Handmade Jewellery

sterling-silver-earrings-laycie-750Creating a range of handmade sterling silver earrings and bracelets has given us a chance to develop new skills and expand the range of jewellery we have in our online store.

We begin with spools of 100% recycled sterling silver wires in different gauges and some pre-made findings. We chose to not create our own findings as the ones that are readily available suit our needs and reduce the amount of work in each finished product.

We usually start from a design on paper, but sometimes we just play with a number of different rings we have already made and see how they fit together in various combinations. Often the designs on paper change along the way, but having an idea of what we want to achieve give us a point from which to begin.

To create the rings we wind wire from the spool onto a mandrel that is about 90mm long and of the desired diameter. The smallest rings are about 4mm and this is also the size of the jump rings we make for our charms. The largest rings are about 25mm for some of our earrings, but mostly we use 6, 8 10 and 12mm rings for our bracelets.

 

sterling-silver-bracelet-Celeste-no-clasp-750It’s important to keep a constant tension on the wire when loading the mandrel to get rings of consistent size. Depending on the gauge of the wire we get between 50 and 90 rings over the length of the mandrel. The spiral is removed from the mandrel and placed into a jump ring cutter. This is essentially a slotted clamp that holds the spiral firmly. A flexible shaft rotary tool is fitted with a very fine toothed circular saw blade. A special head fits the jump ring cutter and holds the saw blade aligned to the centre of the spiral. When cutting the rings, it is important to use a lubricant and a slow steady pressure to get the cleanest possible cuts.

Joining the rings together is done using an argon pulse welder. Argon is an inert gas that surrounds the weld position to prevent oxygen being present when the arc is fired. The absence of oxygen prevents/reduces fire scale and the weld is strong and clean. To produce consistent weld quality we developed a jig that keeps the arc distance constant and provides a method to ensure the argon is concentrated at the weld point.

With smaller ring sizes it is often easier to pre-weld and attach larger open rings that are welded around the smaller rings. When several rings all connect together, this is preferred, but not always possible depending upon the bracelet design.

The important difference between the jewellery we hand make and that of many cottage/boutique jewellers, is that every link in our jewellery is welded. This creates bracelets that are much stronger and much less likely to break or deform. This is time consuming and is reflected in the pricing, but great quality is the focus of our creations and the only way to produce jewellery that will last a lifetime.

As with any craft, great results can only be achieved by building from a strong foundation. This means that every step along the way, from the initial creation of each ring, with a perfect cut to the final polish must be perfect. One of the most difficult aspects of creating a bracelet or earrings is ensuring perfect alignment of the ring closure at the point of firing the arc. This takes much practice and a very steady hand and even after performing thousands of welds, it is not a fast process.