The Story of Amber’s Pendant

I’ve just uploaded pics of my latest project to the gallery section, my first piece with 14k gold and diamonds.  This piece has been quite a long time in process — here’s the backstory.

Several years ago, my friend Amber asked me to make “something” with her old wedding ring.  (She married very young, and it didn’t last — and then one of the gemstones fell out anyway, so the ring was ready to become something new.)  It sounded interesting — a chance to work with gold! And diamonds!  So I agreed to take on the project.  It was a pretty wedding set, with two slender, gracefully shaped bands and a lovely central diamond, flanked by four small diamonds and (now only one) deep blue teardrop-shaped sapphire.  Amber’s only criteria was that the new piece should be something that was Not-A-Ring.

I did sketches.  And the ring sat on my bench, secure in its box.  I did more sketches.  I did research.  The ring sat on my bench.  I knew that as soon as I cut into it, it would cease to be a wedding ring, and become scrap.  Finally I screwed up my courage, removed the stones, and cut into the band.  But then the real problem: it was such a small amount of gold.  What could I make with this?  I didn’t think it could be cast — at least, not easily, there wasn’t enough metal for a good pour.  It wasn’t sheet.  It wasn’t wire.  It could possibly be forged, and soldered, but if I screwed up the soldering — then I’d have a real mess on my hands. And how on earth was I going to set those teeny tiny diamonds?

More time went by, and the parts sat on my bench. I moved into my own studio space.  I made more work.  I took one of Jennifer Stenhouse‘s stone setting classes — I badly needed the refresher.  I did more sketches, and revised the design in keeping with some of my more recent projects.  Still, the remains of the ring sat on my bench.

I heard from a friend who’d taken a workshop on working with gold — in class, they had all practiced melting down their mistakes and re-forging them from ingots into fresh sheet and wire.  So I resolved to give this a shot.  I only had the courage to melt down one of the bands — I left the other alone, just in case I botched the process.  I made my little ingot and proceeded to roll it out in my rolling mill.  I worked slowly and carefully.  The ingot cracked.  I despaired.

And I learned that — even if you don’t have to buy them — gold and diamonds are freaking intimidating.  Also, working with someone else’s gems: highly nerve-wracking.

In the meantime, I had bought a small amount of gold of my own, in standard non-freakish wire dimensions, and successfully soldered with it (in the Opal filigree pendant).  I’d also accomplished a few other pieces using customers’ stones, including that opal as well as a few others.  I was starting to feel a little more confident.

So in mid-January I picked up the project again, determined that I would finally get it crossed off my list.  On some further advice, I re-melted the cracked ingot and rolled it out again.  No cracks this time.  I hammered the ends and got it to about the shape I wanted.  I soldered it in place on the silver form I’d constructed.  Several other pitfalls and setbacks occurred — but this time I was not to be deterred!  At last it was ready for the stones to be set.  Several days later, with the zenlike understanding that I will always find the hardest, most obnoxious solution to any problem, the stones were secure in their seats and the piece was polished.  The bail was just slightly out of alignment, causing the pendant to hang slightly awkwardly — with just a slight adjustment it would be complete…


…So this piece features a riveted swivel bail, and hangs beautifully from its chain. :)   And at long last, it is finished.  *whew*

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