Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Work- Gemmy Goodness

I started some new projects today-  a little different because I haven't made much since the kids were home this summer and I need to use my skills and use up some gems too (that's right- so I can buy more...)

So I am thinking of clustering gems around a central contrasting gem. The top right is an opal with iolite rectangles, the middle is sugilite with carnelian rectangles, and the bottom is green quartz with rhodolite garnet squares. The top 2 will be necklaces but the bottom could be a ring- a large ring, but not too large for some people's taste. I may decide later to make it a necklace, too. I am going to set the faceted gems upside-down, because a) it's easier and I'm lazy, and b) because it looks cool.

I'm influenced by Irene Neuwirth (those are her necklaces above)- her clustering of gems is magnificent. Plus, she uses a lot of opals so I'm in love with her jewelry. She uses a lot of opal and carnelian together for contrast. Here's her Facebook page:

Of course my little projects are a lot smaller in scale than hers. But hey, I do what I can....

Irene uses prong settings for her work, but since I'm a bezel-girl, I'll stick with that. It's overwhelming for some to make SO MANY bezels, but if you use a production technique, it's not that hard. What you do need are stones that are calibrated exactly the same size. I buy in bulk, so even if some aren't exactly the right size, I can choose another until I have what I need.

I need to make bezels. A LOT of bezels. So I use some of my scalloped bezel wire. I don't use scalloped bezel wire anymore, and I need shallow bezels, so I slice the scallops off, and the bezel wire gets all curly.

Then when I straighten it out, it's not straight.

So I use my pliers to gently bend it straight as I go down the length of the wire. I do this by squeezing on the wire and rotating my pliers a wee bit. I do this every 1/2" or so.

At the bottom you can see the bezel wire before I cut it- then right above it, I actually size the wire around a typical stone (I need 22 rectangular bezels- all the same size). After it fits perfectly, I open it back up, and use that as a template to measure out the same exact length 22 times. This makes production faster.

Next I close all 22 pieces of wire, put a smidgen of solder under each joint, flux and heat until the solder flows.

Here they are pickled, rinsed and dried.

I bought a set of bezel mandrels from Stachura. These are just a few- I have 12 or more. They are helpful in forming unusually-shaped bezels. They are cone shaped but consistent in form the whole length.

I take each soldered piece of wire and because they're fine silver, am able to use my fingers to press the sides against the sides of the mandrel, giving the wires a rough form of a rectangle.

The top pieces are just off the mandrel. Then, I use my chain nose pliers to further flatten and refine the edges and corners (bottom pieces).

In the above pic I have made bezels for all the stones- 33 in all. As it was, I used less stones for the necklaces than originally laid out. I constructed the square bezels in much the same way, using the square bezel mandrel for forming. The smaller stones at the tops have pre-made bezel cups. Now I am tired of bezel-making and my kids are about to come home- done for the day!

Above, the sugilite and carnelian necklace could encorporate some granulation. Should I keep going with that on all the pieces or keep it simple?? (simple is hard for me) Also, should the bottom piece be a ring or should I make it a necklace as well? I also need to decide on what chain I will use. But enough work for today! Hopefully I will finish on Friday! Any feedback is encouraged!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And a few more cast items finished!

So now I had time to complete my 4 castings that came back at the end of last month:
The top ones have Ethiopian opals, and the bottom ones (for a change of pace!) have blue topaz and chalcedony. I have not loved the texture of the cast pieces- a bit orange-peel. But this is the second casting house that has given me back similar-textured items.

The top with opals, the bottom with labradorites. I like these better because there is less surface area in which to see the orange-peel texture. Maybe it's time to try one more casting house....

Here's some links to the pieces:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Casting Back

Late last month I got some castings back from another casting house I tried- made a pair of earrings today with one pair!
The above earrings look great; and quick to make- I soldered on an earwire, cleaned up and oxidized the earrings, cleaned them again to remove the oxidation from the cast granules, then set the stones- amazing Ethiopian opals. My problem is that I want to set opals in everything... I think the other pair I have of these will contain labradorites instead. Most people like those. We'll see. I built up a collection of calibrated stones for these castings, and I have to use up some of them that ARE NOT opals!

Here's how they looked- the top pieces are the originals, the bottom pieces are back from the caster (with sprue removed) and the middle set was after I cleaned them up a bit. I like that the originals came back usable. The last originals I got back from another casting house were not- they had a layer of silicone that I couldn't even burn off. I can make my originals into pendants!

I still have some bezels to make in order to make the other style of earrings. But I am looking forward to having them be quick, and having a sudden burst in inventory, especially with the holiday season coming up! I may have to order more!