Apprentice Blog number four : I finished the ring before it finished me.

January 25, 2012


My pre-Christmas blog update. Better late than never! From the apprentice, Ella.


I finished the ring; the ring that nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. After my last blog it took me one more session of hard labour to get it to a decent standard.

I first had to solder it shut. We used easy solder as to avoid opening up the solder holding together the two strips. This process went relatively smoothly (in comparison to the first lot of soldering!). Janet and I weren’t initially sure that the join was strong enough as you could clearly still see the join. Fortunately it was, but it meant that I was going to have a tough time trying to make the solder line disappear. I was so happy just to have soldered it shut with minimal trouble that the mess I had made in the process didn’t bother me. I wasn’t fussed that the soldering was obvious. Now however, I couldn’t settle for that. It’s quite interesting to see how my standards have changed now that I am more skilled and have seen what I can do (this will all make sense in my next blog).



My ring post-solder, pre-polish. As you can see, the join is still clearly visible from the outside.


Next came the laborious job of filing and polishing. I worked for a while on the closing seal to see if I could erase the join. I managed to file away a very small amount but my soldering was poor quality and with any more filing, the join would’ve become weak and the silver very thin. In all honesty, by this time I wanted to finish this project ASAP. I’d just had enough of the grief it had given me! If you remember, I accidentally made a nick in the ring. Turns out I couldn’t completely get rid of this; from the outside and when you wear the ring, you can’t see it, but I wasn’t able to file it completely away. Just another part of the ring I wasn’t happy with.

The final step was to polish all the fire stain away. Fire stain is officially my worst nightmare. It’s an absolute faff to remove. Standing hunched over the Tripoli, burning my fingers with the brush, wiping hair from my face staining my face black with polish (which Janet and Delia had a giggle at). Fire stain is a brown/pink/orangish stain that appears after soldering/annealing sterling silver. It’s (in simple terms) the copper in silver combining with the oxygen when heated. Hence the coppery colour! I absolutely power-polished that day. Pretty sure I had burnt off my fingerprints by the end. BUT the end did come. Or I forced it to come! I finished finally and was so happy. Well maybe not happy, but relieved. Janet had asked if I wanted to polish the inside of the ring using the ring bob (a thin, rubbery cone at the opposite end of the brush on a polisher that is specifically used for the inside of rings). Due to my ring being thinned out substantially when removing the fire stain; I thought I would leave it this time but aim to use it on my next ring.

I wear the ring every day (apart from at work or for exercise). I feel attached to it; with it being my first ‘proper’ piece. However, I look at it now and think “what a shoddy piece of work”! Compared to pieces I have made since, it’s really not good at all. The amount of learning and work I put into it is worth much more than the ring itself. Janet was very complimentary of my ring and emphasised that the learning involved would be fundamental for my progression in jewellery making.






As a quick, fun project to do next, I used four little scraps of silver which I had cut off after measuring it to fit my finger. I decided to make these four rectangles into earrings for a friend I was visiting in London the day after. I literally had less than two hours to complete them. I filed the two sets of rectangles so that they would fit together and be able to be soldered. I filed down the edges of the sides I was going to solder together so that there was a ridge/definition in the middle; similar to that of my ring.

I soldered them together using a very small amount of hard solder. Turns out this soldering went very well =) very neat and succinct. I then soldered (using easy solder this time) a small amount of silver wire to the base of the rectangles to finish them off. I was pleased with how quickly and efficiently I did this. Such less hassle than previous tasks I had undertaken! To make the wire used as the ear posts strengthen, I learnt a new skill called burnishing. This involved rubbing a metal tool up and down the post in order to make it ‘work hard’ and therefore, stronger.  I think the fact that I had grown stale from the ring so having this fresh and easy piece to do was enjoyable. I was really tired after all the polishing the fire stain off the ring that I had absolutely no patience to polish these. Fortunately my mum who attends silver class with Janet and Delia was going that evening and she offered to polish them for me. Cheating I know but I was exhausted. I even think Janet helped get the final shine with the rouge polisher. They turned out really lovely, and Pam, my friend was very humbled to have received a handmade gift.




You can see the fire stain on these earrings really clearly in this photo. Thanks Mother and Janet for removing it for me =)


Merry Christmas Pam.



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