It’s a day late for Valentine’s Day but here is my latest “grownup steampunk” piece comprising a heart shaped labradorite in gorgeous striped bronze and green, set in silver oxidised to echo the colours of the stone. Suspended underneath is a beautifully tactile Victorian cabinet key. The idea of this series is that over time they gain character as they are worn and the patina changes and adapts to the wearer.
There’s a magic to old things dug out of the earth, having been lost for centuries.
The volunteers who spend their holidays up at Vindolanda fort on Hadrian’s Wall must all hope that they will be the one to discover something new and precious.
The rest of us must be content with the museums and it was at Vindolanda’s museum that we spotted this wonderful hair pin. https://beesfirstappearance.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/dscn1495.jpg (Thank heaven for other wordpress users because this is the only image of this pin that I have been able to find!)
My version is in a bronze alloy and I have added an “ethnic cut” cabochon garnet to the “mirror” on the chain. This means the stone is slightly wonky, not calibrated, and so is closer to the garnets one can see in Roman, Celtic and Saxon jewellery.
The maker of the Roman original would have started out with a thicker piece of metal and then, possibly, hammered the end flatter before cutting out the hand. As I started with a piece of 2mm Victorian door plate, I opted instead to anneal, twist and hammer the pin to give it strength. It will also have the benefit of catching in the hair better.
A Google search for “Roman hand hair pins” shows this was a very popular design so my version is decent recreation of a Roman hair pin without infringing any nasty copyrights.
I do hope she wears it!
I have been so busy this month I nearly forgot to post something. I do have some paintings to show you but for now: Here is a silver pendant I made for a friend’s birthday. They had a whip round at work to contribute to the materials and then we agreed on a design.
She makes it hard for me because, although she likes jewellery, she doesn’t often wear it and so I find it hard to pin down her style but I hope I got it right and she will wear this.
For the cherry bough I took silver scraps and dust and carefully fused them together to form twiglets before soldering them together with hard solder into a little branch. I then cut out the blossoms from silver sheet and gently domed them before adding a silver bead to each centre with medium solder and soldering them to the branches using the same stuff. I then used easy solder to add the ring for the bail to go around. Finally I oxidised the twig with liver of sulphur and gave the flowers a polish with a mop on my mini drill.
I don’t know the word for it but I think the Japanese probably have a term to explain the poignant contrast between something old like a venerable fruit tree and the fresh young blossom it produces in the spring. Whatever the word is, that was the sentiment and look I was aiming for.
It’s Sunday, possibly it is raining or perhaps it is just dreary and cold enough that the thought of going out just does not appeal.
On days like these I often sit down and make myself a ring, something simple but pretty that can be done in a day and which, in the working week to come, I can look at and know my weekend was not wasted.
That is why I call these my Sunday rings.
Each one uses a stone I was particularly drawn to because of its character, colour or flaws. There are messy star sapphires and a particularly pretty dusty blue sapphire bought from India in an auction with no rivals as the seller had used the wrong picture as their primary image.
My favourite though is this playful and slightly ridiculous turquoise ring. It is a really unusual, almost onion domed cabochon and, as it was reclaimed from jewellery by a lovely dealer I know, I have really no idea how old it is. All I know is that if I could get more, I could sell this ring 10 times over.
Unfortunately Turquoise, being opaque, is nearly always cut into flatter cabochons as to do otherwise is a waste of an expensive material.
So the only way I am going to be able to replicate this ring is to cut my own stones. ..which brings us onto the problem of sourcing genuine turquoise on line in a market saturated with fakes and imitations.
But that’s for another time.
Just to conclude, because the stone is so chunky with a hint of Arabian Nights style Orientalism, I wanted to give it a mount that echoed that.
I simply took d shaped wire for the ring and added a ring of round wire to provide more adhesion points for the domed disk in which the stone sits. I then used a file to make the claws and finally folded them carefully round the stone.
I then wore it very carefully for a day, praying the stone was indeed secured by its little claws.
The Christmas before last my brother bought me an old copper water heater….we don’t really do i-phones and Bruno Mars CDs in our family, you see.
Having such a large amount of copper sheet allows me to have fun, make mistakes and work in a larger scale than I can afford to do in silver.
I have enjoyed fold forming and as soon as Dave allows me a bit of space in the garage I will experiment some more with anticlastic raising but in the mean time I bought myself some Ferric Chloride and tried out some etching.
For tips I looked at YouTube and in particular Torch Song’s excellent video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN_X8RAy2hg and these are the results: moths and butterflies.
Perhaps my technique could be improved but I found a sharpie didn’t result in the cleanest etch and so it seemed to suit something like a moth with its soft, broken lines.
I then simply soldered them onto twisted wire pins and hair prongs. I could of course have polished them up but I didn’t even pickle them, preferring to preserve the oxides that formed while heating.
These will be coming along with me to a craft fair this summer, my first and yes, I am rather nervous!
Copper is a wonderful metal to work with and its cheapness relative to silver means allows me to experiment more and try bigger projects with it.
Last year I started making fold-formed orchids. these were followed by some little Chrysanthemums whose layers of petals I hammered out on my doming block.
The Chrysanthemums I made into a headband, kindly modelled by a friend here.
This Christmas I have followed those up with a holly button-hole complete with coral berries.
The colour of the metal is the result of the folding and annealing process and won’t last unless I seal it under a coat of laquer.
I have a steampunk friend who insists that everything he makes is polished to a mirror shine. I admire the dedication but personally I like the way metals oxidise and age.
I have plans to choose a flower or plant for every season. For spring I am planning a hair ornament with hawthorn. I think I would try to oxidise the copper leaves to green and then combine them with little silver flowers and “buds” of white button pearls.
I would love one day to do a complete bridal set, copper flowers, a tiara and button holes for the bridegroom’s party.
In a world where florists charge up to £50 for a button-hole that won’t last the day, this must be possible! Continue reading
Steampunk is in danger of becoming a cliché.
Of course there are wonderful makers out there doing amazingly original things but for the majority the steampunk aesthetic can be summed up thus: It is steampunk because it has a cog on it; it has a cog on it because it is steampunk. Cog-ito ergo steampunk.
This often frustrates me but I do sometimes succumb to the lure of a sweet little cog and I do love old watch movements…and so I too am guilty of making jewellery with cogs in.
This was my first such piece; a lovely deep cut rock crystal whose lower arc happened to be the perfect match for the edge of a watch movement I had in my collection.
I do hope that you will see these as grown-up steampunk jewellery. They are not made of brass-coloured, pre-made elements wired together, but of silver. The cogs are carefully chosen and set almost discretely behind gemstone cabochons. In their turn the gemstones are chosen for their cut and even for their characterful flaws.
The ring above is set with part of a watch movement and oxidised. The oxidisation was done with liver of sulphur which makes up for its nasty smell at the time of using by turning silver first ochre and then russet before going an oily bluey greenish colour. The colours are subtle and as this ring is worn they will change, weather and develop character. The rose cut stone brings out the intricacy of the watch movement even as the facets split its image, making it hard to pin down.
Finally these are part of a collection of tie or lapel pins simply set with a labradorite, a cog and amethyst and, finaly, a star sapphire. I also have pins set with glass taxidermy eyes but they are surprisingly expensive.
Thank you to my friend Mark Todd for taking the first and last of these pictures for me.