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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Filigree Cuff Bracelet




I can't tell you how happy I was to finally take a filigree class taught by Gia Gogishvilli, the master of filigree (and Repousee/Chasing and all metalwork)!  We had one week to learn how to twist the metal, flatten it, anneal, make solder, file the solder, make the filigree pieces, make the frames for the filigree, learn the proper gauges, make and solder hinges, etc.  It was a lot to learn.  Most of us needed a bit more time once the week was finished, so Gia set up a couple of extra time periods to meet again, which was extremely helpful to all of us.

So as complete beginners, we began with building our sterling silver frames.  One for the left, one for the right and one for the middle.  The size of these frames depend on the size of our wrists or whose wrist we we're making this cuff bracelet for.  We made cardboard templates to be sure of the sizing.

The basic frame
Using a template
Then we added the design inside the frame.  This wire must be fully annealed before shaping.

Adding the inner wires
Once the frames were built and all inner pieces soldered in place, we could then begin to make our filigree wire.  This is a process of taking two or three fine silver wires and twisting them to the point of breaking...annealing and then twisting even more.  It is difficult as a beginner to know when the wire is twisted enough because it's far tighter than one can imagine.  Once the twisting is complete, we run the wire through the rolling mill to flatten.  We then anneal one more time before beginning to make filigree wires.



There are different types of filigree wires, called ornaments.  Some have a single loop, some have a double loop and others have a tight double loop.  I've seen some filigree made with just loops and no tail.  I decided to do a tight double loop for this project.  The wires are supposed to all look exactly the same, but I need more practice with this.

Adding Filigree (ornaments)


As we insert the ornaments into the frame, each one is supposed to fit snugly.  The goal is to fill an entire frame with ornaments before soldering, but some of us had trouble with that in how they would keep popping out because we were not placing them properly.  It takes practice!  Once a frame is complete, we turn it over and solder with filigree solder, which is more like a powder than regular silver solder.  You can make your own solder by combining silver, copper, brass, cadmium and zinc with flux and borax, which turns it into a hard piece of metal.  You must then file this piece of metal to make your solder for filigree.



With persistence, the frames eventually fill up!



Now it's time to make the flower that will be placed in the middle over the large opening and also make the small half circles that will form the edging of the bracelet.

Adding the edging
Soldering the flower



Now comes the hinges.  These were simple 3 way hinges made out of tubing.


Trying to decide which stone to use.

What's next?  Finishing the hinges, forming the entire bracelet, cleaning and polishing and setting the stone.  Phew!

The Finished Bracelet

The back hinge

What an amazing experience!  Thank you Gia!  Until next time...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Filigree Earrings

While still fresh from my filigree class, I wanted to make something a little more simple.  Filigree earrings!  I messed around with a few designs on paper for a bit and finally came up with something suitable...and simple enough.

I began with square wire, 16 gauge, to make the frames, formed and soldered together with regular silver solder.  Until the class with Gia, I had not realized the utmost importance of getting these curves correctly done.  They have to be perfect.  No dents, no sign of having been misshapen and reshaped...just smooth and curvy.


I then twisted 2 lines of 22 gauge fine silver into filigree wire by attaching one end of the wires to my doorknob and the other in my Foredom, basically stretching across the length of my studio.  Holding the wire straight and tight, I turned on the drill and it twisted until it broke, at which time I annealed and twisted again.  (It may seem a little scary to do this at first, but you'll get used to it.)  Once satisfied with the tight twist of the wire, I annealed it and ran it carefully through the rolling mill.  Then I made the small "ornaments" which will fill all the little spaces in the earring.  This time I used a double loop, with the outside loop being a little bit larger than the inner loop.  I also used Victoria Landsford's Filigree Solder (Rio Grande) which is far easier than making my own and works quite well.

Some teachers think it's best to form lots and lots of little ornaments before placing, and others think it's best to make one at a time.  Each one has to fit correctly in the space it is going to be placed, so even if you make them ahead of time, you will often have to clip a little off the end to make it fit correctly.  So it's up to you how you want to do this.



I considered putting a gemstone in the middle of the earring, which would have been lovely, but because I used such heavy square wire for the frame, the earrings were leaning towards being on the heavy side, so left them out.  I do like the look of a solid, heavy frame, though.  In this next pair, I used a smaller gauge wire for the outside and inside frames.



Even though they weigh less, the outside and inside frames are not as prominent to the eye.  I think I will continue using the 16 gauge square wires in the future.



Perhaps a filigree ring will be next on my project list...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Simple Repousse Heart (Great for Beginners)



This piece is VERY easy and does not take long to complete.  One or two days is all you need.  The design is simple and there is not much detail to worry about, so I think it's a perfect beginners piece just to get you started on the mechanics of doing chasing and repousse.  I wanted to begin getting back to using my chasing hammer and tools with something that wouldn't cause my shoulder pain to return.




This is the basic design I came up with.  It's a large heart with a smaller heart above and 5 leaves extending out from the top.  I actually drew the design on the other side of what you see below, laid it on the hot pitch (after covering with chapstick for easy removal) and begin repousse work.  Once I felt I'd done as much as I could, I removed the piece from the pitch pot by heating with the heat gun, pulling off with tweezers and quickly wiping off the leftover pitch.  Then I turned it over to define the forms on a steel block by edging around all the shapes.  Then I put it back on the pitch (again with chapstick), and defined the shapes further.  Unfortunately,  I did burst through the metal a couple of times when I was defining the leaves, which I later had to fill with some silver solder.  It happens sometimes, and I try not to beat myself up too hard.  I simply repair the crack when I'm completely finished forming the piece.  The sterling silver is 22 gauge. The next one I make will be 20 gauge, so I'll have less chance of breaking through with the thicker silver.




Then I removed it again from the pitch, annealed, and added some texture around the heart.



Now it's time to get out the jeweler's saw and cut the design out of the sterling silver.



Once I finished sawing the shape out and filing the edges, I went over the entire piece with white diamond polish followed by the red buffing compound.  Then I formed a chain from some sterling silver oval shapes I'd made earlier, silver beads and garnets.


  


Supplies:

Sterling Silver or Copper (I suggest 20 gauge)
A Pitch Pot filled with pitch
A chasing hammer
Repousse Tools
Steel Block
File
Jeweler's Saw
Tracing Paper
Sharpie
Chapstick
Buffing compounds