Years ago during a class with my teacher in Taos, New Mexico, I designed my first circle pendant. I found the most beautiful stone I had ever seen and I bought it. Since then I've come across many more extraordinary stones. But that was my first. And I began my love of making circles.
I was in the studio the other day working on circle pendants and decided to try to capture some of the process behind the scenes. It starts with choosing the stones and building the settings.
The focal stone I chose is called "boulder opal". You can see flashes of opal against the swirls of the boulder matrix. There's a beautiful green in the flash, so I added peridot as an accent.
When I work, I kick up a lot of fumes and dust. I used to think that was okay, but these days I get a hoarse voice and cough if I've been working longer than half an hour. So I suit up with a respirator. Given it blocks my face, my glasses don't fit, so I put on some safety glasses. I also wear ear protection when I'm grinding.
I couldn't get a photo of me firing the setting because I only have two hands! The "bezel" is shaped around the stone and then I solder the bezel to the sterling silver backing. Here it is just after firing.
After that I trim the excess silver as close to the bezel as I can.
I move over to the grinder and smooth out the edges so that they're flush. Sometimes I leave an edge depending on the design. In this case, I didn't want an edge of silver. (Note the gloves. Grinding metal makes it very hot.)
Now the tricky soldering begins. Every seam is soldered to hold things together. One of my favorite parts of silversmithing is to figure out how to design the pendant so that it's balanced and everything can be held together. Here is it after soldering all of the pieces together.
Next I drop the whole pendant into my pickle pot. A pickle pot is a small crockpot that heats an acidic solution that removes all of the gunk from fluxing and firing the silver. This is the piece after pickling.
This is before any polishing, so it still looks a little rough. At this point I decided to add an extra component in the bottom left corner. I also got busy and forgot to take more pictures from this point until after the stones were set and the piece was polished.
The final piece:
I've been working on a few of these for an upcoming show. This boulder opal piece was a little more complicated. I also like to keep it simple like this:
Here's another fun piece I made - still within the circle motif: