Tag Archives: fairytale

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 22: A Present from the Goblin King

I’ve had that David Bowie song from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, in my head all day; you know, the one from the Ballroom scene.  I’ve loved that film since I first saw it and I’ve always wished I looked like Jennifer Connelly’s character when she dances with the Goblin King.  I can’t turn back time to my twenties, so second best is to have the jewellery as it’s so beautiful and perfectly fairytale – and that is what I decided to make today.

I thought I would just make the earrings today, as I only had some of the afternoon and a bit of the evening to sit at my jewellery bench.  First of all, I decided to get the blu-ray out and have a look at the Ballroom scene in Hi-def (it was really hard not to just sit there and watch the whole film, but I found some self-restraint somewhere and limited myself to the one scene!).  I sketched out the general design of the earrings and thought about how I was going to go about this.  I would have thought that the original earrings were cast and then had diamanté set into the metal.  This wasn’t an option for me today and so I decided to get my silver sheet out and make the basic elements with this.

As it is a recycling challenge as well as making “one-a-day”, I decided to use as much off-cuts and scrap as I could; but I still had to use a new piece of 0.4mm silver sheet because the main piece to each earring was so big to be made from scrap (I can’t imagine ever having “scrap” silver that big!)

To give the earrings movement, I split the design up into three (for each earring) silver shapes and would attach these to each other with tiny jump-rings.  To cut out two identical sets, after I had drawn my designs on the silver, I taped them together with clear tape (I usually use masking tape but clear tape stopped the design getting smudged as I worked and kept the two layers of silver together nicely) and then set about sawing the pieces out with my hand saw.

Two jump rings (cut in half) were soldered to each side of the biggest piece (so that the dangles would hang properly) and the earring posts were sweat-soldered onto the back of the top piece; after which they had a turn in the pickle pot.

Holes were drilled by hand and edges filed smooth before I gave everything a hammered finish (so that light would bounce off the silver and give the impression of lots of tiny gems).  Two of the pieces (for each earring) had a shape like a lily and I decided to define them (so as they were more like the original) by hammering the lines (repoussé technique) so they would be seen better and that the pieces would have some shape. All the silver pieces were then attached with the jump-rings.

I decided to use Swarovski® Aurora Borealis crystals (ABx2) in 4mm for the sparkle and some discontinued Swarovski® crystal drops in the same finish for the end of the dangles (I know they’re not exactly like the original but I didn’t want to buy anything new for this – just use elements that I already had).

Here are the finished earrings (another difficult photo – but my fault for finishing after midnight, I suppose), I hope you like them.

My version of Jennifer Connelly's earrings from Jim Henson's Labyrinth

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 15: Amethyst Stud Earrings

Last night, I had a great idea for a pair of earrings; and all day I’ve been trying to snatch an hour or two, here and there, to be able to get them done.

I drew out my design this morning and worked out what materials I would need to use.  Today, I made everything in this design from scratch (except the pair of cabochon amethysts and the earrings posts/butterflies for the back) using only scrap pieces.

First, I had to make the bezel mounts with solid backs (so I had somewhere to add the earring posts) – I didn’t want to use a purchased setting.  The cabochons are pretty small (8x6mm) and I didn’t have thin enough flat bezel wire, so I used my dividers on the stones to find out how thin the bezel wire should be.  I transferred this onto the bezel wire by holding one point of the dividers at the edge and scoring along the wire with the other.  I then cut down the scored line with my tin-snips.  The cup of the bezel (which will hold the gem) was made by soldering the bezel wire into a circle and then shaping it round the oval gem.  This was then soldered (using hard solder) to the small scraps of 0.4mm silver sheet (by putting it all on a wire mesh and heating from underneath so not to melt the bezel) and the excess cut away and then filed smooth.

Next, I needed to make the ball-ended wires.  I found enough wires in my scrap box and then created the ball at one end of each wire by holding it pointing downwards and heating with my blow-torch till the end started to melt and drew up into a ball.  Each one was dropped into water to quench it – they cool quickly, but can still be hot even when they look cold on the surface.  I didn’t want any burned fingers!

The wires were shaped with round-nosed pliers and fingers to fit the design and then cut to size.  I had to remember that one of the pair would be a mirror-image of the other, meaning that each wire on that earring would have to be placed back-to-front, or  both earrings wouldn’t look like a pair.

I didn’t solder all the wires on at the same time.  First, I soldered the two wires that went around the bezel setting.  Only once they were looking right, did I solder the other wires on.  This helped me keep the wires looking the same on both earrings and minimised any movement – as light pieces (such as these wires) can either be blown around by the heat of the blow-torch or slide away when the solder melts.

After quenching again, I turned the earrings over and stamped “925” on each one.  The earring post was attached by a technique known as “sweating”.  This meant that I melted solder onto the earring post and let it go cold. Then (after fluxing the earring to help the solder flow), the earring post was held upright (with heat-resistant tweezers) against the back of the earring and the earring was heated.  As the earring got to the right temperature, the earring post was heated too and as the solder melted, it was drawn to the earring and soldered the two together.  (It helps to know that solder will travel towards heat; and that grease, gaps, and fire-scale all stop solder from flowing, so that flux is needed for successful soldering.

I decided that the bezels looked a little plain (as well as still being a little too high for my taste), and so used my triangular file to file notches all the way round each bezel.  After rounding off any sharp bits, it gave the bezel a pleasing scalloped edge.  Checking the stones in the bezels (using dental floss laid behind the stone and over the bezel edge, so I could get the stones back out!), I decided to raise them up a bit and so added an oval of 0.8mm square wire inside each bezel for this purpose.

A good half-an-hour in the pickle and then a preliminary file and polish by rotary-tool was all it took to get them at the stage I could throw them in the tumbler for about an hour or so.  I did remember to first neutralise the pickle on the earrings by dipping them in a solution of bicarbonate-of-soda, and also to give them a good wash & brush after using the silicon wheels.

All that was needed now was to set the amethysts – made much easier by having those notches cut in the edge – and here they are, fairy-tale earrings:

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 12: A Modern Fairytale? – UPDATE!

Well, here is the photo of the finished pendant.

After I had put it together, I thought that it needed something to make the heart “pop” (stand out from the main design).  I used a technique called Keum-boo (also spelt as Kum-Boo or Kum-Bu which is Korean for “attached Gold”) to apply a thin layer of real gold to the silver.

This gilding technique is used a lot with PMC pure silver (although I mostly use 24ct gold paste especially made for PMC), as they are both pure metals and bond well together.  The heart charm was made from PMC so I didn’t have to prepare it apart from heating it to burn off any contaminants from the surface.  If it was sterling silver, I would first have to depletion gild it to get a thin layer of fine silver on the surface..

The gold was applied to the heart and then I heated the charm till it glowed a dull orange (this gets both metals at the right temperature for their atoms to bond together) and then applied pressure (burnished) with an agate burnisher to create the permanent diffusion bond.

I made a new jump-ring and re-attached the heart to the main piece.  Another polish and it was finished and ready to photograph.  A bit more work than I first was expecting but I think it made a real difference to the design.

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 12: A Modern Fairytale?

I don’t really do modern pieces.  I’d like to –  but each time, it either goes wrong somehow or turns into a more fairytale piece without me even trying.  I just don’t think I’m made that way myself, so it’s not surprising that I find that style difficult.

Today I’ve been playing around with circles and lines.  All the pieces were either scrap or abandoned/left over from other projects.

I started with a circle which had been made from two circles of square wire soldered one on top of the other.  I found some short pieces of 0.8mm round wire and laid them on top – all the ends together at one edge and fanned out at the opposite edge.  The ends of the wire reached out over the edge of the circle and, as I was happy with this arrangement, I soldered them together with hard solder.

After filing and smoothing the soldered areas, I noticed the wire ends looked a little lost in the design.  I reached for my trusty pot of sterling silver balls and added one to the end of each wire.  (It would have been nice to have the balls totally spherical but it was easier to solder those I have with flat bases – so I used those.)

I took a step back from the design – firstly to make a cup of tea, but more importantly to look at the design with fresh eyes.  An old trick I learned at Art College (long, long ago in a county far, far away … from Cheshire, that is), is to hold up your design page/test piece/actual jewellery to a mirror as if you are wearing it (so you are looking at the image in the mirror).  The image will be backwards but your brain will see it as new and you can look at it objectively.  It’s a great way to see your designs as if for the first time – from a customer’s perspective if you like.

Anyway, back to the design.  After looking at it in the mirror, I decided where I would put the loop for the bail and that I would add another loop on the inside, immediately beneath that one.  Because the main circle was two wires high, I used some iron binding wire to lift up the jump-rings so I could solder them to the middle and not just have them soldered to the bottom wire (or top wire if I had turned the piece over when soldering).  I attached a bail to the top loop which was made from 0.8mm wire coiled around my jump-ring mandrel twice.  (I soldered the coil of loops together with easy solder to make them more durable.)  A quick dip in the pickle to get rid of any fire-scale and I also made sure any firestain was polished out and any imperfections smoothed away before the final polish to a high shine.

I attached a lovely little textured heart (made from PMC), which was originally for a pair of earrings, to the inner loop and the piece was done.

I’ve got to attach the photo tomorrow – my technical difficulties continue today (although it’s really my own fault this time), because my camera ran out of battery and it’s only just gone on charge.  Sorry!  I’m blaming it all on my head-cold, as I’m sure I used to have a brain before  🙂

Oh, by the way – just in case you were wondering … Frodo came home tonight, happier and healthier, with a shaved leg (from the IV) and a big appetite.  Remind me to post a photo of him at my bench, keeping an eye on things – he has a cat tree just behind me as I work and sometimes just can’t help but come over and see what I’m up to! (Oh, just to say, never when I’m working with heat or chemicals though!)


As I’ve said before, I’ve been playing an on-line card and story based game called “ The Night Circus ” based upon a book of the same name by Erin Morgenstern.  I’ve finished the book now, and I can’t recommend it enough. … Continue reading

Inspiration Found at The Night Circus Pt.2

If you’ve read part one of this post (hopefully!), you’ll know that I’m currently playing The Night Circus – an on-line story and card based game by Failbetter Games based upon the book of the same name by Erin Morgenstern.  (Please go and have a look at both the game and book – you won’t be disappointed!)

Well, one of the designs in the game is a key, and having read somewhere that Erin likes keys (and she has cats, so that’s a plus in my book!), I decided to make her a key pendant based upon the design in the game.

Key to The Night Circus

Firstly, I sketched out the key from the original illustration (see above.  ©Failbetter Games) and then scaled it down to the finished size I was aiming for.  The silver wires (mostly 0.8mm thick) were shaped, hammered and soldered together.  The design changed as I worked.  For example, the tooth of the key I made out of a single piece of wire and it looked better with  a more simple pattern.

The bail was made by looping wire as if to make jump-rings but cutting off a section of three loops.  The ends were sanded smooth and then the bail was threaded onto the top loop of the key and soldered so it became one ring with a ridged pattern which made for a more interesting bail than just a simple jump-ring.  At this point I placed the key into the pickle pot to get rid of any fire-stain or oxidisation.

The whole key was then filed and sanded smooth ready to go into the tumbler.  At this point, I decided that it still needed a little something extra and so added a claw setting in the middle so I could then add a sparkly gem later.  I used a claw setting for PMC but clipped off the excess silver at the bottom (which would have been sunk into the PMC if I was using it) and sanded it smooth before soldering it.  Then it was back to the pickle-pot and another quick sand/polish afterwards before it was ready for the tumbler.

Once out of the tumbler, I gave the key a last polish with cloth and a cream polish (which has some polishing rouge already in it).  The last elements to be added were the purple cz gem and the purple bow (which isn’t glued or anything so can be removed if so wanted), and so it is now complete.  Hopefully, Erin likes it and will let me know where I can post it to.

The dimensions of the finished piece are: 6cm/2½” long and 3cm/1⅛” wide.
100% Sterling Silver (marked .925)

Inspiration Found at The Night Circus pt. 1

For quite a while I’ve been playing an on-line card and story based game called Echo Bazaar by Failbetter Games.  I’ll probably do another, more detailed post about Echo Bazaar later – because that also is an inspiration – but for now, I want to show you my latest efforts that have been inspired by their latest efforts “ The Night Circus ” based upon a book of the same name by Erin Morgenstern.

The amazing illustrations are so beautiful and one or two gave me ideas for delicate and ethereal jewellery.  

The first design is the branch with a droplet of water falling from a leaf. To the left is the original design (© Failbetter Games) and on the right is my interpretation:

The leaves were rough cut from textured sheet silver by handsaw and then filed to shape by hand.  The large leaves were shaped by repoussé.

I don’t have a pitch bowl and special tools to do the repoussé with.  I used a block of wood in my vice (with the end grain uppermost) instead and I shaped a piece of memory wire (with pliers that I don’t use for silver work – remember, no cross-contamination!) for line down the middle of the leaf.  Then I placed the leaf shape on the wood with the wire (memory wire because it was the hardest wire I had) on top.  I then improvised with a small metal cylinder with flat ends (actually one of my bits for my rotary tool) instead of a lining punch, and hammered the wire into the silver leaf.  This gave the leaf it’s lifelike shape and curves as well as defining the central line.  I also drilled by hand the tiniest hole possible in the end of the large leaves so I could add a gem (like the drop of water on the illustration) later.

I was so worried about melting the delicate wires (0.8mm) but all my soldering practice paid off and everything worked first-time; nothing melted, or dropped off when quenched.  Hooray!

After polishing and tumbling, I added the cubic zirconia gems and made the ear-wires.  The finished earrings are extremely light and very sparkly.  Perfect for any female réveur at the Night Circus – see you there!


I’ve always been a part-time, secret writer of tiny stories and poems – most of which I wouldn’t show even if you got me drunk to giggling point.  If you have read the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman then … Continue reading