1 July 2013

Rubies and pearls

Gem brooches with sapphires, rubies, garnets and pearls.

Some projects with precious stones and pearls are taking much more time then I would ever imagine. But the way from choosing an object, untill a finished item is a long way.
The most tricky part is the gems. Finding a write type od stone, shape, size, colour and quality that will not ruin the budget takes time. 
For this little brooch I ordered pearls three times before I got the right ones.

But let me guide you thru a whole process.

First choose your jewel and find, as many photos, drawing and information about it, as possible. Sometimes it requires a  visit at the museum and making some extra photos from different angels to have enough material to start in the workshop.
I probably will end up with  buying some extra museum catalogues and publications ( you can never have enouth of them! ).

This time I have chosen the brooch from the Erfurt treasure, small elegant with a pin type that is easy to put on the thick textile like a felt hat or a woolen houpelande.
I havent been at the museum in Erfurt yet, but the is a very detailed caltalouge from the exhibition that gives me all the details I need.

The next stage is  finding the right measurements. That you get for the museum database item descriptions or you need to estimate it by your own.
 Making several templates from paper or brass to make sure everything is right, before cutting the metal parts in silver.


All elements are done and fitted together.

 Now the I can finally start in my workshop. Cutting and constructing all elements.
At this stage I already need to have all the stones and pearls. When I am sure that all parts fits together I may solder it to one piece.

  A silver brooch base after soldering and cleaning in the acid.

To set a stone I need to make a tight bezel and after inserting a stone press it tightly around with a polished steel tool.
 Pearls are bit more problematic. If I plan to gold gild the brooch I cannot install the pearls - they are to delicate to survive the acid bath which is used for galvanic gilding. That means I need to rivet it as the very last stage of making the jewel.

Hammering the rivets on back of the pearls requires a steady hand - be sure you hit the metal 0.7mm rivet not the pearl, otherwise you wil need to start all from begining.

Making the first item is always a long process. Next ones can be made much quicker as I do not need again that much time for reaserching, setting measurments and making templates.

But for me whole this stage is the most chalenging and exciting. All those preparation before I even sit in the workshop are the most imoportant and will affect the final look of the project.
The rest is just precision, steady hands and some hours playing with metal: sawing, filing, drilling, soldering, polishing, stone setting, riveting...

30 June 2013

Silversmithing in Middelaldercentret

The course I took in Fredericia was in April. It took me some months to complete a small set of  tools to be able to start working with the new technique in a medieval workshop.
 I got really lucky, an old silversmith has presented me some old tools. Some of them I could with out any adjustments use in the workshop, some needed a bit of work to make them look like thoes from the iconography.

A small anvil, a stake for rising the vessel and two hammers, one made of steel and the second made of horn.

Here is some more photos:

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Taking a course in silversmithing.

As I was browsing the images of the workshops from the Middle ages I could often see some silversmith work, beside of making smaller jewels.
A late 15th century workshop by the Master of Bileam showing St Eligius at work

It seems that the goldsmith and silversmith was actually a same craft in Middle ages.

 Than if I want to call myself a medieval goldsmith, there is no choice but grab a hammer and shape some vessels.
St. Eligius at work by Niclaus Manuel 1515

Good for me that Denmark is still a place where silversmithing craft that is doing quite well and it is still a part of the "precious smiths" training.

I took the trip to Fredericia one of the schools for goldsmiths to take part in a course.
Two weeks with different types of hammers. anvils, stakes, mallets etc.

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It was a great fun!
But honestly I did not imagine that this is such a slow process.

Shaping a vessel takes days or even weeks and hundreds of thousands of hammer strikes. Than there is still some more hammering with the planishing hammer to smooth and polish the surface.
I also discovered that it has much more similarities to armour-making than I thought. Good I do not have to work with a glowing-hot metal to shape it.

Now I need to introduce this technique to my medieval workshop.