Category Archives: PMC

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 30: The Final Piece

Today is the last day of my “one-a-day” challenge.  I can’t actually believe it’s been 31 jewellery making days since I started this – time really has gone quickly and I’m feeling sad that I’m at the end.

Well, you’d think that I’d choose something nice and easy for my last day, something I couldn’t muck up and turn into another disaster!  Sorry, but you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried!

Today, I wanted to do a piece that was special to me and I have a beautiful silver ankh earring (again, I had lost one of the pair) which needed to be made into something really beautiful.  For those of you that know Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, The Endless each have a gallery of symbols that they use to call each other – and Death’s symbol is an ankh.

The design is of a ankh in a frame, as if it is from one of the galleries of The Endless.  The background is of cogs and watch pieces and the frame is to be made out of lots of small pieces (like an old ironwork frame that has rusted into twisted shapes) as I also identify the character of Death with the concepts of time (as in time running out, and the end of time, etc.) and entropy.

The main part of the brooch was made in PMC3 – the cogs and watch pieces were made using a unique stamp I had made previously, and I added thin strips of PMC3 to the edges to make them level.  I cut off the loop at the top of the silver ankh earring (to make it look better) and, as it seemed to be silver all the way through, embedded it into the middle of the brooch.  After drying in the little electric oven, I added the brooch findings to the back (made by hand – I will do a proper tutorial on this soon) and my name stamp.  Another 20 minutes in the electric oven and it was time to torch-fire the brooch.

When I torch-fire things that are larger than normal, I place small pieces of fire-brick around the piece (almost like a mini-kiln) and it keeps the heat around the piece better than if I just fired it on a flat board.  It worked really well and the piece fired perfectly – or so I thought.  When I turned the brooch over (I had fired it face-down because of the brooch findings on the back) the ankh had deformed and turned a really funny grey, not like the normal fire-scale I was expecting.

I filed the face lightly and the ankh shone silver underneath the patina, so I thought it was just a reaction with the PMC3 but, oh no, it turns out that the earrings were base-metal with a foil of silver folded around it.  I found that out because the foil just lifted off the base-metal when I investigated further.  I had a moment of panic as I tried to remove it from the brooch but, I am so glad that the ankh came away pretty cleanly after prising the central base-metal away and then grinding off the foil with the rotary tool.  I was left with an ankh-shaped indent rather than the raised shape I had originally wanted. Oh well, I would have to wait and see how it all ended up before I passed judgement – sometimes, something wonderful comes out of disaster (but also, sometimes it just ends up in the scrap bin!).

The frame was made from lots of tiny scrap pieces of 0.4mm sterling sheet.  I drew the outline of my brooch onto the firing board as a guideline and then placed my fluxed pieces down and soldered them all together with easy solder.  (Sounds simple, but getting them all to stay where I wanted and then for everything to solder at the same time was really tricky.)  Both pieces were placed in the pickle pot and then washed before going into the tumbler.

A piece of 0.8mm wire was made into a coil with two straight ends, the longer one to be the brooch pin and the shorter one to be part of the spring.  This too was thrown into the tumbler, to work harden and polish.

After tumbling, the face of the brooch was given a patina and sealed with Renaissance Wax.  Then the frame had a hole drilled into each corner and four corresponding holes were drilled into the brooch.  The frame was attached to the brooch with “rivets” ((this was the first time I’ve ever done rivets in jewellery) which were short pieces of 1mm sterling wire threaded through both pieces and the ends hammered so that they splayed slightly, holding the pieces in place.

The brooch pin was added and the piece was finished.  Okay, it didn’t look quite how I had imagined; but as a final piece it was apt.  I had used leftover pieces and tried some new things. I had learned some lessons the hard way and had to get myself out of a fix with some unorthodox Macgyver-ing.  I’m sorry that it wasn’t the amazing piece of jewellery I had wished to make – but I learned a lot making it and that’s something I can be proud of.

Today is not the end to the making or the posting, or even the making from left-overs!  Just the challenge of making something every single day.  Please remember that my normal working hours are only on a Friday (when my little one is a Nursery) and any other time that I can snatch from my full-on schedule as a full-time mum (and cat-nurse).  This really has been a challenge but one that I would encourage anyone to try.  Thank you for being on the journey with me.

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“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 30: Leaves of Gold

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew…”  so starts Galadriel’s Song of Eldamar by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I know the leaves in my earrings are actually based on those of the rose and not from trees, as in the song; but to me they do look like they belong in Tolkien’s world.  I can imagine them being worn by an Elven maiden, or a hobbit wife or daughter.  They are so light and delicate, beautiful in their simplicity and evocative of nature (so maybe good for a garden fairy too?).

My whole household are Tolkien fans (my hall even has the door to Moria painted in silver on the under-stairs doors and the White Tree of Gondor half-way up the stairs on the half-landing wall) and I have a feeling that these earrings are only the beginning of the Tolkien/LOTR films inspired jewellery.

The recycling part of these earrings is mostly in the form of the pure silver PMC which the leaves themselves were made from.  When PMC dries out, it can still be re-used but the dried ‘clay’ needs to be ground up really fine (I use an electric coffee grinder) and then all impurities sifted out (I use a fine mesh bag which originally I bought to put jewellery in when sold, but it works really well for this too).  The powder is then mixed with a few drops of water till it reforms into a ‘clay’ ball and then I roll it out, between sheets of greaseproof paper, again and again until it becomes more like the ‘clay’ that comes out of the original packet.

Well, I find that this recycled PMC3 ‘clay’ is really good for using with my moulds and today I used one, originally for cake decorating, to make my little leaves.

The gold on the leaves is pure 24k gold that has been purchased as a powder and then made into a thin paste with glycerine and water.  I used a silicone ‘brush’ tool to paste a layer onto the freshly fired pure silver and then after it dried, I torch-fired the pieces to bond the gold into the silver.  It’s not like plating as the gold is actually bonded into the silver rather than just coating it.

I had wanted the gold to give the impression of texture on the leaves, like those turning gold in Autumn, so the layer of gold paste was applied in patches rather than all over.  The veins of the leaves were also left silver, which gave some definition.  The gold has been only applied to the front of the leaves, as in nature rarely are both sides of a leaf the same shade/colour, and it also seemed overkill to cover the whole leaf in gold.

The beads are gold-filled (also known as rolled-gold, a thicker layer of gold than ordinary gold-plating and also more durable) with a ridged texture and the golden crystals are Fire-polished Czech crystal rhondelles the colour of light golden honey.

The ear-wires and wires that hold the beads, are all sterling silver, but I suppose they could be rolled-gold if need be (the only thing is that rolled-gold or gold-filled wire has a metal core which shows when it is cut and so looks odd when used for ear-wires or anywhere where you can see the cut end).

Elven leaf earringsBy the by, the picture was taken in my kitchen – which is all Alice in Wonderland themed.  That’s a hand-painted picture of the Cheshire cat which is just above one of my shelves, just about where his head would be if he was sitting there.  I’ve got lots more hand-painted images on the walls,  I’ll have to do an Alice inspired piece of jewellery so I can post more pictures of my pretty kitchen!

 

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 28: Love Hearts

Once again I am apologising for not getting this post written and uploaded the same day I made the jewellery.  I have a good excuse though (honest!) – one giant, monster of a headache which arrived on Sunday afternoon. .  This made working with the computer just impossible, and it’s still pretty painful to look at the screen tonight (yes, it’s still here; and boy, do my eyes hurt).

Sunday was also my wedding anniversary (13 years!) and so I decided to make something romantic.

Deciding again not to solder or torch PMC (the fumes hurt my head); I trawled through my PMC fine silver pieces that had already been fired, to see what I had lurking about.  I found a pretty heart with an embossed texture and a slightly defective bezel, as well as a more modern and much smaller heart which I had started to gold-leaf but hadn’t got very far with it.  I wanted a third heart (it’s not often you get to say that!), but didn’t have a silver one that was just right, so a Swarovski® crystal 10mm heart in Moonlight Crystal seemed a good choice.

Today, I’ve been inspired with those “topsy-turvy” cakes with each layer at a different angle and looking like the whole thing is about to fall over.  For this look, the three hearts were first placed flat on my micro-fibre mat (very soft, so no scratching of silver or crystal, and nothing rolls about) so that they looked “topsy-turvy”; and then to make sure the holes were drilled in the right place, a straight piece of wire was laid down the centre of the design (a ruler, strip of paper or any other straight item to hand would have done, but I prefer wire as it’s light and doesn’t hide any of the design so you get a good idea of what it will look like) and then the right places were marked with a permanent marker.

Before drilling, indents were made by hammering a sharpened nail where I had marked – this would help the drill bit stay in the right place and not “chatter”, which is where it skips across the surface.  I find it essential as I mostly use a tiny pin vice and do the drilling by hand.

The largest heart had a plain-walled bezel which I had previously set a gem into but the gem was slightly too small and had to be removed as it didn’t fit the setting tight enough.  To make the bezel usable again, the walls were straightened from the inside using a metal burnisher to push the silver outwards; and then the base (which the gem would sit on) was drilled a bit deeper and smoothed out.

I have some beautiful cabochon moonstones and I found one which was the right diameter and which the bezel would fit round tightly.  This was then set with a pusher and burnisher.

The two PMC fine silver hearts were given a bit of a patina with black gilder’s wax.  I wanted the effect to be aged rather than uniform and, although the black didn’t come out on the photo as dark as it is in real life, I think it worked pretty well.  The highest points were re-polished to a mirror-shine, and a coating of Renaissance Wax was applied to seal and protect.

The silver hearts were connected with a jump-ring, and the crystal heart used a round head pin as a bail to attach it to the smaller silver heart.  The pin was threaded through the hole at the top of the heart, with the ball-end at the front.  The wire was gently (the crystal is more delicate than it looks, especially when using metal tools) curled around from the back and then bent so that the wire went straight upwards.  A loop was formed at the top and this was threaded through the lower hole in the smaller heart, so the crystal heart would hang nicely with some movement.

PMC fine silver hearts with swarovski crystal heart

I didn’t want a traditional bail for the necklace, so I formed a loop in a middle of some silver wire and threaded it through the top hole in the largest heart.  Then, taking a thin jump-ring former, the wire was coiled either side and the excess wire trimmed off from the back.

I think the unusual angles of the hearts give it interest and movement.  I may just have to go make a pair of earrings to match!

Oh, just to say, Day 29 will have to be written up with Day 30 – as it’s after midnight and now I’m going to see if I can go sleep this headache away.

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 27: Birthday Present

Wow, Day 27 already?  Where has the time gone?

Talking of time – apologies for the lateness of this post (it’s already half past midnight) but it’s been a busy day with both creating jewellery and going with my little girl to a birthday party at the local play-barn.

Today I wondered that when I talk or write about making things from scrap or recycled materials (even if they are precious metals), do those phrases bring to mind rubbish or even that the end product is sub-standard in some way?  It’s so hard to get beyond those concepts when recycling is part of the discussion; as if something that is reused or recycled has to be flawed in some way or that it’s previous life has to be hidden to value the new item in any way.

I suppose this came to mind more today because I was making a birthday present for a little girl and I wanted to include it in this challenge.  I didn’t need to – I could have made her something from new silver sheet or wire, but I really believe in not wasting precious resources and all my silver is the same (well, either pure or sterling, anyway), even if it has been made into something else before.

The elements that I wanted to re-use were some pure silver PMC3* pieces, which were either testers or were reclaimed from other jewellery I had previously made (and then taken apart again – artist’s prerogative).  Luckily, I had made a tester of the right initial for the little girl’s name and it was sitting, waiting, in my box of misc. fired PMC pieces.  Looking through the box, I also found some stars of different sizes and took two – one big and one small.

I really dislike the phrase “on-trend” – it’s overused everywhere these days.  Well, something that seems on-trend (*winces*) in jewellery at the moment is chain necklaces with a drop of chain at the front with charms hanging from it – very bohemian, but with a chic style that could go well with a little black dress or a smart work suit.  It also seemed a fun and light necklace for a little girl’s jewellery box – something special but not too grown up (children should be children, in my book) that she could grow into.

Checking my box of chains (wow, that doesn’t sound *quite* as it should!), by now you’ll have realised that I keep all my materials grouped by colour or type in compartmented boxes , I found a small section of good quality silver belcher chain and some jump-rings of different sizes (although I don’t know why they were in there, my putting away must have been off that day!).  Looking at all the pieces, a design was sketched out and then off to the bench to put it all together.

I added all the pieces together with the jump-rings, which were then soldered closed carefully so as not to solder the jump-ring to anything else except itself – easier said than done!  A pair of locking tweezers, holding the jump-ring about mid-way, were very helpful in acting as a heat sink and stopping the solder travelling past the join and onto anything else.  A larger jump-ring (in a wider gauge wire) was attached to the top of the chain to act as a bail, and was also soldered closed.

As chain is notoriously hard (and dangerous) to polish with a rotary motor – the chain went into the tumbler, alongside the head-pin which I would use for the last dangle off the chain.  This would work-harden the silver, making it more hard-wearing, as well as giving it a mirror-shine.

After tumbling, I added the last dangle – a single freshwater pearl.  I believe that the pearl is the oldest known gem and was originally seen as the most valuable.  The story I like best about pearls, is that they are formed by angels travelling through the clouds of heaven.  A perfect gem for a little girl, I think.

(Sorry for how the pearl looks in the photo – I don’t seem to be able to take a good photo of pearls – it’s another thing for me still to learn)

Oh, see how time flies when posting?  It’s now 1:20 am and I think I’d better show you the necklace now before I go and collapse after this tiring day.  Well, here it is – and don’t tell me that it doesn’t look perfectly beautiful, even more so because I re-used and recycled.

 

 

 

 

*Precious Metal Clay is pure silver, which has itself been recycled, in an organic clay binder which can be moulded or worked like clay but when fired at the right temperature, will turn back into pure silver with the binder burning away totally

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 13: Bold Ring

I did make a new piece of jewellery yesterday but didn’t manage to write the blog post till now – so here it is …

Quite a while ago, I made a PMC heart with twisted filigree curls; which was to become a pendant.  I didn’t like the way the patina turned out and the design wasn’t as pleasing in real life as it was on paper.  Well, the first thing was to take the patina off and get the PMC back to the just-fired state (white).  Not really thinking about it, I took up my torch and heated up the piece … Wow! What a smell!  Liver of Sulphur patina smells even worse when you burn it off than when you add it originally. Rotten egg smell and smoke everywhere!

After opening all the windows and retreating for a cup of tea, I returned to my bench.  A lot of the filigree had softened and was in danger of breaking off due to the reheating.  Using my tin-snips, I took off any bits that didn’t look secure and then filed any sharp bits back.  The bits of filigree that were left, I curled up to the right side of the heart.

In my scrap box, I found a ring (two pieces of 1mm round wire, twisted together and the outside edge hammered slightly flat to make it more comfortable to wear), and after depletion gilding it (there is a brief description of the technique here), soldered both it and the filigree to the PMC heart with hard solder.

The ring was now looking a bit better, but still a bit plain.  I had a lovely purple, square-cut glass gem which I thought would suit the ring perfectly.  Usually, I only use CZ’s or precious/semi-precious stones in my jewellery; but in the spirit of recycling, I wanted to rescue and re-use some of the beautiful glass “gems” that had been part of broken jewellery.  I made a bezel and notched it all the way round; giving it both a pleasing scalloped edge and also making it easier to set the “gem”.  After deciding where to put it on the piece, I drilled a pilot hole and used my hand-saw to cut away a square in the heart so that the light would shine through the “gem”.  I then soldered the bezel over the hole, ready to set the “gem”.

Looking at the piece again, I decided it needed something more.  There were a couple of the filigran silver balls on the filigree already, so I added more all over the piece clustered in groups.  A small silver PMC heart that had been floating around my bench, also made it onto the ring.  Then off to the pickle pot to remove any firescale from the soldering.

The PMC heart, which makes up the main body of the ring, needed a lot of filing and polishing smooth due to some reticulation (there is a brief description of the technique here) happening when I originally fired it. Even after a spin in the tumbler, I needed to use my polishing wheels to be able to get a good polish in-between all the balls and round the bezel.

Lastly, the glass “gem” was set and the ring was finished.

Ta-da! Here it is:

And a photo of it on my hand to show it in context:

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 10: When is a Cupcake not a Cupcake? …

… When it actually turned out looking like a bakewell tart!

This reminded me of a blog I read called “Cake Wrecks“, which is great and well worth checking out every day – it’s really hilarious!  I wonder if they accept photos of jewellery “cake wrecks” as well as edible ones?  I’ll let you know…

Back to the disaster! My poor, tiny cupcake (it’s about the size of a pea) looked so pretty before I put it to the torch.  It had tiny sprinkles and icing and even a cherry on the top.  Okay, the paper-case was a little bit on the thick side (hence looking more like pastry) but everything at least looked cake-like.  The bottom of the cupcake was made with PMC (after trying a few times with silver sheet).  It looked okay before it shrank while sintering (firing with the torch to burn off the binder and bring the silver particles together) – it is meant to shrink about 10% but this time it also seemed to make the cupcake case shorter and so looking less like a cupcake.

Well, as I soldered the top and bottom halves together with easy solder (to make it easier to solder the two together, I had already attached a sterling pillar in the centre of the PMC bottom half), everything seemed to go okay but then – disaster!  My flame was just a little too hot and too close; the little sprinkles melted into the icing and all the fine detailing disappeared under the solder which ran just where I didn’t want it. I sadly withdrew the flame and quenched the ” little baked item of no fixed identity” in cool water along with all my enthusiasm for this piece.

After a few moments of reflection and silent swearing, I got out some more tiny pieces of silver wire from the scrap box and made a few more “sprinkles”.  This time I managed to solder them on without them melting away, and then quenched the “cake” before dropping it in the pickle.

I left the “cake” part with just a light polish and the rest (icing, sprinkles, cherry & base) was given a high shine.

Before I show you the finished item, I wanted to say that I started this challenge for a lot of reasons, one being to try new techniques/materials.  Usually, if I try something and either it didn’t come out as planned or it just ends up in the scrap box, I don’t have to admit it and I can keep it a secret between me and my workbench.

But now, I feel that in this challenge, it would be cheating not to document the bad as well as good. Well, I don’t mind admitting it – I’m not perfect (well, almost) and I’m not a master craftsman (who probably have off days too – please tell me they do?), so I do make mistakes.  Well, this one is not my first, and certainly not my last; but hopefully you’ll not mind if there are a few here and there in these posts.

Well here it is (please remember it’s less than 1cm²):

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 9: In Flux

Today has been a bit up and down – in flux, as it were.  That phrase could also be put to both the piece I made today and the technique used to create it.

I didn’t have much time to get something done, but I had an idea to solder some scrap pieces together and then solder that onto the top of a plain silver band ring.  I was going to then pierce out the silver of the ring which showed through the largest parts of the soldered scrap pieces to make it lighter and give it more interest.  Well, that experiment will have to wait for another day.  I got as far as soldering the scrap pieces and decided I liked the design as it was and my ring design suddenly became a pendant design!

The technique I used to join the scrap together was less like traditional soldering and more like almost melting everything together – a process called “fusing“.

I placed all my scrap pieces in a pleasing arrangement and then coated everything in a thin flux.  I gently heated the silver and added more flux (this time as powder) when the silver was hot but had not started to fuse or melt.

This can be tricky to get right and all too often some of the silver will actually melt too much and the design will be ruined.  When this happens, I just usually keep it aside for when I want to create the small balls I use in filigree.  For this design, I wanted the effect called “reticulation” which is where the silver is depletion gilded (creating a thin layer of fine silver over the whole piece) which means that the fine silver “skin” will melt at a higher temperature then the sterling silver underneath.  When it is heated with a torch the inner sterling silver melts first and patterns or texture are created on the surface.  I’m not very skilled in this so just went for the texture instead of any patterns.

I didn’t want to polish this to a high-shine because I didn’t think the texture would be as noticeable as with a more matt-finish.  To finish, I added two beads of real amethyst with a silver flower bali bead spacer in-between.

The photo has been digitally-enhanced a bit, because I took the photo at 1am and didn’t have the energy to get all my photo stuff set up.  I will take a better photo and post it here (hopefully tomorrow).