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!

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.

 

Casting a Recycled Gold Ring

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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:

 

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

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 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.

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