bY Mary LOu Christie/Metalsmith
handmade artisian jewelry
I build each piece from scratch. The piece usually begins as a sketch on paper. I then cut each pattern section out and glue it onto the sheet of metal and use a small hand jeweler's saw to cut out each component.
The setting construction begins with creating a thin strip (a bezel) of silver made to fit each stone. Texturing is done with a rolling mill and textured paper or fabric, or by hammering. The bezel is soldered onto the base and any accessory pieces such as tubing, wire, or accents are cut out and placed on the base.
The Process of Building a Pendant
Many times I oxidize a piece giving it a very dark finish. Then I use steel wool and fine grit sandpaper to bring out the details and hand buff it to a satin finish. My favorite! This process makes all the details stand out. Once the piece is cleaned I set the stone and add any beads or embellishments.
Ear wires, pendant backs, or pin findings
are soldered last. There are 3 types of solder used on any one piece – all with different flow – or melting – temperatures. This allows me to solder on the bezel, and then attach other pieces later without the bezel falling off (the first solder used has the highest temperature flow point).
Cleanup is a messy and slow process. This is where I first remove any excess solder, clean up any file marks, or reach hard-to-get areas for pre-polishing.
The Flexible-shaft machine lets me clean, buff, and smooth out bezels. Buffing and polishing – ugh! My least favorite part! A high speed motor with 2 wheels is used with various compounds to remove fire scale (a shaded build-up that occurs during soldering), eliminate scratches, and shine the surfaces. It is very dirty work!