Developing a Theme

I think I have done it! I have finally found a theme for my silversmithing.

I am conscious that I am not a formally trained silversmith and that people who have studied design at a college or university are encouraged to take an idea and stick with it, developing it as an idea and generating a brand identity.

In searching for a theme I have found myself envying Icelandic silversmiths (I would love to do a range with oxidised trees over hand picked labradorite stones to sell to tourists hoping to capture forever the bucket-list moment when they saw the Northern Lights) or those living near the sea (pebbles and sea glass go so beautifully in silver).

I live in Sheffield, about as far inland as you can get, with a comparatively recent industrial heritage, ugly modern buildings (I love some modern buildings but most of the ones we have are just dull) and no interesting local rocks (from a gemological point of view).

This year however I have taken themes from last year’s steampunk jewellery and developed them.

The result is pleasingly chunky, androgynous jewellery featuring generous stones sometimes set over reclaimed watch movements.

The silver is oxidised, giving it an industrial quality and, as I develop the theme, I intend to bring in other found objects and different metals.

As to stones, I have already used labradorite with its oil-slick colours and will also introduce acid green peridot and, if i can get hold of them, Mexican Fire Opal.

On  a recent walk I also found some nice pieces of slag and iron waste so if I can find a way of cutting them down I think I may start incorporating them into jewellery too.

And there we have it – Sheffield specific, modern industrial jewellery that I enjoy making.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.