September 8, 2011

All In A Day's Work

Recently, I've received lots of questions regarding my jewelry. Who designs it? Who makes it? Where is it made? By hand??? And my responses are: Me, me, my studio, yes! So I thought it might be nice to give you a little glimpse into what it actually takes to make a piece of jewelry. Since I was working on a stack of hammered rings the other day, I took the opportunity to photograph the process for you. I did my best to capture each step while using one hand to make the jewelry and the other to photograph. Please forgive me for leaving out some steps. It's a bit dangerous to sand silver with only one hand... safety first!

So this is what I look like while creating a piece. Hair is tied back tightly so that it can't catch on fire or get caught in any machinery. Safety goggles so that nothing can fly in my eyes and so I don't burn my eyebrows or eyelashes off. Tight fitting clothing so again, nothing catches on fire or gets caught. See? Isn't jewelry making glamorous?!? ;)

And now for the process:

  1. Saw the sterling silver or gold filled wire to the appropriate length depending on ring size ordered. Since I'll hammer the ring later, and hammering will stretch it out, I always saw the wire a few millimeters short
  2. Crap! I mixed up 2 & 3... ok, refer to picture 3. I file the ends of the wire so that they are flat and can be matched together to form a solid seam. 
  3. And now refer to picture 2... I bend the wires into a circle or oval to match the seams. Since I will be shaping the ring later, the shape doesn't have to be perfect yet
  4. I cover the ring in an extremely poisonous chemical (yay for me) that will protect it from the fire when I heat it up to seal the seam and to make more pliable
  5. Using a metal pick, I place a piece of silver solder on the seam. This will be melted and will fill the seam to seal it.
  6. The solder piece is on the seam
  7. Directing heat on the solder to melt into the seam
  8. The solder is melted and the ring is formed
  9. After the ring cools a bit, I place in cold water to cool further so I don't burn my hands handling
  10. Place the ring in a pot of more toxic chemicals, this time acid, to clean it. Then sand down the seam to make it uniform with the rest of the ring (step not shown)
  11. Time to heat the rings again so I can shape and hammer them. Metals become more pliable when heated and harden when worked. Depending on the type of ring I'm making, I may heat, work, heat, work, heat, work over and over until I get the shape or look for which I'm aiming. Each time I do this, I will protect, heat, place in water and then acid all over again. It can be quite a process!
  12. Heating the rings so I can shape
  13. Using a rubber mallet to shape & size the ring
  14. Using a ball end metal hammer to hammer the ring
  15. Once I am happy with the sizing and design, they look something like this
  16. Then I place them in a tumbler with a bit of powdered ivory soap to clean and harden them. Since the rings are thin, I want to harden as much as possible so that they don't bend out of shape
  17. In the tumbler
And the finished product


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