The start of 2018
11th January 2018
First couple of pieces to share this year are pendants. Both of them address some common issues with size that occur in bespoke pieces of jewellery.
The ship`s wheel
When I was asked to make this ships wheel I was given a photo of a pendant that was over 4cm in diameter. The larger a piece of jewellery gets the easier it is to create detail. The downside is that the materials used are larger and greater in volume.
With the pendant in the photo that was not an issue as it was made in sterling silver, a rather inexpensive precious metal alloy. However my customer wanted to make this pendant in 9ct yellow gold and at a diameter of about 2.6cm. At the smaller diameter we would reduce the amount of precious metal used but the details would be harder to replicate meaning the pendant would take longer to make.
I touched on this issue of balancing time spent on fine detail in design when I shared with you the compass pendant in 2017. At 2.6cm the details were not too difficult to produce but the customer was concerned that the pendant would be too big. I pointed out to her that a large part of that diameter was the handles of the ship`s wheel, and would appear a much smaller diameter in reality.
This is big
In the case of the next pendant it is all about the size. This pendant is 6.3cm from the top of the bail to the bottom. Whilst the design might look quite simple, creating a pendant this large, setting the gem and clean up can be quite time intensive.
The gemstone is a blend of Azurite and Malachite, both copper based minerals with nearly the same chemistry. The blue is Azurite and the green Malachite. Azurite comes from the word Azure which means sky blue.
Some believe that Malachite is the crystal of change and Azurite that of creativity and inner wisdom
Preventing Tarnishing - use Palladium not Copper
In the most common sterling silver alloy it is the copper added to the pure silver to make it harder (pure silver is too soft for jewellery) that causes issues with tarnishing that you often see.
When you buy a mass produced piece of jewellery you are usually buying sterling silver (copper added alloy) jewellery plated with either rhodium or pure silver to temporarily prevent tarnishing.
A particularly nasty practise which is more permanent is to chrome plate sterling silver rendering it unrepairable/workable. I used to see of lot of chrome plated sterling silver during my opal jewellery manufacturing days. This type of jewellery was generally sold to tourists who after returning home and some wear and tear on the jewellery would discover the truth about their chrome plated memento from Australia, it is disposable jewellery.
With this particular gemstone strong acid based plating solutions could have damaged it. I used a more expensive Sterling Silver alloy that uses Palladium to replace the copper and is therefore not prone to tarnishing and does not require plating.
Palladium is one of the Platinum family of metals and is far more valuable than copper.