Category Archives: Interesting Information

Cleaning Silver

Have you ever wondered how to keep your Silver Forge pieces at their sparkling best? Well, the first place to start is with a silver polishing cloth. These are available at most jewellers, and provide a soft and gentle way to clean your silver.

What if your piece is quite tarnished? This happens to me quite a lot. (Perhaps it’s a touch of ‘the shoemaker’s children are never shod?’) Here’s what silver repairer and restorer Jeffrey Harman has to say about tarnish:

“Tarnish, in regards to silver, is a thin layer of corrosion that forms from a chemical reaction on the surface of an object. This layer consists mainly of black silver sulfide caused by the silver’s reaction with sulfur-containing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide in the air. Tarnish appears as a yellow, gray, or black film on objects. After tarnish forms, the corrosion process slows as the silver sulfide layer thickens.

Any sulfur-containing compound with the sulfur in a reduced oxidation state (e.g., hydrogen sulfide, sulfur, carbonyl sulfide) will cause silver to tarnish. Moisture also plays a role. The higher the relative humidity, the faster silver tarnishes (if sulfur-containing compounds are present). However, even if there is no moisture in the air but it is contaminated with hydrogen sulfide, the silver will still tarnish because there is a direct reaction (water not involved) between the silver and the hydrogen sulfide. So it is not good enough to remove only the moisture because the silver will still tarnish if there is hydrogen sulfide present (or other tarnishing gases). Clean silver will form tarnish more quickly than will tarnished silver.”

A note to say that humans have sulfur in our bodies, which contributes to our jewellery tarnishing!

If you have a plain silver piece, or some of my Czech glass earrings, you can use the old-fashioned method of lining a bowl with tin-foil, placing the pieces in the bowl and sprinkling some bi-carb soda on them, then covering them with boiling water. This really works – just make sure your pieces are all touching the tin-foil.

WARNING: A very few pairs of the Czech glass beads in my earrings (like the pairs below) do NOT like to be cleaned this way – if you’re in any doubt, email me and I can tell you if it’s safe or not.

Hagerty’s Silver Foam was recommended to me by my goldsmithing teachers, and I use that as my next stop.

Easy to use, it will clean your piece in no time, with a minimum of fuss!

There are other methods employed to clean silver, some of which you can read about on  Jeffrey Harman‘s most excellent website, but these three are the ones that I stick with.

A note about gemstones – some gemstones do not take kindly to cleaning methods – check before you clean a gemstone piece. There’s a handy guide to gemstone cleaning from the International Gem Society here.

Lastly, if you have a Silver Forge piece that needs some TLC and you’re not wanting to take on the task, please contact me – I’d be happy to help restore it to its former glory!

Be My Valentine

Legend has it that Valentine was a third century Roman priest who was caught marrying Christian couples. He was arrested and imprisoned because assisting Christians was a crime at the time. The Emperor Claudius took a liking to his prisoner, until Valentine tried to convert him to Christianity whereupon the priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stones, and when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded and he was later martyred for his troubles. Poor old St Valentine!

Twin Hearts Sterling Silver Pendant

It wasn’t until the fourteenth century that Valentine’s Day as we know it was born. The famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote ‘The Parliament of Fowls’, which included the popular notion that birds paired off to mate on 14 February each year; it also made reference to some Valentine’s Day traditions such as sending anonymous love letters and exchanging token gifts with your lover.

As well as love, young people and happy marriages, Valentine is also feted as the patron saint of beekeeping and epilepsy. So Happy Valentine’s Day!

St Dunstan

St Dunstan’s College in Catford, London, is a school attended by various members of my family since the early 1900s. Recently my Granny told me that St Dunstan was the patron saint of silversmiths. I hadn’t known that!

St. Dunstan was born 909 and died 19 May 988 AD. There is a full story about him on Wikipedia, which tells us that Dunstan became patron saint of English goldsmiths and silversmiths because he worked as a silversmith making church plate while he was living as a monk at Glastonbury Abbey, where he took holy orders in 943 AD. He is also the patron saint of blacksmiths, locksmiths and musicians.

His Feast Day is 19 May, which is why, before the restoration, the yearly span of London Assay Office hallmarks ran from 19 May one year to 18 May the next, not the calendar year. This was changed at the restoration of Charles II in 1660 so that the hallmarking year began on the King’s birthday, 29 May.

There is a story that Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.

Also, according to a late 11th-century legend, the Devil is said to have tempted Dunstan and to have been held by the face with Dunstan’s tongs; hence blacksmith’s tongs have become a symbol of St Dunstan.

Thanks to my little granny for bringing this interesting fact to my attention. I wonder what her dad (my great grandfather), who was a blacksmith, made of all that!

Three Gemstone Earrings Creation 3

smithing – creation of a pair of gemstone and sterling silver earrings

Lots of people like to know the process behind the creations I produce, and I sometimes forget – just because I know how I do this, doesn’t mean everyone does! These lovely dangly gemstone earrings were a wedding gift from my friend and client Natasha to a dear friend of hers.

Natasha found these sparkly amethyst, Rose de France and aquamarine rose cut cabochons in my gemstone collection.

Three Gemstone Earrings Creation 1

First I shaped the bezels.  A bezel is the part that goes around the stone and holds it in place on the piece. I take a strip of silver, bend it into shape with my half round pliers, and solder the join. Once the bezels have been immersed in pickle (an acid solution) to remove the buildup of borax and the oxidisation, I rinse and dry them and hammer them into shape with a mallet on my ring mandrel.

Three Gemstone Earrings Creation 2

I solder the bezels onto a silver backing plate. After I pickle, file and emery the bezel settings, I check that the stones all fit nicely into their little housings.

Three Gemstone Earrings Creation 4

Then it’s time to add some links to join the bezels together. I create the links, line them up and solder them on.

Three Gemstone Earrings Creation 5

I add the ear wires. As always, I am amazed that something that looks so unappealing will soon become something beautiful!

Three Gemstone Earrings Creation 6

After some more cleaning up, I mount the earrings in sealing wax to hold them still while I set the stones with my engraving ball and chasing hammer.

Three Gemstone Earrings Creation 7

After yet more emerying and finishing, the earrings are ready to go off to their new home!

Amethyst, Rose de France and Aquamarine Sterling Silver Earrings

In case you want more, I have written before herehere here and here about my processes. Happy reading!

Pantone – 2017 Spring Colours

Spring has sprung – and so have Pantone’s 2017 Spring colours. Find yourself some up to the moment fashionable stones in my gemstone collection!

Pantone Spring 2017

If you see a gemstone you like the look of and you’d like me to create you a custom piece, let me know.

Pantone-20th-century-in-colour

I bet this is a fabulous read!

Pantone – 2016 Autumn Colours

Pantone’s  Autumn colours for 2016. are here. I love the idea of classifying and naming every colour in the world, and I also love to show you which stones in my gemstone collection match the latest in fashion choices!

Pantone Gemstones Fall 2016 (1)

Pantone Fashion Colours Autumn 2016

Pantone Gemstones Fall 2016 (2)

If you see a gemstone you like the look of, and you’d like me to create you a custom piece, let me know.

Pantone Board Books

Meanwhile, how cute are these Pantone board books? Gorgeous!

Style – Rings

In part one of a series of tips about the basics of jewellery wearing I looked at necklaces. Today I’m going to talk about my favourite pieces of jewellery – rings.

The Silver Forge Gemstone Rings

A ring is traditionally a circular, decorative or symbolic ornament worn on fingers, toes, arm or neck – however today’s understood meaning of the word ‘ring’ is one that is worn on the finger. Rings can be made of many materials, but are commonly made from metal. They can be plain, or ornate; simple, or set with many stones. They are made in many different styles, but I’ll be focusing on bezel set gemstone rings as that is what I make!

Pomegranate Red Drusy Agate and Sterling Silver Ring

First, let’s identify some of the basic parts of a ring. It’s good to know these terms, so that when discussing your ring, we’re on the same page:

Ring Terminology Guide

Next, sizing. When you’re trying to determine the right ring size for you, it is best to have your finger measured professionally by a jeweller. If all else fails, you can use my guide to ring sizing.

Ring Sizers

When deciding what material your ring should be made from, sterling silver is a good choice – as well as being beautiful, it is usually hypoallergenic, so you avoid allergic reactions and green skin (problems usually brought about by the nickel in inferior quality metal).

Tourmalinated Quartz and Sterling Silver Men's Ring

Check out this good Wiki article on ring styles which shows many different kinds of rings – I’d never heard of some of these, so I found it very interesting!

Variscite and Sterling Silver Ring

Although I am happy to make any size ring, my preference is for large statement pieces. Sometimes people say to me that they can’t wear big rings because they have small hands – I say not so! I’m only 5’2″, and have little hands, and I love wearing a big rock! I don’t find large rings impede my hand, either – as fingers only bend inwards, the ring sits on top of the hand and allows you to do most things as usual. Ring size is really a matter of comfort and personal preference of course. Tell me, what’s your favourite ring?

Fossilised Coral Ring

As always, I am happy to create you a made to measure silver ring from any of the gemstones in my collection. If you’re interested, you can contact me about that here! Meanwhile, enjoy a browse through my custom gallery.

Gemstone of the Month – Carnelian

Carnelian is a brownish red to orange, translucent to opaque variety of chalcedony. Carnelian is probably named after the the kornel cherry because of its colour. It is sometimes known as cornelian.

Carnelian has been used for decorative purposes by humans for thousands of years. Wikipedia tells us: “The bow drill was used to drill holes into carnelian in Mehrgarh between 4th-5th millennium BC. Carnelian was recovered from Bronze Age Minoan layers at Knossos on Crete in a form that demonstrated its use in decorative arts; this use dates to approximately 1800 BC. Carnelian was used widely during Roman times to make engraved gems for signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence or other important documents. Hot wax does not stick to carnelian. Sard was used for Assyrian cylinder seals, Egyptian and Phoenician scarabs, and early Greek and Etruscan gems. The Hebrew odem (translated sardius), the first stone in the High Priest’s breastplate, was a red stone, probably sard but perhaps red jasper.”

Carnelian is thought to aid with concentration, and by keeping one focused on the here and now and not on past experiences. Carnelian is believed to be calming and grounding, and  encourages initiative and determination.

Carnelian is understood to improve circulation, aid with problems of the liver, bladder, kidneys and spleen and with male impotency, and to increase appetite. It is believed to help with PMS as well as sexual anxiety.

Carnelian is thought to prevent accidents, and to protect the home from theft, fire and storm damage.

Carnelian is beautiful – the range of colour from reddish brown through to almost yellow is so vibrant!

I have some gorgeous carnelian available in my gemstone collection. If you find a stone that appeals to you and you’d like to have it set in a ring or a pendant, let me know – I’d love to create something beautiful for you.

Sterling Silver Spiral Seashell Necklace

Style – Necklaces

In part one of a series of tips about the basics of jewellery wearing, I’m looking at necklaces. A necklace is a piece of jewellery which (as the name would suggest!) is worn around the neck. If the necklace has a primary hanging feature, it is called a pendant. If the pendant is a small container, that is called a locket.

Black Onyx and Sterling Silver Statement Necklace

Necklaces come in various lengths to suit different styles and different occasions. Some standard lengths are:

Necklaces Length Guide

When you’re trying to determine the right length necklace for you, use a measuring tape to measure your neck. Standard necklace measurements as shown above assume a 35 cm (14 inch) neck, but of course we all vary wildly, so calculate accordingly! Add 5 cm (2 inches) to your neck measurement for a comfortable length for chokers; add 10 cm (4 inches) to it for princess length. Alternatively take a favourite necklace, or use a piece of string to measure around your neck from the desired level; then lay the string or necklace out straight and measure how long it is. That measurement will be the length you’re after.

Black Star Diopside and Stering Silver Extraterrestrial Pendant

Choker: suits a garment with a high neckline. Chokers can work well for people with long necks.

Princess: sits just below the throat at the collarbone. This is the most common necklace length, and is a good length for a pendant. This style works with most necklines as it can sit above or on top of the garment.

Matinee: sits below the collarbone and just above the bust. People with larger necks may choose this length for a pendant style necklace too. Matinee length draws attention to the center of the bust area, so bear that in mind when choosing this style. Women with larger busts may want to opt for a longer necklace to create a more balanced look.

Opera: hangs below the bust, and elongates the torso. This length works well with high necklines and evening wear. If you have a fuller bust, an opera length necklace can be an issue as it may not hang properly. You could try a necklace that sits slightly higher on the body, such as a princess length necklace.

Rope: can reach all the way to the waist. A versatile length, in that you can double and layer it, or wear a pendant on it. Looks great for business and evening wear.

Flat Coin Clear Handblown Glass Bubble and Sterling Silver Necklace

When deciding what material your necklace should be made from, sterling silver is a good choice – as well as being beautiful, it is usually hypoallergenic, so you avoid allergic reactions and green skin (problems usually brought about by the nickel in inferior quality metal). Stainless steel can also highlight your pendant choice. Leather or ‘pleather’ (pretend leather) is another good option.

Sea Glass and Sterling Silver Long Claw Set Pendant

If you are planning to wear a pendant on your necklace, take into account the size and weight of the piece you will be wearing when you choose the necklace you will be suspending it from. This is important both physically to support the weight; and aesthetically to balance the piece.

Sterling Silver Belcher Chain with Handmade ClaspBear in mind that in a similar way to sunglasses, a necklace helps to frame your face, so try out different lengths and see what they do for you.  A long necklace may flatter a taller frame where a smaller frame might need a shorter style. A good thing to consider is that people’s eyes will stop at the point where your necklace ends. And remember, really, a necklace is a personal choice – with a little trial and error you will work out what suits you and your wardrobe.

I am always happy to create you a made to measure silver necklace, whatever size you require. You can contact me here!

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

smithing – creation of a freeform gemstone and sterling silver ring

I always love to see behind the scenes of manufacturing – maybe it all stems from that cool crayon factory clip that used to be on Sesame Street? One of my gorgeous clients, Natasha, asked me to use this charoite in a ring for her mum, and her mum was interested to see the work in progress.  I have written before herehere and here about my processes, and I thought you might like to see some more!

Charoite Cabochon

It started with this luscious piece of charoite which Natasha spotted in my gemstone collection.Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction Using a strip of silver and my trusty half round pliers, I made a bezel for the stone.

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

I fitted the stone to a piece of sheet silver.

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

After sawing out the shape of the backing plate, I prepared to solder.

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

After soldering, the silver becomes oxidised and it seems far-fetched that this will ever turn into something beautiful!

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

Some careful measurement, and more bending with my half round pliers, and a ring shank is made.

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

A quick check that the stone fits properly, then I’m ready to solder the shank to the top.

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

The shank is lined up on the top, and soldered firmly in place.

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring Construction

Time for lots of filing and emerying to get the silver ready for the stone to be set.

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring

After plenty of time with my engraving ball and chasing hammer, the finished product!

Charoite and Sterling Silver Ring

 

Pantone – 2016 Spring Colours

Pantone have just released their Spring Colours for 2016. I’m ready with some divine gemstones to match this fashion report!

Pantone Spring 2016

If you see a gemstone you like the look of, and you’d like me to create you a custom piece, let me know.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2016

Pantone’s ‘‪‎Color Of The Year’‬ for 2016 is, for the first time ever, a blend of two shades: ‎Rose Quartz‬ & ‎Serenity‬, which you can see above. A serene and peaceful feel, just what the world needs right now. Imagine what gorgeous pieces you could have with a combination of these two!

Pantone Mugs

 

Inspiration – Munsell Colour System

Albert Henry Munsell was born in Boston Massachusetts on January 6, 1858 and died on June 28, 1918. He attended the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston, and was hired as an instructor in 1881 shortly after graduating. He was later appointed lecturer in Color Composition and Artistic Anatomy. Munsell taught at the institution for 37 years. He took a brief leave from 1885-1888 to study art in Paris at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he won several awards for his work. (I feel Massachusetts must have been a magical place – my favourite Ralph Waldo Emerson was from there, as were Edgar Allan Poe and  the wonderful Theodor Seuss Geisel!)

{photograph of Munsell included in his 1905 book''A Color Notation''}

{photograph of Munsell included in his 1905 book”A Color Notation”}

Munsell is best known for his 1905 book ‘A Color Notation’, and his 1915 book (and precursor to today’s ‘Munsell Books of Color’), ‘Atlas of the Color Solid’. As well as being an artist and teacher, Munsell was also an inventor. He holds several patents for a color-sphere and mount; an artist’s easel, and a photometer. I love that he developed a range of crayons in 1906, which in 1926 were sold to the Binney & Smith Company (owner of Crayola) and were then referred to as ‘Munsell Crayola Crayons‘.

The Munsell color system is three-dimensional, and specifies colors based on three color dimensions: hue, value (lightness), and chroma (color purity). This evolving color science theory served as the basis for today’s color matching technology.

I was very taken with this system, as it seems to me to be able to pinpoint with ease every imaginable colour! The only place I feel it is lacking is in the romance department – colour is divine, but gorgeous names for colour make it even more so. It doesn’t matter at all – we can all see 5GY, and call it lime, apple, chartreuse. 5RP makes sense – and it can be known as magenta, fuchsia or mulberry.

To celebrate finding out about Munsell, I’ve re-organised the ‘filter by colour’ option in my shop to include some more of the wonderful hues (and I’ve named them, too.) Beautiful, wonderful, magnificent colour – where would we be without you!

Mandrels and Mallet

In My Jeweller’s Workshop IV

A day (or two) in the life of a jeweller! First some mandrels and my mallet. (I was creating a set of palm bracelets and I needed to make them uniform, hence the texta markings on the mandrels.)

Jeweller's Bench 15-09-23

A sneak peek at a very special birthday present in the making! More on that to come.

20150730_040746884_iOS

Me, setting a stone in a ring using my engraving ball.

Jeweller's Bench 15-10-15

The end of a productive session!

smithing – creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

It’s always a joy to see other people’s creative techniques. I have written before here and here about the process of silversmithing, and I thought you might like another little insight into this world.

Emerald Green Drusy Agate Oval Cabochon

First, the drusy gemstone (from my never-ending collection!) and a rough design sketch. I’ve already created the bezel (the metal that wraps around the stone) in this picture, bending a straight strip of metal (like the one pictured) around the stone.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

The next step is preparing the backing plate. He’s some sawing and filing in action.

After filing, comes emerying.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

And laying out the component parts to see how it will look. The balls of silver are made by heating some little pieces of silver until they melt – the molten silver naturally gathers up into a sphere. It’s fun stuff!

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

I emery the back of the bezel flat, so that the join between the two pieces of metal will be exact and the solder will flow correctly.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

Then it’s time for a bit of heat.

I love how from this dirty blackened thing comes an object of beauty!

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

Into a solution of sulphuric acid to remove all the oxidization etc.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

While the piece is pickling, I create the bail (the part from which the pendant will hang), and a little plate stamped with my maker’s mark and ‘925’ to show the piece is made from sterling silver.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

Those are soldered onto the piece, then it’s back in the pickle and after that, a rinse off.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

After a good clean-up, with lots of emerying down to a fine grade, I mount the piece on a wax dop so that i can set the stone.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

My engraving ball comes in super-handy here!

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

Some time with my chasing hammer, and the stone is set.

smithing - creation of a gemstone and sterling silver pendant

And finally, the finished piece!

Bright Green Drusy Agate and Granulation Sterling Silver Pendant

If you like this pendant, you can see more of it here in my shop.

Gemstone of the Month – Serpentine

Serpentine is the name given to various minerals found in serpentinite rocks. These are used as a source of magnesium and also in industry, and as a decorative stone. The Irish Connemara marble is a form of serpentine.

The name is thought to come from the Latin serpentinus, meaning ‘serpent rock’ – based on the mineral’s greenish color and smooth or scaly appearance.

Serpentine has been used since ancient times to guard against disease and sorcery. It is believed to provide protection against venomous creatures such as snakes and insects. It is thought to balance mood swings, and to promote the ability to solve conflicts peacefully.

Serpentine is beautifully offset by silver I think – it’s my current favourite stone!

Serpentine Rings

I have some serpentine in my gemstone collection. If you find a stone that appeals to you and you’d like to have it set in a ring or a pendant, get in touch – I’d love to create something beautiful for you.

In My Jeweller’s Workshop III

I know how much I love seeing people’s workspaces, so I’m pleased to show you a few more photos of my own little workshop!

15 May 2015

15 May 2015

I see in the photo above this rhodochrosite pendant, these seaglass and cuttlefish cast pendants, and this gorgeous custom moss agate ring. On the left is a box in which I keep all the gemstones that are works in progress – there are some that have been in there for some time, I know. I’ll get to them all eventually, promise.

29 May 2015

29 May 2015

Under my bench in this photo is the page I use to bend ring shanks to size when they are not going to be a complete ring, for example when they are going underneath a cabochon setting. I can see some of the pieces from my new extraterrestrial collection, and the work in progress on this divine custom chrysoprase set – one of my favourites, I confess!

30 Jun 2015

30 Jun 2015

There is a sheet of silver over on the right rear, and I see the beginnings of some drusy earrings and this lapis ring – and a few other goodies, too.

30 Jun 2015

30 Jun 2015

And here am I, working away. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy what I do!

14 Aug 2015

14 Aug 2015

A sneak peak at some upcoming treasures for you here – and as always, tea. A nice cup of tea’s what keeps me going sometimes. How about you?

Flex Drive

Tool of the Month – Flex Drive

Flex DriveThat long hanging thing in the middle of this picture? That’s my flex drive. The first flexible shaft was invented by the famous Scottish engineer James Hall Nasmyth (1808-1890), who is best known for his later development of the steam hammer.

Flex Drive

The motor is this part the top, which, through a long spiral shaft, drives the little piece at the end. If you’re thinking ‘dentist’, you’re absolutely right! These are used by dentists, too. They’re like a tiny drill at the end of a long hose.

Flex Drive

There are endless variations of bits you can use with your flex drive.

Flex Drive

My favourites are a particular diamond burr, kindly given to me by the lovely Bill from my Goldsmithing class (I use it all the time!) and my slotted mandrels (for emery paper – that’s one you see on the flex drive head in the picture above this one). I have so many other very useful attachments for this great device! I use my flex drive on just about every piece I make. Thanks, Mr Nasmyth!

 

Lapis Lazuli

(image credit Ra'ike)

(image credit Ra’ike)

Lapis Lazuli has been mined in Afghanistan for over 6,000 years.

(image credit Philippe Giabbanelli)

(image credit Philippe Giabbanelli)

Lapis is the Latin word for ‘stone’, and lazuli comes from the Latin ‘lazulum’ which was derived the name of the stone in Persian. The name of the stone came to be associated with its color – the word azure comes from lapis lazuli.

(image credit Parent Géry)

(image credit Parent Géry)

Lapis was long ground up to make the pigment ultramarine, which was widely used during the Renaissance in frescoes and oil painting (this method was replaced in the 19th century with a synthetic compound.)

(image credit Walters Art Museum)

(image credit Walters Art Museum)

Because of its amazing blue colouring, Lapis has been prized; carved and worn throughout antiquity, in pieces like this Roman Imperial Eagle. I saw quite a lot of it in precious pieces in museums while travelling in Egypt.

Large Lapis Lazuli Cabochon

Lapis is believed to be good for communications and good judgement, for enhancing memory, and to attract success.

Lapis Lazuli Cabochon Pair

Lapis is gorgeous – and I have these pieces in my gemstone collection just waiting to be made into something fabulous!

In My Jeweller’s Workshop II

Following on from my previous post in which you’ll find the first batch of workshop shots, and bringing us up to the minute, I’m visiting my workshop space in space and time. You can sometimes catch me posting more of these snaps on my Instagram page and my FaceBook page – I’d love to see you there!

Silver Forge Workshop 14-09-24

24 Sep 2014

This was obviously a busy time for rings – I see a ruby zoisite, an orange titanium coated drusy, a faceted black onyx, a malachite, a piece of labradorite, a brown drusy and a howlite ring all in the creative stages. And some of my domed pieces, too!

 

10 Oct 2014

10 Oct 2014

Here, I’ve come along further with some of those previous pieces, and added this rest of the faceted onyx set and green mojave turquoise ring to the mix. That is my pair of nylon jaw flat nose parallel pliers on the right – fabulous for holding components that are too tiny to be held with fingers while I saw or file or emery, without leaving marks on the metal! Also, a little batch of jellyfish earrings in the making on my soldering block.

6 Nov 2014

6 Nov 2014

The storage expansion continues.. and while it has been there for a while, I draw your attention to my tree stump, kindly provided by a neighbour. It is extremely useful as an ‘anvil’ base, and I’m pleased that even though a tree had to be chopped down, I could salvage a piece of it for a good purpose!

9 Nov 2014

9 Nov 2014

Bead obsessed, much?

21 Nov 2014

21 Nov 2014

Amongst that mass of tools, I see this pendant on my bench peg, and I am still working on that crazy creation underneath!

8 Feb 2015

8 Feb 2015

A couple of repair jobs in the front, some pairs of earrings, a shattuckite pendant and this mojave green ring are all works in progress here! It’s so satisfying to have a number of jobs on the go at once – there is a fair amount of downtime while you’re waiting for things to cool and pickle after soldering.

Silver Forge Workshop 15-03-04

4 Mar 2015

I quite often have things on my bench waiting for inspiration or the right time to strike – some seaglass is in the process here! Also a bunch of forget-me-nots, which I will post more about another time.

1 Apr 2015

1 Apr 2015

Beads for the beginnings of my Ceramic collection are on my bench this day, as well as a number of stones waiting to be set – including this rhodochrosite pendant! The forget-me-nots are all on my soldering block. Stay tuned.

My Jeweller’s Workshop

Silver Forge Workshop 12-07-23

23 Jul 2012

For a while now, I’ve been taking random pictures of my workspace. Sometimes I post these on my Instagram page, and sometimes on my FaceBook page; but I thought it was time I posted them here for you to see. Look how clean my workspace was only a few months after I first got my jeweller’s bench set up! Look at that nice new engraving ball.

Silver Forge Workshop 13-07-02

2 Jul 2013

A year later, and I’ve achieved the more lived in look. All clean work in progress mess of course! I spy the beginnings of the Elementals collection.

Silver Forge Workshop 14-01-24

24 Jan 2014

As time goes on, storage becomes more of an issue, as you can see by the stacks of boxes full of Czech glass.

Silver Forge Workshop 14-02-28

28 Feb 2014

Here you can see my jump ring winder… and I think those are parts of this bracelet and ring combination piece.

Silver Forge Workshop 14-05-03

03 May 2014

That’s a wax stick for stone setting you see there amongst the tools and bits and pieces. I was working on this chrysocolla pendant amongst other things here!

Silver Forge Workshop 14-05-15

15 May 2014

More joy, and more pieces in the works.. including this peacock blue round drusy ring, and this stormy blue oval one. That’s my ring sizing equipment in the top left hand corner.

Silver Forge Workshop 14-09-19

19 Sep 2014

Besser brick is not very exciting, but I brighten up my space with a fabulous piece painted by a three year old, and I love my beautiful Granny’s landscape oil painting of the cliffs at Fairlight – it is calming and inspirational. And yes, I do drink a lot of tea!

Chenier Cutter

Tool of the Month – Chenier Cutter

Chenier Cutter

A tool that I don’t use very often, but when I need it I’m glad of it, is my chenier cutter.

Chenier Cutter

Chenier is fine hollow tubing, which can used to make various parts such as hinges and bails, or be used decoratively as I have in this ring:

Carnelian and Sterling Silver Power Station Ring

To cut the chenier to the right length, and/or to file the ends of the chenier flat, it’s much easier to clamp it in this cutter.

Chenier Cutter

The cutter has various spaces to cut at both 90 degree and 45 degree angles.

Chenier Cutter

It’s great for cutting wire, too!

Chenier Cutter

new release updates

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I’m now sending out a quick weekly email which lets you know of new products as soon as I release them. If you love to know stuff first, and would like an easy way to see what’s new at The Silver Forge shop, you can sign up right here!

Pantone – 2015 Autumn Colours

The latest fashion release from Pantone is their autumn colours for 2015. As always, I like to do a little match with my gemstone collection!

Pantone Autumn 2015 Coloured Stones

Pantone Autumn 2015 Colours

If you see a gemstone you like the look of, and you’d like me to create you a custom piece, let me know.

A quick note about the 5th colour from the left – it is Marsala, which Pantone selected as their colour of the year for 2015. I am underwhelmed. 🙁 Happily though, there are many other colours that we can enjoy! 🙂

Pantone Bottles

 

 

 

Tumbler

Tool of the Month – Tumbler

Tumbler

 

One of the useful pieces of equipment in my workshop is my tumbler.

 

Tumbler

 

It can be hard to get a shiny finish on small pieces and pieces made from wire, so popping them into the tumbler with some steel shot, water and a tiny bit of dish soap does the trick!

 

Tumbler

 

The lid is cleverly made to seal completely, and bolted on tightly.

 

Tumbler

 

The base of the tumbler rotates the pot around and around, which rubs the shot against whatever you place inside, polishing it beautifully.

 

Tumbler

 

The tumbler I have is actually sold as a gemstone tumbler, but works beautifully for silver as well. Not that you can see in this last picture, but twenty minutes sees the finished product looking shiny and great!

 

Tumbler

Mookaite

(photo credit Outback Mining)

(photo credit Outback Mining)

Mookaite is a type of silicified porcelanite, which forms in silt-stone from the lower Cretaceous period that is found over much of the Carnarvon Basin in Western Australia.

(photo credit Michelle Pemberton)

(photo credit Michelle Pemberton)

The name Mookaite is derived from Mooka Creek, where the rock is mined. According to locals, the Aboriginal word “mooka” means “running waters”.

(photo credit Creative Crystals)

(photo credit Creative Crystals)

Mookaite is believed to be a healing stone that bestows strength. It is said to shield the wearer from difficult situations and to connect us to loved ones who have passed away. It is thought to assist with assessing problems and making decisions. Mookaite is used to treat glandular or stomach disorders, hernias, ruptures and water retention.

Mookaite Cabochon

Mookaite comes in many lovely colourways. I have these pieces in my gemstone collection just waiting to be made into something fabulous!

Pale Mookaite Cabochon

smithing – creation of a teardrop shaped gemstone and sterling silver ring

I love seeing other people’s processes, and I thought it was time to give you all another look into what goes on in my workshop. I have blogged before about how I create one of my signature big chunky rings, and I thought it was time to examine that process again. Here’s how I do it!

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Firstly, an appropriate width strip of sterling silver sheet .6mm thick is selected.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

This is curved by hand using a pair of half round pliers to fit the gemstone.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Next, the strip is cut to approximately the right length on my bench peg using my jeweller’s saw, leaving a small extension for soldering against.

In this video, you see me prepare and apply the borax, position the solder (not usually quite so fumbly, I had a bit of stage fright!) and solder the bezel together.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Once the metal is cool, it goes into the pickle to be cleaned. An explanation of pickle can be found in my previous blog post.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I trim the excess bezel metal away from the solder join.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I check to make sure the bezel is a good fit.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I emery the bottom of the bezel so that it is completely flat and will make a good join with the base plate.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I select a piece of 1mm thick sterling silver sheet to fit the bezel.

I solder the bezel to the backing plate. Here you see me applying the paillons of solder with borax, and soldering the join. Then it’s back to the pickle.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

After rinsing and drying, a bit of a check to see how it’s looking!

Now, I saw the excess metal from around the bezel setting.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

After filing the edges of the bezel setting, I start creating the ring shank.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Using the appropriate width of 1.2mm thick sterling silver plate, I bend the shank to the right shape and size.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I trim the shank to the right length.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I hammer the shank with a mallet to get it perfectly round (this shot is for explanation only, I actually have the mandrel hard up against the bench to absorb the force when I’m really hammering the ring!).

Emerying the inside of the shank with my flex drive makes life easier.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

After more filing and emerying, I stamp the inside of the shank with my maker’s mark and 925, which marks the metal as being sterling silver (the 92.5% is the fine silver content).

I solder the shank to the bezel setting assembly.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ringSilversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Then it’s time for plenty more filing, and coarse to fine emerying to bring the ring close to it’s finished state.  (Zen or tedium, you decide!)

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Next, I head over to my trusty engraving ball to set the stone.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Plenty of gentle hammering with my setting hammer later…

IMG_1003

And my work, bar some tidying up, is done!

Persimmon Orange Drusy and Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring

There it is, a beautiful drusy agate ring. I do so love what I do!

Haematite

Hematite with Quartz (photo credit Rob Lavinsky)

Hematite with Quartz (photo credit Rob Lavinsky)

Haematite is the mineral form of an iron oxide. It can be black to steel or silver-gray; brown to reddish brown; or red. It is mined as the main ore of iron.

BotryoidalHaematite (photo credit Harvard Museum of Natural History)

BotryoidalHaematite (photo credit Harvard Museum of Natural History)

Gray hematite is typically found in places where there has been standing water or mineral hot springs. Haematite has also been discovered on Mars!

Haematite on Mars (photo credit NASA)

Haematite on Mars (photo credit NASA)

The name haematite is derived from the Greek word for blood ‘αἷμα haima’ as haematite can be red. It is used by jewellers in powdered form (with grease added) for fine polishing and is called rouge.

Red Haematite (Michigan)

Red Haematite (Michigan)

Haematite is believed to have grounding properties. It is thought to help reduce the discomfort of leg cramps and broken bones. It is also thought to cleanse the blood, and help with blood-related diseases such as anaemia.

Haematite Sphere (photo credit Manchester Herbs)

Haematite Sphere (photo credit Manchester Herbs)

There are some lovely haematite cabochons in my gemstone collection. If you’d like something beautiful made, let me know!

Huge Haematite Cabochon

 

Tool of the Month – Disc Cutter

Disc Cutter

 

I have a very lovely mum and granny, who sometimes give me cash for birthday and Christmas presents with instructions to buy myself smithing tools. I have a little wish list (of course!), and one of the items on it was a disc cutter.

 

Disc Cutter

 

I use a lot of circles in my pieces, (being a fan of the ellipse!) and cutting them out by hand is a lengthy and sometimes tedious process.

 

Disc Cutter

 

The disc cutter is made from two steel ‘wheels’, bolted together, with various sized circles (in this case from 3mm to 32mm) cut in them. You slide a sheet of metal in between the wheels, tighten the bolt, and use the appropriate matching punch (which are made from special tool steel, hardened and ground) to cut through the metal.. The ends of punches are sharpened at a slight angle to enable them to cut through metal up to 1mm thick as if it were – well – butter!

 

Disc Cutter

 

You can see the sheet of silver I’m cutting here has already seen some disc cutting action.

 

Disc Cutter

 

The end result is a perfect circle, every time. I do love my disc cutter ~ thank you, lovely family!

 

Sterling Silver Matched Domed Sphere Pendants

Pantone – 2015 Spring Colours

Pantone have released their gorgeous palette for Spring 2015, and because spring is here already in the Southern Hemisphere, we can get in early. Lucky us! I love a bit of Pantone colour, as you can see from my previous blog posts hereherehere and here.

Divine soft colours seem to rule this time:

Pantone Spring 2015

As always, I’ve looked through my gemstone collection and matched these spring tone gemstones for you. If any of these gemstones appeal, let me know and I can create you something beautiful to go with your latest Spring wardrobe.

Pantone Spring 2015 Gemstones

I was quite taken with this colourful Pantone iconic cartoon character guessing game recently created by Y&R, Shanghai. It’s called “There can be only one”. Who can you pick out?

Pantone Cartoon Characters

 

Labradorite - zdjęcia Stowarzyszenie Spirifer

Gemstone of the Month – Labradorite

Labradorite is a  type of feldspar consisting of between 30-50% Albite and 50-70% Anorthite. It was named after peninsula of Labrador in Canada, where it was first found.

Labradorite shows labradorescence – a schiller effect in lustrous metallic tints, often blue and green, and sometimes the complete spectrum. This effect is also found in moonstone.

Labradorite and Sterling Silver Ring

Labradorite is believed to stimulate imagination, help develop enthusiasm and to see more clearly in meditation. it is thought to assist with disorders of the eyes and brain and to relieve anxiety.

Green Labradorite and Sterling Silver Ring

It is supposed to balance hormones and relieve menstrual tension; and regulate metabolism. Labradorite is used to treat colds, gout, and rheumatism, lower blood pressure, and aid in digestion.

I have some gorgeous labradorite cabochons just waiting to be turned into beautiful jewellery for you – you can find them in my gemstone collectionLet me know what you’d like created!

Labradorite Wedge Cabochon

 

Small Labradorite Oval Cabochons

Tool of the Month – Ring Sizing Equipment

Ring Sizers

In order to create rings that fit my lovely customers, I need to know their ring size. I’ve written a post about measuring your own ring size, however  the best way of finding out your ring size is to have your finger measured at a jewellers – this is the easiest and most accurate way of fitting a ring.

Above you can see my ring sizing gauges. The rings are for measuring fingers, and are graded in sizes – here in Australia we use letters of the alphabet (which are followed by numbers), so these go from size H up to Z, and then on from 1 to 6. The stick is for measuring the size of rings, and has different measurements, including the alphabet system, millimetres, and US sizing.

Red Drusy Agate and Sterling Silver Ring

If you’re in Brisbane, I’m always happy to measure you up for one of my custom made rings!

painting miniatures ~ and other artistic pursuits

When I was younger, I had no idea that I had any artistic talent. In fact I thought I was devoid of it – that being able to ‘do art’ was something you were born with, and I wasn’t. It took me a long time to recognise some things about art.

Ogre Ninja Maneater

One of the things that started me thinking I had an artistic bone in my body was when my son encouraged me to have a go at painting his Warhammer miniatures. (Warhammer,  you ask? Picture toy soldiers meet Dungeons and Dragons meets chess.) These guys come as little grey metal or plastic pieces (the standard ones are around 5cm high), which you have to glue together and – paint. I couldn’t paint to save myself.. could I? After a year of his cajoling and convincing, I finally gave in – and instantly discovered a passion. My early attempts weren’t the best, but I read and researched and practiced – I got better at it, and even won a prize or two for my efforts!

Warhammer Night Goblin Giant

One of the first things I realised is that art can be found in many mediums. ‘Craft’ can be a form of ‘art’. So the ability to knit and sew and embroider and crochet can all be artistic talents. Gosh, huh, who would have thunk?

Warhammer Malagor

The second thing is that artists can be made as well as born.  Painting and drawing (and all those crafty pursuits) are skills that you can learn! I amazed myself when I went from being a bad stick figure drawer, to being able to freehand draw realistic three dimensional pictures of jewellery in just a few lessons!

Warhammer Giant

The third thing is that practice makes perfect. Sure, we all know those three year olds with the freakish ability to pick up a pencil and make masterpieces – but for those of us without that fortune, just keep trying, keep experimenting. It will come!

Warhammer Shaggoth

And finally – art is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve seen some expensive ‘masterpieces’ that anyone with a sponge and some poster paint could have slapped together – and some divine works of art that go practically unrecognised. Each to their own – just have the courage to appreciate (and do) what you really like!

And if you’d like to see more of my Warhammer painting efforts from this previous life, you can visit my ‘Cool Mini or Not’ gallery. There are some TOTALLY awesome artists there if you browse a bit further afield!

UNICEF

Manly Beach Panorama Landscape (photo credit Hamish Ta-mé)

Manly Beach Panorama Landscape (photo credit Hamish Ta-mé)

UNICEF is the United Nations Children’s Fund. UNICEF’s vision is of a world where the basic rights of every child will be met.

Unicef Banner

UNICEF works in over 190 countries to promote and protect the rights of children. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, clean water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and HIV.

Every child deserves these basic provisions, and I’m proud to support UNICEF this month with 10% of all The Silver Forge sales.

Ombre Blue Czech Glass and Sterling Silver Earrings

Head to The Silver Forge shop now for a browse, and see how you can help!

Gemstone Treatments

Green Turquoise and Sterling Silver Ring

When I first began setting gemstones, I was dismayed to be told that one that I had chosen might have been dyed. I felt a bit cheated. Surely every gemstone was just rock that came out of the earth? I did some research, and soon found that just about every precious gemstone you see has been treated in some way, and that some of the methods have been utilised for millenia – one of the first records of treating gemstones was written by Pliny the Elder (23-79AD), and methods he outlined are still in use today.

In truth, we alter almost every gem that comes from the earth, at least by cutting and polishing it. We also treat gems in ways that can change the colour or clarity of the stone. There are some gemstones that would not even exist if it were not for treatments. Not only are these treatments acceptable, they are necessary to keep these products affordable and available. There are varying degrees of enhancements – some are permanent and cannot be detected; others are obvious; and some are less stable and may diminish durability – these should be avoided if possible.

Drusy Agate Ring Rainbow

While the gemstones I use in my work are semi-precious, and therefore should not be price-affected by treatment (and have usually not to my knowledge been treated) some of them have been (including the majority of the drusy agates I use, which have been quite obviously dyed). If any treatment is not obvious but has been disclosed to me or is apparent to me when I buy the stones, I will note that in my listing for the stone or piece.


Bleaching

Treatments - Bleaching

Bleached Coral (photo credit Tomomarusan)

Bleaching is a chemical process used to lighten either a component of or the entire color of a porous gem. Some gemstones are bleached and then dyed. Bleaching is permanent and undetectable. Bleaching is usually followed by polymer impregnation, as the process leaves materials vulnerable to breakage.

Gems that are commonly bleached include jadeite and pearls; some coral, ivory, and chalcedony may also be bleached.

Bleached gems tend to be more brittle, and they may be more porous and thereby absorbent of human oils and other liquids. Pearls should be kept in a soft, dry environment to avoid surface damage.

Bleaching is virtually impossible to detect in most cases.


Dyeing

Firey Orange Oval Drusy Agate Cabochon

Obviously dyed drusy agate

Dyeing is the practice of introducing colored dyes into porous or fractured gems to change their color. Fractures are sometimes purposely induced by heating the gem so that an otherwise non-porous material can more readily accept the dye.

Some dyeing, i.e. of chalcedony and of pearls is prevalent, permanent, and acceptable – it is not deceitful as these colors do not occur in nature. Dyeing of other materials i.e. of jade, lapis lazuli, turquoise, coral, rubies, emeralds and sapphire may be less acceptable – dyeing of these materials is usually performed to disguise inferior quality stones.

Gems that are commonly dyed include pearls, chalcedony, lapis lazuli, black onyx, pearls, jade, coral, and howlite – howlite is often dyed and passed off as turquoise. The process has also been used since ancient times for materials such as turquoise, quartz, emerald, and ruby. Agate is also commonly dyed – most of the drusy cabochons I work with have been obviously dyed – these colors don’t occur in nature! Sliced agate is often dyed as well.

When dye is applied to porous materials, the durability is dependent on the stability of the dye. In gems with larger fractures, the dye can sometimes leak out. Many dyes can be removed if the gem comes into contact with a solvent such as alcohol or acetone. Some dyes are unstable with exposure to sunlight and can fade over time.

A qualified gemologist can detect dyed gems in most cases.


Fracture or Cavity Filling, Including Oiling

Emeralds are commonly oiled (photo credit Mauro Cateb)

Emeralds are commonly oiled (photo credit Mauro Cateb)

Fracture filling and oiling are the practice of filling surface-reaching fractures or cavities with glass, resin, wax or oil to conceal their visibility and to improve the apparent clarity, appearance, or stability of gem materials. The filling materials vary from being solids (glass) to liquids (oils), and in most cases, they are colorless. The use of synthetic resins with hardeners often applied to make the process more permanent, in particular, is not considered an acceptable treatment. Filling does not repair the inclusion, it just makes it less visible.

Gems that are commonly fracture-filled include: amber, diamond, ruby, emerald; alexandrite, varieties of chrysoberyl, and demantoid garnets; quartz, aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline and other transparent gems.

Glass filling tend to be harder and therefore more durable than resins, oils or waxes.

In most cases, filled gems can be recognized by a qualified gemologist using magnification.

Avoid exposure of these gems to heat, ultrasonic cleaning, and changes in air pressure or chemicals. Filled emeralds can also be damaged by exposure to hot water used for washing dishes.


Heat Treatment

Tanzanite is often heat treated (photo credit Wiener Edelstein Zentrum)

Tanzanite is often heat treated (photo credit Wiener Edelstein Zentrum)

Heating is the exposure of gems to high temperatures for the purpose of altering their color and/or their clarity and brightness. It can cause a stone to lighten, darken, or change colour completely. Unheated stones can come with a 50%-100% price increase – this doesn’t mean that the untreated gem is more beautiful, as in most cases the heating enhances the gemstone; the higher price is because of the rarity of the stone being unheated. It is usually irreversible.

The most commonly heat-treated gems include amethyst, apatite, aquamarine, citrine (naturally occurring citrine is very rare – almost all citrine in the market is heated amethyst); diamond (diamonds can be subject to ‘high pressure high temperature’ treatments, as this can alter the atomic structure of some types of diamonds; the treatment involves heating the diamond to high temperatures under high confining pressures to remove or change its color); ruby, sapphire, tanzanite (tanzanite is often a brown colour when mined – most of the shades of violet and blue available are heat treated); topaz, tourmaline and zircon.

Heat treatments in all of the gemstones mentioned above are considered durable and permanent under normal handling conditions.

Heating is detectable only by trained observers in a laboratory setting. Unheated rubies and sapphires will contain microscopic rutile needles or tiny gas bubbles in pockets of liquid which are evidence that these stones have not been heated.

Submitting gemstones to intense heat may render them slightly more brittle than usual, and care must be taken not to damage pointed faceted corners and edges.


Impregnation and stabilization

Treatment - Impregnation

Turquoise is often impregnated (photo credit Parent Géry)

Impregnation is the process whereby the surface of a porous gemstone is permeated with a polymer, wax or plastic to give it greater durability and improve its appearance. Stabilization is the introduction of a bonding agent, usually plastic, into a porous material. Of the two processes, stabilization is the most permanent. The upside to stabilization is that treated gems will not absorb oils and discolor as much as untreated ones. Some gems are waxed on the surface to enhance luster but this is not very usual. Opal can be stabilized with plastic to hide crazing, but this is not common and would only be done deceptively.

Most commonly encountered wax or plastic impregnated gemstones are opaque. The most commonly encountered dyed gems include turquoise, lapis lazuli, jadeite, nephrite, amazonite, rhodochrosite and serpentine.

Impregnations are often only surface deep, and due to the melting point of plastic and wax, can be susceptible to heat damage. Plastic impregnations are considered durable in gem materials such as turquoise as long as they are not subjected to heat or chemicals.

In most instances a qualified gemologist can identify this treatment.


Irradiation

Irradiated Topaz (photo credit Rob Lavinsky)

Irradiated Topaz (photo credit Rob Lavinsky)

Irradiation is the exposure of a gem to an artificial source of radiation to change its color. (This is sometimes followed by a heat treatment to further modify the color).

Most irradiated gems will not contain any harmful residual radiation. There are some interesting articles about irradiation safety here. According to a scientist’s report I read, the only areas of potential danger are gemstones which have been irradiated by a neutron beam (which takes place inside a nuclear reactor), and given the short half life of the materials in gemstones, they should be harmless within a week of this treatment.

The most commonly irradiated gems include diamonds, corundum (includes ruby and sapphire), topaz, pearls, quartz, some varieties of beryl and spodumene.

The colour of some irradiated gems fades upon exposure to strong light. Blue topaz, diamond and quartz tend to have very stable colors as long as they are not exposed to high temperatures.

Because strong blue colors do not occur naturally in topaz, strong blue topaz stones can be considered to have received irradiation treatment. Strong colors in green, pink, and red diamonds should also be considered suspect. Determination of whether a colored diamond is natural color or treated color requires examination by an experienced gem-testing laboratory.


Laser Drilling

Diamonds are the only gemstone that are laser drilled (photo credit Rob Lavinsky)

Diamonds are the only gemstone that are laser drilled (photo credit Rob Lavinsky)

This technique involves using a focused laser beam of light to burn an open channel from the surface of a diamond to reach dark inclusions in the stone. This is generally followed by vaporizing or bleaching to dissolve or alter the appearance of the inclusion. Diamonds are the only gemstones that can be treated in this fashion, in part because only they can withstand the heat of a laser.

While lasers could potentially affect the structure of a diamond, most laser drill holes are microscopic, and have no effect on the durability of the diamond.

Easily detectable by most gemologists and qualified gemological laboratories because of the presence of the laser drill holes. There are no special care requirements for laser-drilled diamonds.


Lattice Diffusion

Sapphires can be subject to Lattice Diffusion (photo credit Sapphiredge)

Sapphires can be subject to Lattice Diffusion (photo credit Sapphiredge)

Lattice diffusion is the penetration of certain elements into the atomic lattice of a gemstone during heat treatment, with the objective of changing or accentuating its color. Diffusion was originally used on sapphires. Chemicals, like beryllium, were infused at high temperatures, and actually penetrated the gems. Early diffusion only produced color on the surface of the gem’s surface and was referred to as surface diffusion. Great advancements have been made in diffusion treatment and it was discovered that if corundum is heated to very high temperatures for a long duration, the diffusion would penetrate the entire stone. It can improve color, change color, or create asterism (stars).

The most commonly encountered diffused gems include: Corundum (ruby and sapphire), diamonds (if you look at a filled diamond closely and rotate it under light, you should be able to notice a bluish flash); feldspar (varieties of feldspar, notably andesine and labradorite are receptive to the diffusion of copper, completely altering their color); possibly tourmaline and tsavorite garnet.

The treatment is considered permanent. It is extremely difficult even for qualified laboratories to detect with certainty. There are no special care requirements for diffusion treated corundum or feldspar.


 Surface Coating

Olive Titanium Coated Drusy Agate Cabochon

Titanium Coated Drusy

Coating, a process which has been in use for over two hundred years, alters a gem’s appearance by applying a coloring agent (like paint, lacquer, or thin film) to the surfaces of gems.

The most commonly encountered coated gems include: diamonds, tanzanite, topaz, coral, pearls, quartz  (some of the drusy cabochons I use have been coated with titanium); and opals.

Because they tend to be softer than or may not adhere well to the underlying gem, thin-film surface coatings of any kind are susceptible to scratching, particularly along facet edges and junctions. Care should be taken to not allow any hard or abrasive objects to come in contact with coated gems.

The treatment is easy to identify by a skilled gemologist except where the coating substance is colorless and it has been added to improve durability.

When they are not being worn, coated gem materials should be wrapped in soft packaging and kept in a dry environment.


Gemstones That Are Not Enhanced

Malachite Cabochon

Malachite is not known to be enhanced

There are some gemstones that are not known to be enhanced. These include:

garnet (with the exception of demantoid)
peridot
iolite
spinel
varieties of chrysoberyl
tourmaline (with the exception of the Paraiba variety)
malachite
hematite
feldspar (with the probable exception of varieties of andesine and labradorite).

Bear in mind that new technology in gemstone treatment is always changing and improving and many techniques are difficult, if not impossible, to detect.


 Disclosure

Here in Australia, the ACCC states that consumers should be able to “have a reasonable expectation that any treatment of gemstones to enhance their aesthetic appearance and value would be disclosed where the treatment is either not permanent or creates special care requirements, such as through the application of colourless oils, or the previous
practice of fracture filling. Additionally, businesses which fail to disclose gemstone treatments, where the value of treated gemstones is significantly less than the value of an equivalent untreated gemstone, may also risk contravening the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions of the Act.”

A gemstone vendor should always disclose any known treatments or enhancements; however, remember they may not always know themselves, especially with imported gems. Most gemstone vendors are honest and will let you know, but it is your responsibility to ask.

All in all, one of the reasons I enjoy working with semi-precious rather than precious stones is that they are less ‘valuable’ in monetary terms, and more likely to have come out of the ground the way they are – conversely though, to my mind, as long as the stone is obviously enhanced and you’re not being fooled into paying more for it, why not have fun and enjoy it! So, tell me – what do you think about treated gemstones?

The Ocean Cleanup

It’s a very scary thought – since we humans started making plastic, millions of tons of it have entered our oceans. Plastic NEVER biodegrades, and so it simply bobs around in the sea. Due to the movement of the water around the world, this discarded rubbish concentrates in five rotating currents, called gyres. The Ocean Cleanup is developing world’s first feasible method to rid the oceans of plastic. The Ocean Cleanup’s goal is to extract, prevent, and intercept plastic pollution by initiating the largest cleanup in history.

 

At least one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution. The survival of many species could be jeopardized by plastic debris. On top of that, plastic pollution is a carrier of invasive species, threatening native ecosystems, to say nothing of the economic and health effects this plastic waste has on human beings.

While diving in Greece, Boyan Slat became frustrated when coming across more plastic bags than fish, and wondered: “why can’t we clean this up?” He decided to dedicate half a year of research to understand plastic pollution and the problems associated with cleaning it up. This ultimately led to the passive cleanup concept, The Ocean Cleanup. A team of approximately 100 committed people, performing research in the fields of engineering, physical oceanography, ecology, finance, maritime law, processing and recycling, are all working to make this concept a reality.

Ocean Cleanup Concept

An array of floating barriers and platforms are attached to the sea bed to concentrate the plastic before extracting it from the ocean – a collection process which is 100% driven by the natural winds and currents. Instead of nets, solid floating barriers make entanglement of wildlife impossible. Virtually all of the current flows underneath these booms, taking away all neutrally buoyant organisms, while the lighter-than-water plastic remains in front of the floating barrier, up to the microscopically sized particles. The scalable array of moorings and booms is designed for large-scale deployment, covering millions of square kilometers. Thanks to its projected high capture and field efficiency, a single gyre can be covered in just 5 years. The method is theoretically highly cost-effective.

 

What worthier cause than the health of our beautiful oceans? 10% of all The Silver Forge sales will be donated to The Ocean Cleanup this month. Head to my shop now to help out, won’t you? I love to support enterprising and hardworking people dedicating themselves to the future of our planet!

Tool of the Month – My Jeweller’s Bench

Ruthie's Jeweller's Bench

 

A jeweller is nothing without a jeweller’s bench! As you can see, my bench is a busy place – I even tidied it a little for you here. My bench was made by my silversmithing teacher, Elmar – it’s robust, utilitarian, set up just how I need it – and I love it.

 

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One of the most important parts of the bench is the jeweller’s peg. This is the wooden piece that juts out the front of the bench. It is used to balance and stabilise whatever you’re working on – great for sawing, filing, emerying – anything that requires gentle force to be applied to metal. I leave most hammering for my large tree stump however! You can see the scars of filing and sawing on my peg – as time goes on, you develop your own comfortable nicks and dents for holding wire, filing rings etc. Eventually your peg wears away, and it has to be replaced – though I think mine has many more good years left in it yet.

 

 

There are so many different tools that help a jeweller – I try to accumulate only the ones that I really need and will use, but the temptation to collect is great! Pictured above are: my tri square – useful for making sure the ends of ring shanks are exactly square before bending and soldering, and for getting exact square angles on pieces I’m cutting out; a scribe and a pushing tool – The scribe is great for scoring silver before sawing it if I need a long straight piece i.e. if for cutting my own bezel, and as a general jiggery-pokery thing. I confess I don’t often use the bezel pusher, and never for bezel setting – but it’s a piece I made at a tool-making workshop I did, and I’m fond of it!; dividers – very useful for scribing a circle, or transferring measurements from one piece of metal to another; and my scraper – great for the occasional removal of pesky burrs.

 

Messy Jeweller's Bench

 

An my bench – ok, confession time, it usually looks a bit more like this! With every piece, there are periods of time where you’re waiting i.e. for the metal to cool after soldering, or to pickle, so I work on a number of different pieces at once.

 

Cloudy Blue Sky

 

Ah, my workplace – a very zen space, where the sky’s the limit! If you’re interested, you can see more posts about my silversmithing tools here.