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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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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