I have a long history of making and selling wire jewelry, but I've always wanted to move into the world of soldering. Last fall and winter, I did it; buying the initial supplies and tools to begin working with metal in new ways.
Of course I read a lot of books and watched even more You Tube videos before trying my hand. I'm still basically practicing using copper, brass and nickel silver (which doesn't contain actual silver, but is an alloy of zinc, nickel and copper) and here's a cute pair of earrings I made the other day -
They're only about an inch long and 1/2 inch square, but I love the way they turned out. I tried a couple of different soldering techniques to secure the ear wires to the back and so now I know which works best. Cutting and measuring is something everyone needs to pay attention to when making jewelry and so I went really carefully about that part.
I also experimented with soldering bricks. Some hold heat better and some stay quite cold which means I have to keep the flame on the piece longer - not good. It's interesting to learn which works best when. Ditto with fusing which is something I still do a lot of.
So as I progress through different little practice projects I'll post them here. Soon I hope my quality is good enough to buy sterling silver and make pieces for you!
Most of the time I buy from online wholesalers, but in Wausau there is a wonderful shop that I visit when I'm in town and I'm not running like a crazy person - it's Stoned & Wired and look what I picked up yesterday -
Stay tuned for new pieces featuring these beautiful beads!
My facebook followers saw me post this shot of some earrings in progress and three women wanted a pair even before I got them finished!
So I got to work making extra sets so this one (that I took about a million pictures of) could go in the shop. They're made with hand fused and shaped fine silver on sterling silver ear wires. Here's the journey they go through to be finished earrings!
First the wire is fused and flattened. The hangers are shaped into ovals and bent. The circles get some texturing. Everything is polished by hand and then is ready for the tumbler. I kept the ear wires long so each woman could choose how long she wanted them.
It's a little hard to tell, but they have a more satiny finish before tumbling. I really like that look and can replicate it with the polisher after they're tumbled. Tumbling adds a little work hardening, but with this much hammering they don't need it. Neither do the ear wires since I use 1/2 hard wire for those and they're strong without the need for anything more.
And look at that scratch on my bench. Oh well, such is a jeweler's life.
I love it when someone asks me to do something just for her.
Recently a friend stayed for a few days to relax and we got to talking about how she couldn't find the right necklace to go with a really great top she bought.
What else could I do but invite her to my underground lair...uh, studio...to have a look through my supplies and come up with something all her own.
Our husbands rolled their eyes as we went through different options and ideas. Beads...glorious beads! Even though I have a lot of material, she came to her decision very quickly. Pink and shimmery. These mother-of-pearl donut discs became the focal point. We finessed the rest - strawberry quartz nuggets and just a touch of malachite and white mother-of-pearl. So much fun, and you know...both of the guys stuck around when I started fusing the chain right then and there. I guess it's the torch. Men like fire, right?
A few sketches and thoughts from her and I had my pattern. It would just be a matter of building it and trying things out with craft wire first. I do that a lot, actually. What else is craft wire for?
I put everything into a project box and ordered the wire I needed to make it really durable and tarnish-resistant since she will have to hand polish and not use a tarnish dip. Mother-of-pearl doesn't play well with harsh chemicals. As I worked through the component parts, the whole piece came together beautifully. If I have to walk away for a while, I take a lot of notes on wire measurement and tool placement so I can pick up right where I left off. I even added a couple of extra touches in the clasp and extender so that it will be as lovely from the back as it is from the front (she has short hair, so it will show). It's polished and bold, but also very natural.
And it went out today. She will rock it.
In a little spate of creativity and time at the bench, I've explored design options with an asymmetrical bracelet. One of the priorities in any jewelry business is to create pieces that can become a standard line; something the brand becomes known for. I am really pleased with this basic design - it's very wearable, even layerable, and lends itself well to variations like wire gauge, bead link style, end finishers and embellishments.
I'll have to tinker with it more and find out how long it actually takes to make one. Since I've been experimenting and changing things up, I'm not quite sure. The most time-consuming part is making the rings for the chain. Each ring is formed individually and has to be worked, shaped, and rechecked so they are as perfect as they can be. The large rings are fused one at a time, and then the smaller ones are fused around the larger to form the chain. It takes about 3 inches per bracelet. This can vary depending on the bead links. The toggles are made individually, too. If I have enough in the works I get into a nice rhythm.
When I have several bracelets worth of silver finished, they go in the tumbler in a batch. I tumble for several hours and so the process runs to two days at least. It's important to plan ahead and know what I have on hand and how many pieces I can create. Then I can turn my attention to the bead links. So far I've worked with a variety of gemstones, but small glass beads would work as well. Wrapped links work best, but I use a finer gauge of wire so they come out more elegant and subtle. Some I attach directly to one another, others get jump rings. If they're open jump rings I'm thinking about doubling them up for strength. If they're closed I can go with one. Some I leave plain, some get a little dressed up.
So much fun and lots of choices. I could even do them as custom orders one day. Hm. That's an idea. So many things to consider. All part of the process!