Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Artisan Jewellery Show & Sale

Vancouver, BC on Mother's Day

Meet the artists, admire the art.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, 21 April 2017

April 20

Wide Garnet Ring

While I was making that agate ring, I decided to make another to showcase one of a set of oval garnets I purchased some time ago. I like to have more than one project on the go at my bench because of the wait times for annealed or soldered items to soak in the pickle pot. 

The Early Stages

I began this project by cutting a strip of sterling silver about 1/4 inch wide and long enough to make a size 5 1/2 ring — a good size for a woman.

I wanted an interesting texture for the ring so I ran two fine parallel lines around the band and selected my riveting hammer to provide the texture.  I am not showing the somewhat dull business of bending the strip into a circle and aligning the ends for soldering. That always takes a huge amount of fussy filing as the cut ends never, ever want to meet perfectly to start with. Because you also have to keep bending the ends together to check the fit, then pulling them apart to file a bit more, you also have to repeatedly anneal the piece. If you do not, the silver becomes "work hardened" so that bending it takes way too much effort. Keep working it too long, and it may even get brittle enough to crack. If that happens, you have to start all over!

Comfort Counts

Nobody wants a ring that irritates their finger, so the finish on the edges and inside is every bit as important as on the face.

This file has a flat face on one side and a curve on the other. It is the only file needed to work a ring. Here, I am using the curved side — flat — on the inside of the ring. The same side, worked on a 45% angle, rounds the inside edges so the ring will be comfortable even when worn all day. I use the flat side of the file to go through the process of smoothing and pre-polishing the front face and edges of the band. 

As always, a lot of sanding comes next, before soldering the bezel in place. After that, lots of polishing and buffing. 

If you are curious about those numbers along the front edge of my bench, I use them to check length when weaving chain bracelets.

A Gleaming Garnet and It's Ready for DixSterling on Etsy

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Spring Ring

Developing a Process

Several months ago, a family friend asked if I could make a ring using a stone from a piece of jewelry she inherited but didn't want to wear (see my January 24, 2017 post).

First, Find a Design

One of the factors I had to take seriously was the relative softness of malachite. Any design had to provide a degree of protection for the stone. I came up with some sketches and she thought she liked "D" (top & side views shown here).

A few months have drifted by as I contemplated just how to create such a ring. This week, I decided on a general approach and set about making a prototype. Later, I will use half-round wire for the real ring but, with none on hand, I decided some heavy round wire would allow me to test the process. I had a cabochon of slightly off-kilter agate in my stash I could use as a stand-in for the malachite.

My Super Cool Tool

My beloved husband is an enabler – he often gives me jeweler's tool as birthday or Christmas gifts;-) This disc cutter was one of them and it's a real winner. Before it arrived on my bench, any time I needed a silver circle, I had to saw it from sheet by hand. That is a slow, tedious and demanding process. It is all too easy to get a hair off and end up with a slightly lopsided circle. If you are making a backing for a bezel, that is not a good thing. With this tool, I position my silver between the steel plates (this is 22 gauge), tighten them up and drive the steel cutter through the matching hole (and, of course, the silver).

Build the Bezel

Once I cut the circle, I had only to solder the circle of bezel wire atop it, file the edges to a perfect fit (left) and, of course, smooth everything with several grades of sandpaper.

Ring Parts: Shank, Bezel, and Cabochon

Here are the three pieces that will make the ring. I had a lot of fun bending that length of very heavy gauge silver wire. I had to re-anneal it a couple of times and still wound up with sore fingers! I got it to this point with forming pliers and pure physical effort. "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar"!

Creating a Seat for the Stone

Once I bent the shank into a horseshoe, it was time to create a seat to hold the bezel.

Left, I positioned the shank in my small vise to hold it while I filed matching cuts into the outside of the ring. I used a triangular jeweler's file and just kept working at it until I was a bit more than 3/4 of the way through the wire. At that point, it was possible to make the ends point up, forming posts. More sore fingers plus some hammering on a ring mandrel brought the wire into a pretty good circle with a gap to set the bezel into.

I forgot to take a photo of the next cuts — small ones on the inside of the upright posts. I made them to secure the bezel and they did not need to be nearly so deep. Great, I was getting pretty darned tired of filing be then!

Time to Solder It All Together

Right, the ring on my ceramic honeycomb soldering block. A pair of cross-lock tweezers held in a "third hand" stabilized the ring, with the bezel tension-held in the shank, so I could solder both sides in one operation. Sequence: position piece and solder chips on block, apply flame, quench in water and into the pickle. Pull it out, rinse, and tug at it to be sure the joins are solid.

Time to Shine

While the ring was in the pickle, I re-set a stone that had popped off a pendant I made many years ago for our daughter. Next, I set the agate in the ring and polished up my day's work (I re-polished the kid's earrings, too).

You Make a Prototype So You Can Learn

So, what did I learn from this one? First, that this approach will work for our friend's malachite. Second, that I will need to make the wire for the posts longer than these because we want them to actually come down over the edges of her stone (greater protection). Third, that this ring – with its round wire and slightly lopsided cab – may go up for sale some day (I need it here until that malachite is set), but it is probably only suited to accessorize someone's medieval costume. But, for that purpose, it might be just awesome!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Great Gift for Great Moms.

My shop is always open for browsers and shoppers. www.etsy.com/shop/DixSterling

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Thinking of Spring

Turquoise Stone Dangles — Like Clear Blue Skies

Not that there have been many blue skies in my part of the world lately. March has been stubbornly grey and wet — really, really wet. I suppose one good thing about that is, since the garden is basically underwater, I have lots of time to work at my bench. Maybe it was a longing for blue skies that prompted me to order a pair of tiny (3mm) turquoise cabochons to make into earrings.

First, Assemble the Parts — and Do Not Lose Any!

Every time I work with really tiny gem stones, I am grateful to my friend Debbie from TheHandmadeForum <https://www.etsy.com/pages/thehandmadeforum> who sent me several storage options. She uses these tiny pots for her excellent, all natural lip scrubs – see some here <https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/228261395/lip-scrub-cherry-sugar-lip-scrub-lip?ref=shop_home_active_49>. They are also perfect for keeping wee stones safe. Rio Grande uses sealed bags to ship stones. Good for mailing as they cannot escape into the shipping box but, once I open the bag, I need a way to corral the stones. You can just imagine how easy it would be for these 3mm beauties to "vanish" leading to a long, frustrating search or bench and floor!

Safety Gear for a Jeweler

To make these dangle earrings, I need to use some high powered tools.

I have a hobbyist's drill press the lets me accurately position small holes for the ear wires and I use a jeweler's rotary tool (seen here) with a sharp steel bur to ream out holes in sterling tubing so I can set the stones into them.

Both operations produce dust and fine shavings of metal. The mask and safety glasses protect me from those. I also have an industrial respirator that I wear when polishing finished pieces as that requires a finer level of filtering for the compounds used.

Tube Setting for Small Stones

This photo shows the tubes, reamed out, cut to length and soldered onto the reticulated sterling earrings. The ear wires are on standby. I attach them last.

Three mm is Not Always Three mm

As you can see, one stone dropped into the tube perfectly. When I went to mount the second, (here held on a bit of Fun-Tak) I found the stone was a hair too big. I used that cylindrical diamond point bit — hand twisting it to avoid damaging the tube — to make the hole a bit wider and deeper. I bought a set of those several years ago. I have not used them often but they sure solve problems nothing else will tackle.

Stone Setting Tools at Work

These tools are what I use when bezel or tube setting stones. The lower one is a bezel rocker and I use it — as the name suggests — by placing it against the top of the tube or bezel and rocking it back and forth to press the metal onto the stone. I start by working on opposite sides of the stone while pressing the stone into the setting with my thumb. That anchors it. Then I move around the stone being sure that all of the circumference is settled.

The other tool, my curved steel burnisher is great for giving the top of the setting a final smoothing. I also love using it to give a bright polish to the edges of a piece. That touch is especially nice on the smooth edges of reticulated items as they have a more muted finish.

Finished and Ready for Their Close Ups

You can find these pretty things — and many others — in my etsy shop <https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling>

Friday, 24 March 2017

Slim Ring

"Keep It Simple, Stupid"

I have been fooling around with ideas for wedding bands (a friend will be needing a pair in the near future). Although she wants white gold, I do my experimenting with sterling silver. Here is one experiment.

A Silver Strip for Starters

Making a ring is a fairly simple process. After deciding on a width (this one will be about 3.9 mm), you cut a piece of silver just a touch wider (there will be a bit of filing and sanding as you go). You also need to find the length needed for a ring of a given size (DUH!). You can find ring blank sizing charts on line or, if you just love math, you can find formulas to calculate the length.

Creating a Textured Surface

Various jewelers' hammers can be used to give the surface a textured finish. A dome-headed hammer creates a subtle pattern of round dents. For this ring, I used a cross peen hammer to give the surface a cross hatched pattern. The sharp edged lines help the silver sparkle when the light hits the ring. Either way, you work with your metal on a steel anvil.

Joining the Ends

Oh, drat; I forgot to take a photo of the next step! I used forming pliers to bend the ring and bring the ends together for soldering. If you lack forming pliers, round nose or stepped pliers will help with the task. That is best done by creating a D shape so you are soldering a flat join. Just make sure everything is clean and that the ends are a tight fit.

Rounding the Ring

No matter what other tools you have, you cannot make a ring without the aid of a rawhide mallet and a steel ring mandrel. These let you bring the ring to a perfect round without leaving hammer marks on your work. You can also stretch it slightly if you find it is a bit too small. Once it is round, a bit of filing and sanding will chamfer the edges for comfort and a bunch of polishing will make it shine.

Slim Band Done & Polished

Two Invitations

If you live in the Greater Vancouver area, there are a couple of great jewelry events coming up soon. For lovers of rocks, loose gems and finished jewelry, the BC Gem Show, sponsored by the BC Lapidary Society, runs April 7, 8 & 9 at

Ag-Rec Building
Central Fraser Valley Fairgrounds
32470 Haida Drive
Abbotsford, BC


For lovers of finished jewelry and metal objects d'art, the 4th Annual Artisan Jewellers Show & Sale happens again on Mother's Day, May 14 at VanDusen Botanical Garden on Oak Street in Vancouver.