Friday, 21 April 2017

Circles in Square Wire Pendant


Made for a March birthday, this pendant also served to remind me how square wire is so effective, and also exceedingly nice to work with. Round wire is used more often in jewellery making, probably partly because it's easily available in so many thicknesses. It's easy to forget about square wire but I find it delivers a certain satisfaction during the making process, and also looks sleek and subtle in the finished piece.


I set the tiny aquamarine gemstone using a sterling silver Wraptite setting. This wasn't quite as easy to work with as the video I watched had led me to believe (mainly due to the 'fiddliness' of such a small gem (4mm) and a nearly equally small setting), but looked good in the end, and also provided what feels like a strong and secure setting for a faceted gemstone.

Aquamarine is one of the most popular gemstones for March and the stone I bought was really quite beautiful, full of vibrancy that bounced light around. It reminded me how well colour works with sterling silver.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Floral Inspiration for Jewellery Designs - April 2017

Whilst I don't make 'flower jewellery' as such (in other words, direct silver representations of flowers) at present I do find the shapes, textures and colours of flowers in particular inspiring in terms of design. I also find leaves and even bark equally fascinating in these terms but less noticeable, something you have to look past the more obvious flowers for. And flowers are extra obvious at this time of year, as nature throws off dull winter clothing and plants regrow with vigour and vibrancy.


Pictured above is Glory of the Snow (or Chiondoxa), flowering a little late for its name really (I'm kind of hoping we're not getting snowfall this April...) but it is glorious, especially up close. The petals are vivid blue - yes, you can imagine how even more vibrant they'd be against snow - and the stamens are rich daffodil-yellow. The blue makes me think of porcelain, China-blue hues on delicate pottery, perhaps something that could be recreated with polymer clay or enamel colours. The frills and subtle twists of the petals would be a challenge to represent in metal, but if done well would look organic and natural.


After some extensive searching online - and much scratching of head in frustration - I managed to find the name of the flower in the photo above - it's Brunnera Macrophylla Starry Eyes. The plant is small and the leaves fairly unimpressive, but the tiny flowers shine brightly white and, up close, the outer edges look hand-painted in blue. Again, I think of porcelain and delicacy, and yet also strength in the robustness of the flower shape and structure itself - they are found on the floor after they fall, nearly as sturdy as when they are in place on the plant.

Looking closely at these images and considering why they inspire me has allowed me think more about how to translate that inspiration into designs of all kinds. My earlier Vantage Point blog post was part of this current train of thought and I'm hoping it will continue to be valuable and helpful.

Do share in the comments below any floral (or generally botanic) inspirations you've found lately.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Book Review - Metal Clay Animal Jewellery by Natalia Colman

Metal Clay Animal Jewellery 20 Striking Projects in Silver, Copper and Bronze 
by Natalia Colman
Published by Search Press 2015
176 pages


First Impressions 

This book deals with, as the title says, animal jewellery. Now, I can;t deny, this did make me hesitate. Animal jewellery isn't really my thing either to wear or to make; I tend towards hearts and leaves and geometric shapes. And the cover didn't inspire me in that respect either, as I wasn't taken by the main image of the coloured parrot (although the smaller image of the silver urchin ring did intrigue). But the fact the book covered silver, copper and bronze clay interested me and when I flicked through the book I was far more intrigued, not just by the wide range of types of animal and styles of jewellery, but at the depth of the techniques covered and the realisation that animal jewellery may not be so corny after all.

As I've also read (and reviewed) another book by the same author and was impressed by that, it made sense to give this one a try as well.

At the Start

After an introduction, the first section of the deals extensively with the properties of the different clays themselves and covers four pages; two on silver, and two on copper and bronze. This is followed by six pages on basic equipment and a great couple of pages entitled 'Turning your clay into jewellery'. The Techniques section is extensive and as comprehensive as it really needs to be for dealing with three different types of metal clay

In the Middle

The categories of jewellery range from the usual rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets. Interspersed amongst the individual project instructions are yet more techniques particular to specific designs; these include setting stones and using crystals, applying gold leaf, making moulds and, my favourite, combining different metal clays in one piece.

The animal subjects range from cats and dogs to elephants and swans, sea life and butterflies, with a unicorn and dragon for good measure. My particular favourite was the swallow ring, detailed in the way that metal clay can be, and very effective.

The number of pages devoted to each project varies depending on how simple or complex it is, and I liked this approach of providing what it needed rather than a set amount of pages regardless of the difficulty of the particular piece.

At the End

At the back of the book several pages are devoted to a glossary, an index and some template patterns. Also included is information on firing times for each project (which also disappointed me a little by highlighting the fact that most of the items in the book need a kiln rather than a torch to be fired).

Also included is the results of experiments into which natural gemstones and what colours in cubic zirconia survived being kiln or torch fired. Similar information also features at the back of the other Natalia Colman book that I've reviewed, Metal Clay Jewellery.

In Summary

If you're interested in ideas about making animal jewellery in metal clay then this book is a must have. The project instructions are helpful and the photos that accompany them are clear and detailed. And if, like me, you're open to being persuaded by animal jewellery then this book has a lot to offer.

It might be worth finding a copy to leaf through before buying however, if you're not sure, like I was, that this is your thing - it really is just animals. Whilst that is undeniably a niche part of jewellery making, it certainly doesn't negate the excellent instructions and ideas the book contains and if you work in metal clays and are looking to expand your repertoire then you may well find some inspiration here.


(this post includes affiliate links  - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 31 March 2017

Jewelled Web - April 2017 - Link Love

Spring sunshine at a shingle beach - Jewelled Web April 2017 Silvermoss

As April dawns it really feels like spring now, and such a reminder of how we all appear to hibernate to some degree over the winter - so many more people are out and about so suddenly it seems. And so many buds bursting into growth on plants and flowers everywhere; yellow daffodils, pink and white blossom, and any-colour-you-can-think-of tulips. Not to mention the most beautiful little group of purple hellebores I've seen in a long while.

And some days the weather is so mild (even warm) that it's hard to reconcile with how cold it was just over a month ago. Plus, the evenings are light again, and I can just about forgive being woken early on a Sunday when it's by sunlight finding its way through the gaps in the curtains...

You may have guessed that I love spring, and I think I love it a little more each year too. When I haven't been outside feeling the sunlight on my face, here's what I've been reading online...

~jewellery links~

An awful lot of information about bezel wire.

How cocktail rings got their name.

If only all jewellers got to live in apartments with aquamarine-filled coffee tables...

Making a DIY jewellery tumbler - an interesting idea although I'm not sure anyone could tumble by hand long enough for it to really work...

Creating moulds (especially for precious metal or polymer clay) seems like an interesting idea; I found this fascinating tutorial on how to use silicone sealant as a DIY alternative to shop-bought mould-making compounds.

Cleaning up copper clay pieces after firing, hints and tips and useful info.

Such beautiful and skilled work on gold jewellery that's over 2,500 years old.

Resizing rings reversibly.

~non-jewellery links~

Only really for serious walkers (and generally hardy souls) but staying overnight in a bothy in the most beautiful scenery in Scotland must be a treat well worth experiencing.

Sometimes it seems that if the internet was created for nothing else but for showing video clips of animals (and birds) becoming unlikely friends - here's a snowy owl and a husky puppy.

I also found some beautiful photos of a different owl and dog friendship. Unfortunately I made the error of going onto Bored Panda (perhaps the most addictive site ever) and also found some amazingly intricate birds created from fabric, beads, lace and sequins, and animals that melt (well, they look that way) before I managed to escape again...

Speaking of pandas, if you've not seen the clingy baby panda video then do check it out.

I was involved in the Vantage Point project last month and I do recommend you check out some of the other blog features (and stunning photos) featured on their Pinterest page. A few of my favourites are here, here and here.

If it's spring then spring cleaning and reorganising the mess that things naturally all into must follow - these drawer dividers look wonderfully simple to make and endlessly handy...

The Northern Lights in Iceland can be so stunning they comes with a safety warning. Plus, still in Iceland, time-lapse snowfall.

~latest reads~

A fascinating crime novel by Marcus Sedgwick, Mister Memory was a great find in my local library's 'New Books' shelf. Twists and turns around an intriguing central premise of a man who can forget nothing. 

A extremely readable and evocative tale of the period after the First Word War, Spare Brides by Adele Sparks cares about what people are wearing but also how they're feeling and how they're dealing with the aftermath of the nightmare that was the war to end all wars...


Hope you enjoy some (or all!) of the links and have a wonderful (and sunny!) April.


Photo taken by me at the seaside, late afternoon when the sea was like a millpond. Companions were my other half, a takeaway Cappuccino, and a bar of chocolate.


Not enough links? Then take a look at my Jewelled Web from June 2015 for more.

(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 24 March 2017

Broken tools...

Broken wire cutters - Silvermoss

The collection of tools that I use for jewellery making has been built up over years on a need-to-have basis. It's also been built up quite cheaply. But I've grown used to my mismatched pliers and wire cutters and have my favourites and others that are consigned to a box for emergency use only. Or when someone wants to borrow one of my tools for a non-jewellery task (this does happen, although thankfully not frequently - I keep my tools carefully to make sure they do their best for the silver).

It's proved quite handy that most of them have different coloured handles (I know which pair I'm reaching for by colour) rather than having a matching set and while I've wondered at times what the difference really is between a £5 pair of pliers and a £50 pair, I've not worried too much because the tools I have work and I'm (mostly) happy with them.

So it was with some consternation that I discovered my trusty wire cutters (yellow, bought circa 2005 in Sheffield, I believe, for around £4) were broken. A quick survey of the damage led me to the conclusion that they should still work for the time being, albeit with a slightly different style of action, and so I wasn't made to either explore my stash of emergency-only tools or dash to the local hardware shop for a rushed replacement.

But it did make me wonder what those jewellers with expensive tools would say the advantages are over cheaper ones. Are they worth the extra expensive? What is the difference? Should I indulge in a branded set of wire cutters when I do replace mine?

Please do leave a comment if you've any advice or even if you just know how it feels when a trusty tool, of whatever monetary value, passes its sell-by date...