Sunday Rings

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.

Butterfly Collecting

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.

Butterfly and moth pins and hair combs by Erica Madelin

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!

Bent Copper

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Steampunk button-hole for a friend

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Copper orchid button-hole

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Holly sprig with coral berries

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Copper Chrysanthemum tiara modelled by Emily and reproduced with kind permission from the photographer.

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

Grown up steampunk jewellery

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.

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Deep, rose cut quartz cabochon set in silver with steel and brass watch parts.

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.

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Steampunk Industrial ring in hammered and oxidised silver, set with a rose cut quartz and watch parts.

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.

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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.

Two Rings

My family has always had a passing interest in rocks, geology and minerals. I bought myself loose stones long before I ever learned to silversmith, with the vague idea that one day I would do something with them and in the meantime they don’t take up much space.

Now my family occasionally buy stones and get me to set them…

Star ruby in hammered silver ring

The one above is a star ruby my father bought for my mother for their ruby wedding anniversary and then promptly lost in the bottom of a purse for several years. I made the band of silver because gold prices have been ridiculous since the recession and did the ring around the bezel in gold because the stone wanted to be near gold. It’s not perfect but then I like a slightly rustic look for a slightly rustic stone!

Medieval-style citrine and silver ring

This one is a citrine my brother bought himself (set against a chunk of something volcanic from Iceland). Again the setting is hammered silver.

Getting my claws round a quartz

Everything looks better with Lego

A lovely, messy sapphire set with a smoky quartz and a topaz.

This week I returned to silversmithing, finally completing a project that had given me difficulty. I do like chunky jewellery but using 1mm silver was a mistake which meant I had to waste time and silver, filing bits away so the claws and bezel would conform to the stones. The large stone is a sapphire so it makes for a heavy piece. I’m not entirely satisfied with the design but I feel better about having finished it!

Copper load of that!

With my supply of silver running out fast and metal prices remaining high, I have been working increasingly with copper.

While not much use for jewellery, it’s an utterly wonderful metal to work and its relative cheapness means I can cut it up, blast it with the torch and generally abuse it with gay abandon and pretty nice results.

In recent months I have made copper books (that’s what I call a hardback!), personalised memory sticks (a slightly corny steampunk thang, but a fun project using 15mm plumbing pipe), dragon’s skin bangles (with thanks to Popnicute (video here) and some fold formed orchids I hope to sell as steampunk buttonholes for weddings.

I hope you enjoy the photographs!

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The background for this one is my chunk of train rail bought from the lovely chaps at Elsecar, Sheffield. Railway line, being work hardened, makes a really good anvil and the volunteers at Elsecar said they are used to people asking for a small length in return for a donation.