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posted by Colleen Shirazi,
September 21, 2007
at 7:55 PM (Pacific)
I realize I haven't been posting as much as before.
I haven't lost my interest in making jewelry, that's for sure. I suppose I've had to accept that for me, it has to be done in phases. I can afford to spend some on tools, but I can't afford to get all the tools I want at once.
For example, I haven't gotten into soldering. It's pretty basic, but it also represents a whole new cost in terms of equipment and materials. So I've had to put it aside and work around it...when possible.
My most recent project was what I call an "engineer's pearl pendant." :D This uses a very large, very nice freshwater pearl in a slight teardrop shape. Now if these pearls were perfect, they would cost a bum; they're not. They all have a distinct "bad side" where the nacre is slightly less than shiny, or else...what's the word for it? A little circle shape is pressed into it. The other side is entirely perfect.
Here's the engineer part:
A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.
The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!"
The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greenskeeper. Let's have a word with him." "Hi George! Say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"
The greenskeeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."
The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight." The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them." The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"
Okay...why can't these guys play at night? Why not engineer the design of the pendant so the bad side never shows?
I took some silver wire and made a regular wrapped loop on top of the pearl as you would expect...but brought the wire down some to make a tiny "bead cap" on top of the pearl. The bead cap shape didn't have to be "machine perfect," just nice-looking. The idea was to use just enough silver, and wrap it just firmly enough, so the pearl wouldn't turn easily (it didn't have to be ultra-tight, which might damage the pearl). As long as it didn't turn unless you grabbed it and turned it...that's the idea.
That wasn't the problem...the problem was the bail.
I didn't want to buy a bail...I mean there has to be a way of making your own wire bail. Right? I have seen some rather elaborate wire wrapped bails on the Net, but what I wanted here was something exceedingly simple, like those rabbit ear bails.
I tried a bunch of designs in wire...I have made bails before, in a design that looks like a small tube fashioned out of wire. (Now that I'm thinking about it, couldn't you make your own tube bail that way? Like a little coil of wire, with a coil in the middle sort of pulled down, or stretched out enough for you to attach something to it?) That works well for casual pendants, but didn't work for the pearl.
Finally I got sick of the whole works, grabbed some soldered silver jump rings I had sitting around, and started hammering them. I hammered three of them flat and then squeezed them into oval shapes with pliers, hammered some more, basically came up with three long narrow hammered oval links. And that became the bail.
(Observant folks will have observed I now needed to redo the wrapped loop on the pearl, since I was using closed jump rings for the bail...oh well.)
So that's been the kind of thing I've been doing. I haven't been buying much in the way of new materials. I've been slowly, slowly, producing better pieces. Did I mention I've been doing it slowly? It took me two or three days to come up with the three-smashed-jump-rings-bail, engineered-top pearl, yet it looks perfect.
Along with this I had some old sterling bulk chain...very fine links. Did the Camali Design trick of finishing the chain using wrapped links...it's really a stroke of genius, it works with any chain you can pass a piece of wire through. You can even make the "loop" part of the wrapped loop longer and narrower, if you wanted to be able to pass smaller bails over it. Here I didn't need to, just made a small loop and hammered it out.
Labels: bails, wire
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