Building a Piece of Jewelry - Process Part 3
If you’ve been following along with the blog series of my process to create a piece of jewelry, I’m so glad you’re back! If you’re new here, I’ve been doing a series over the past few months to share in detail the steps of my process of creating a piece of jewelry from the moment I purchase a stone to when I package a finished piece to be sent to its new home.
Want to read more? You can read how I choose the perfect stones here and about my design process here. Today I’ll be sharing how I make each piece after I’ve come up with the design. This is a VERY general description of the process just to give you an idea of the steps.
My starting point is to make a bezel for the stone out of fine silver. In a jeweler’s vocabulary, a bezel is the ring around a stone that holds it in place. To fashion the bezel, I use varying heights of silver strips (depending on the height of the stone) to pull around the stone, ensuring a perfect fit. Once I’ve pulled the strip flush around the stone, I mark where I need to cut the strip so both ends line up. Then once the cut is made, I file the ends to be perfectly straight and flat and solder them together. At this point, the bezel looks like a flat ring. (Soldering is the term for joining two pieces of metal with a molten metal using a torch.)
Next, I’ll saw out the backplate from a sheet of sterling silver that will go with the bezel. The backplate is where the stone will rest and I often put my signature stamp on the back. It's what every other component is soldered onto. I choose a sheet of silver in the perfect thickness, and solder the bezel to the sheet. Then, if the design is more minimal, I’ll cut away the ledge to make sure the bezel is simplistic and smooth. If I’m going for a more complex design, I’ll leave a small ledge for an accent, or for an even more intricate look, I’ll solder decorative wire around the bezel.
I’ll also add any cutouts into the back at this point, like my signature pine tree cutout! If I’m doing a cutout, I start by tracing my design onto paper and gluing it inside the bezel as a sort of stencil, then I’ll drill a tiny hole through the backplate, thread in the tiniest saw blade you've ever seen—under 1mm thick—and cut the design out! I’ve shared some timelapses of this process over on my Instagram page here.
Now it's time to add the bits that transform the piece into a wearable piece of jewelry. This can be anything from a ring band, a jump ring for earrings or a necklace, or any number of other additions, depending on the design of the piece and how it will be used as a final product, whether that’s as a ring, a bracelet, earrings, necklaces, or even hair combs.
Throughout every step of this process, I am continually filing and shaping a piece to perfect it, but once I reach the end of the process, the true ‘finishing’ process begins. At this time, I’ll add a patina, do a polish, and often I’ll tumble the piece. ‘Tumbling’ is a process that uses a tumbler polisher to harden and highly polish pieces to close the surface pores of the metal and create a nice shine. I do often work on multiple pieces at the same time, but overall the process for one piece can take me anywhere from four to eight hours from start to finish, depending on the complexity of the design or the number of stones in a piece.
The final step is setting the stone. The stone is more delicate than the metal, so it can't be added until everything else is done. I place the stone in the bezel, and with a tool called a bezel pusher, I gently push the bezel up and over/around the stone, one section at a time. The bezel hugs the stone in place. After one last round of polishing, it's done!
What do you think so far? Are you enjoying learning about the steps of my creative process? I’d love to hear from you! You can find me on Instagram at @inthepinesjewelry. Come say hello!