Category Archives: Metal Work

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

My Artful Journey, continued

I left off my art journey story at 2009, when I had last played with the silver. A that time, I was still making glass beads, and continued until 2012 when I had the call to dive into glass micro mosaics. (I just spent some time looking at old blog posts from that time. Boy, that was some fun, and I made some really cool stuff!)


When I started working with those teeny tiny little pieces of glass I never thought that that would be the end of me making beads. But, one thing led to another, and found myself only on the torch to make the small components, and to pull the fine stringers of glass for the mosaics. It was still a lot of torch time because each tiny chip of glass actually has anywhere from 5 to 11 layers of glass.

2012-2014

I did that for two years and made some really cool pieces but then I veered again, to making glass stringer stacked murrine.

Getting deeper and deeper into detailed work, as is my way, I didn’t create a a lot of finished pieces. The work that I did make was pretty spectacular, if you ask me. That whole process is a little mind-boggling.

That phase of work only lasted about six months. I’m happy to say, as with most things, I’m glad I took the time to learn the process.

November 2014

I decided that I was going to try my hand at writing again. I really do love writing, and it seemed like it would be the perfect job at the time. You see, my kids were in the tween stage and it was getting increasingly hard to find the amount of uninterrupted time that I needed to continue working in the studio. Writing would let me be in the house with them.

[insert HUGE laugh here from my writer friends]. I love you more than words, and especially the fact that you didn’t actually laugh in front of me at my naivete. Mwah!

We had also started a major construction project, adding on 1500 square feet of new space that included a recording studiol, so I couldn’t work in the studio. I don’t remember how long I tried the writing gig — maybe two years? During that time I learned that I could craft a story and I managed to write two almost-complete first drafts. I also realized that while I love writing, in the form of blogging, and how-to articles, fiction was just not my thing. It was disheartening to realize that after trying to force it for a couple years. I was miserable.

So, still wanting to do a “book thing” I decided I’d create coloring books for adults.

August 2016

I started publishing my coloring books for adults on Amazon and set the goal of publishing 12 books in 12 months. And I did it. During that year the new studio was finished and I jumped into journal art, paper art, and bookmaking.

I realized something very important. I need to make art. I’d missed it so much.

August 2017

I published my twelfth, coloring book. It would be almost a year from that time before I’d be back in the jewelry studio. I’ll pick up there in the next post. To tell you the truth, I lost track of a lot of what I did after the coloring books. My struggle with depression was at it’s lowest. I slept a lot, and was hiding from the world most of that time.

January of 2018

I found a good naturopath and I spent a lot of time working on digging out of that dark hole. The good news is that I made some major lifestyle changes and we figured out what works for me to be mentally healthy. I haven’t been on anti-depressants since September of 2017, and have never, ever, EVER, felt better.

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.