For the love of silver…for the love of life!!

Posts tagged ‘chains’

If At First You Don’t Succeed….Do It 120 Times!!!

I have learnt a lot of different techniques for making jewellery over the past year or so, but the one thing I still enjoy more than anything else is making fine silver chains, using pure silver wire.  It just relaxes me so much and I can go into my own little world and make beautiful bracelets and necklaces.  But as people keep telling me..nice as they are…a chain is just a chain – there is no WOW factor…even if it has a really decorative design…it is still just a silver chain.  I know they are right.

Last Christmas, I sold quite a lot of chains that I had wired semi precious stone beads onto.  Many people think that these stones have healing powers and this made them more attractive to buyers.  I hated wiring those beads on last year.  It is one of those techniques that I just couldn’t get to grips with.   It was great to get commissions – until they said they wanted semi precious stone beads!…that really knocked the shine of it!!

Not long ago I developed a new design for a chain that I knew would make a really great basis for a beaded bracelet and it incorporates my favourite twisted link which is rapidly becomming a feature of my most popular chains.  I knew I would have to face the hated bead wiring to really make the best of this chain.  So this weekend I decided that I would do nothing else until I had made 4 beaded bracelets.

I had to make a batch of ballpins – fine silver wires with a little bead of silver fused onto one end – as it is these that the beads are wired on with.  As I planned to use around 30 beads for each bracelet that meant I needed at least 120 pins….I could put off the beading for a little bit longer!!  But inevitably – I had to face it.

I chose a range of beads that were colour co ordinated…a range of red/pink; a range of turquoise/blue; a range of greens; and a mix of blacks an reds.  Most of the beads were semi precious stones but I added some glass ones as well to add a bit of sparkle and add a variety of shapes and sizes.

The first bracelet was a trial…I was all fingers and thumbs!!  Some of the wires had to be cut off because I had not done them right but I kept on and a little over an hour later I had a beaded bracelet!!  and it looked really good!!  And you know – there is nothing that spurs you on like success!  The second one came a little easier and looked just as beautiful!  I was definitely getting into this, I had developed a technique that worked for me and it was getting easier and easier with each bead I wired.  My fourth bracelet took about 40 minutes to complete the beading…still a rather long time – but it was no longer a challenge – more an exercise.

I was actually rather upset that I had only done enough pins for four bracelets because I wanted to try a freshwater pearl and swarovski crystal one too!  I have had other commitments today and so I still haven’t had a chance to get another one done…but just try and stop me tomorrow!!  I have an idea for a necklace too!!

I have shown a few people these new bracelets and have had nothing but positive reactions…so I am really quite excited!!  Why, oh why did I put it off for so long??  If I had faced my demons back in January, after the Christmas rush, I could have had loads of lovely colourful fine silver and semi precious stone bracelets and necklaces for sale on my website ages ago!!  What a silly woman I am!!

I’d love to hear your comments on what you think of my new beaded collection of bracelets!

Getting a Grip

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have had to delay the date that I officially start my new business – Solunar Silver Studio – until the first of July.  This has given me time to get to grips with building a website and doing all the other advertising paraphernalia that I feel I will need to get a good launch.  I was hoping to be able to pass this responsibility over to someone who has more IT skills than I will ever have but that has never quite happened and so I have been working at it …a little bit here…and a little bit there…   I am slowly getting the idea…and today I finally worked out how to get my Solunar Silver Studio logo incorporated into a repeat design that I could use as a wallpaper for my website!  I am inordinately pleased with myself!!  The image above is an enlarged section – just to give you an idea…and a preview…because, of course, you will all come visit my website when I get it going… won’t you!!!

I still have a way to go yet but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel – and believe me – it has been a long time coming!

I have also had the time to build up quite a stock in decorative silver chains (mainly bracelets) which is my main interest and delight when it comes to making fine (pure) silver jewellery.  This is just a small section (about a third) of the chains I am about to send off to the Edinburgh Assay Office to get my personal hallmark applied to the little heart shaped tags I attach to  all of my handmade chains.

So – I think I can be forgiven for leaving a bit of a gap between this and my previous post…and anyway – people seemed to be interested in my ‘Rose Nose’ post as there has been a pretty constant number of visitors each day over the past week.  And, for the record…for anyone wanting to know how the  hay fever remedy is working – I have had a couple of days when I was wondering if the effect was wearing off as my nose was itching (but not intolerably) and needed blowing a few times but that was when the pollen count was really high.  I have not yet had to resort to any other type of medicine to control the symptoms – I have just continued to use the device as indicated and I have been fine.  I’m still reluctant to say it is ‘cured’ but I am having a much more comfortable summer that I usually do!

Well, I must get back to doing a bit more on my website building.  I’ll let you know when I ‘open the doors’ to Solunar Silver Studio’s on-line presence and look forward to getting some feedback from you all!

Argentium Rules….UK!!

As previous readers of my blog, and followers of Thing-a-Day 2009, know – I work in fine (pure) silver, mostly making decorative chains, but I also dabble in PMC (precious metal clay).  I have never liked to add sterling silver to my work as sterling silver tarnishes so easily – and fine silver doesn’t!!  So I feel that sterling doesn’t fit in with the style of jewellery I want to promote at Solunar Silver Studio.  Now the only drawback of fine silver is that it is a little weaker than sterling silver.  Generally this doesn’t matter but it is a real problem with making earwires for earrings…especially if you hope to sell them.  I am happy to wear fine silver earwires because I am aware that I might have to reshape them a bit if the grandchildren swing on my earrings!!  …   But you can’t sell earrings with that warning on them!!

For a while now, I have been aware of the existence of a metal called Argentium – which is basically sterling silver with about 1% of germanium mixed in with it.  Now that little bit of germanium has the benefit of making the sterling it is mixed with much more tarnish resistant and it makes it even stronger than standard sterling silver…….I thought – “Bring it on!!” – but what is this????   It isn’t available in the UK!!!!   WHAT!!!!!!!  How cruel life is!!  But that is all in the past as since the beginning of June, it has been available in limited forms from one supplier in the UK – Cookson Gold.  It is currently only supplied in sheet, wire, earposts and a few other odds and ends – but no earwires!!

Ho-hum!  Out comes the jig thing I use on occasion, and in goes an order for a couple of metres of 0.7 Argentium wire to have a play with.

So today I have been having a play – and I am sold!  It makes some very acceptable earwires.  It is surprisingly strong and springy and I do believe I am going to order some more…and at last….. I can start making some earrings to go with the rest of the  Solunar Silver Studio jewellery range I make!  Of course – it will take a bit of time to see how quickly it shows signs of tarnish but so far – so good……Argentium Rules….UK!!

My apologies to readers – I have been neglecting posting recently!

Did You Ever Make Mud Pies?

As a child of the 60s – long before the arrival of day time television – when we were masters of our own entertainment… having been plonked out in the garden for the day to get the sun and the fresh air I can vividly remember the joy I experienced in making mud pies and rose petal perfume.  All I needed was a few empty jam jars and a watering can full of water… and an old bent spoon to dig around in the soil and to stir my concoctions!!

So – what has changed????


I am now going to give you the recipe for the ‘connoisseur’s choice’ concoction that I made in my garden today!

As a jewellery maker/chain maker I make hundreds and hundreds of fine (pure) silver jump rings every week.  Everybody has their own way of cutting jump rings and I make mine by winding a ‘tube’ of wire of about 25 turns around a mandrel and then taping this up with some low tack masking tape.  I then insert my jeweller’s saw and cut through the rings from the inside of the tube.  The masking tape stops the rings from dropping onto the floor when they are cut through…and it also picks up a lot of the fine silver ‘dust’ that the sawing process produces.

Now – I hate waste.  So I collect the ‘sweepings’ from the sawing and put it in a pot.  I hope to be able to melt this and recover the silver one day.

I also collect the bits of masking tape and when I have a pot full I put them into a jam jar full of soapy water and some of the silver flecks swill off into the water.

Today was a fine, warm and still day so I decided to carry out my ‘experiment’.  I had collected the equivalent of 2 pots of masking tape from which most of the silver flecks had been washed…but I don’t like waste – and I could see there was still some silver adhering to the tape.  So – thinking back to the techniques of my chemical analysis job in the 1970s – I decided to burn the tape along with the silver flecks – collect the ash in a jar full of water and dissolve the soluble ashes. The liquid could then be decanted off leaving the silver flecks and any insoluble ashes left behind.

You may well think I am a lunatic…..but watch and admire!!!!

I started with a small pile…and as it started to really burn I added more from my stock.

Eventually it burned down to this…the large pieces to the top right are wrappers from Art Clay Silver packs which I couldn’t get the last bits of clay out from…and these are obviously made from plastic coated aluminium – and the aluminium wouldn’t burn.

Next, using my spoon…(not a bent one but something from my chemi lab days) – I scooped the ashes into a jar of water…

and then swirled … well more of a manic coacktail shaking technique actually!!

And you thought I was crazy………..

Not impressed yet?????……

Do you see what I see??

I guess you really need the sunlight to see it sparkle!!

OK – it isn’t pure silver….  there will be other stuff lurking in there too.  So I will let it settle for a day or so and then decant off the liquid on the top and the silver gunk at the bottom will go into a crucible in the kiln to make sure everything that I can burn of is burned off.  What is left I will melt with my torch in a scorifier – which is a pot with a spout designed to melt precious metals in.  If there is any scum and random debris I can scoop it off and what is left I will try to do some water casting with or maybe cuttle fish casting….I will have to see how well it works first!

But – aside from my joy at recovering this fine quantity of silver – I have had the delight of reliving my past!  I stink of smoke from the burnt paper and I am covered with smuts from the ash and water.

……I could always pick a few rose petals and lavender flowers and steep it in some water in one of those jam jars and make some exotic ‘perfume’ to mask the smell…

……just like I did when I was a little girl……

I hope I have taken you all back and you have relived a little bit from your childhood too.

Especially all my visitors.

If you have enjoyed this post please send me a comment and let me know!!

Good Job!!!

I had a job interview yesterday…

It seemed like as good a time as any to make use of my new chrysocolla stones which I showed you last week – particularly as chrysocolla is supposed to have properties which help the throat chakra and therefore are good for public speaking and are overall good for keeping a calm and serene countenance!!

Using my handmade fine twist pure silver chain I added some of my newly made pure silver coated ceramic beads (which I made last week) to give a bit of a build up to the stunning chrysocolla teardrop focal bead which I used as the pendant.

I made a pair of very simple earrings with the small rectangle chrysocolla beads and a couple of small pure silver coated ceramic beads.  They have a lovely weight to them which served to remind me every time I moved my head that I was wearing these eye-catching stones!!

I love them and was really proud to wear them.

It was a panel type interview – which was a bit daunting – but I felt very positive and happy with the way I performed…

OK – so I didn’t get the job…

…but I did get complimented on my jewellery!!!!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  R     E     S     U     L     T  ! ! ! ! !

Every cloud has a silver lining so they say – and not getting this job means that I can spend all those extra hours that I would have been working for someone else working on making my jewellery at Solunar Silver Studio!!  So I’m still smiling!

I haven’t mentioned in my blog lately so there are loads of people who might have missed out on my recent jewellery experiments!!

Hopefully you will enjoy seeing the jewellery that I have just made….let me know!!

A Charming Way to Spend a Weekend!

I had an idea this morning (Saturday) to make a sort of charm bracelet using one of my fine (pure) silver chains and the little pmc (precious metal clay) letter discs I made last Sunday ( see Sunday Playtime).  I have a fairly large immediate family and thought it would be a great idea to have the initial letter from each of their names on my ‘experimental’ charm bracelet.

Cast pmc charms before firing

I am rather taken with the idea of having jewellery that moves a bit so I thought I would mount the discs on rings that would slide up and down on the bracelet chain.  However, because there are so many of these discs on the bracelet they tended to get all clustered up in a clump!…so here’s my great idea…I have wired semi precious gemstone beads (relevant to the individuals whose initials are on my bracelet) onto the jumprings that connect the twisted elements of the chain together.  As I went along I ‘trapped’ a slider into the spaces between the wired gemstones.  This meant that they could still slide but only within their own little bay.

Finished bracelet with discs mounted on large decorative rings

The bracelet is surprisingly heavy and makes a fantastic changling ( my newly invented word to mean a rather subtle jingling!) noise as all the rings slither around on the chain.

I think I would probably like to add a few more charms and/or beads to it as it is a rather ‘inbetween’ design…it certainly isn’t minimalist (!!) and yet it is not sufficiently ‘filled out’ to be dramatic.  That is for another day however…


Well, I left it overnight to think about it and first thing this morning (Sunday) I took the whole thing apart again!  I decided to cut down the size of the rings the charms were mounted on – which meant that they only just had the clearance to slide about but made the whole bracelet more streamlined.

Bracelet denuded of beads and with smaller attaching rings.

Then I reattached the semi precious gemstone beads and one of my pmc chunky heart charms at the ‘bar’ end of the chain to fill up what was a bit of a gap.  I am a whole lot happier with this bracelet – it is more balanced and far more comfortable to wear.  Before I put the beads back on I weighed the silver components of the bracelet and found it to be over 13 grams…so you know you have it on!!  There is still plenty of room to add more charms if I decide to but I think I will wear it like this for a while and give it a ‘test drive’!.

Finished bracelet ready for a ‘test drive’!

I am really pleased with these little letter discs.  In fact – I might take a temporary break from making flower based designs to have a go at some ‘wordy’ ones!

I’m having a day out tomorrow to go to the British Craft Trade Fair at Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England.  I really am terrifically excited and hope to get a real buzz from looking at the amazing craftwork people are making now…who knows – one day I might find myself exhibiting Solunar Silver Studio jewelelry there!!  I’ll let you know what kind of day I have later in the week.

By the way… for anyone reading my blog on – Yorkshire is another fantastic place to visit in the UK!!

Floral Display

Last week was one of those weeks where nothing much got done but there was a lot going on…rather a case of ‘ever decreasing circles’!  Anyway – it might be a little bit late but I thought I would do a delayed post from the end of last week and try to catch up with myself.

My daughter wanted me to do a little display of the jewellery I am currently making at her ‘birthday bash’ on Saturday – not so much a jewellery sale but more a sort of look what is on offer! – the only problem was that she hasn’t got any sort of table that I could display my jewellery on – except in the kitchen, which is not quite what I was after!  So I decided to make myself a simple, portable display case.

I was able to buy a long narrow aluminium (silver) framed picture frame which was a good size for displaying my jewellery in and replaced the glass with clear acrylic sheet (perspex).  I replaced the back with a piece of MDF onto which I attached a suedette covered pad which fitted neatly inside the picture frame, giving me a few millimetres of clearance for my jewellery to be positioned.

I then made a box out of MDF which would be big enough to take the folded up legs of a ‘butler’ style tray/table.  The idea being that I could transport the box, with the folded up legs inside it in the car with the display case on top – then when I get to the venue I can carry the whole thing into the house, open up the legs, invert the box to make the table top and put the display case on top…voila…instant tabletop display case!!

Anyway – it worked very well and everyone was able to have a good look at what I had put into the display case and asked a lot of questions and showed a lot of interest…which was good, because they said they will be willing to hold jewellery sale parties in their homes for me when I get enough stock together to get started later on in the year.  Excellent!!

Having finally got my new batch of precious metal clay delivered at the beginning of the week I continued with my quest to incorporate my little silver flowers into as many different kinds of designs I could think of!  Everybody I have met so far likes my floral bracelet (see my entry for March 14th, Happy Hippy Bracelet), but I found it really hard to get the joining links to fuse closed so I thought I would try a similar effect with just one row of connecting links which would be easier to accomplish!  I decided that this idea would hang well around the neck.  I have made 2 sizes of square silver ‘frames’ so, for one of the designs, I used a mix of large and small squares to mount the flowers on.  Both designs work really well and I am very happy with them.  I have added the squares to 18 inches of my fine twisted link chain and added a toggle fastener.

Personally, I prefer the design with the 2 different square sizes…what do you think??  Do let me know!!  The necklaces can be seen on the right hand side of my display case (above).

Many thanks again to who are still sending me lots of lovely viewers to my blog!  If you enjoy viewing lots of blogs look them up!!

Sunday Play Time

This Sunday had the potential for being a really depressing one.  I have had ‘the dreaded lurgy’ for the past couple of days and have been feeling very sorry for myself.  I only had one and a half grams of precious metal clay left to work with (as my new order hasn’t been delivered yet) and I have a pot with some liquid pmc or slip and a pot with a few dried up crumbs of pmc (that I could turn into ‘poor man’s pmc ‘ with the addition of a few drops of water) as well…what could I do that would cheer me up with these meagre ingredients?

Time for some of those ‘I wonder what would happen if I…..’ moments.

I have had an idea to introduce a bit of pmc slip to some of the jumprings that I use in my chains to see if I could fuse the chains into a rigid shape – a bit bizarre I know…and I have no idea what I will use it for, but it seemed like an idea so I went ahead and filled a small (4mm) jump ring in a piece of chain with pmc slip, allowed it to dry and popped it into the kiln.  Lo and behold the result was a chain with a section that was rigid, but the silver blob in the jumpring was a bit on the rough side.  As pmc is so forgiving, I was able to smooth on a bit more of the slip and prepare to put it back in the kiln…however, before it dried I remembered that I had bought a few tiny cubic zirconia that I have never used before, so perhaps today was a good day to see how it worked.  So I made an indentation in the pmc, added a little more slip and embedded the tiny stone into the centre of the blob.  When it had all dried I put it back in the kiln.

Well, I’m quite pleased with the way the whole thing worked…it was a bit on the rough side but the idea has some mileage.

The second thing I have been waiting to do was to make little moulds of letters of the alphabet on discs that could be put onto chains to make name bracelets.  I have had the letters made for a while (see Thing-a-Day, day 15,  Letters for Everyone) but haven’t found any discs suitable to put them on until yesterday, when I found some little mother of pearl discs that were just the right size.  So I have made a mould of each letter placed on a disc so I can produce any name or word in precious metal clay ‘charms’ whenever I need to.  I used some of my one and a half grams of pmc to try one out.

This worked really well and I am sure I will be using them a lot in the future.

The rest of my pmc went when I tried out a tiny little leaf cutter that I bought on Ebay a while back.  I rolled out the tiny blob of clay and cut out the shape before marking in some vein lines.  When it was dry, I cleaned it up with a file and drilled a hole in it to take the jumpring.

This was very sweet and will make a nice little charm on any summery bracelet or pendant.

I now only had a little bit of ‘poor man’s pmc’ left to play with, so I chose a button from my recent purchase (see Flower Madness, March 12th) which had a highly textured border around it and made a mould from it.  I then pushed the pmc into the mould and took a cast of the border.  I allowed this to dry before tidying it up with a file and putting it in the kiln.

All in all, I don’t think today has worked out so badly after all – and  I have a whole new range of ideas that I can start putting into designs over the next few weeks.  Hopefully, my pmc order will come tomorrow and I can get started on something more substantial!!

What a BEE…uty!!!

I had a day off today!  I couldn’t resist the lure of the beautiful sunshine any longer…it would have been a sin to confine myself to a windowless cupboard (where I do my precious metal clay work) or a damp and dim shed (where I make my chains).  So I took myself to Norton Priory (Museum and Gardens) our local visitor attraction.  (see my blogroll).  I have a season ticket,  so I often pop in – even if it is just for an hour – to walk in the lovely grounds, listen to the birds sing and the babbling of the little stream that runs through it….beautiful and relaxing.

I took my camera because there is often something of interest there which I could use as inspiration for a piece of jewellery.  Today was no exception and I took over 100 photos (as I keep saying…thank God for the digital camera!) There were lots of different types of daffodil and one beautiful pink spotted rhodedendron, a magnolia with its furry buds just beginning to pop and a deep red camelia flower that was right at the top of a huge tree and impossible to photograph!

But the best bit is what I have recorded here.  Just a few minutes before I reached the exit I spotted this HUGE bee lolling in the trumpet of a beautiful, perfect daffodil, situated at the top of a bank of grass so the flawless blue sky was the backdrop.  As I watched, the fat furry body began to edge its way out, gingerly shuffling  its spindly legs towards the edge of the trumpet…..

…its front legs then began to grope for the frilled edge….oh, it was obviously just SO drunk!!

It slowly began to haul itself up, over the frill and then drag its heavy body onto the top of the trumpet, where it sat…you could almost imagine it groaning…

…and began to groom the heavy dusting of pollen off of its body and legs.  It slowly rotated through 360 degrees, giving the impression of trying to get its bearings before staggering onto one of the outer petals, which had a convienient curl from which it launched itself heavily into the sky…

I had to laugh at its antics…I wonder what reception he got from Mrs Bee!!!…(if he ever found his way home!!)

By the way…many thanks to, who keep sending visitors  my way…if you haven’t visited them before go have a look!!  (see my blogroll)

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