Documenting the progress of my first sterling silver project

Now we’re more than halfway through our 10-week silver jewellery making course and for the first time ever, I had my pieces of sterling silver to work with. It was so nerve wracking knowing how much I spent on the 3 bits that I was too worried about taking off the protective plastic coating on either side of my pieces until I realised I needed to work on it at some point during the 2-hour class last night, otherwise I’d be sitting around preparing my pieces next week to finally get it etched!

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My sterling silver pieces coated with ground, ready for etching next week

To give you an idea of how much sterling silver costs, especially when you’re getting a large and heavy piece like the piece for my cuff (1.2mm thick and measures 13cm x 4cm – I’ve got a small wrist) that alone cost me £46. If that seems quite a lot of money, but I got this from Cookson Gold who at the time I bought it, had the cheapest competitive price for buying a piece of sterling silver. But it was either make a cuff which was something I would be able to wear with my other bracelets, or make a ring or ring on a chain which I wouldn’t wear very likely because I end up getting so many necklaces and I don’t really need another ring. For the other two smaller pieces (0.9mm thick and measures 5cm x 0.9cm) though that will be made into earrings, it cost £4.42 total for the two pieces, so it’s not so bad. So if you’re budget conscious, don’t go with a cuff or something that needs to keep its shape because more than likely you’ll need a thicker piece of sterling silver or precious metal and it can cost quite a bit more. I’ve definitely got new appreciation for precious metal jewellery designers though who can afford to sell their exquisite pieces at lower prices! I imagine if I were to sell my cuff, it would at least cost in the region of £75-80 at least! Luckily for me, I’m keeping this one.

It might seem as if I’m just cleaning up the shape of the pieces (rounding corners) and painting it a dull grey colour, but that’s only the preparation work! After the ground (the dull grey paint) is dried, it will protect the rest of the silver pieces that I don’t want eaten away by the acid – ie the exposed parts of the design I’ll be putting onto my cuff and earring pieces will be etched away.

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My practice etched design on a piece of copper, before the etching process took place

Unfortunately, I don’t have an after photo only because my pendant fell into the etching tank and by the time the tutor was able to get a member of staff to recover mine (and her) pieces from the bottom the next day, there wasn’t much left of it. Fingers crossed that because sterling silver costs a lot more than copper does, the same thing won’t happen to my earring pieces! So what exactly will be etched onto my pieces?

I was really drawn to this drawing from the tattoo artist, Haute Draws that I found from doing a Google Image search.

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Filigree lily design. Source:Haute Draws

I’ve already re-sized the image so that it’ll fit onto the centre of the cuff, so that the sides that will get bent after the design has been etched on (it’s easier to etch the design onto the metal when it’s flat), the lily filigree will appear on the flat part of my wrist, facing upwards. Once it’s been etched and the metal bent into the right shape of a cuff, I’ll oxidise the design using Platinol so that the design is more prominent. Here’s the part that’s exciting to me! I’ve already decided I’ll be using exactly the same image on a smaller scale, but it will be split vertically down the middle and each half will be used as the design for either earring pieces. When they’re put side by side and aligned along the long side, they’ll be a mirror image of the design that’s on my cuff. Cool, huh? I’m really excited about it!

I never really thought about who owned the image, but then I started thinking about copyright, wondering if the person who drew the image would be a jewellery designer. The image was found on Google Images and I’m still amazed at how everything just came together! Who knew that the design I was inspired by for my first two pieces of jewellery would be inspired by a tattoo flash? I know that the cuff and the earrings that I make will always have a special place in my heart. Not only because they’ll be the first pieces of jewellery I’ve ever made in precious metal, but also because unconsciously I was drawn to an image that combines two passions of mine: jewellery making and tattoos. I think I’ve found a new niche and direction which could be a permanent inspiration for any future jewellery pieces I make!

What will be even more exciting is after I get these two pieces made, that will count as 3 pieces of 10 that I’ll need in a parcel to get my precious metal pieces hallmarked, once I’ve registered with the Edinburgh Assay Office!

What do you think of the design for my first pieces of sterling silver jewellery? If you’re a jewellery designer working with precious metals, what was the very first piece you ever made?

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