December 5, 2016 Michelle Sawbridge

From Start to Finish.

My process of making a piece of jewellery from the very beginning.

Jewellery is such a personal thing, from the people that make it through to the lucky people that end up wearing it. Everyone has so many different techniques and likes and dislikes, This is what i find so interesting about the jewellery industry. I have been very fortunate to learn and work alongside so many different goldsmiths. Leaning from them and watching their methods, it is amazing that an end result can be reached from using so many different methods.

It would be so incredibly dull and boring if we all did things the same and liked the same jewellery. So this is an insight into my personal method.

Step one.

If i am designing a piece around a certain stone, I will research all i can about the stone to get a better understanding and feel from it. Where is it mined? Who discovered it? How is it formed? Any mythology or meanings connected with it?

I then feel like I have a better grasp of the stone and can therefore design a piece that I feel is relevant to it.

The drawing board.

The Bumble Bee Jasper above is a sedimentary rock combination of volcanic ash and other sedimentary layers that collect during an eruption of lava.

I then brainstorm around scale sketches of the stone, ideas that spring to mind. This particular stone had unusual silver coloured layer formations, which looked to me like the soaring peaks of the Dolomite mountain range in Italy. This then inspired me to replicate that onto the top of the pendant.

Step 2.

When I am happy with the loose design I want to go for, I sketch it on graph paper to scale. By doing this I am ensuring that I know how much material I will need and also that the design will be practical as a piece of jewellery.

Step 3.

At the work bench! The best bit.

Now I am confident with the design I begin the making process.

First is to create the ‘Bezel’ surround which holds the stone in place. This can be a time consuming task as the bezel needs to be tight against the stone, with no gaping to ensure the fit is secure and neat.

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This K2 stone shows from the underneath, a snug fit from the bezel.

Once the bezel is perfect, the next stage is to shape the base plate for the stone to sit on. The stone will need to rest on the base plate and against the sides of the bezel to ensure it will stay secure.

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This shows the bezel soldered closed and the base plate, shaped correctly prior to soldering.

Personally I like to see the back of the stone and for the base plate to run parallel around it, to give a finished look that is pleasing to the eye. I drive myself mad, spending ages trying to get this look perfect. It is so rewarding when you have finished however to see that the extra time and patience is worth it!

Step 4.

Soldering!

To complete the setting, the bezel and base plate need to be welded together. To ensure that this is done as cleanly as possible,  I sand the bottom of the bezel and the top of the base plate. This connection will now weld together tightly as there will be no gaps.

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Welded together, I have also welded the decorative trio of mountains onto the top of the pendant.

Using a lower melting point solder will leave previous welds unaffected.

This shows the parallel width of the base plate, with the welded addition of the Jump ring for the chain.

 

 

Step 5.

Preparing to set the stone.

I find the more preparation you put into this last stage the easier the setting process will be.

I start by ensuring the bezel height is correct for the stone, just enough to pinch the edges of the stone. Sometimes I feel I have not left enough height, but setting the stone securely gives it a sleek and slimline finish.

The next stage is to chamfer the edges of the top of the bezel. I do this by filing at a 45 degree angle, this thins out the metal to be pushed over and also gives a nice uniformed finish. Once this is complete, I sand and polish the entire pendant until I am happy with the result.

The final setting stage is to place the stone into the setting and start gently pushing the bezel edges onto the stone.

I start at the top and work my way around, swapping to opposite ends after each push to even out the process.

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The tools above are;

A flat ended pusher to start the initial setting process. They can be very severe so it is best to start slowly.

A re curved burnisher. Once i am happy the stone is secure I file the setting smooth and then use this in a quick sliding motion to harden and shine the chamfer of the bezel.

The final tool is a pointed engraver. When the setting is finished I use this on the touching edge between the setting and stone to smooth and shape.

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The piece is now finished!

I hope you have enjoyed reading through my making methods. I would love to hear about yours and to answer and questions you may have.

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