Friday, 21 July 2017

Book Review - Handbook of Jewellery Techniques

Handbook of Jewellery Techniques
by Carles Codina
Published by A&C Black, 2002
160 pages



Book Review by SilverMoss - Handbook Jewellery Techniques


When I used to go to silversmithing classes my excellent tutor, every lesson, would bring in all his tools and anything else that he thought would help his students, including a stack of jewellery books (and sometimes the photo albums of the beautiful work he himself had created when he worked for a goldsmiths in London) for us to look through and gain ideas and inspiration.

This book was one of those and so when I saw the cover, and recognised it, I was rather excited to have the opportunity to look through it all over again.


One line review

A sophisticated introduction to more advanced silversmithing skills and jewellery as a form of art.


First Impressions

The cover of the edition I'm reviewing gives a good indication that this is a ‘serious’ jewellery book, covering topics such as stone setting, hinges, granulation, soldering and enamelling.

On flicking through the pages again I was reminded how detailed both the images and text looked inside.


At The Start

The Contents page contains images of some of the items it covers but mainly shows how the book is broken down into five parts –
Metallurgy
Basic Techniques
Surfaces
Related Techniques
Step By Step

The Introduction is very interesting as it discusses the concept of jewellery and jewellery making; it also includes a brief biography of the author. The beginning section then discusses the history of jewellery, by way of a piece on The Origins of Human Ornamentation and then a section on Contemporary Jewelry, both well illustrated and useful.


In the Middle

The main part of the book begins with a chapter on Metallurgy. This covers gold, silver, and alloys, annealing and pickling, and the care of metal in the workshop environment. This is both a technical and informative chapter, well worth reading.

The next chapter covers Basic Techniques and deals with creating shapes from metal using rolling and drawing, creating tubes, filing and sanding metal. It moves onto piercing and sawing, drilling and grinding, and then soldering. Making domes, cylinders and clasps, forging and creating hinges as well as clasps comes next, and the chapter ends with a section on jump rings. Lots of photos mean the information imparted isn’t too wordy, but is extremely useful and full of good advice, and small projects are included to explain some of the techniques.

Textures are dealt with next, covering etching, combining different metals, twisting, granulation, embossing, and reticulation. The chapter concludes with different finishes such as mirror shines, patination, and oxidisation. Again the photos and text are well combined and the idea of mini-projects is well used.

The Related Techniques chapter covers chasing and repousse, urushi (Japanese lacquer), and enamelling in all its many forms including cloisonné and plique-a-jour. It goes on to deal with stone setting and ends with wax carving and casting.

The last chapter focuses on projects, with the making of seven Step By Step pieces of jewellery laid out in great detail, with clear photos and text explaining each part of the process.


At the End

The book finishes with a Glossary, and Index, and a Bibliography & Acknowledgements page.


In Summary

This isn’t a merely a project book, with simple instructions on how to make each item based on the techniques included in the book. Rather, it is a guide to some of the more complicated smithing skills and how to approach them, along with examples of various designs for the reader to understand how those techniques may be incorporated into their own work and creations. The projects that are included are complex and elaborate, but the step by step instructions seek to make them as simple to create as possible.

If you're keen to start learning smithing techniques then this book may perhaps be one to purchase after you've learned the basics, or perhaps to utilise in conjunction with another book. For example, learning to form metal sheets or wire using a rolling mill or draw plates are useful skills, but instructions for these appear at the start of the first chapter, Basic Techniques. A beginner might find themselves daunted by being shown so soon how to not only form their metal but also to invest in expensive equipment to do so, rather than skills relating to jewellery made from pre-bought sheet and wire.

Whilst the information contained is wide-ranging and very useful, I don't think it's suitable for a beginner, but more for someone with experience of working with metal and the techniques involved, wishing to improve their skills and refine them. For that type of jeweller, this book is an excellent investment that provides sound advice and careful instruction by a skilled craftsman, and should only help both skills and confidence grow.


Handbook of Jewellery Techniques by Carles Codina


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Click on the link if you'd like to read my review of the Compendium of Jewellery Making Techniques by Xuella Arnold and Sara Withers

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Please note, this post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing if you click through but may make me a few coppers if the stars are right that day... For more info check out my about page.

Friday, 14 July 2017

A Gem of a Find - Aquamarine Treasure

I have too many 'jewellery items'; tools, materials, beads and metal, small pots that will come in handy one day to put even smaller things in, and pieces of paper and plastic that have intriguing textures and patterns on that are inpsiring and interesting and, again, will come in handy one day.


Aquamarine gemstones closeup on SilverMoss Blog

Consequently I have a drawer or two (or more, well, okay, definitely more) or slightly random 'items' stored in an extremely ad hoc manner. This makes it hard to find a particular 'item' when I want it, something I know I have but have only a vague idea of where it is. But it also means that when I go searching sometimes I find some real gems. Literally.


Aquamarine gemstones and sterling silver wire on SilverMoss Blog

I went searching for a couple of underused tools and not only found them (yay) but also found, stored away with them, a small quantity of delicate silver wire (either 0.3 or 0.4 mm - I will need to measure it to be sure) and a tiny bag of beautifully cut aquamarine gemstones.


Aquamarine Faceted Gemstones on SilverMoss Blog

I'd forgotten just how inspiring gems can sometimes be, especially when they're cut to bounce and reflect light in the most delightful way. Spending some time just looking at these got me thinking of things to make from them and aware that as soon as I did so the simple magnificance of them would be lost a little - not only would they be 'finished' (for now anyway - repurposing gems in jewellery making has been going on since prehistory) but any setting, even plain silver wire, would detract from their beauty...

Does this mean they won't get utilised? I doubt it. But I also know I'll take my time doing so and spend a little more of it at present just looking at them...


Friday, 7 July 2017

Mini Tools - Worth Plying and Buying?

Some silversmithing tools need to be hefty, to have some weight to them, to allow them to do the job they need to do. Others are able to combine some strength with deceptive delicacy.

I have a lot of pliers, all around 10 or 11 centimetres (4 or 5 inches) long, all collected piecemeal and utilised with varying degrees of success - many are used regularly but some languish in a "spare toolbox" and are tools of last resort.

A while ago I treated myself to a set of mini pliers, wrapped up tidily in their own case. I was intrigued to find out what quality they were and if they served any real purpose other than, well, being small and so more convenient to store.



Mini Pliers Set on SilverMoss Blog


The pliers are indeed mini, measuring around 8 cm (3 inches) each, and this decrease in size is felt in the handle more than elsewhere. But the heads of the pliers (round-, needle-, and flat-nosed and one side cutter) are all as well-formed as any other plier in a comparable (budget, in this case) price range and, while obviously a little smaller than a typical version, are still usable and effective.

The handles are well-shaped but their smaller length makes it harder to use them as comfortably as typically-sized pliers - I find with the latter much of my hand works the tool, whereas with the smaller version that action is more confined to the first two fingers.


Mini Pliers and Typical Pliers on SilverMoss Blog


However, for quick fixes and repairs, for times when you've packed everything away but really need a tool that's easy to lay your hands on, then this set is neat and ideal. The pliers also well-sized for working with very small items. For prolonged work I would find them a little tiring and fiddly and probably wouldn't choose them over larger sized tools, if they were easily available.

If you're just starting out or if you fancy smaller tools for more delicate work, then mini pliers may well be worth trying. Buying a set of pliers is a handy way to get the most used tools for simple jewellery making and these are usable, portable, and useful. I've made earrings and necklaces with this set and found the pliers and cutter excellent with very delicate sterling silver wire and tiny gemstones.

I'm not one to have superfluous tools ("spare toolbox" aside) but useful tools, even if they're near copies of other tools, will find a place in my main toolbox every time.

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Please note: this post contains no affiliate links and I have no connection with any manufacturer or retailer of jewellery tools.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Jewelled Web - July 2017 - Link Love


Avenue of Lime Trees - Jewelled Web July 2017 SilverMoss Jewellery


It's really summer now, whatever the weather. The days are longer and, when the sun comes out, it's wonderful to feel its warmth. And even when it rains, well, it's still summer and that's what matters.

When the weather hasn't been so kind (or the wifi has stretched to outdoors) here's what I've been reading and bookmarking. Hope you enjoy.



~jewellery links~

So many jewellery making techniques have been around for centuries, including granulation.

More textured effects, this time created using a rolling mill - something still on my tool wish-list.

And yet more texture with a video on reticulation.

I adore these earrings, simple shapes and beautiful textures and colours.

Metal clay shell necklace tutorial - beautiful.

Simple and quick DIY makes, including a beaded lace cuff, a jewellery box, and how to make a plaster hand from a washing up glove to hold your jewellery.

What to do with leftover copper pipe after you've had a new bathroom fitted? Etch it.

The Pink Star diamond has sold in Hong Kong and set a new world record.



~non-jewellery links~

Fascinating article about a decades-long study on what makes us heathier - it's not just relationships but the quality of them...

A super-bloom of wildflowers that can be seen from space.

I love Cheryl Strayed (a film about her, Wild, is well worth watching and it's based on her book of the same title) and this piece by her about what writing (and reading) does for us is quite special.

Such a beautiful garden print, created by artist Fiona Willis

A publishing house in Iceland that produces books once a month and then burns the unsold books the next day...

Cinnamon can keep ants away and other amazing things it can do outside.

Online camera simulators for when you have to learn just what an f-stop really is.



~latest reads~

I've been binging on a lot of jewellery books of all kind the last month or so, but have really enjoyed re-reading Carles Codina's Handbook of Jewellery Techniques and Nicola Hurst's Start Making Jewellery in particular. Reviews to follow.

Non-fiction has been winning out over fiction lately for me, something I'm keen to overturn soon and find something wonderful to spend the warmer months with. But one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long while is The Brain's Ways of Healing by Norman Doidge. If even half of this book is true then our brains are more fascinating and far more adaptable than we could ever have imagined and have the ability to transform our bodies. Totally recommended.


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Here's hoping July is gentle and beautiful, in all ways. Enjoy your month.

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Photo of the lime avenue taken during a wonderful walk in the park.

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If you need more links then check out my Jewelled Web from July 2015.


(this post includes affiliate links - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 23 June 2017

Countryside Inspiration for Jewellery Designs - June 2017

Spring has begun its gentle slide into summer and whenever I'm out and about I've tried to snap photos as much as I can. All the photos in this post were taken on my camera phone as I've been trusting it far more lately to capture a good image for me. I've also been increasingly aware that the shapes and features that attract my eye in the landscape also feed into my approach to the jewellery I design and create.

Countryside Jewellery Inspiration Wheatfield by Silvermoss

The photo above of a green wheat field, backed with a wall, then a further field, and then the sky beyond made me consider the importance of both pattern and uniformity in jewellery design as well as aspects that break one or both of those qualities. Yes, the lines of the features in the photo run parallel to each other, but the spaces between those lines are all different - wide, narrow, narrow, wide and so they add interest and break expectations of a uniform pattern.

Creating differences through contrast in design is often pleasing - we naturally recognise rhythm and anything that alters or interupts it. The texture of the wheat itself, being pushed by the breeze, within the overall stripe it forms, shows how effective angles can be when set against horizonal patterns and shapes. And the clouds in the skyscape provide a rounded texture in contrast with all the lines in the photo, serving as a reminder how texture can be used as a subtle contrast.

Countryside Inspiration Bluebell Wood by SilverMoss

This photo was taken late into bluebell time, when I nearly missed the best of the blooms through a rather weighty migraine that kept me hidden away instead of experiencing the flowers at their most blue. But even here in this image, the carpet effect is still in evidence and the trees, as ever, provide a protective canopy against the harshness of direct sunshine and beautiful spots of light falling on the flowers.

If you imagine the scene without the blue hues then it becomes a little drab, something a little plain - the bluebells add interest and texture and show how detail can lift a design which, while still attractive, may also be a little flat without it.

Countryside Inspiration Gateway to the Wood by SilverMoss

The contrast between the sunlight falling on the wooden gate and fence and the gentler dappled shade in the woodland prompted me to take this photograph. Contrast adds interest in jewellery design, as do angles, like the one that the gate and fence are on which helps draw the eye through the image, and prevent a one-dimensional quality by adding depth. In jewellery, the fact it is three-dimensional and tactile is one of its great strengths and allows freedom in design to create that sense of movement within each piece.

I'm really enjoying examining the photos I take a little more closely, choosing a few of my favourites and thinking about why I took them and like them so much and how certain elements of design manifests in my jewellery designs as well.

Do share anything you've noted in these images, or in any others you yourself may have taken, and leave a comment below. And if you fancy seeing my earlier posts on photographic inspiration they are here (on the seaside) and here (on flowers).