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.

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:

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:

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:

 

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: 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

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.

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!

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