:

Workshop Renovations, pt 2

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Workshop renovations are coming on apace, with the last coat of paint due to go on the walls tomorrow I’ve roped in some wonderful helpers to build benches, put up an awful lot of scavenged worktop and generally aid in making the place ship shape. And all I had to do was feed them.

Seriously though, I couldn’t have done this without the generous help that I’ve received along the way so far – and can’t wait to move in to the finished space.

Fotor0501191753Fotor0501191548

Workshop Renovations – pt1

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It’s been clear for a while now that I’ve needed a bigger workshop, I’ve got to a point where I need to invest in larger machinery, where I’d like to be able to stretch out, make bigger work and be able to have more space to plan designs as well as ‘just’ making things. I’ve got ideas of teach a little too and for that I will definitely require more space.

So, after a few dreary January afternoons combing the ‘to let’ adverts in and around the Jewellery Quarter I finally found somewhere that just felt right the instant that I walked through the door.

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Typically, it was last on a long list of properties to see, it was cold, dreary and may even have been raining outside. But, inside, there was light, and space and okay, it’s in the attic of a rickety old building but hey, I’ve always thought that it’s the haphazard structures that give the Jewellery Quarter a lot of its charm. 

And now, after quite a lot of official procedures (and filling in reams of forms) I have the keys and am starting to strip things back, ready to paint and to build:

 

Stacks of Flotsam Rings …

Becca Williams stacking rings in progress

I spent some time this week working on an idea for a new design of stacking rings, to compliment my Flotsam range, with hammered textures and a couple of different shades of freshwater pearls:

They’ll be winging there way out to my galleries soon …

Etched Estuary Napkin Rings

posted in: Silversmithing 0

Becca Williams Etched Silver Estuary Napkin Rings

These are my lovely new etched napkin rings, just back from the photographers. They’re the first round pair of napkin rings that I’ve done and, while the etch was a little challenging (especially on the inside of one!) I think that they’ve come out wonderfully.

Have a look at the making images here:

Ideas for new work …

posted in: Silversmithing 0

A secluded January in the studio has given me time to think about some new ideas and where I want to start taking my work in 2014. I’ve been busy already, starting to etch on a larger scale (more of that later) and beginning to work on some new pieces of silverware for my exhibition stand.

Here’s a sneaky peak at some rocking Tidal napkin rings, works in progress:

Tidal Napkin Rings

which have just gone off for hallmarking …

 

Centrepiece 20th Nov – 23rd Dec 2013

posted in: Jewellery 0

Centrepiece 2013 opens at Symphony Hall this Thursday with 28 local designer makers  selling their work in the run up to Christmas.

Centrepiece Logo

The show will be open from 10am – 10pm everyday and is always staffed by the designers themselves, here’s a selection of what will be available (to help you out with your Christmas gift buying … )

Commission – Engraved Bangle

This lovely little commission went through the workshop over the summer, the engraved detail comes from a drawing the recipient did on her 21st Birthday.

Edward Smith Bangle 2013 A

The engraving stretches around the front face of the bangle and I was really pleased to get such an interesting design to work into a piece. The main body of the bangle is a reversed D section, with the comfortable curve next to the wrist and the larger, flat surface area facing out to take the engraving.

If you’d like something special commissioned  yourself then do get in touch.

Cornwall

posted in: Exploring 0

This summer I took my first trip to the Cornish seaside, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit but have never managed to – now that I have I think that it could now become a firm favourite of mine.

I spent a few days wandering around the local beaches, exploring the South Coast Path where it meandered by the campsite and generally soaking in the sound of the waves and the blue, blue sea. The landscape is certainly inspiring, at turns gentle then wild and I was so sad to come home!

Polly Joke Beach, Cornwall
Polly Joke Beach, Cornwall

Of course I didn’t spend the whole week wandering along the coastline (though that wouldn’t have been a challenge) I did venture down to St Ives to take in the light and explore the twisting streets of the town. It offers up a whole host of independent galleries filled with the work of local and international makers and artists, many of whom have been influenced by the beautiful local landscape.

Spread across two floors in the centre of St Ives is the New Craftsman Gallery which is currently hosting work by, among others, Neil Davis and Cornelius Jakob Van Dop.

Neil Davies, Indigo Skies over Sennen
Neil Davies, Indigo Skies over Sennen

Davies paints landscapes, with big, heavy brush strokes and expressive sweeps of colour that all build up on top of each other into some seriously captivating textures. Some of them are stormy, some a little serene as he reacts to the changes in the seasons around his home near St Ives.

Neil Davies, Reflections on the North Coast
Neil Davies, Reflections on the North Coast

Neil Davies, Watching the Crashing Waves at Boat Cove
Neil Davies, Watching the Crashing Waves at Boat Cove

Tucked away in a cabinet downstairs was the work of Cornelius Jakob Van Dop, a jeweller and metalsmith with a clear love for texture, line and the natural world. His small, palm sized boxes are decorated with beautiful illustrations of the coastal landscape and wildlife. There was something in them that reminded me of sailors scimshaw carvings, filled with the details that had been keenly observed during a life looking at the sea.

Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box

They were beautifully made, with neat hinges and simple dimple locking mechanisms that functioned neatly and really let the quality of the illustrations come across. Alongside these were a collection of animal and insect brooches, I particularly liked the whale, simply made in plain silver with more of that glorious fine detailing:

Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box

Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Brooch
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Brooch

The Gallery is open all year round and details can be found here.

Desire – Kensington [March 2013]

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I recently spent the weekend at Desire in London surrounded by a wonderful collection of jewellery and silverware from some of the finest makers in the country.  In the heart of Kensington the event has just moved into, hopefully, a new permanent home where it can grow and build up quite a following.

Natalie Harris:

Natalie Jane Harris

Besides the jewellery on show it was encouraging and inspiring to see so much silverware represented – British Silverweek brought a considerable amount of new talent with it to sit alongside more established makers like Andrew MacGowan and Esther Lord.

Collete Bishop:

Colette-Bishop

Showed a sumptuous little selection of her neat, smoothly curving vessels, off set by their jagged tops and beautifully tactile in form.

Fiona McAlear:

Fiona MacAlear

Brought this little vessel along – just look at the beautiful, intricate detailing on the lid:

Fiona MacAlear Lid

it makes what could be quite a heavy piece feel delicate – and makes a lovely feature of the hinge.

Kathryn Hinton:

Kathryn Hinton

 

and I had a quick chat with Kathrine Hinton who makes use of some wonderful new technologies (computer modelling, digital hammer blows and some very fine rapid prototyping) to produce tiny, detailed vessels and jewellery with surfaces that you just want to hold and explore:

Kathryn Hinton

New ellipses …

posted in: Uncategorized 1

Silver Castings - necklace and jump rings

I collected some new castings in the week and finally got them onto my bench today. I made the original copper models of these, looking at pictures I took of the shapes of little fishing boats moored out in a harbour.

There’s a very definite stripe that runs through the centre, on a curve, which I think I’ll put a bright, burnished edge onto once it’s all cleaned up and joined together.

18ct Yellow gold & silver stacking rings

I made these rather lovely 18ct yellow gold and silver stacking rings this autumn and have just realised that the images never made it onto my blog … Working in yellow gold made a nice change from my more usual red gold and the soft sandy texture looked great in yellow metal: