Archive for January, 2011

pavé class

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

faberge poppy ring

[Poppy ring by Faberge (modern). Multi-colored diamonds, padparadscha sapphire, blingy-bling, platinum, gold, etc.]

I left for my pavé setting class (at Revere Academy in San Francisco) with all sorts of grand ideas about what I would make the moment I got home. I even sketched designs on the flight over. Of course, after one day of class, it was sharply clear that I will need to practice for MANY hours before I will be even near confident enough to offer pavé set stones in my pieces. Pavé is hard! I can’t believe it!

But it is also kind of fun. In a super-neurotic hyper-detail-oriented sort of way, which is my specialty. I acquired a bunch new tools, including lots of pokey sharp gravers, and one of those opti-visors so now I can look like a grouchy old man when I set my stones. It was a long time coming and I have to face the facts: my eyes are not spring chickens anymore. My husband has been telling me this for years.

[Another modern Faberge design. Doesn’t it look like FUN to set all those little diamonds? I’m assuming this is a ring and that it was made by a hoard of nimble-fingered fairies.]

This was also my first real introduction to engraving using actual engraving tools (I had previously only done sort of half-assed engraving using scavenged tools modified for the job and, you know, it’s just not the same). I was surprised to discover I really like engraving. Engraving = carving metal, essentially, and so I suppose it should not have come as a surprise. Unfortunately, it’s WAY harder than carving wax so my engraved attempts were totally wonky and my lines wobbly and gougey and too deep/thick/everythingelse. But with some practice, I think I’ll be able to add engraved design elements into my pieces. Hopefully engraved designs paved with wee sparkling diamonds. Yay!

[Massive crazy ruby-encrusted ring (also modern Faberge). I’m generally not a huge ruby fan but, you know, I’d totally wear this.]

lalique dog collar - reed players

lalique dog collar pansy

[Rene Lalique: top is the centerpiece for a pearl “dog collar” style choker with molded glass reed players and diamond folliage. The bottom is an enameled pansy choker centerpiece with pavé diamond accents.]

I can’t even imagine how long it took to set all the stones in some of these pieces. I used to think this sort of thing was gaudy but I have since amended my blasphemous ways. I am especially fond pavé-set stones of varying color and size, and the way Lalique uses pavé in his designs is my absolute favorite. This is pretty much what I set out to do when I started making jewelry: make stuff as cool as Lalique.

And lastly, because this is after all Portland, OR (where we love everything cephalopod), I present to you the diamond encrusted octopus:

pave diamond octopus

(Squids, shocking though it may seem, are grossly underrepresented in the diamond jewelry world. I hurt.)

deco-inspired pendant

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Art Deco-inspired palladium pendant with diamonds and a sapphire drop

This art deco-inspired pendant is cast out of palladium (in the platinum family, very similar in look and wear properties, but it is not as heavy), is set with three small 1.6mm diamonds, and has an oval sapphire drop. This is the first time I’ve attempted constructing palladium (i.e., soldering and forming).

I had to buy welding goggles to protect my eyes from the high temperatures required to solder the metal (cool!) and I ended up using 18K palladium white gold hard solder (recommended by the metal supplier for color match). The only problem I really had was that I was told (well, I researched it on the internet; the INTERNET TOLD ME!) not to use any flux. Which is fine but the flux is very helpful in simply holding the tiny bit of solder onto the piece when soldering.

What I did was this: place a minuscule bit of solder on a jump ring (a rounded, curved, non-flat surface, mind you) and watch it fall off. Do it again. And again. Do it three more times and finally, somehow, it balances without falling off. Take a deep breath (but don’t let it out! It might knock down the solder). Check to be sure the solder is still there (it is. Whew). Put on my welding goggles, flip up the dark part and start my torch using my striker. Finally get the torch started, adjust the flame, and bring it back to my piece to start (oh! after I flipped down my dark visor, that is) only to see that in the meantime, my solder has fallen off again. Turn off torch, take off visor. Hunt around my charcoal block for errant piece of solder. Repeat.

I think I did this whole try-to-solder-only-to-realize-that-the-solder-flew-away-in-the-meantime routine a good 20 times. And that’s not to mention the few times where it actually was still there by the time I got around to applying my big bad flame. Only to have the wind from the torch blow it off my piece. Chalk up another 10 or so failures to my 20 above.

There was much swearing though I managed to remain admirably calm through this utterly absurd routine. I actually used up the entire flint on my striker (and I didn’t have another) and had to make a run to the hardware store to buy a new one. The new one, unfortunately, is just as hard to use as the old one. Blast!

In the end, I reigned triumphant.

Art Deco-inspired palladium pendant with diamonds and a sapphire drop

There’s got to be a better way. Perhaps using a little flux won’t actually end life as we know it on this planet. Because I see this deco piece as a pair of earrings with pearl drop dangles. (Oh yeah!) I will figure this out.

back to 2011!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

lalique thistle collar

[Thistle motif choker center by René Lalique. Gold, diamonds, cast glass, and enamel. Freaking amazing.]

Well, I’ve been back now for a week and I have only slowly been getting back on my feet. My brain was still on vacation, I believe. But now it has returned (to much fanfare) and Gin & Butterflies is back in business for the new year!

I hope you all had a kick-ass New Year’s. I spent mine halfway between a hard airplane seat and the baggage claim; we sort of dully noted the passing of the decade as we schlepped along with our groggy child. It’s okay though. As soon as we got home, we dosed a glass of egg nog with a slug of bourbon and lived it up for about seven or eight minutes before passing out cold.

Some exciting things coming up for me (and you, soon) is I’m going to San Francisco to take a pavé setting course at the Revere Academy. I’m terribly excited. The image at the top is René Lalique’s choker centerpiece with pave diamonds set into the leaves.

After that, I’m off to the big Tucson Gem Show! I’m so so excited and have been making my list, checking it twice, well, many more times than twice.. I’m on the lookout for rose-cut translucent diamonds and sapphires of various colors, pearls pearls pearls (as always), and great big hunks of turquoise, among other things. Plus whatever else strikes my fancy (that’s a broad boat there..).

I’ll be gone Feb 3-7th and if anyone is interested in any unusual stones for a custom piece, now is the time to get a hold of me!