Jewellery making has been one of my main crafty interests for about four years now. Currently I am in my third term of an evening class in silversmithing and jewellery design at Leeds College of Art in West Yorkshire. Although I often view my silversmithing efforts with some despair, I have actually made a lot of progress in the last 12 months.
As part of our assignments this term, we have to make some silver jewellery and then photograph it to produce a small portfolio. This blog is the start of that as I’ve been practicing my jewellery photograph too (much harder than I thought!).
Making silver rings at my new jewellery bench
Over the summer I had a local joiner come and do a cheap project to put together a jewellery bench at the back of my garage. To make use of it I’ve been enticed by Cooksonsgold in particular to part with shed loads of money for tools. But you can’t work without tools and my growing collection and my bench means that I now a great space for me to do my silversmithing homework.
The bench was made from a length of beech worktop, which is surprisingly cheap for solid wood. This was fixed in place by screwing a length of 2×2 to the garage wall and then fixing the worktop to it. Its supported at the front by three legs normally used in kitchens to support breakfast bars. The joiner designed the shelf on legs that is fixed to the bench and that houses our bench pegs and vices. When making jewellery its better to have what you are doing at eye-level.
My jewellery bench looks a bit over full on the right side compared to the left but that’s because I had it built with two working stations and my brother, who is also really into silversmithing, uses the one on the left when he comes over for work sessions. Its good that we can encourage each other – although I am a bit miffed that he is exceptionally good at stone setting and has overtaken me in skills rather fast since his interest developed last year.
The cat litter trays are our solution to the traditional jeweller’s leather – they catch the silver bits that we cut and file off.
The hub of my bench is a Stanley vice, one specifically designed for jewellery, which my brother bought for me and which is a cheerful yellow. I use this for everything – cutting wire, filing, holding rings for setting and finishing. Its a great little gadget.
Making three silver band rings
Over the last few weeks I have been setting some stones myself and was given the project of making three plan inverted D-shaped band rings by my tutor at Leeds. I started them last Thursday at class and I’ve been finishing them today. I got a bit engrossed in what I was doing so in between preparing to solder and polishing the rings, I forgot to take any pictures. But you didn’t miss anything – its very dusty and the bench gets messy when I’m working.
The three band rings are made from D-shaped sterling silver wire, which you can buy in any lengths from Cooksongold. A traditional wedding ring is made so that the flat part of the D lies against your finger while the curved part is on the outside.
I have made mine the other way out so that flat side as outermost and the curved surface lies next to the finger. These rings are very comfortable to wear and are idea for mounting a bezel on top because the outside is flat.
They are so nice on their own and left just plain though. I made them the same size and I can stack them together – they fit me perfectly, of course 🙂 I only had my nails done yesterday but I managed to silversmith without ruining them, for once. Hand cream will be in order though before I can get in some crocheting.
Making silver rings for stone setting
Having a perfect band is one part of the process that goes towards making a lovely designer ring. I’m not quite there yet as I still need to master the stone setting skills required. These are my first few rings that I am pleased with, alongside the plain rings I finished today:
The one on the far left is a large circular jasper that I bezel set onto a round ring band. This was one of my first efforts and the bezel is nowhere near perfect – still a nice ring though and I like to wear it on my index finger. The middle ring is a lapiz lazuli set in a fancy bezel on a flat ring shank. I love this one and technically its a great improvement.
The final one on the right is a piece of sea glass. This was my first attempt at setting sea glass and its a lovely green piece.
Can’t win ’em all
Not all rings work out. I have several pieces of sea glass that I want to set into silver rings but they are not flat enough to set into a bezel. They need to be claw set and using a bespoke setting that I will have to design. The first attempt looked great and displayed a small piece of deep aqua sea glass perfectly.
Sadly in this case, bespoke and designed by me also meant defective.The wire I used for the prongs was too thin and on the first day I tried to wear it, the ring caught on the sleeve of my jumper, the prongs bent and the sea glass made a bid for freedom. Luckily I was just at home in my office, so I managed to retrieve it.
That ring is now on my bench waiting for attention. Its been beheaded and reformed and I am in the process of designing setting mark two. Thicker wire this time and a better design. Once I get it right I have a few more pieces of sea glass just waiting to become rings. Here with that little aqua piece are four more, including a gorgeous ruby red oval.