One woman's adventures in the land of hand made jewellery

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A Useful Skill - Planishing

Metal workers use planishing to finish shaping and smoothing an object after roughly forming it with other techniques. Copper washers are cheap, plentiful and with a little bit of planishing can easily become very pretty bling.  Mine cost me 200 Bahraini Fils (about 36p) each in an automotive supplies shop but you can probably buy them in bulk much cheaper from fastening suppliers.

The washers were stamped out from a sheet when to make them so the edges on one side can be a little rough. I gently hammered the inner and outer edges on both sides of each washer with the flat end of a cross pein hammer until they felt smooth to touch. Then, using the thin end at various angles, I added texture to the surface on both sides - planishing. I do need to offer an apology to my neighbours in our apartment block as until I found that a small well stuffed cushion under my steel planishing block reduces the noise considerable my tapping in an echoey room must have driven them mad!

Once planished you can clean and polish the copper rings, leave them "au naturel" or add an antique patina using liver of sulphur and then rub off the black with a burnishing tool to reveal the copper colour again and polish. There is a good descrption of how to patinate metal here , just remeber to do it in a well ventilated space.

For the necklace below I left my lovely copper discs unpolished, just giving them a good wash in soapy water before stringing them to remove any oils from their manufacture. The necklace uses six smaller washers which were originally about 1.5cm in diameter and one larger one plus some green cubic glass beads, a quantity of clear glass bicones and two 60 cm lengths of tiger tail. There are two grey-black nickel crimps on either side as the work is quite heavy and I couldn't the tigertail back down the bicones once I'd added the clasp.

I made a bail out of copper wire to hang one small copper loop inside the larger one. The basic shape is a figure of eight with a small spiral at either end turned at right angles to the eight shape. The bail was threaded onto the two lengths of tiger tail and centred. Next the beads were added with both pieces of tiger tail threaded through them on either side then separating the ends to weave around the copper washer, through a bead back round the copper washer and onto the next set of beads.

The clasp loop is a planished washer whilst the toggle is made from a length of copper wire just over twice the diameter of the washer. I used a wire jig to put a loop in the centre of the wire (this will enable it to be attached to the necklace). Then bent the wire back on itself at either end, ensuring the overall length is wider than the clasp loop and twisted it as I brought the ends back to the centre in an attractive way. Trim the ends if necessary where they meet in the middle. I planished the toogle lightly with a hide hammer to firm it up but not flatten the wire too much.  Once the toogle and loop were attached I bent the toggle bar slightly relative to its attachment point so it laid flat against the loop when worn, that way the tucked in ends of the wire shouldn't come into contact with skin or clothing.

I've spotted some other copper items that might make lovely decorative jewellery with a little bit of inspiration: copper garden labels, off cuts of central heating pipe and of course the copper in electrical wire.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

All the Glistens is Gold...

Have you ever visited a Gold Souk? Everywhere a glittering array of ornate gold collars, lengthy earrings and hundreds of bangles. The very air seems to be glinting in the lighting. The choice is vast ranging from traditional designs - heavy ornate pieces to more European style necklaces. And if you don't fall for all that gold then the diamonds will probably capture your heart.

I love Gold City in Bahrain, a small mall that positively glows and in Dubai there is the wonderful Arabic architecture of the rather quiet soaring Gold Souk in Dubai Mall. However both venues are modern shopping places. Find the old souk, down by the Creek in Dubai or a few streets back from Gold City in Bahrain and you really are in another world where everything glistens and gleams.

If the gold appears very yellow to your western eye, that's because it is. Mostly the gold here is 22 or 24 carats rather than the 9 or 18 sold in the west. A lot of the pieces are designed for an Indian audience as gold is an investment in a brides future. As such to my eye it often looks more like costume jewellery than something precious I'd wear for an evening out. Shop around and you'll find a few pieces you like. I found a wonderful rope of gold, threaded through a fancy 1cm golden ball and finished with smaller balls at each end of the rope - simple and elegant it sits beautifully above the neck line of many of my posh frocks and blouses. Examine any piece carefully to ensure the workmanship is good with no rough edges, no wobbly diamond settings etc. Then simply ask the prices, make a mental note of the shop name and location and move on, you won't necessarily want to buy the first things you see.

Dubai is apparently the cheapest price to buy gold anywhere, though Bahrain also lays a claim to this title, both are tax free states which helps. Either place for most items you will be paying for the gold weight in grams plus possibly a small amount for the making. Before you set off, look up and memorise todays gold prices, you are expected to barter but ultimately won't get much below the gold market price (which is currently in 2010, at an all time high). The jewellers are really only prepared to negotiate on the making costs. Once you've made up your mind about what you would like to buy, go back and haggle, haggle hard. I hope you find a bargain you'll enjoy forever.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Musings on Dangly Earrings

Why do you like your favourite earrings? Thinking about why I wear some pairs more than others I realised that, apart from a favourite pair of crsytal and silver studs that look like expensive diamonds, most of my frequently worn ones are articulated in some way. They don't have to be long, just have movement. Olive green drops that have two silver set cabochons linked by a single jump ring or the pair of plain silver wire inverted V's with a silver ball strung from  one end of each V that I found in a gallery in Sweden.

So how to make my own earrings that dangle satisfyingly? The red pair on the left are simply too long and catch in clothing though I love wearing them.
Then I hit on the idea of incorporating a short length of chain into the design. Two or three head pins threaded with tiny seed beads or bugle beads in colours to match a necklace or outfit. Make them different lengths and finish each of the longest ones with a wrapped loop. Join the shortest one to a few links of fine chain using another wrapped loop. Gather all of the pieces together on a jump ring and attach the earring hook. The picture rightt shows some summery pairs.

Shorter but still with movement are these hoops which are seed beads on tiger tail with a crimp on either side of a focal bead to hold the circle in place. They swing just enough when attached to the earing hook by an oversized jump ring. Simple and fast to make, I now have several sets.

Other prefences for earrings anyone?