Tzavorite Earrings

Two .5ct Tzavorite Garnet earrings to go with a pendant and ring.

Finally set these Tzavorite garnet (closely related to tanzanite) into a set of stud earrings – to complete a set consisting of pendant and a ring.



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Project: Monkey Nut


... A monkey nut? - Really?... Well you see, he's called Nutty - and she wanted to get him something nice... Come on people keep up!

Initially Lesley emailed asking if I could make her a solid monkey nut with an inscription on it; my interest was perked right from the get go, ... In fact I thought why stop there? I love over complicating this kind of thing- so...

...I suggested going for a hinged nut with inscribed peanuts inside it... a bit more special - much more challenging.

...So, moments later I had bought a bag of nuts, lined up a few interesting candidates and using the wonders of the interweb (emailed pics) - Lesley picked one.

Excellent choice by the way! =

This was a good nut - nice and plump, decent symmetry and good curves.  Lesley wanted to use one that looked like a willy ....I talked her out of it ;)

Then came getting into it without destroying it or the peanuts inside it...

Once in, some reinforcement was required; melting a layer of jewellers wax inside the fragile shell was hopefully going to be enough to take the pressure of pushing the shell pieces into the clay to make the mould.

This is the wax going in, to get the detail of the shell requires far more force than the shell could take on its own - without being reinforced the shell would be crushed to dust!

I ate SO many nuts whilst making this, its ok though - I didn't turn into one...

I use Delft clay to make the mould that the molten silver will be poured into. Four separate casts had to be done; the two shell halves and the two peanuts.

The little channels leading to holes in the clay are to allow the air to escape as the silver rushes in...

Shell done, its starting to look the part already, I was really pleased how much detail was retained in the casting process.

Now for the peanuts... in this next picture you can see the silver has flowed down and then split into left and right channels, completely filled the imprint of the peanuts and then tried to escape via the air vents (little nipples on the top), this process of pouring molten silver to setting hard in the cast lasts about a second.

I used the actual peanuts from the monkey nut of course, otherwise they might not fit. The two halves of the peanuts had to be glued together to reinforce them so they didn't come apart when pushed into the clay...

... I can't think of any situation where one wouldn't benefit from having reinforced nuts...

15 to 20 hours were spent on hollowing out the shell sections with a 5mm ball burr - basically all material added to the shell to strengthen the mould had to be removed from the silver cast so the peanuts would fit snugly inside.

Then the hinge... my first hinge! Very stressful this bit, I must have spent 4 or 5 hours just preparing this for soldering. Its an awkward shape - and it has to close perfectly; A lot of the quality and effort can be thrown away getting this wrong!

Equally important is the catch. As the peanuts are going to be loose and unattached in the shell, this had to be secure - two loops overlap on closing and a hook holds them together - to be extra sure the monkey nut can't be open without removing the chain. (I did consider tethering them to the inside of the shell with a tiny chain at one point)

I would have preferred to have left it so the pendant could be opened without the wearer taking it off - but I didn't want to make any extra money selling replacement peanuts... what the hell am I SAYING! Doh!

Now for the final polish, ahh the polishing... the most time consuming task - but also the most rewarding!

I don't inscribe  myself, so I sent the peanuts away to Gary at 'Teeside Trophies'

... two peanuts,  monkey nut...Mr and Mrs Nutty - Obviously, what else would go on there!

Another final polish, chain, box...

...not forgetting to take lots photos for the website!

Really pleased with the way this one turned out - I'm also really pleased the intended wearer got to wear it... I hear it was touch and go at one point.

...Lesley - it was my pleasure, I sincerely hope you and Mr Nutty get to enjoy this gift for many years to come.


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Project: Di’s Africa

This large pendant and chain was a christmas present for a friend. Her husband Ian had proposed in Kenya so some sort of discrete reference to Africa was requested by him as a surprise, and as Di loved Tanzanite (her engagement ring was Tanzanite)... so that was the stone of choice. Unlike the pendant itself, stone size was kept relatively low (1.3 ct) to keep the cost from being astronomical. Anyone who knows Tanzanite will understand the value of high quality stones like this one. Di gave me a great deal of control in the design by keeping the requirements short and sweet; "Three asymmetrical flowers", ... That's just about it! she wanted to see what I could produce rather than what she could make me produce.  I don't know if I ever thanked her for having so much faith in me. The images below were taken to help me make design decisions and to document my progress just in case I decided to do a blog or a making of or something... ...Yes that is a crude drawing, I often 'offload' ideas onto paper like this to make room for other less crucial thoughts such as talking, walking and going to the toilet. Started off as five petals, ended up with three... Not really sure why, but I do prefer the stronger look of three; there is continuity also as in my mind the piece as a whole is already becoming triangular.   ...I never quite settled on these flower petal sections, even though they were all individually cast from carved wax models. When so much time goes into making something, as you can see from the next picture  its hard to let go as I even try them out as part of the chain. But you still have to experiment and take a few risks. (Love the pattern of the wire here, simple but effective and with the big bold flower in the middle, with a bit more detail it would have made a great pendant... still might) A new flower rises from the ashes, well in wax form anyway.  This first one took  about two hours to whittle, I remember being very pleased with it;  I could have eaten it. Its not supposed to be any particular flower, despite doing a fair bit of research (apparently Tanzania has a thriving flower industry!) that's just how it turned out. Funny how a good whittling produces the goods, even if the goods aren't what you thought you were getting!   Once I had three flowers I spent a long time trying to find the perfect arrangement, this one wasn't asymmetrical enough...   Really liked this arrangement, but preferred the flowers to go from large to small. ...Same thoughts here and too straight.   I had settled on the design of the spirals of silver wire I'm resting the flowers on at an early stage, that detail could have gone anywhere really, with endless variation. But at this point I started feeling it was too fluffy; too The impact just wasn't there, it had to be woken up. Sharpened!   The curls and swirls are great, easy on the eye, natural looking, asymmetrical yet balanced; but I couldn't help thinking... 'is this sexy enough?'  So there was nothing else for it, I applied a cleavage loving  'V' ending in a little pointy devils tail. et voilà, we have a green light from the 'sexy-meter!' Also the flowers had now been cast in silver and polished, still not found that magic arrangement though. Getting there but the stone should really be in the middle.   Finally the arrangement I'm happy with!   Good picture for a sense of scale here, that mug is bigger than average but the mouse mat is useful... the pendant just about fits edge to edge. Also in this pic is an early version of the chain that didn't make the final cut.   This is one of the two sneaky little elephants included in the design to symbolise Africa as requested; I loved making these little guys, so much so I made my niece another one as a charm. (see the blog for that) The holes formed by the elephants trunks were originally going to be the point where the chain attached but in practice they are to far apart causing the chain to hang straight down from the neck (yes, I tried it on and it didn't look right at all... Yes! Of course I had my dress on!) so I opted to move the point of attachment two inches closer to the middle.   This picture shows more detail of the center flower and the stone, I love how the blue of the Tanzanite is really vivid here, just as it should be. The stone is held in place by a purpose made 'stamen' or 'stigma' (its Di's flower - she can call it whatever she likes) that has three prongs, they were designed to hold the stone in place while obscuring it as little as possible. The prongs used to be quite long and protruded from the flower by a centimeter or so but I thought Di might accidentally injure herself on them so they had to be shortened. The flower petals polished up really nicely, the lines running to the center of the flower were done using a fine file and I think give it a natural fleshy look. There are imperfections in the cast (as there often is with the casting method I use) which would normally all be removed but helped with the overall effect on these petals so I left a few in.     Here we have the completed piece in its wooden gift box. The chain was the last part to be assembled, made from 1mm thick sterling silver wire made into rings and soldered, hammered to give them texture and hammered again on a sand bag to produce a slightly concave shape which helps to make the reflected light more interesting and hopefully make it more comfortable to wear; then the rings are cut again, then linked together and re-soldered to form the chain. Then finally hand polished. The necklace is connected to the chain using spring clasps so the chain can be removed and worn separately.   Although delivery has been made and I know Di  loves this necklace/pendant as it is, I struggle to ever see any piece I make as being actually 'finished'! I'm always thinking of alterations and extras that could be done to whatever it might be... So Di, if you ever get bored of it you know where I am. Wink!     If you like what you see and want something like it, just leave a reply or ask here.      
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Project: Blue Trident Earrings

This set of earrings were to be custom made for the customer who bought the Blue Trident pendant. After getting a closer look at the pendant Darren got back in touch with me to order a bespoke set of earrings to go with it. There wasn't much time to complete the job before christmas, about a week if I remember, I did have a pair of round blue topaz that were going to be set into rings but they were a good colour match for the topaz in the pendant and a good size, so the earrings were built around these stones     After confirming with Darren that a drop design was the right option to run with I had an idea of what the earrings should look like already, since I was matching them with the triangular pendant I used my powers of creativity and went with ... a pair of triangles! Below is a rough model made with poly-thermal plastic, it's a very easy to use substance that goes from a solid to a malleable clear gel just by dropping it in boiling water.   On this occasion as you can see from this cast, the resulting finish is too rough and leaves a lot of filing work to be done, I also required good strong corners from the cast, any triangle worth its salt has good strong corners! Not good enough so back to my tried and tested wax carving method.   That's better. The mushroom coming from the silver cast is left from the casting process. This 'head' helps to push the molten silver into every nook and cranny of the clay mould.   After repeating this process, as you can see the resulting cast is in need of far less shaping with files than my first effort.   Why not put more detail into the wax model if you don't want to file then Pete? ..I hear you ask. Well, there is a limit to how complex a path you can get the molten silver to flow around before it starts to solidify, and secondly I like to keep my options open as far as the final shape is concerned. Using a file to get there slowly, often allows for more creative improvisation.   Honing in on the final design now. Drilling out the setting for the stones is done using various burrs and a pendant drill, I've decided for these stones the back should be opened up to let more light through, this lightens the colour which would be quite dark in a sealed setting and hidden under hair etc.   As with many pairs of gem stones this pair are not exactly the same shape, even though they were bought in the same batch from the same seller, often they are cut locally by hand where they are mined (in this case Brazil) and as such they require their settings to be tailored perfectly for each stone.   Next thing was to plan ahead and do any soldering before setting the stones, heating the stones could destroy them or at least taint the colour! The chain is to be the 'drop' and is a section of belcher chain.   Once the soldering is done the earrings are quenched in pickle (acid) to remove any firestain (oxidized copper that taints the top most layer of the silver (pain in the arse)). You can see the slightly coppery layer on the earring on the left, I should have left it in the pickle for longer...   The stones are set by pushing or burnishing the silver over the edges of the stones to hold them firmly in place. Unfortunately while I was taking these final pictures I noticed the dull shadow on the polished surface, you can just make it out on the near earring in the reflected shadow. Its very faint, but there none the less, so this needs to be filed off and re-polished.   The final product in its cream faux leather lined polished maple wood presentation box - The first set of earrings I have ever made. I usually get quite attached to the things I make so I was sad to see these go, but I know they've gone to a good home. Just in time for Christmas! Thanks again for the great feedback Darren! :D        
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Project: Twisted Key

This is very me! ..... My usual method of production comes from staring into space whilst at work...'working'! I'll imagine a shape usually 3 dimensional then try to draw the shape on a pad ...not my strong point. This particular shape bypassed that stage completely. If I convince myself the shape is 'doable' (often they aren't due to limitations in the method of casting I use) then I'll progress to phase 2 and try to whittle the shape out of a block of jewellers modelling wax...   9 times out of 10 this process will alter the original idea, probably because imagining a 3 dimensional shape is never quite as good as seeing it taking form in your hands... and I am capable of woeful whittling. ;)   Next comes pressing the wax version into clay to make a mould to pour the molten silver into. This was also typical, quite often I'll get carried away perfecting the shape in wax that I'll forget it needs to be quite strong to take the pressure of being pressed into the clay - this one has a weak point in the middle where I've made it too thin- so it broke, I often have to remelt and repair wax models. Obviously the silver version doesn't have this problem with it being a solid silver.     I've never tried engraving before, this was my first effort. It just seemed to be lacking something when I'd polished the final design - I went for random markings along one of the 3 surfaces (I did try some Thai lettering but wasn't happy with outcome so removed that...shame, maybe next time) I would hardly call it a 'professional' engraving job but that's not what it needed in my view, I am happy with it as it really finishes this pendant off nicely!     This Pendant will be available to buy on the 'Shop' page as soon as it's ready. ....It's ready! Click Shop,  then scroll down to find it. Cheers.   .... Right! its beer o'clock....                
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Project: Galaxy Ruby Ring

My parents Ruby wedding anniversary was looming. I hadn't made that many pieces of jewellery yet so I knew they really weren't expecting anything like this!  I was fairly sure my mother would wear her ring and I was equally sure my dad wouldn't, he's just not a jewellery type of fella, so freed from the shackles of practicality I decided to make this ring showy and kind of flamboyant. I'd drawn a few designs and I had an idea what it should look like, but I didn't want to leave myself short of metal to play with, after all it was an all new design, hence the ring started off weighing a whole ounce!  The shape was refined enough to locate a centre point where the ruby would be set, I always drill the stone hole first, constantly offering the stone up to the hole to check the fit then removing some more metal - check with the stone again until it fits perfectly.     Then began the mammoth task of removing the metal to reveal the design, this is done using a pendant drill and various burrs (tiny steel tools with teeth, very like the ones used by a dentist), and just like with a dentist, removing too much can be very painful.     The stone was set into the ring at the last possible moment so it doesn't get scratched or chipped by a file or burr. Done this before unfortunately, again, very painful!     It was a real challenge  trying to get a mirror polish on the inside edge of the spiral, a combination of burnisher and soft wool pendant drill mop got the job done.  Its difficult to stop sometimes, repeatedly going round the ring polishing it, by the time you get back to where you started your fingerprints are all over it again so you go round again for good measure...and again..     There is a special moment during the making of things like this, its when the polishing begins. The scratches and marks from files are removed, the polishing mop just takes off that last fine layer of metal to reveal a perfect white glowing mirror finish, I think that's when something stops being a job and becomes a piece. In that instant transforming from idea and rough design, to wow, this might actually look all right!     Turns out my dad does wear this ring, so at least I'll get to see them once in a while when they come back for a polish up... no, I don't polish my parents,I of course mean the rings! Have an idea you want me to turn into a 'piece'? either email me from here or just leave a reply.    
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Project: Causeway Ring

This hexagonal sectioned ring has been on the cards for a while, it was in my mind when I first made the big Giants causeway style pendants. I personally really like the solid three dimensional shape that is achieved by using this method...and the difficulty level! The pendants were very time consuming, what with having to mirror polish seven sides of each segment - the triangle made of hexagons has 67 individual pieces that were all polished then all the sides you can't see had to be roughed up so they would solder better - then re-polished at the end. Great fun, I must have stabbed myself 20-30 times filing that one! The difference here is I'm not standing the hexagonal pieces on flat silver sheet to solder the whole thing together, which is how the pendants were made. I did toy with the idea of just making a basic ring then soldering a smaller plate on with the hexagonal sections already soldered to it but that's the easy way out in my view - I also thought it might be good to solder the sections on to a 15mm x 80mm sheet then bend that round into a ring so the hexagons all stick out in all directions round the circumference... might still do that one. I intend to wear this ring myself to encourage questions from people I meet out and about, some self promotion if you like. ....Update 11/7/12 Finally got back to this one - I was right... it's a soldering nightmare! ...Before I got to the soldering part I arranged the hexagon sections around a piece of blue tac that had been rolled to be a similar girth as the finger it is intended to fit. Each piece is cut to fit where it's needed, although I am being let off the hook a bit by the fact that the ring is inspired by something natural and almost random -(the Giants Causeway of course). [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450"] Image courtesy of :[/caption] Once the final arangement had been decided I was hoping to be able to wrap steel wire around the whole thing to keep all the pieces in place so the soldering could be done in one go, this proved extremely difficult due to the fact that Hexagonal prisms can't be held together (in this arrangement anyway) by pressure from two sides eg. pinching with tweezers pliers or a vice etc. Pressure has to come from four sides otherwise the pieces slide off each other... so I gave up on that and soldering had to be done in stages... ...Until the wire wrap method was again an option... It's really easy to either not get the piece hot enough to spread the solder or get it to hot and turn the job into a molten blob! (yes I have done it before ;() Especially using hard or medium solder which is what I used for soldering the individual top and bottom pieces together, for this final stage I'm using soft silver solder which has a lower melting point than medium (medium being easier to melt than hard of course - Hard melts just below the silvers melting point of 962*C) After a quick boil in acid to clean the fire scale off it's starting to look ringy... a bit! At this stage it won't fit my finger so a great deal of filing is required next, and a quick polish in the tumbler for good measure.     Update 14/01/2013 Ok sometimes things just don't turn out like they were supposed to, this ring for instance... It was to sharp to wear and I couldn't help thinking it has something missing. I tried rounding off the corners a bit ... Then a lot, until it looked like this.   After spending ages trying to make it work I'm afraid to say, it got the chop, melted down - returned to from whence it came! I will have another look at this project some time in the future...
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Goodbye Paypal, Hello Stripe!

PayPal has proved to have terrible customer service and its expensive! ...So its time to go with something a bit more fitting to Edgy Metal... Stripe is a slick and simple online payment gateway that's going to bring us right up to date. No need to register for an account or sign up to anything, just gets me paid! - sweet.
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Mandy’s Heart Locket

This solid silver heart shaped locket for Mandy was designed and hand made especially for her to remember a very dear friend, a fine furry fella called Andy. The stone is a 2.75ct heart cut lab Ruby. On the back is a paw print, I liked the texture the casting process left so decided to leave this quite rustic - when it darkens with oxidisation it will look great. Inside is a bouche of his hair, a picture of the star himself and a custom made canister for some of his ashes adorned with his name in Morse code. It is all removable and the canister even has a little silver screw in the top. Keeping it all in place is woven brass wire. The inscription was done by Teesside Trophies, who always do a cracking job. Incorporating all these elements into one piece was a challenge but I think it works. Love this little paw print, it will get better with age as the recessed parts oxidise making the raised pads stand out even more, as they will get a polish from clothing etc. I would have liked to set the stone deeper into the face of the locket, but having it break through into the interior of the locket would darken the colour of the ruby... Don't want that. You can just about make out the brass wire woven through specially drilled holes, it's fiddly but holds everything in without being too intrusive. The silver screw in the top was cast from one in my tool box. The dots and dashes of the Morse code are spiraling up from bottom to top. The halves of the locket are cast separately, see the wax models there - and the Ruby. This was the original design but I went with having the stone and ashes separate to keep the ashes secure and the color of the stone vibrant. P
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Blue Trident Cuff

This is the third piece in the Blue Trident collection. The 11.5ct cushion cut topaz is set into a custom-made curved triangular setting on a 2" wide 1.5mm thick Sterling silver cuff. The stone was set using the same method as the stone in the pendant - so as little of the stone is obscured by the metal as possible.
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Monkey Nut making of page up…

...Finally finished this 'Making of'. Think its taken me longer to write that than it did make the pendant! ahh, the trials and tribulations of being "good with his hands"  

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