Last night I got to start my first official project in my metalsmithing class: a cabochon bezel set sterling silver ring. Susan took out a whole bunch of stones and asked us to pick our favorite. I chose a black mother of pearl, which of course is a shell and not a cabochon (a cabochon, or just cab, is a stone with a flat surface on one side and a round or dome shape on the other). It didn't dawn on me at the time that the lack of surface area might make it a bit more of a challenge to work with. . .
This ring will consist of four parts plus the stone. There is the bezel (which is the metal that holds the stone in place); there is a decorative trim which will be added around the bezel; the sheet metal shaped to be the backing to the stone, bezel, and trim; and the wire which forms the actual ring portion that goes around your finger.
The first two parts (the bezel and the trim), we already know how to make from last week's lesson. As for the challenge I mentioned earlier: with the lack of surface space, the shell kind of moves around a lot. That made it more difficult for me to get an accurately sized and shaped bezel. In addition, the wire used for the bezel is fine silver and not sterling. Fine silver does not have any copper in it and, thus, is very, very soft. I'm used to working with malleable metals (and some not so malleable metals) with my maille, but nothing quite as soft as this, so it took me a little bit of time to get used to working with it.
After a whole bunch of filing and shaping, I had something I thought would work and got down to soldering. I gotta tell ya, the soldering is the easiest part. I love the soldering. Not because of how easy it is, but because it's so cool: there's some metallurgy involved, you get to play with a torch, and, well, the colors of the flame and the metal as it changes is really pretty.
Next, I got to work on my trim. For my trim I chose a half round twisted wire -- it looks really cool. As opposed to the bezel, the trim was much harder (as in the opposite of malleable, not the opposite of easy -- then again, I guess either definition applies). Work hardened from twisting, maybe? So, I was trying to shape a somewhat harder wire around a very soft wire and found myself denting, marring, and misshaping my so nicely formed bezel. Luckily, I should be able to reshape the bezel and, hopefully, the mars will either come out or be hidden by the trim. In my attempts to get two flush edges on a half round twisted wire (I really need to get a picture of this in so you understand) I filed away a little too much wire. I walked up to Susan and showed her my problem. She didn't say that I made a mistake and needed to get some new wire. No. She pulled out this little container and suggested I add a spitball to connect the ends. (A spitball is basically someone else's oops when they melted their metal.) I was so excited! I made a booboo and it's going to turn into something totally cool! My stone/shell and trim are going to be unique, but I also get this additional little something. (She also mentioned that I chose a difficult project because of the shell vs. cabochon thing. Gggrrrrr.)
Well, that's as far as I got last night. Next week, I'll be soldering the trim with my groovy little spitball and moving onto the shank and, hopefully, the wire ring portions. After that, the only thing left to do is set the stone/shell and possibly polish. Susan said that this whole project should take about six to nine hours for a beginner (which equates to two or three classes), about three hours the second time you try, and one hour with experience. So fun!!