As part of the goldmithing course I did in 2012 I attended a weekend casting workshop. We did some lost wax casting (more on that later), and also some cuttlefish casting. Yes, really using cuttlefish! Or more correctly, their little (or not so little) cuttlebones. I hasten to add no actual cuttlefish were harmed in the making of this jewellery – their life expectancy is around one to two years, they die soon after mating, and you can quite often find their cuttlebones washed up on the beach.
The procedure for cuttlefish casting is to cut the ends off the cuttlebone and cut it in half. Grind down the two surfaces until they are flush. Carve a funnel in one end of the two halves, and carve your design just below that. Bind the sides together to form a mould, smelt your silver and pour it in!
I cuttlefish-cast the bottoms of these two pieces, then set bezels with bails attached into the cast pieces to create pendants. One is set with malachite, the other with paua shell.
I had to hand these pieces in as part of my final presentation, and then they were sold from my online shop.
Cuttlefish are members of the cephalopod family, like ocotpus, squid and nautilus. They emit a brown ink to help them evade predators. This ink, known as sepia, was once prized as a dye. Cuttlefish have green blood, due to haemocyanin, which carries oxygen and contains copper, unlike humans who have iron-containing haemoglobin filled red blood. Cuttlefish have beaks. Cuttlefish have chromatophoric cells, which enable them to change the colour of their skin instantaneously. Aren’t they wonderful! And coincidentally in keeping with my (unplanned) marine themed year!!! Thanks, little guys!!