|The amber cabochon, set in silver, held up to the light|
It's easy to be so caught up in the minutia of life that birthdays sneak up on us and the best gift we can find at hideously short notice is whatever comes to hand in the right price range at (gulp) the supermarket. It's not good, is it.
I'm very aware that, since I've been making jewellery, I've made a lot of it as gifts. And, as the years have passed, I've wondered how many recipients are smiling through gritted teeth rather than really liking what I've made for them. Most women will appreciate jewellery as a gift but jewellery is also very personal and, even if you know someone well, what you think their style is may not be what they really like. I think I would be suspicious that they were trying too hard if someone wore what I'd made them every time we met, but when I never see them wear anything I've made it does lead me to wonder if they ever do...
So, a combination of this apprehension and trying not to overwhelm with sheer quantity of jewellery has led me to be circumspect when I decide to make a friend or relative a piece of jewellery for their special day. But another combination of a special birthday, a hankering to set a stone (something I've not done in ages), and a bit of a tip-off came together to prompt me to make this pendant for a relative. And I planned it long enough in advance that, barring major soldering disasters, I could avoid any fear of a last minute supermarket dash.
I've not set amber before but I have used amber beads and so knew it was quite a soft substance - just 2 - 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which is extraordinary for something that has survived for many millions of year. In deference to this, I bought myself more than one gemstone, just in case... plus, as I was buying online I figured I should then have at least one good-looking piece to set if I had a few to chose from.
The whole project was quite a process of remembering how to do things, and finding ways to make techniques fit the finished-item-image that I had in my mind (and doodled on a piece of paper). My favourite part was when I, finally, set the amber into the setting. Whether that was pleasure at being near the end, or just the sheer satisfaction of carefully pushing the silver round the stone, I'm not entirely sure. Despite giving myself enough time to finish the pendant, I was always aware that something could go wrong as any moment and I'd have to start over - not that I'm always a pessimist but working with small pieces of silver with a soldering torch and hammer carries obvious risks.
While I made a host of notes of things to do differently, and better, when I next set a stone, the amber survived unscratched and, perhaps even better, the finished necklace was liked and - wait for it - worn...