I feel really privileged in my work, I know (or at least hope) that many of the pieces I make which have been chosen by someone who likes what I do, will quickly develop a personal attachment to the people who own then. Maybe that sounds a bit sentimental but I’m happy with that. :)
So when Jenna, one of my customers who had previously bought a ring from me, asked if I could make something from two existing gold pieces, a ring and chain from her parents which already had sentimental value I’ll admit I not only privileged but excited and a bit nervous at the same time.
Why excited? Although this what I do day in and day out I have never lost my sense of enjoyment from jewellery making but when someone presents me with a new challenge I do get a bit of a tingle!
Why nervous? You can take a pretty logical view of jewellery; gold and silver are just metals, you can melt and reform them over and over again if you like. But jewellery isn’t just metal, attachment and meaning comes as standard. You always need to treat commissions like this with sensitivity and ensure that what you end up crafting does not end up so far removed from the original items that the meaning is lost. You also need to get it right! Imagine handing over you cherished items from your loved ones and getting something back you didn’t like!
Anyway, obviously I jumped at the chance and when Jenna brought the chain and the ring round I thought carefully about the options. The ring was quite thin and too large for her finger, I could in theory just melt it all down together and make something new and that’s what another jeweller had suggested. It would probably be the easiest option but it didn’t feel quite right to completely start afresh.
So I set about working on it with the hammer, this is where patience is required! Laying the ring flat and flipping it over I set about gently hammering to compress and thicken the metal being careful not to ‘mushroom’ the edges too much. After about 2 hours I was happy with the thickness.
At this point I cut the ring, laid it flat and trimmed off the little mushrooming that had occured, putting that aside to be melted down with the chain later, and then resoldered it together. It probably took a lot longer than smelting it and rolling out some new sheet but the original integrity of the ring was preserved.
I then set about hammering some texture into the ring and compressing to the right size and, apart from some final polishing and tidying up, was the gold band was more of less done. So I turned my attention to the chain and few scraps of gold leftover, Jenna wanted a heart shape for the ring so the the tangled chain and the few scraps of gold from the ring work went into my smelting crucible.
I have to confess I’m always a little nervous manipulating molten metal, jewellers like me tend to buy our materials in the form of precast wire or sheet that we manipulate and solder so there aren’t too many times when you actually smelt, so you do have to focus when you’re trying to pour the tiny contents of a crucible that’s at least a 1000°C into your casting mould!
Anyway, everything went perfectly and after some more shaping, hammering and polishing I had the perfect chunky little gold heart for the ring.
It always gives me a great sense of personal satisfaction when a customer of mine trusts me enough to take something precious to them and help create something new that will stay with them for years to come, and given the tears of happiness and thanking me with a bottle of Prosecco (which I polished off far quicker than it took me to make the ring), chocolates and a lovely message in a card I think Jenna loved the results too!