Category Archives: jewelry

Sterling Silver Necklace – See How I Make Them

I made a sterling silver necklace just for me. Recently I’ve been feeling the need for some ME time. Normally, when I feel that way my go-to solution is a massage but this week I decided to so something fully indulgent, and decadent. Probably the most indulgent thing an artist can do for themself is to create without the thought in the back of their mind of who will buy it? Will someone buy it? How soon can I sell it?

Handmade Sterling Silver Necklace

Usually, the only time I really wear my jewelry is if there is some flaw and I don’t see it as fit to put out into the world to a paying customer. Everything that is an A grade is usually filed away neatly in my inventory waiting for someone to buy. I decided to change that, maybe for the first time ever in my art career.

I’d previously used these silver bubble-looking links in bracelets, and a pair of earrings at the request of a customer. One of my long time patrons fell in love with the links as much as I have and requested a necklace. Now, they’re pretty time consuming to make but how could I say no? I knew it was going to be awesome, and she deserved it. So, I made it, then had to pry it from my fingers when it was time to deliver.

So, this week I decided that a massage was not going to fill the nurturing hole that I was feeling, and I decided to take a couple days to create one for myself, and I thought I’d give you a little peek at what it takes to make this sterling silver necklace.

Cutting out the Bubbles

The fist step is getting the bubbles made. Shown below is one size out of 3. I started out thinking I needed 18 links. Who needs the gym when you wield a hammer to punch out 180 silver circles?

sterling silver discs

Preparing the Back Plates

Those little dots don’t just float on their own. The needed a base so I measured, cut, and cleaned up little rectangles of silver sheet.

Soldering the Circles

Then I fluxed my silver, placed the dots, and soldered them.

This is where I start to get excited. I hand stamped (more hammering…see my muscles bulging?) tiny little circles on the disks and they start to look like bubbles.

stamping the dots for more depth of design

The next step is sawing away the extra silver around the bubbles with a jeweler’s hand saw. Some think that sawing is tedious, especially for little areas like around the curves of the bubbles but I find it relaxing. After I cut them out I file around the edges to get rid of any sharp edges, and then go over them with a grinding wheel to take off any sharp edges.

precise sawing with a jeweler's saw

I forgot to take images but the next step was making the round rings our of silver wire and hammering them flat. I don’t know why but hammering them flat feels like I’m giving it a nice little touch rather than using just round wire. Of course, it adds more time to the process because you have to solder them shut before you can hammer but oh well. It’s a special piece and it deserves special touches. After they were hammered I soldered them to the backs of the bubbles, making them into links, and ready to attach with more soldered links.

silver links ready to be joined into a necklace

Then, a lot more skipped steps because linking them all together, putting on a black patina, and polishing it through four polishing grits is kind of boring. But, there you have it. I’m wearing it now and I feel so fancy!

finished sterling silver necklace

A Walk Down Silver Memory Lane

I was thinking back about my journey in silversmithing and went looking for photos of early work. I was very surprised that my first silver jewelry piece was thirteen years ago. I thought it had only been about 5 years.

That was one of my Monet beads. At that time I decided that silver wasn’t for me. It didn’t come as easily as the glass did and I didn’t really have time to take on the amount of hours necessary to get up to speed because I had to keep selling beads.

I tried a few more pieces and then hung up my metal tools for a while. Five years later I visited my friend Chris in Wisconsin to help her with a class at the Bead & Button Show. After the show she gave me some pointers and when I got home I picked up the Little Torch again. This time I went a little crazy and tried to set into silver everything I could find in the studio.

I was having a lot of fun but I felt that something was missing. Mainly, it was my skill that was missing but, I kept at it and tried a few more.

Pretty ragged lookin, but that is how you get better.

This was the little area when I played with metal back then:
You really don’t need a big space to get it done, and it suited me just fine. Since that time I’ve upgraded the studio, a lot. As in, we built on another addition, and I got an official jewelry bench. I still use a lot of the same tools with which I started. The original plan for the new studio space was to be for additional torch stations, my jewelry bench, and maybe some woodworking equipment.

Guess where my jewelry bench ultimately ended up?

Right back in my old glass studio. I love how I can rotate my chair to access soldering and polishing equipment however I do feel a little boxed in. I’ve been brainstorming how I can feng shui it but the room dimensions are posing a challenge so I’m trying to get used to it. (you can click on these last two pictures to see a larger view).

I’ve since gotten rid of all of my glass and most of my glass tools and transformed the former torch station into a lapidary lab.

I’ll continue this little walk down silver memory lane in my next post, and show you how my work has gotten to where I am now and a little bit about where I want to go with it.

Conversations with Rocks

Yesterday I came to an impasse with the silver so I moseyed over to the lapidary station and started going through my rock collection. That’s one thing I love about making this type of jewelry. If I get stymied in one area there are plenty of others I can jump to for a while in order to clear my head.

I’ve been looking at one particular rock for a while now, just knowing that it was meant for greater things. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of it before I started in on it but you can see it here, where I used it for a photographic prop.

Well, yesterday he spoke to me and encouraged me to use him. I had mixed feelings about that because I found it hard to believe that if something was sentient enough to talk to me, surely it wouldn’t be telling me to chop it up into little pieces. But, I went with it because I get into that stuff, and it was nice to have someone to chat with for the moment in my solitary studio. He reassured me that it was ok, and reminded me that matter is never destroyed, it just changes form. I promised him that I’d keep him beautiful and do him justice.

I think my cutting and polishing came out well, and I now had to give him a good home, or homes, in silver. But I wasn’t ready for getting back to the silver just yet. I was loving the black and white palette so I pulled out some fossil slab that had been waiting patiently for me since February.

That’s when the voices really started. And you can see why. All of those little white things used to be motile little creatures and they still have a lot to say. I set about freeing them into little vignettes of their last moments before being frozen in time.

It was hard to choose which areas to focus on. The more I looked at them, the more I saw and I know that the images are tiny and detailed but I hope that when someone wears them in a piece of jewelry that they find enjoyment in peering deeply and experience the realms that I do.

The one below caught my eye immediately. My first unicorn sighting. I have a feeling it won’t be my last.

Live on, little buddies.