Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Holiday over!

I've just had a weeks holiday from work - but now that I'm back I feel like all my work related knowledge has been blown away along with the cobwebs. Ah well, I'm sure it'll all come dribbling back over time.

Why is it that going away for a holiday leaves me feeling like I need a break? I know, rhetorical question that one.

Anyway, while I was away I visited family and friends in various places and showed them some of the jewellery I've been making recently.

So far the responses have all be positive, with a couple of very useful questions being posed to, which was great.

Mental note to self - finish the website and get it up and running! That's the plan for the next month and so I'll see how it goes. Just got to finish the terms and conditions section of the site.

More another time

Friday, 13 August 2010

More helm chain with beads

n the last post I mentioned I had made a pendant and earrings to match the sterling silver helm chain bracelet with red beads I showed a photo of. The earrings and pendant are made from 1 mm sterling silver wire. The larger rings have a 6 mm inner diameter while the smaller rings have an inner diameter of 3.25 mm.

Sterling silver helm chain pendant

As you can see, on the pendant it made more sense to me to place all the beads around the outside of the pendant.

Sterling silver helm chain earrings

But with the earrings I decided to stagger two beads and then used a single smaller jump with bead at the bottom of the earring to hold the lowest two large loops shut, until I did that, the lower two loops had a habit of opening and allowing the bead above them to slide down.
The pendant is hung from two sections of belcher chain using 2 small jump rings. I decided that hang the pendant from two points rather than one gave a better display of the piece as hanging from one link caused the pendant to elongate into an oval shape rather than a circle. This is because the gaps between rings are slightly larger than one that would allow the pendant to hold a circle shape - but when I tried using jump rings with an inner diameter of 3 mm instead of 3.25 mm I could not get the elements together so had to go back to the 3.25 mm inner diamter smaller rings. The two rings holding the pendant to the chain are actually only 3 mm innner diameter as I did not want them to be really obvious and get in the way of seeing the pendant.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Car insurance and helm chain!

It's car insurance renewal time - last year I'm sure it cost me £450 plus and this year they want £550 from me! I know they keep saying that premiums have to go up 'cos of uninsured drivers being a problem, but this is stupid. Time to look around for alternatives, and maybe time to stop insuring the fancy 'extras' I had put on the car (e.g, the body kit and posh alloys). But it was useful when I had the only accident I've ever had and one of the side skirts was damaged - it got replaced along with the doors.

Anyway, back to jewellery talk.

Having made the helm chain bracelet I showed you last time, I decided to try my hand at helm chain with beads as I was sure I'd seen something about it somewhere. This is what I came up with as a bracelet

The bracelet was made using jump rings I created from 0.8 mm sterling silver wire. The jump rings have 3 mm and 5 mm inner diameters. I decided to stagger the beads as I felt it looked better than them all being on the same side.

Of course, because I loved the way it turned out I couldn't stop there and make some earrings and a pendant to compliment the bracelet.

Photos and details of them next time.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A charm bracelet and the first helm chain

Earlier this year I was asked by a friend how much it would cost for me to make a charm bracelet for her daughter's 18th birthday present.

I quoted a price of £50 ish and she agreed that I could go ahead. We agreed that I'd make a byzantine weave bracelet with 6 places to attach charms on it. She already had one charm to attach but it would leave space for more in the future.

Sterling silver byzantine charm bracelet
This photo shows a similar bracelet to that of the one I produced for the friend's daughter. And, luckily for me, the price of the bracelet for the friend was £55 at the time of making, so I think I'm getting better at pricing items.

After spending the last year using mainly byzantine weave in my jewellery I decided it was time to try a few more weaves. There are numerous books out there but none that is considered the 'definitive' chain maille book, instead the best sources of inspiration and instructions are found on the World Wide Web. There I found instructions for a number of different weaves, all of which I like the idea of completing, and so I'm working through some different ones.

Here is a helm chain weave bracelet that I made recently in sterling silver using 1mm thick wire. For this project I made my own jump rings, there are 2 sizes used in the helm weave and I chose to use rings with an inner diameter of 3.5 mm and 6 mm. This weave involves the 'capture' of some of the rings meaning that the captured rings are held between two layers of rings but are not actually through any of the other rings themselves.
Sterling silver helm chain bracelet
This weave hangs well on the wrist and the bracelet is 19.5 cm (7.7") long which is a comfortable length for me.

Next time, clasps!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Pricing - how high / how low

Having made the sterling silver byzantine weave and amethyst bead necklace for my friend and priced it at £50 I wanted to know if I had priced it correctly or not.

About the same time as I'd been looking for sources of sterling silver jump rings etc to make the necklace I had revistied the website for CooksonGold which is a company which sells a huge variety of goods to jewellery makers. I had opened an account with them back when I did my silversmithing course and was slightly surprised to find that the account still existed even if it hadn't been used for years. I bought the sterling silver wire I needed from Cookson. While I was looking at their site I saw an announcement for their recently started forum and decided to sign up.

It just happened that just after I had given a provisional price for the necklace to my friend, a discussion about pricing started up on the CooksonGold forum and gave beginners like myself a huge amount of useful information about how to go about pricing items for sale.

After a bit of research through a few books and online I settled on a pair of formulae for pricing that I was happy to use. As I am not expecting to be a full time jeweller and have to pay my mortgage from my earnings, the formulae for pricing were a bit simpler than if I was giving up the day job. The formulae I chose of follow include one for a trade price and one for a retail price and are given below:

Trade price: (((price of materials + price of hallmarking) x 1.25) + a labour charge) + 10% of the total as profit margin

The retail price is calculated in a similar way except that instead of multiplying by 1.25, the total cost of materials plus hallmarking is multiplied by 2.

When I plugged the details of the sterling silver and amethyst necklace into these formulae I found that the trade price should have been £63 and the retail price should have been £88.50 - I guess my friend got even more of a bargain than I thought she did!

You live and learn, as the saying goes. So when the friend in question asked me to make her a bracelet in a similar style to the necklace I did and quoted her a price of £45 on the grounds that she'd got a good deal on the necklace. She was happy with the bracelet costing her £45 and admitted that she thought that the necklace was low in price.

I made the bracelet for her and then priced the bracelet using my formulae and found a trade price of £36.50 and a retail price of £47.00 so she still got a good deal on it too.

At the same time as we discussed making a sterling silver and amethsyt bracelet, the friend and I had discussed the idea of a matching set of earrings. I didn't tell her what I was doing and made a pair of earrings when I had finished her bracelet. I then gave her the bracelet which she was very happy with and then presented her with the earrings as a 50th birthday present as her birthday was only a few days later.

Here are the earrings and bracelet - giving her the whole set with the necklace shown in the last post.

More another time

Monday, 9 August 2010

My first sale - and the resulting piece of jewellery

Last time I ended with a comment about my first sale, so a bit more information here and the problems I found with it.

A friend saw me wearing my sterling silver and purple bead bracelet around the office and asked where I had got it. Of course, being me, I launched into a tale about how I'd made it and where the problems were and pointing out that I'd love to make a similar bracelet using sterling silver jump rings.

The friend asked if it would be possible to make a necklace in a similar style - so I said "Of course". At which piont she asked me to let her know how much it would cost to make a 16 inch necklace for her!

Wow, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Where to find the jump rings? How many beads to use? What about the catch to use? What about the price?

So, I calmly said, "I'll let you know when I've had a chance to price things up", then I headed back to my work computer and tried to think.

I already had an account at a company that sells silver sheet to the jewellery trade, so I was sure they'd be able to supply everything I needed. Well, I was almost right, they could supply the silver wire needed to hold the beads and whichever style of catches/clasps I wanted to use - but the jump rings they sold were not of the size I needed.So the hunt was on for jump rings in the right size. Luckily I found the web site of David Scott Plumlee (see earlier posts about his books) and he had a link to a UK based maker of jump rings! Unfortunately this company has recently gone our of business so I won't waste your time with their name.

Luckily for me the company made exactly the size of jump rings I wanted, so I ordered what I hoped would be enough rings to make the necklace.

Then I asked the friend if she would prefer amethyst beads rather than purple coloured glass ones to go with the sterlinng silver - the answer was "yes please". That was easy as I already knew a bead shop in London that sold the beads, so I paid them a visit. I wanted 9 beads - and so I picked them out and took them to the till to be told "it's cheaper if you buy a string of the beads, and you'll have more" - so I bought a string of beads with no idea how I'd use up the spares.

I then told the friend it would cost about £40 to £50 to make the necklace - I wish I'd known then what I know now about pricing, but I didn't so she was getting a bargain (more about pricing in the future).

I made the necklace for the friend. Got it hallmarked (more about that topic later) and presented it to her wrapped in acid free tissue paper and a red velveteen bag. She was thrilled, and so was I when she happily handed over £50 in cash, and here is what she got for her money:.

It's 16 inches (41 cm) long and is closed with a bolt ring clasp. It contains 9 amethyst beads which are 6 mm in diameter each as well as 284 jump rings made from 18 gauge sterling silver and with an inner diameter of 3.25 mm per ring.

More another time

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Lead up to my first sale

As I've already mentioned, I discovered chain maille last year, and that is what started my progression towards where I currecntly am with my jewellery making.
Silver jump rings

Since I discovered chain maille I've become addicted to creating pieces of chain maille jewellery using mostly my favourite Byzantine weave and more recently a few other weaves.

I have found that I really enjoy taking a pile of insignificant looking silver jump rings (like those to the right) and turning that pile of metal loops into a beautiful wearable pile of metal.

My first love is the Byzantine weave, partly because it is deceptively complicated. I find it very easy to create Byzantine weave quickly and sometimes find ways to use it that are not in the book I learnt it from. From the first pieces that I made which were copied from the book, I have enjoyed including beads of various shapes and colours into my pieces.

The first bracelet I made used silver plated jump rings I had cut myself and purple glass beads. The result looks good from a distance, but close to you can see the problems with it.

Silver plated Byzantine weave with purple beads

As you can see, the jump rings are not cut cleanly as I used half flush cuters to cut them. Half flush cutters create two different shaped faces in the cut metal, one face is flat and the other is pointed where the blades met - this causes unsightly gaps and makes it difficult to close the jump rings at times. Also, the wire sections used to hold the beads is made with much thinner wire which lookings out of place.

But I am still pleased with the results, and the fact that wearing this bracelet around the office led to my first jewellery sale.

More next time

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Finally remembered name/author of chain maille book

Having finally remembered which chain maille book I meant I thought I'd give you the details. The author is David Scott Plumlee and the first of his books is called "Chain and Bead Jewellery: techniques for creating dimensional necklaces and bracelets". He has since released a second book, and it turns out has two more in the pipeline for this year so I've just pre-ordered both of those. I really like his style of writing and his explanations / instructions I found clear enough to be able to make the items in his book on the first attempt. His website is at DavidChain Jewellery if you are interested.

The Byzantine weave bracelet I showed in the previous two posts came from his first book. As I said earlier I made nearly every piece in the first book and a few pieces from the second book. I'm interested in seeing his next two books as they appear to expand on the techniques he has already shown in the first two, as well as one of the books being about soldering jump rings. Which is something I am very eager to learn!

I have a soldering kit in the house, but so far haven't really used it except to deliberately melt some Precious Metal Clay (PMC) to see how working with it under a torch flame affected it. Melting the bit of PMC into a ball of fine silver was fun I must admit, but didn't really help with learning to solder.

Byzantine weave charm bracelet
PMC is kind of a "side interest" as I'm hoping that by working with it I can start to make fine silver charms to hang from my chain maille bracelets and necklaces.

A bracelet I was commissioned to make as the 18th birthday present for a friend's daughter was a Byzantine weave chain bracelet similar to the one shown in this photo. The larger links are available for hanging the charms from.

Until next time

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Finding chain maille for the first time

Byzantine chain maille weave bracelet
I finished my last post with this photo of a Byzantine chain maille weave bracelet that I made recently.

I have seen chain maille before, primarily used for making armour for re-enacting various battles, and once I got to try making a very basic sheet of maille from copper rings at a convention.

Last year I was looking for chain maille instruction sources on the Web, I found a few but found the instructions difficult to follow, so I kept looking. At some point I spotted a book on Amazon that looked interesting so I picked up a copy (when I remember to get the details together I'll put the name up here).

From this book I learnt about making jump rings, the basic building block of all chain maille creations, and about the Byzantine weave. From what I can tell the weave is not named for having been used in the Byzantine world, it is a much more recent creation than that.

I find that I love the Byzantine weave as it is deceptively simple (to me anyway) and it grows at a good rate when being made. I can easily sit in front of the TV and make sections with no problems.

I made nearly all the pieces of jewellery in the book from silver plated wire that I had cut into jump rings.

Those early jump rings are very rough in cut and sizing and I have since learnt that the sizing especially is very important when creating chain maille pieces as the slightest variation in size and affect the lie of the rings once woven together. Some weaves rely on an inner diameter of a ring leaving only just enough space for the other rings to fit inside so that the structure of the weave grows correctly, more about those later.

More another time

Monday, 2 August 2010

Welcome and an introduction to me!

Welcome to the first entry of my jewellery related blog.

This is a blog in which I will be commenting about my success or lack of success when making jewellery and other items.

I bit of back ground first before I get started.

About 8 years ago I was looking for my next Adult Education Course. Having already completed courses on Russian language (I never was very good at learning vocabulary so can't remember most of it), Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP, very interesting but not sure if I'll ever use it) and Woodworking for beginners (I love the cupboard I made, but I really must varnish it sometime). And having failed to complete a course on shorthand. I decided something hands on would be good as the most fun and satisfying course so far had been the woodworking one, but I was looking for something difference.

One of the courses on offer was Silversmithing for beginners. I thought that sounded different enough from my day job as a computer programmer, so signed up. The course lasted 10 week and was held in a local art centre which had fully kitted out jewellery studio. The course was interesting although some of the "begginners" were back for their 4th or 5th term it turned out. The tutor seemed to be more interested in helping the returning students with their more complex work than helping us newbies. But, even with that I made 3 items of jewellery using Silver sheet and I had fun learning to use various tools. I even got a single shot at soldering - now I really want to learn how to solder, but that's a future project.

I loved the silver smithing but knew that it was not a hobby I could continue in my tiny 2 bed semi, so I gave up on the idea of my own jewellery studio (at the time at least).

The next Adult Education course I took was Wire Wrapping. It was a one day course on a Saturday and I enjoyed it so much that I knew I'd found a new hobby - that was 5 or 6 years ago now.

Since then I've stocked up on various kinds of pliers, files and cutteres as well as various types and sizes of wire. Gold and silver plated wires were the first kinds I used and having learnt a bit about linking beads together on the wire wrapping course, I was soon making earrings and necklaces.

A number of these earrings and necklaces were given to friends - I'm not sure they all appreciated receiving my gifts, but they said nice things at the time so that was okay.

Last year I discovered a new love - chain maille working. The example below is a Byzantine weave bracelet.

Byzantine chain maille weave bracelet

I better stop now or you'll have my whole life's history to wade through. More on the chain maille I love next time.