Documenting the progress of my sterling silver project: Final

With it being our final class last night, I was anxious to finish the remaining bits and bobs that needed done to my sterling silver cuff and earrings. I’m amazed by how far I’ve come with making my first sterling silver pieces of jewellery and just as a recap of where I started and as a final reveal of how my pieces turned out, I’m going to document the entire process here with all the photos I’ve taken along the way.

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On the very first day of getting my sterling silver pieces, I was worried about scratching the metal so was too scared about removing the protective plastic. Eventually, I realised I had to start sometime, otherwise I wouldn’t get it finished. So deciding which sides were less blemished, I stuck tape on those sides of the earring and cuff pieces and coated the other side with ground in preparation for etching.

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During the next class, I made sure my prepared stencils were stuck on with masking tape to where I wanted the design to be positioned. I had a bit of bother with the earring pieces as the ground was painted on too thick so they flaked off:

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I managed to make good progress on the cuff though:

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So homework for me meant finishing off etching the designs on both earring pieces and covering exposed parts of the sterling silver with nail polish which seemed to work quite well:

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After a good few hours spent on the cuff and another few hours on the botched earring piece, I was able to finish off a clean design for the cuff and salvage the other earring piece:

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In my third class, the pieces went into the etch tank for 45 minutes. After they came out of their warm and toasty sauna, it was time to get the ground cleaned off with some soap and water.

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The nail polish was a little more difficult to clean off, so it meant taking the pieces home to get nail polish remover on the stubborn varnish spots for the lovely shine of sterling silver to really come through

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So during my last and final class of the term, it meant finishing off everything I needed done. First, I shaped the cuff on a mandrel and wooden mallet which took a lot of effort and patience:

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As you can see, the earring pieces don’t have holes yet for the ear wire hooks to go through so that was going to be next:

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Once both pieces had gone in the pickle, it was time for some odixisation. This involved using a small paintbrush and applying Platinol to the design I wanted oxidised. After this, the pieces needed a good wash under the tap, patted completely dry before using a high (ie soft) grade sanding paper to remove the Platinol from the smooth surfaces – only the etched design is oxidised. Then comes polishing both the cuff and earrings and drilling holes to the tops of each earring piece. The final result turned out better than I hoped for and my fellow budding jewellery makers were also pleased to see my pieces finished:

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My finished cuff

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Earrings pieced together to form the final design

It seems that my cuff was so well received that the OH couldn’t stop looking at it. Eventually, someone else decided they wanted to try it on too:

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I can’t stop looking at it and am really pleased with my very first piece of jewellery. Other classmates asked me if I was going to give away the pieces as presents, I told them I spent way too many hours, effort and patience on the cuff itself, so no way, but I’m keeping it for myself! So here it is:

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I’m quite keen on the idea of having hidden meanings and inspiration for my jewellery. Just as some jewellery designers are inspired by abstract ideas, like how Nicola uses sound waves to make a necklace out of sterling silver or how her collections are inspired by science, geometry and movement, my idea for my jewellery designs would be to combine two of my passions to form lovely pieces that other people can enjoy: feminine tattoo drawings and designs and/or semi-precious gemstones with precious metal jewellery.

Using precious metal like sterling silver (or possibly gold in the future) would cost more than producing pieces from cheaper metal, but with my sensitive skin, it would be especially important for me to be able to offer friends, family and potential customers the guarantee that each piece will be individually hallmarked once I get registered with the Edinburgh Assay Office. I’ve already started wearing my cuff, but I’ll be putting together a package once I’ve collated enough pieces to get them all hallmarked at the Assay Office at the same time. Now it’s also a matter of deciding what I want my sponsor’s mark to look like!

What do you think of my new jewellery pieces?

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