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

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Silver Hamsa

Brass bonbon dish

It all started with a bonbon plate. A lovely brass hamsa shaped one with lots of detail that I found in a local craft shop O'de Rose. It's not just the engraved five fingered outline (hamsa means five in Arabic) but also the gentle cupped curve that I love. This plate begs to be picked up and held, despite the inevitable fingerprints the shiny metal finish acquires. The hamsa has long been used through out the Middle East as a symbol of protection representing blessings, power, and strength.

Ideas board

I was inspired to try making something this shape myself; a spoon or a tiny bowl perhaps? Eventually after trawling the web for inspiration I settled on a pendant. Pictures of Omani and other regional jewellery gave me the idea of hanging it so it would swing. This was to be without a doubt an ambitious project for a novice silversmith like me. I needed cut a silver hand shape, hammer it into a curved bowl-like shape, make and attach a tube and finally create a "hinge" with a loop at each end from which to suspend it.

The project was started before the summer at evening classes, and resumed in January when I joined Don Sankey's morning workshops at the Tashkeel Centre, Nad Al Sheba. He has good humouredly encouraged this novice through each step, demonstrating techniques and proffering much needed advice on how to do the trickier bits like soldering the final loop on the hinge which had to be done with the hand in place.

The result could have been used as a spoon but it was a pendant I was after. A heavy Italian made silver chain was acquired in Dubai's Gold Souk to complement the piece. It was a bit nerve racking to be cutting a relatively expensive chain but I'm pleased with the unique end result. I have learnt a huge amount through this process especially that a huge part of silver smithing is about filing and polishing! Despite the time it takes it is extremely satisfying to gradually bring a flat piece of metal to life and I can't wait to complete my next project(s).

The pictures below show the finished piece, though I had difficulty actually taking these shots as the convex side has a highly polished surface (and I suspect high maintenance). The reverse has a satin finish so it can be worn either way round to suit my mood. One thing I'm sure is that it will not spend much time hiding away in my jewellery box but has already become a favourite to be worn often.
Shiny side up
Satin reverse

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