Adventures in Jewelry Making

Three (not-so-easy) pieces: silver bezel pendant with quartz drusy cabochon, brass ring, silver wire-wrapped pendant with granite cabochon

Three (not-so-easy) pieces: silver bezel pendant with quartz drusy cabochon, brass ring, silver wire-wrapped pendant with granite cabochon

Introducing a new topic with this post: jewelry making! In the past month, I’ve had lessons in two new (to me) techniques: wire-wrapping, and silversmithing. I mostly make strung jewelry — I took up beads and stringing in high school. Last fall I dove into wire work, and resin/collage pendants; I adore both. Even before I started beading, I recognized the practical advantages of knowing your way around jewelry, from making one’s own accessories, to basic repairs. Broken clasp? Need to change out those ear wires? NO PROBLEM.

On Tuesday, I came away from my first silversmithing lesson with a pendant… not just any pendant, but something I feel I might have purchased. Something I designed, and executed. I’ve made lots of jewelry I’m happy with — I’ll be starting to sell it, this summer — but I’ve never had quite the feeling I did upon completion of this piece:

Silver bezel pendant with quartz drusy cabochon

Silver bezel pendant with quartz drusy cabochon. Made by me!

I admit, I was terrified of metalsmithing. Oh, I wanted to try it, I’ve been thinking about it for months now. But… well, it involves fire. And machinery. Hand tools. And I am more than hair-brained clumsy skilled enough to thoroughly damage myself with any of those things. After months of being too afraid to pursue this next logical step in my jewelry making, I met a silversmith, Bob Sharp, at the Roxy Ann Gem & Mineral Show last weekend. He offers private lessons, and I found him a very patient, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic instructor. (We also seem to have very similar design tastes, which helps. He was loath to let my pendant out the door! Ha.)

The first thing I made was a brass ring, to practice soldering. (Bob was kind enough to polish it up for me; it’s sitting on my desk, along with my first resin pendant.) I’ve never welded nor soldered, except two stained-glass projects a long time ago, which I’m told is an entirely different kind of soldering. It was enthralling to behold; I’m fascinated by how the metal heats and changes color, and how the solder flows toward the torch. It seems almost impossible that it all starts with tiny strips and pieces of metal, and that the assembled piece cleans up so nicely! After a lot of filing and polishing, that is.

At the end of March, I took a wire-wrapping class taught by Terri Cosby, through the Crater Rock Museum. I’m pretty pleased with my first piece:

Wire-wrapped pendant, featuring a lovely granite cabochon

Wire-wrapped pendant, featuring a lovely granite cabochon. Made by me!

Wire-wrapping is pretty difficult to learn from a book (which is why I paid for the class, although it didn’t help that the book I bought is not very beginner-y.) Seeing it done in person was enlightening, and though I’ll need to practice quite a bit before I feel comfortable, I understand more of the mechanics. I think I’ll be able to follow my book more easily, having seen and made the correct wrist motions (things that static pictures can’t really capture.)

As I gear up towards my first major attempt at selling jewelry, I’ll post more photos of my work. Stay tuned!