Tag 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 8: From Daisies to Roses

I used to have this beautiful rose ring, with a large central rose and stems with leaves entwined around it.  Sadly, one day the shank broke off and it wasn’t possible to re-solder it together.  Today, in memory of that pretty little ring, I have made a Rose pendant in the same style – using a fired PMC rose with scraps of silver sheet and 1.5mm round silver wire.

Soldering fine/pure (.999%) silver to sterling is very difficult (or at least it is for me!) and so I treated the silver wire (depletion gilding) to give it a coat of fine silver, which would make it easier to solder.

With the sterling wire, I created the basic shape of my stem and then soldered the rose onto it.  I cut smaller pieces of wire and soldered these on as off-shoots of the main stem.  I curled the ends round to both look pretty and to give me something to hang my sparkles from.

The leaves I cut from scrap pieces of 0.5mm silver sheet.  After a quick file to get rid of any sharp edges, I took my tiny jewellers screwdriver (with a flat head) and hammered a curved line down the middle of each one.  This gave the leaves some shape and definition.  I put the leaves in place and soldered them, all at the same time, with easy solder.  Some of the leaves had a bit too much solder for the small area needing soldering; and excess solder leaked onto the surface of the leaves, masking the texture and shape that I had just added.  Oh well, they still looked good, so I didn’t mind too much.

A quick dip in the pickle and a polish with the silicon wheels, brought up the silver nicely.  I didn’t want a high shine on the stems and leaves – I wanted to have some contrast to the rose, which I would polish up more later on.

I’ve been using “Gilding Wax” for a while instead of Liver of Sulphur to give colour to the detailing in some of my pieces.  The black is easy to apply and gives a dense coverage.  After about an hour, I rub in some “Renaissance Wax” to seal the gilding wax in place; then wait a few minutes more and polish off the excess renaissance wax.  This keeps the colour on the silver but any pieces with this finish can only be polished using a polishing cloth.  Silver dip or liquid polish would ruin the colour or totally polish away the wax.

I wanted to use the marquise cut, clear (white) cubic zirconium (CZ) again; so I found in my scrap box an old “cinch” bezel type finding.  It’s a thin piece of flat wire which has been curled inwards so it’s more of a c-shape in cross-section.  It’s most usually seen as a complete item, with a loop at the top and a place just under the loop to squeeze shut with pliers (after the gem is set).  This tightens the wire around the gem so it can’t fall out.  Anyway, I had re-cycled some gems that were mounted this way and I had kept the cinch bezel pieces for a rainy day.  I cut the wire to size and shaped it around the CZ gem.  As it was only a small gem, and one I had heated successfully before, I soldered the wire ends together with the gem mounted inside.

Remember to not quench any stone/gem/crystal that you heat – it will cool way too quickly and will crack or break.  Some CZ’s and crystals will change colour after heating and I wouldn’t suggest it with a stone over 5mm (round).  If you are going to heat a stone, either have a spare in case of disaster or check the place you purchased it from – most sites have information of this sort freely available.

The rose pendant is back in the pickle pot as I type this.  I wasn’t happy with one of the soldered joints and so I’ve re-soldered it and now am waiting to be able to polish it. So, I’m going to post this and then add the photo tomorrow (or later tonight, if I’m still up).  Sorry for not persevering now but the head-cold is still making me feel rough and I need a bit of a rest.

UPDATE:
Apologies for the awful photo – 12:30am isn’t the best time for me to be taking photos but this is the first time I’ve had all day to do it. Anyway, I hope it gives you an idea of what the rose pendant looks like!

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day Seven: Lost Little Kitty

Still feeling really awful with this head-cold, so decided to do a little light sorting out to start the day off gently.  I found a box of nail varnishes, old “The Crow” film cards (still my favourite film, even now) and some other odds and ends.  Right at the bottom was a small fired PMC charm I had made as a test piece when trying out water etching for the first time.

This technique is used to remove areas of “green” PMC (dried but not fired) to mimic acid etching  but without the use of dangerous chemicals.  A resist is applied to the areas that you want to keep and then, using water and a sponge, the exposed areas are wiped away –  leaving a lower surface that you can enamel or colour and fill with resin (or even coat with gold!).  There is a great explanation of this technique by CeCe Wire in a book called “Precious Metal Clay Techniques“.

The design on the charm was a cat looking up at the moon, and I had used nail varnish as the resist medium.  It had worked well, but as the charm had been so small (I’m very mean when it comes to trying out ideas with expensive materials!), the picture had suffered somewhat by the fine detail being rounded off by the process of wiping away.  After firing (the resist is burned away), the charm had been finished off with layers of UV resin tinted blue (shaded darker around the shapes).

I found a partially wire-wrapped scroll shape (about 5cm long) which I did have plans for, but had never got around doing anything with.  This would be the main body of the pendant.  Firstly, I soldered the wire-wrapping to make it more durable and also to join the two scrolls to the middle wire more securely.  A o.8mm round wire was also soldered to the middle at the back.  When soldering thin wire, it is very easy to overheat the wire and have it melt (especially if your head isn’t feeling like it still belongs to you and you keep on sneezing!) – which is exactly what happened here.  One end of the wire thinned in the middle as it overheated.  But no need to panic.  I just heated the wire again (very gently this time!) and added some easy solder to the area which had thinned.  Any extra solder was filed away after quenching and the wire was once again 0.8mm and round.

After a short dip in the pickle to get rid of any fire-stain, I gave the wire-wrapped piece a sand and polish with my silicon wheels and polishing cylinders with my hand-held rotary drill.  Then I added Swarovski® crystals in Sapphire and Light Sapphire 2xAB,  as well as silver beads in-between, to both top and bottom wires.  The wires were then wrapped around the main piece and loops created for the bail at the top and the charm at the bottom.  I curved the wires holding the crystals to compliment the curves of the main form.  I added the charm at the bottom and here’s the finished article: