Sunday, 12 March 2017

Framing a Moonstone

Step By Step to Frame & Set

Last week, I framed an amethyst (my birthstone) in a curved diamond shaped pendant. I liked the effect so much, I decided to make another one (or more) for my shop <https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling> and I started with an 8mm moonstone. For those who like process, I am posting how I made it.

Start With a Pattern

It's a bit like sewing; if you want to be sure of the outcome, it is much better to start with a pattern ;-) but, instead of pins, you attach it to your "fabric" with glue. In this case, I used 22 gauge sterling for my "fabric". Normally, that would not be strong enough for a pendant this size, but I am adding a frame and that makes all the difference.

Building the Frame

I created the frame from square 16 gauge sterling wire.


The photo shows the first piece of wire in place and the second being bent before marking the length and cutting it. The rawhide mallet and steel anvil help me flatten the wire to lie flat on  the backing. To shape it, I use those forming pliers (boy, I wish I had purchased that tool years ago!). The file cleans up the cut ends of the wire and lets me shape the ends for a good fit.

Fitting the Final Piece


The final section. I have used a sharpie to mark the top of the piece of wire because, as I move these small pieces to the soldering block, they can flip. The mark, which burns off under the torch, helps me position things. The main piece is white because that is how silver looks when you bring it out of the pickle (a mild acid bath that cleans the metal). Many people working in sterling wish there was a way to retain that frosted white on parts of an item, but there isn't!

Creating a Bezel Setting


In this photo, I have bent a strip of fine (99.9% pure) silver around the moonstone, marked the place to cut it, made the cut and soldered it closed. Fine silver is used for bezels because it is so pliable. You could make the circle from sterling but bending it down over the stone would be very difficult — and exhausting. I use the rawhide hammer on that steel mandrel to round the bezel and (if necessary) stretch it to give a good, snug fit.
Here, I am checking that the fit is right before soldering the bezel to the pendant. Never solder a bezel on without doing that first.

Polishing the Frame


For a nice contrast, I elected to give the background a frosted finish — done with a brass wire brush dipped in a touch of liquid soap. That steel burnisher serves to give the raised frame a mirror finish.

The painter's tape is to avoid marring the back of the piece while I am working on the front. Boy, that stuff is useful. I guess painters use it too ;-)

Ready, Set, and Set



Yes, that's more blue tape. This time, I am using it to secure the pendant to a soft suede sandbag and to cover the face of the pendant while I use the curved steel burnisher to slowly push the bezel down over the edge of the stone. I learned, very early, that failing to protect the silver can lead to disaster. It takes a fair bit of force to bend even fine silver and — no matter how careful you are — force can cause a tool to slip. When it does, says Murphy's Law, it always hits the silver, not the sandbag! The stone looks flat white in this shot — something about the lighting the shop, I guess.

Test Drive

Once I had given the pendant a good polishing, I put it on a chain and tried it on.



Now, I just need enough light to take proper photos by the window so I can list it for sale. Might be a great gift for someone with a June birthday.