When I first got this stone in hand, I knew it was something I wanted to keep for myself (I’m a big fan of purple, AND labradorite. Didn’t know it came in purple!!) I made this alongside the labradorite demi-parure in June 2015; a few pictures overlap.
This is the first demi-parure I’ve made (which is just a fancy way of saying a matched set.) Set completed in labradorite and sterling silver, in June-July 2015.
“A parure is a full set of matching jewelry designed to be worn together en suite. A demi-parure is a less elaborate suite of jewelry with two or more pieces. The French in particular were known to have delighted in wearing formalized and elaborate suites and indeed, the term parure comes from the French verb, parer, meaning to adorn.”
— Antique Jewelry University
Last month was my mom’s birthday (hi Mom!), and I decided to make her a pendant using one of the stones I bought last summer from a fellow RAGMS member. I chose a blue-green oval, which the club member said was “turquoise” — not entirely incorrect. I believe it’s an Eilat stone: a combination of malachite, azurite, chrysocolla and turquoise (all copper-bearing minerals.) It’s a gorgeous stone, and I thought it would contrast well with Mom’s red hair and fair complexion.
I’m really happy with how this pendant turned out, I think it’s my best to date! I explained my design idea to my mentor, he broke it down into steps so I could work most efficiently, and I completed the piece in about 2.5 hours (a speed record, for me!)
As I was pressed for time, I only took a couple of in-progress photos (and didn’t want to post any more than these to Instagram or Facebook, for fear of ruining the surprise.) I soldered the bezel closed, then soldered the decorative beading wire closed in a ring, hammered it flat and fitted it to just outside the bezel, then soldered both to the back plate at the same time, which saved time, pain and stress. I then cut out a heart shape on the back plate, so the color of the stone would show through. (Definitely something I’d try doing again!)
As I said, I’m pretty pleased with how this ended up, and so was the recipient! ♥
Today was Day 3 of Casting class, so here’s the rest of the wrap-up!
Before class started, I borrowed a coarse file and removed the remainder of the sprue from the bottom of my ring, so it’s now ready to (more finely) file, sand, and polish. (I ran it through the magnetic tumbler, which shined it up somewhat, but also scratched it up quite a bit, so in hindsight I wish I hadn’t bothered with it. Oh well.)
Today we were vacuum casting, and it did seem to go somewhat faster than the centrifugal casting (in part because the instructor took charge of melting the metal.) Each student removed their flask from the kiln, set up the vacuum on the flask, poured the molten metal, removed the vacuum, removed the flask for further cooling, and quenched the flask and cast object. It was, again, slightly frightening to go through the process, and I over-filled my flask, getting metal onto the vacuum chamber (oops.) The excess, I poured into ingots for re-use.
So how did it come out? Well…
The texture cast perfectly, as far as I’m concerned. There’s still a lot to clean up — there’s lots of tiny crevices where investment is lurking — but the zebra plant leaves are sharp and amazingly textured, and the gollum jade leaves are plump and weird-looking. There were a few minor issues with shrinkage and porosity (since the piece couldn’t be vacuumed after the investment was poured in, not every bubble was dislodged), but over all, I’m pretty happy! I need to have someone cut off the bottom to flatten it out (right now it wobbles like a Weeble), so it’ll sit properly.
One bonus to casting this piece in bronze is that I can patina it, using any number of wonderful recipes. Since you can only do so much with sterling, and I don’t really work in other metals that patina well (like copper, or bronze), it’s an exciting prospect!
Thanks again for following along! More posts (with actual, finished, non-class-related jewelry) coming soon.
I’m in San Francisco for a class in casting at Revere Academy — MOLTEN METAL, AWWWWW YEAHHHHHHH — and wanted to share what I’ve done so far. There’s a lot to learn about the process, combining skills of working with wax, using molds, calculating metal requirements, setting up the investment (plaster mold formed around the wax or object), and the actual casting of the metal.
These are a couple of examples of succulents cast by my instructor, and the detail and texture on them is just mind-boggling. I was instantly obsessed with the idea, and hopefully tomorrow it will come to fruition! (More on that later. There’s a cactus of some sort, a sempervivum, and a zebra plant in that first picture.) I ran right out Friday evening and bought some succulents to
sacrifice for the greater good cast.
The first part of the class was to inject wax into molds (supplied by the school, unless you had your own), and assemble several waxes into a cast-able “tree” that fit the dimensions of the flask — not as easy as it sounds. This tree wasn’t actually cast — just an exercise in how to assemble a tree for casting. By angling things right, dozens of small pieces can be cast all at once, in one flask. (If you’re wondering, among other things on my tree is a LEGO stormtrooper helmet, and half a washer. You can mold darn near anything.)
I decided to cast one of the wax rings I made in Wax Carving class, back in August 2013, as my first actual project (green wax.) This first casting uses the centrifugal method, which is… action-packed. (I’ll get to that in a minute.) I mounted the wax to the base of the flask using sprue wax (yellow and red wax), which will provide a conduit through the plaster for the metal to be poured in. (What you’re looking at now will be upside-down, when cast. A sprue is just a conduit for metal to flow through, and one piece can have multiple sprues, to aid in the flow.) Once the flask is assembled, a kind of plaster called investment is mixed, put under vacuum to remove air bubbles, then quickly poured into the flasks, and then the flasks are put under vacuum to remove air bubbles from around the wax, which would mar the mold. There’s only about 12 minutes to go from mixer to poured, to bubble-free and sitting in a safe place, so the process is a little intense.
Maybe I should say, the class is a little intense.
So all of that was day 1. Once hardened, these flasks are placed in a kiln overnight to burn off the wax, and any carbon or moisture that remains, and held at a temperature optimal for the casting process (which varies; ours were 950° F.) Today was day 2, and we started casting immediately after lunch. Guess who got picked to be first? (I probably looked like a deer in headlights.) So here we go…
So. Centrifugal casting. (Did I mention I was being quizzed on each step in the process? NO PRESSURE…)
The open drum is wound up with a handle, that can be locked in place. You wind it up, then lock it, then place your metal in the crucible and start melting. Once the silver is perfectly melted and prepped, a partner places your flask (which has been in a kiln heating the whole time) next to the crucible, you take the torch away, and the partner unlocks the centrifuge, which spins at great speed, flinging the molten metal into your mold. (It’s a little scary.) Once the drum spins down, the flask can be removed, set aside to cool for a few minutes, before quenching it in water to simultaneously cool the metal and dissolve the investment plaster. Once it’s done violently bubbling underwater — INTENSE — you can pull it out and grab your finished piece! My ring turned out great, and it’s ready to trim, finish and polish.
In reality, it was a blessing to go first, because then it was done, I was relieved, and I could spend the rest of the afternoon preparing my second piece for tomorrow’s vacuum casting…
So in the end, I wasn’t able to use the succulents I’d hoped to cast as whole plants, due to space limitations. Instead, I created a “bouquet” of gollum jade leaves, and zebra plant leaves, which I mounted… creatively… into a flask. I won’t know until tomorrow how it all held up under the investment, but I’m hoping for the best! (Unlike waxes, organic items can’t be vacuumed once invested, as the vacuum will crush the organic materials and ruin the mold. You just have to tap the sides of the flask and hope all the bubbles dislodge before it hardens.) I will be casting it in bronze, as I love the look of the instructor’s examples, and it may be an opportunity to try some patinas, on my own time.
Tomorrow will be vacuum casting, which has less open swinging flames, but just as much molten metal (more, actually, since I’m making a larger piece.) I hope to have more action shots! A GIGANTIC thank you to Aussie classmate Diane for her barrage of photos of my casting experience!!
Thanks for reading to the end, and I hope you enjoyed the blow-by-blow commentary!
As promised, here are my photos from the Fabrication 3 class I took at Revere in July. The two projects were a sweat-soldered layered brooch, and a hollow box ring.
The brooch was a fun project, as we used a rolling mill to impress the silver with patterns from fabric, paper, and plastic textures. I patterned the base of my brooch with a glittery tulle fabric, and paper-punched snowflakes. The top layer was rolled with 220-grit sandpaper. I domed the two layers, then soldered them together (which was harder than I bargained for, LOL), and soldered on the back pin hinge and catch.
The hollow box ring was quite challenging. It starts as two long strips, the inner ring and outer wall. The inner strip is soldered together into a ring; the outer strip is soldered to the outside of the inner ring. In the end, the bottom half of the ring is solid metal, and the top is hollow. Once attached, these are soldered onto a flat sheet, forming the first side of the hollow ring, which is then cut out from the sheet and cut out on the inside (remaking the finger hole, basically.) Once this is done, you repeat the process with the other side, forming a box ring with an open top.
There’s a lot of filing and finishing to be done at this point, to make all the corners square and flush. A pattern is chosen for the top, and the final bit of soldering is done (there must be a hole either in the top piece, or drilled through the bottom part of the hollow ring, else the ring will explode during the final solder. No, really.) I got as far as soldering the top on, and then finished the final trimming, filing and polishing closer to home.
If you follow my Instagram, you’ve seen that I’ve been busy this summer, making jewelry. I’ve been meaning to repost those progress photos here for a while, but, well, here it is, September. (I need to repost my Fabrication 3 class photos, too.)
I’ve been making a lot of pendants, and now I’m trying my hand at some earrings. Rings are always happening, I can’t make enough rings. A lot of the stones I have now are more pendant-size, but there will still be a few rings in there. And at least one pair of earrings. Stay tuned. [Read more…]
I have about three posts I could write about the last week, but in the interest of time and actually POSTING something, I offer you some bullet points, to be embellished later on.
- I held a mechanical watch in my hands, for the very first time ever. Now I know what watch experts mean, when they talk about the “heartbeat”. IT WAS SO COOL. I TOTALLY WANT ONE.
- I went to Revere Academy last weekend for the Fabrication 3 course. Made a layered, sweat-soldered brooch, and a hollow “box” ring.
- I “live-shared” my Fab3 experience via Instagram, reposted to Facebook and Twitter, so if you want to see the stages of construction on both pieces, click the link to see my photostream. I will repost those images here, later.
My in-progress pictures of the first two projects of Fab 2 didn’t turn out, and I haven’t taken pictures of the finished results (such as they are.) For now, I’ll just mention them: the first project was a twisted wire ring of silver and copper, designed to be seamless (tricky, since you have to exactly match the twists where you cut), with both wires soldered shut (tricky, since the metals solder at different temperatures.) The second was a carved ring, starting from a square cast silver ring, which was divided into quarters and carved (filed) into a half-dome section, a fully round section, and a twisted pattern section.
Mostly I was occupied with the third project, which took about half the class hours to construct. Submitted for your approval: the Toggle Bracelet.
As hard as it is for me to believe, wearing it, the toggle bracelet started as that large coil of silver wire in the picture. (Yep, everything you are about to see came out of that coil. It’s crazy. Stay with me here.) We started by measuring out and setting aside a portion of wire, in order to construct the toggle clasp part of the bracelet.
We created a toggle bar from wire, attached it to a figure-eight connector made from a pair of smaller jump rings soldered together, and melted two other small jump rings to create a ball for each end of the bar. The loop was created from wire, soldered, and hammered into a round shape, then sawn back open so as to insert the other figure-eight loop that attached it to the bracelet, and solder it shut again. (You solder it shut initially so you can hammer it into a circle, which you couldn’t do if the connector was already on it.)
The rest of the wire, we coiled around a mandrel (steel rod) to form a long spring. This, we carefully sawed through, creating jump rings (or links, or loops.) A LOT of jump rings.
(Guess what a chain bracelet is made of? A WHOLE LOTTA JUMP RINGS, FOLKS.)
Since all the links on the chain needed to be soldered shut, we started by soldering half the jump rings shut. I can now say I can competently pick-solder. (All it means is, instead of laying a chip of solder directly on the seam and heating the piece until it flows, you melt the solder separately, pick up the solder on the point of your soldering pick — a pointed rod that doesn’t solder to anything, in a wooden handle so it doesn’t burn you — heat the piece, and touch the solder to the seam once the temperature is right. It sounds complicated, but it makes soldering jobs like this go very quickly.)
Once this initial batch is done, you start assembly, by taking an open jump ring, stringing two closed rings on, then soldering the open one shut to make chains of three. Then you connect two threes with a ring and make sevens, connect sevens to make fifteens, etc, until you have a finished length of chain. Somewhere in there, you stop and measure the chain against your wrist, and stop at a certain length — in my frenzy to complete the bracelet by the end of the class, I sortof forgot that step, which is why my bracelet is about an inch too long. [sigh]
Anyway, here it is. Hard to take a picture of a bracelet while you’re wearing it…