We are well into December and I just turned off the heat in our shop so I can use it as a giant cooler for Christmas goodies (by the way, if you do not celebrate Christmas, I think you should enjoy the goodies anyway!). I'll be doing a lot more cooking than jewelry making for the next couple of weeks but, before I retire to the kitchen, I am taking a look back at 2015.
Last Sunset of 2014
We began 2015 at one of my favorite places on earth, Cannon Beach, Oregon. If you love the ocean, miles of beach and/or glorious sunsets, put this spot on your bucket list. You will not regret it.
Next, a Wonderful Family Time on Maui
January was just underway when we headed, with most of the family, to Maui to celebrate the birthdays of two very special people, our son and his lady — and to attend their wedding.
Do You See What I See?
Oh my gosh, it's another glorious sunset. Their beautiful wedding on the beach was followed by a delectable wedding dinner at the incredible Humuhumunukunukuapua'a Restaurant (AKA, Humuhumu) at Wailea.
Then Came Summer
Summer 2015 was so not what we expect on the west coast. Our usual high temperatures are in the 70 - 75 °F range with an occasional hop up to 80. This year, it turned warm early in May and was just plain hot by the middle of the month. I pretty much abandoned my bench for the vegetable garden over the summer — why fire up a torch when the temperature is in the upper 80s? In truth, many days were so warm even a bit of gardening past noon was just not a great idea.
The sunny weather gave us a pretty decent harvest.
An End of Summer Return to Paradise
Our son and new daughter-in-law planned on a return to their get away home at Kihei in late September and persuaded us to join them (yeah, that took a lot of persuading!). For those of you shivering today, here is one of the beaches we visited. ;-)
One of the lovely things about Hawaii in September — it is not crowded. Temperatures were in the high 80s but, amazingly, the trade winds made it quite bearable — even for a lifetime Pacific Northwest dweller.
Back to Normal
I spent most of October and November adding new items to my shop on etsy <https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling> and took advantage of what bright days we had in early December to take some seasonal photos for my "shop window".
I will be spending most of my time decorating, baking and celebrating until after December 25th, so I will take this opportunity to wish everyone the best of the season.
I was super busy for a couple of weeks but finally got back to the bench this week and picked up a couple of projects I had started earlier. Here is the first (sorry it's a very blurry photo but I hope it gives you the idea).
I came up with the idea for this ring some time ago but wasn't sure how to go about it. At one point, I tried to do a lost wax casting with two upright prongs to hold a bead but the wax blew apart during the melt out (they do that sometimes). Discouraged, I set the idea aside and went on to other things.
The other day, while cleaning up things on the bench, I found the silver bead and thought I'd try something different. I cut a 1/4 inch wide strip of sterling, gave it a hammered texture and drilled a hole in one end. Then I forged it into an overlapping circle (similar to my overlap topaz pinky ring <https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/100435292/pinky-ring-topaz-on-sterling-overlap?ref=shop_home_active_2> and soldered the join. The final step was to shape the free end to curve over the spot where the bead was to go (had to re-anneal the metal to get it to take the shape), torch bead the end of a sterling wire and thread that through both hole and bead. Then I bent and filed the wire end and soldered it to the ring shank to trap the bead.
Setting an Emerald Cut Sapphire
The other project I lined up involved a deep blue, emerald cut, man made sapphire.
You know how I loved reticulated sterling so it was probably a given that I would choose that for the sapphire pendant.
Here is the stone sitting atop a piece of reticulated silver so I could decide on the best bit to use. You can see where I previously cut the triangular mounting for that citrine pin/pendant. Once I selected a suitable area, I marked and cut a rectangle somewhat larger than the stone. I also forged a bail from polished sterling to let the pendant hang from a chain.
The Two Projects — One Done, One Not
Here are the ring and the sapphire — the ring finished and the pendant just being checked to get a proper fit on the stone.
On Thursday afternoon, I went on with setting the sapphire. It is always a fussy job, what with wrapping the silver in painter's tape to protect it from the setting tools and making minute adjustments to the claw setting so it will accept the stone. Then you have to lower the stone into place and hold it level while gently but firmly closing the claws onto the corners.
November has been earring month at DixSterling. For some reason, my take on how to decorate your ears has featured lots of triangles.
The first pair I put together features dangling triangles of reticulated silver (yeah, I still love that look even if it is a lot of work). To add a touch of color, I soldered 3mm tubes at the triangle bases and set them with sweet amethyst cabochons.
A pair of shepherd hooks and the amethysts in place. I'm quite happy with how this pair turned out. I think they would be lovely party wear but they are dignified enough for the office, too.
Sometime, Silver is Enough
The next pair was crafted from nothing but sterling silver. First I cut a pair of triangles from more reticulated silver, then I melted two small clippings of pure silver until they formed small balls. I soldered the balls to the earrings and attached shepherd hooks.
By now, you know I have developed a weakness for pretty stones so it's no surprise that I could not resist a glittery, 8 mm faceted citrine. I just had to set it.
Glitter Atop Shimmer
I was so pleased with the look of the setting I did for a client's hand-cut stones (see post of October 6), that I decided to reticulate some more sterling silver for this beauty. As I had a sneaky trick in mind for this piece, I settled on an equilateral triangle for the back plate. Here is my sketch the pieces, before soldering the stone setting onto the piece. That took a bit of doing.
Bits and Pieces
This photo shows the various parts I needed for this project: the citrine, of course, the triangular sterling plate, the claw mount for the stone, the pin findings and a nifty little gadget I got from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply.
When all these bits are assembled, the piece of jewelry will be convertible. The brooch (or pin) can be converted into a pendant by slipping that hollow tube piece on the right onto the pin stem: a neat little bail lets the owner slip the piece onto a chain to wear it as a pendant. (Thanks to a friend on The Handmade Forum for planting that idea in my head).
If It Isn't Flat, It Won't Solder
A solder joint requires a perfect fit between the two pieces, in this case, the claw mount and the back plate. Reticulated silver is glorious and I love how it sets off a stone but that lumpy surface presents a soldering problem.
The solution is to grind down the area where the solder must go. Here is the plate, captured in a jeweler's engraving block. I mounted the block in my vice and used a diamond grinding bur in my flex shaft tool to flatten the marked area.
The rest of this is pretty standard work. I soldered the setting to the front, then positioned and soldered the pin hinge and catch onto the back. Last step, mounting that brilliant citrine where it can adorn some lucky woman's lapel or neck!
Want to find this under your tree? It will be at DixSterling on etsy soon.
With the holiday shopping (and party) season almost upon us, I have been busy at my bench making things for my shop <www.etsy.com/shop/DixSterling> so there will be lots of options on offer. I'm particularly keen on adding more earrings. A simple truth: a woman can never have too many earrings.
The Blue Agate Plan
Last weekend, we attended a Rock & Gem show and, despite the large number of stones in my stash, I found a few more I had to have. Another simple truth: a jeweler can never have too many stones.
Here is the sketch, along with the actual parts. That pretty little oval is a dyed blue agate cabochon. A pair of them at the show caught my eye and shouted: "Earrings". I decided, with party season ahead, someone would love these set on swinging dangle earrings. The stones seemed to dictate the slightly irregular shape. I got started on this on Wednesday afternoon.
Like Shoes, Stones Must Fit
I have learned – the hard way, of course – that it pays to be sure a stone fits the bezel before you attach the bezel to the backplate, because there can be microscopic variations in the size of matched stones. Here is one of the blue agates being tested for fit. With earrings, it also pays to pair up stones, bezels and backings and assemble one set at a time. That saves inadvertently setting the slightly smaller stone in the bezel meant for the slightly larger on (that can be done) – only to find the larger one will not fit into the smaller bezel (that cannot be done).
Yesterday, we got hit with our first winter storm – wild winds and sheets of rain. A great day to get into the shop and complete these. Here is the first of the pair, stone set and ear wire attached.
Next up, a pair of triangle dangles set with tiny amethysts. Stay tuned ;-)
Very gray, very wet today. Bench and computer time, for sure. I posted this lapis lazuli pendant on etsy yesterday. Here is a quick look at the process.
Here is a photo of the parts — the oval lapis cabochon, the sterling back plate with bezel soldered on and the square sterling wire that will frame the piece and let it hang from a chain. Those pliers helped shape a bail from the end of the wire. It's a simple design, although slightly bothersome to actually make ;-) I seldom come up with ideas that make my life easy!
First Things First
Before I soldered the bezel onto the back plate, I cut out a pair of hearts. In this photo, I am using a strip of 400 grit sandpaper to smooth the edges of those cutouts. Why hearts? I just felt like it, I guess.
It's a pretty good policy to cut out part of the backplate for a couple of reasons. First, it lightens the piece for wearing comfort (especially useful in a large item like this). Second, if repairs are ever needed, having an opening or two makes it easier to remove the stone. There are few, if any, stones you would risk leaving in place if a solder joint needed re-heating!
Two Final Photos
With the wire frame soldered to the backing, I used a series of polishing discs on the piece prior to setting the stone.
I wonder if this will end up under someone's Christmas tree? It does look a bit like a tree ornament, doesn't it?
In recent months, I have developed a fondness for iolite. There is great depth to the blue-purple color in these stones. I have several cabs in my stash so decided to use three in a simple sterling pendant.
The design I settled on is a rectangle, embellished with an engraved centre line behind the tube-set cabochons.
Protecting the Stones
Once the sterling has been prepared (sanding and polishing is much easier before adding the settings), I added the tube settings and a hidden bail. Ready to set the stones and it becomes important to avoid scratching the silver surface.
Setting stones — no matter the design of the setting (prong, bezel or tube)—involves using steel tools to press metal unto the stones. Steel is much harder than silver, so the danger is obvious. Protection is essential.
A Simple Solution
It's just a strip of painters' tape, with cutouts to reveal the settings. It is still important to take great care with the tool — in this case a steel burnisher — because the tape will only protect against light scratches. If you really dig into the silver, you will be back to filing and sanding for hours! If the damage is bad enough, you might have to remove the settings (by re-melting the solder) to get a level surface to work on. Ouch :-(
Here is the finished pendant. Just need to complete the final polishing and get a sunny day (or hour) to photograph it for my shop <etsy.com/DixSterling>.
I have been trying to get the number of items in my shop up to 100 before the holiday shopping season starts. This just became number 96. I'm getting there.
I liked the first long, slim pendant I made (see below) so decided to create another version.
I had a strip of reticulated sterling on my bench (I guess my Scottish ancestry demands I find uses for the leftovers – in the kitchen or the shop), so decided to build upon it as the accent and bail. For the actual pendant, I cut a long (2 1/2 inch) narrow strip of sterling.
Have I ever mentioned that I love casting silver? I have done cuttle fish castings (see post of October 6) and lost wax (see my Tiki Pendant below). This month, I took a botanicals casting workshop. Fascinating.
Burn, Baby, Burn
When you cast lost wax, you encase a wax model in a plaster-like substance in a steel flask, then use a kiln to melt the wax out, leaving a cavity into which you force molten silver. I love melting silver. It's pure alchemy. To cast bits of plant material, you encase twigs, leaves or other plant bits in the same plaster but, when you put the flasks into the kiln, instead of melting, your "model" burns — leaving a cavity that exactly reproduces it when the silver flows in.
Out of the Mold
Left: a photo of my casting after washing the plaster investment away. At the moment, it sure doesn't look much like silver, does it?
I chose to cast a sprig of cedar and a clipping of a strange, fleshy weed that loves my vegetable garden. A sort of vengeance, I guess, to incinerate something I've been fighting all summer!
Both items were attached to a single sprue (the "pipe" that the silver flows through) so, once I got the casting onto my bench, I had to cut them apart.
I ended up with the two plant bits in silver and a strange silver sprue that looks like a tree stump — sort of appropriate.
This is all part of a long-term project for next spring's BC Gem Show. The Creative Jewellers Guild has chosen "botany" as our theme for 2016.
My plan is to mount some tiny stones on the cedar sprig.What to do with the weed is still eluding me!
I am getting ready to ship this custom made item to the lovely client who asked me to set the stone for her. To follow the steps in making this, see my blog of September 18. I started thinking of the things I have made to order — or for myself, friends or family. So here are some of them.
Debbie's Iolite Pin
That pretty purple stone is called iolite. This one was mined in Australia and hand cut by a talented artisan. The stones are also found in India, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Brazil.
At 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, iolite is not a stone suitable for use in rings. Somehow, this one seemed to be saying "pin" to me. I came up with this design to provide protection for the emerald cut stone while admitting as much light as possible to enhance its wonderfully deep color. I used reticulated sterling so the silver brings its own sparkle to the piece. Besides, the client and I both like that textured look.
And Her Pendant
Here is the pendant I made for Debbie's zircon and beryl. Our fondness for reticulated silver is evident in this piece, too.
My post of July 23 shows the process involved in making this item. Debbie and I both wanted these two stones to pair up in a pendant. The yellow-green of the beryl is intensified by the pure white of the zircon set above it.
You may not know what beryl is, but I bet you know its deep green variation, the emerald, and its greenish-blue one, the aquamarine. It can also be found in pink and, rarely, red.
Earrings in Blue
A couple of years ago, I made this pair of earrings for a returning customer. The blue stone is apatite.
Some years earlier, I "beached" a lovely aquamarine for her as a brooch (below). It was a near-match for one she bought from my shop as a gift. She was, by the way, my first etsy customer.
That setting is cast by carving the shape in cuttlefish bone (yes, the same stuff you put in a cage for your bird to sharpen its beak on!).
Finally, here is the lapis lazuli set I made for myself and a rectangular cuttlefish cast pendant I did for my daughter-in-law.
This post will be heavy on photos because we just spent six days on Maui at our our son and daughter-in-law's vacation home. Talk about glorious.
The first few photos were taken in The young folks' garden. A Tea Tree and wood panel screen the outdoor shower. Also flourishing, ginger flowers, lemons and mangos (sadly, not yet ripe!).
My Perfect Morning Walks
At home, I walk paved streets lined with homes. Okay, I guess, but it's nothing like this Kehei beach.
Just three short blocks from their home, this pretty beach was where I took my morning walk. Some days, I had this all to myself. Now and then, I shared it with a jogger or two. All walks accompanied by the sound of waves lapping, palms rustling, and doves and myna birds cooing and calling.
In Hawaii, it is best to rise early if you want to walk (let alone jog). It is, indeed, always gets warm and, at this time of year, it gets downright hot. We encountered several days when the afternoon temperatures were in the high 80s or low 90s. That's when it is time to get into that water.
It's All About the Beaches - and It's Hard to Pick a Favorite
Here are a couple that offered shade to lounge in between dips in the gloriously warm water.
We Saw Lots of Wildlife
To see a full array, do a Google search on Hawaii Wildlife. We saw sea turtles (very hard to photograph from shore), lots of fishes at the Maui Ocean Center.
One morning, this peahen (who would not hold still for a cell phone photo) followed me home. They range free on Maui - as do hundreds of once-domestic chickens. The roosters are handsome but never shut up.
We saw sea turtles at a beach (very hard to photograph from shore), and lots of fishes at the Maui Ocean Center. This shot was taken in the underwater tunnel. Quite fascinating.
We Also Explored the Uplands
One afternoon, we drove up Haleakala (to about 3,500 feet of the volcano's 10,000). We stopped for lunch at one of the old ranches and saw this magnificent tree. I was told it is an Australian pine. I'm hoping my Aussie pal will tell me if that's right!
And Had a Dinner With a View to Die For
Home now and ready to get back to the bench. Maybe a silver Sting Ray?