The photos below show the basic steps behind the unfolding of my work. I learned these jewelry making techniques from my father and though there are many shortcuts in the jewelry making process available to jewelers today, I find the practice of working silver from beginning to end to be an integral part of my creative process.
The jouney begins with silver casting grain. A small amount of copper is added to make it “Sterling” quality.
A special mixture of “dirt” is packed into a metal cylander to form the mold into which the molten silver will be poured. A metal stick is pushed into the dirt to form a cylindrical mold. A metal file is pressed into the dirt to form a rectangular one.
Heat from the torch melts the silver until it is fluid enough to be poured into the mold of packed dirt.
The liquified silver is poured into the packed earth mold to create silver bars which will then be put through the rolling mill.
The dirt is removed from the metal tube revealing the poured silver which has taken the shape of the cavities formed by the metal tool previesly pressed into the dirt. The tube will become bezel and wire; the rectangular bar will become sheet.
The silver bar is run through the rolling mill until it becomes a thin flat sheet of silver. The tube is inserted into succesively smaller grooves until it is thin enough to be passed through the drawplate.
The silver is pulled through succesively smaller holes in a drawplate until the desired gauge wire is acheived.
This silver has been prepared by putting it through the rolling mill and/or wire drawplate.
From right to left: wire, bezel, and sheet: the structural basis for all jewelry designs
Sheet is cut to the sizes needed for the design.
Bezels must be measured exactly to fit each stone, as they are what hold the stones in place.
Solder is heated to fuse the different silver components together.
A bristle brush smooths the surface of the silver.
A polishing compound is applied to the buffing wheel to give the silver extra shine.
The bezel is pressed in around the stones to hold them in their place.
You can see this finished earing and many other finished pieces in my flickr gallery.