Monthly Archives: March 2018

Pencil Day -Friday 30th March

It’s pencil day! So let’s break out the lead to celebrate these sharp designs by jewellers inspired by this humble and useful staple of the stationery family. After all, they have been decorating the under-adorned top-of-ear spaces since their creation, even if we have been pretending this was just for on body storage purposes.

To ‘pencil in’ may be a term for a noncommittal arrangement. But with this golden pencil bangle, the use of precious metal and coral, gives shimmering weight to anyone’s intentions.

Gold and coral pencil bangle by Noma Copley

Jo McAllister brings us a warm spectrum with this selection of colour pencils in a miniature tin in her piece ‘Colouring’.

I love it when creativity can be facilitated on the move, so it seems, stationery doesn’t have to be stationary after all.  And when it looks this good at the same time, it’s enough to draw the attention of the long-departed beautilitarian William Morris, who famously stated ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ – the same rule of thumb would bode well with what we put on our bodies.

Mini pencil tin ring by Jo McAllister

A colourful array of sliced-through pencils makes for a satisfying interlocking cross-section of brights in this bangle. Highlighting the pencil’s natural ability for tessellation to bring out colour in an unexpected way.

Bangle by Maria Cristina Belucci

More to the point, the pen might be mightier than the sword, but let’s not get in a fight about it on pencil day! All materials are fair game to the jeweller, yet 2B or not 2B is always the question.

March Birthstone-Aquamarine-Sea life through blue tinted stones

The bluey-green Aquamarine gets its name from the Latin for ‘water of the sea’. Lucky March born children have this brittle, sensitive gem as their birthstone and personalities that reportedly range from friendly and boisterous to vibrant and colourful (like this beautiful stone). Its a gemstone symbolic of health and hope -so perfectly matched to springy feelings.

Aquamarine is part of the Beryl family which includes Emerald and gets its colour from its iron content, with the dark blue shade has always been the most desirable. So what would you do if these stones were given to you (apart from saying thank you kindly)? These jewellers are here to show you some wildly different ways of handling Aquamarine’s watery depths.

Massimo Izzo heads to the rock pool for an epic splash of decadence with this Aquamarine, Diamond, Yellow Gold ring, representing sea life-starfish, seahorse and shells.

Here Rosanne Pugliese heads to the other extreme with a lovely minimal setting, using a delicate Gold frame to clasp a sheet of Aquamarine in place.

Art Nouveau master Rene Lalique does delicacy and abundance in one piece with this dragonfly and grasshopper necklace.

On a smaller scale in this very wearable ring, set with Aquamarine, blue topaz and diamonds by Melanie Casey.

Finally Regine Schwarzer shows us how to pick a boldly-coloured stone (like the bottom of the ocean this Aquamarine potentially has its own thoughts and feelings it’s so deep) and make a piece all about beautiful shade and texture by avoiding traditional faceting.

 

Spring hasn’t totally sprung but it’s never too early to jump into one of our lovely classes.

 

 

Wax carved jewellery inspiration

We are LOVING wax carved jewellery at the moment but what can you make when you’ve mastered the technique? Here is some inspiration from our talented tutors and students to get you thinking.

(And here is a blog post from our own Lil Adams on what wax carving is and how casting works in case you’re not sure)

Rough-ruby-silver-ring-Anvil-and-Ivy-Sophie-Arnott

Rough ruby silver ring by Sophie Arnott

gold-pearl-ring-rebecca-steiner

Gold pearl ring by Rebecca Steiner

Silver-pendant-Sophie-Arnott

Silver pendant by Sophie Arnott

Gold-rings-rebecca-steiner

Gold rings by Rebecca Steiner

 

knuckle-duster-ring-by-natasha-lisa-afrodeco

Knuckle duster ring by Natasha Lisa

 

rose-gold-ring-jmhandcraftedjewellery

Rose gold ring by Jayne Murphy

silver-cufflinks-by-natasha-lisa-afrodeco

Silver cufflinks by Natasha Lisa

Silver-ring-sophie-arnott

Silver ring by Sophie Arnott

silver-ring-by-jayne-murphy

Silver ring by Jayne Murphy

george-lion-ring-lil-adams

George the lion ring in progress! By Lil Adams

Note: for inspiration only. The jewellery designs shown here are copyrighted by the designers


Fancy giving wax carving a try? We have some classes at the London Jewellery School and online at Jewellery School Online. We also have a kit of tools available to make it easy to get started.

In London

We have lots of wax carving classes at the London Jewellery School for beginners and advanced learners including an evening taster classa five-week evening class and day classes so do check out our courses and available dates on our website.

Online courses

We have a FREE wax carved ring making online course with tutor Sophie Arnott. You will learn to apply your designs to your wax piece, remove excess wax and create a full 3D design of your choosing. Following that, Sophie will show you how to file your wax piece into shape, remove any file marks and sand and refine the piece ready for casting. You will also learn how to create a ring to size and some recommendations on casters to use.

beginners-wax-carving-rebecca-steiner-jewellery-school-onlineIf you enjoy that course then consider our more comprehensive beginners wax carving online course which covers ring making, pendant making. The course launches on 26th March 2018 and is currently available at a pre-sale price of 50% off. CLICK HERE FOR 50% OFF – VALID UNTIL 26TH MARCH 2018 ONLY. THAT’S TOMORROW!

 

 

 

wax-carving-kit-london-jewellery-schoolKits

At the London Jewellery School we are also selling wax carving toolkits which have everything you need to get started! The cost is £100 and includes UK postage (for postage outside the UK please email us at info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk for a postage quote)

Click here to see what you get in the kit and to purchase

We also have a set of three wax ring blanks for sale for £12.99 plus postage, perfect if you want to get started with rings straight away!

 

All prices are correct at time of blog publication but please note that they are subject to change

Not Just Castings – how lost wax casting works and more

At the beginning of 2016 I undertook a placement with Just Castings in Hatton Garden. This was part of the two week intensive Advanced Diploma in Creative Jewellery Making (see previous blog entry about how great this was) which I had completed the previous summer.

Their premises have since moved to a spangly new home next door at 19 Cross Street, where their knowledgeable and patient team can answer all of your silly questions (as they still answer mine on a regular basis) about their services. These services go far beyond just casting to CAD design, 3D printing, plating and finishing. However, the moulding and casting process will remain forever the most fascinating to me.

I was privileged to spend two days learning the mould making and casting processes. I gained an overview of the CAD, 3D printing, finishing and plating, which can be done there behind the scenes, whilst two of my own wax pieces took their own journey into silver and brass.

I returned for two afternoons of finishing these pieces. This involved de-sprueing – the sprue is the entry point for the metal into the piece (before my placement I called this a spout) and polishing a silver ring, also finishing and rose-gold plating a brick bead for a necklace with Chris and Adrian at the studios just down the street. There was a  professional setter working away in the same studio, so I got to take a peek at this fiddly precise work too.

My illustration of the casting process, complete with spelling mistake and bunnies which were cast from pasta shapes.

I took a lovely little refresher tour with Theo recently, for a helpful reminder of the time I spent learning the ways of JC.  The process used is called lost wax casting. Lost wax casting is an ancient technique, but this centrifugal, mechanical process is the most accurate way of achieving intricate results. This modern way of casting has its roots in dentistry. To my delight I discovered gold tooth caps on the casting trees whilst on my placement – it’s nice when traditions are upheld. Items can be brought in three different ways to be transformed into a range of metals, but at some stage they need to be a wax. You could bring in a hand-carved wax piece, a model or master to have a mould made to then make waxes or a 3D design, which can be printed or milled from sheet wax.

It’s a positive to negative to positive process. The mould making stage is to create waxes from existing objects or multiples from the same original wax and allows for more types of items to be cast. These moulds are custom made to the size of the piece from a latex mixture.

Bespoke cold moulds setting in their frames

Once these are set and the piece from within is expertly cut out by hand, the moulds are ready to make waxes using the vacuum wax injector. The hot wax cools into shape in the rubber mould and the wax is removed and another can then be made in the same way shortly after.

Wax made using a cold mould

These waxes are then skillfully arranged on specific trees in accordance to their requirements, which metal, how delicate the piece is etc. Cast in place pieces (a technique where stones can be cast within a wax piece) go separately, as they need to be in a different oven set to a different temperature. The trees go into flasks, the holes of the metal flasks are taped up and the investment (a type of plaster, made up in the vacuum mixing machine) is mixed and poured into the canisters with the wax trees inside, then left to set. The next step is for the canisters to go into the de-waxing chamber for the majority of the wax to be steamed away. This leaves just a film of wax on the impression that will eventually be filled with metal, before going into the oven overnight to melt away the remaining wax and strengthen the investment plaster. There are three ovens running on 24 hour cycles, to allow for processes like casting in place and also so that all of the casting eggs are not in one hot basket.

Vasco creating wax trees

Once out of the oven, the canister full of negative impressions left by the wax goes into one of three casting machines. The largest being the vacuum centrifugal machine. This will spin the canister while a crucible will dispense the required molten metal into the voids to reach the hollows of the end of each branch of the tree.

 


Centrifugal casting machine

Back in the day I am told this was done by sling shot, so a traditional caster would be super strong from swinging their castings around their head, pretty cool stuff!

These are then cleaned with a high-pressure washer (this part reminds me of the opening credits of The Simpsons when Homer is at work) to clean off the investment plaster.

The metal tree, free from its canister and most of the plaster then goes into acid to get cleaner and get rid of any oxidisation.

Metal tree fresh from the canister

Pieces are then cut down from the trees and prepared for collection.

Wax giraffe and metal giraffe made from a pasta piece using a cold mould and lost wax casting process

This is where the process usually stops on the casting side of Just Castings, but as you will recall, they don’t do just casting! For me I take whatever silly thing I have decided to turn into metal this time and pop off to try and make it wearable (sometimes returning to get something plated), but there is still a whole separate underground grotto of finishing down the street. If decide you would like your pieces finishing, polishing, plating or stones setting these guys have got you covered there too.

Adrian finishing a ring in the workshop

So give casting a try, it’s magical, but don’t take it lightly that even if your brother ain’t that heavy you may want an estimate before you get him cast in platinum. For a really enlightening look at their processes, Just Casting have this lovely video ,and there is a handy FAQ’s section on the website too. But if in doubt just ask, they are a delight, see:

Lil Adams is the London Jewellery School Sundays Studio Manager. Lil studied Fine Art in Leeds and lived in Melbourne before travelling about and settling in London. She now works at the British Architectural Library and enjoys making jewellery with found and natural objects and is shamelessly addicted to casting (as you can see!)


Fancy giving wax carving a try? We have some classes at the London Jewellery School and online at Jewellery School Online as well as a starter kit available.

In London

We have lots of wax carving classes at the London Jewellery School for beginners and advanced learners including an evening taster class, a five-week evening class and day classes so do check out our courses and available dates on our website.

 

 

 

Online courses

We have a FREE wax carved ring making online course with tutor Sophie Arnott. You will learn to apply your designs to your wax piece, remove excess wax and create a full 3D design of your choosing. Following that, Sophie will show you how to file your wax piece into shape, remove any file marks and sand and refine the piece ready for casting. You will also learn how to create a ring to size and some recommendations on casters to use.

beginners-wax-carving-rebecca-steiner-jewellery-school-onlineIf you enjoy that course then consider our more comprehensive beginners wax carving online course which covers ring making, pendant making. The course launches on 26th March 2018 and is currently available at a pre-sale price of 50% off. CLICK HERE FOR 50% OFF – VALID UNTIL 26TH MARCH 2018 ONLY

 

 

 

Kits

At the London Jewellery School we are also selling wax carving toolkits which have everything you need to get started! The cost is £100 and includes UK postage (for postage outside the UK please email us at info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk for a postage quote)

Click here to see what you get in the kit and to purchase

We also have a set of three wax ring blanks for sale for £12.99 plus postage, perfect if you want to get started with rings straight away!

 

All prices are correct at time of blog publication but please note that they are subject to change

 

 

 

 

Jewel Day-All that glitters

Often in life it’s the genuine article, the purest and most natural, which we value most. All gemstones have a special month to shine, see ‘Birthstones’. So it’s worth exploring the joys of the unreal, underappreciated or synthetic of the jewellery world on Jewel day.

 

Let’s first take a look at the useful, synthetic, Cubic Zirconia (aka CZ). CZ may not be the product of the forces of nature but it’s no fake and has much to recommend it for use in jewellery making. Low cost, durable and flawless, these faceted beauts can be made in many colours. And Cubic Zirconia is up there with diamond in strength, measuring 8 ½ to a diamond’s 10 on the Mohs* scale.

Next, let’s turn our starry-eyed attention to the Druzy. Druzy is a crystal coating on top of a colourful mineral. These crystals can vary in size and are commonly found on quartz, but also garnet, calcite, malachite and dolomite. Usually found where rocks have contact with water that can evaporate, the crystal finish is the last layer of growth. These are naturally occurring gems, but they have the tendency to look manufactured due to the overly glittery appearance of the crystals and that the stones can be coloured. London Jewellery School tutor Amy Keeper often utilises Druzy stones in her work.

Jeweller Nikki Couppee experiments with different combinations of synthetic materials and resins in the making of her flamboyant hologem pieces. She uses everyday materials like silver foil to replicate the appearance and lustre of gemstones with an astonishing variety of results.

Couppee’s work may be shiny and pretty on the surface but its meanings run deep and reflect on themes of jewellery’s role in society and the psychology behind adornment. Her early jewellery making experiments were products of a hurricane that destroyed the area of Florida where she lived in. Leaving a plethora of materials broken from the houses that were swept away, young Couppee would create jewellery from these pieces built up like mosaics. It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it. Also (unrelated), some of her pieces glow in the dark!

Whether your gems be real or fake, we have a number of courses that can inspire you to shine with them.

*Moh’s scale is named after Frederick Moh who invented a scale for hardness based on the ability for minerals to scratch each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn wax carving for free

Join Jewellery School Online in the brand new, FREE online ‘wax carved ring’ class and learn how to use jeweller’s wax to make a unique ring, how to get it cast in the metal of your choice and much more.

This video course gives you step by step instructions and helpful hints to get to grips with this versatile medium, which is perfect for anyone making jewellery for fun or as part of a jewellery business. The course is all online so you can access it anytime and comes with a complete set of downloadable notes to support your learning.

If you are anything like us and love making jewellery, this is a great way to learn a new technique from the comfort of your own home.

So come join in the fun, enrol now and get started making your wax pieces in no time!

P.S. We also provide full info on what basic tools and materials you will need and how to get set up making at home.

Click here to join the class for free

 

beginners-wax-carving-rebecca-steiner-jewellery-school-onlineIf you enjoy that class or have already tried wax carving before why not pre-enrol on our online beginners wax carving course. This goes into depth about carving designs including pendants, sizing, filing and finishing your cast pieces and much more.

The course will be released on 26th March 2018 and will cost £79 but if you enrol now you can get the pre-sale price of £39.50, that’s 50% off!

Click here to find out more and to access the 50% off discount

 

At the London Jewellery School we are also selling wax carving toolkits which have everything you need to get started! The cost is £82.55 and includes UK postage (for postage outside the UK please email us at info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk for a postage quote)

Click here to see what you get in the kit and to purchase

We also have a set of three wax ring blanks for sale for £12.99 plus postage, perfect if you want to get started with rings straight away!

 

Prefer coming to London for a class? We have lots of wax carving classes at the London Jewellery School for beginners and advanced learners including an evening taster class, a five-week evening class and day classes so do check out our courses and available dates on our website.

World Book Day-1st March

Never judge a book by its cover they say and certainly not on World Book Day. And especially when investigating the work of Jeremy May. Here, beneath what is bound,  a ring, a bangle or a necklace could be found.

May uses a top-secret lamination technique to create bespoke pieces from a bookkeeping the original binding as a beautiful box too. You could probably still get the gist of the story reading around one of his luxury adornments.

Here’s a nice little video about his process and you don’t have to read between the lines for the booky puns.

If this inspires you to pick up a book, your tools or take back your library books have a wonderful World Book Day.