Ramblings of a self-trained jeweller – first foray into the world of blogging!

by helen hill on October 3, 2008

Hi folks!  A quick introduction.  My name is Helen Hill and I live in Preston, Lancashire in the UK.  In spring 2006, I decided to try my hand at making silver and gemstone jewellery – something I had wanted to do for many years but had not previously had the opportunity to do.  I spent 12 months reading many books and websites on the subject (including the brilliant Orchid/Ganoksin website) and gathering as much information as I could.  I bought tools, gems and books in preparation for me beginning in the spring of 2007.  My husband bought me a gorgeous jeweller’s bench and I ordered my first lot of silver sheet, wire and solder. I had collected a basic set of tools to get me started and was using a cook’s “creme brulee” torch for soldering.

As you can imagine, my initial attempts at constructing a piece of jewellery were pitiful at best – but I thoroughly enjoyed it and knew immediately that this is what I would do for years to come.  Sadly, I can’t remember which piece was my very first – but one of my first pieces was a bezel-set blue lace agate cabochon pendant for myself.  I was using 0.3mm thick sterling silver (far too thin for most things really), cutting bezel strip and back plate from sheet.  I must have melted at least three bezels whilst trying to solder a bezel onto the back plate.  However, I got there in the end.  I soldered on a crude, homemade bale and embarked upon the fiasco that was POLISHING – something that has taken me a long time to get almost right – and another topic altogether.

Notice the REALLY thin silver and bad solder joint on the left hand side of the bezel and its overall lumpy look!  Still, it wasn’t too bad for a first attempt.  The second picture is a picture of a ring that I made for my sister last week.  It has a gorgeous Chinese turquoise cabochon which is bezel-set and sitting atop a hammered shank with slightly beveled edges.  As you can see, I’m now using much thicker silver and removing as little metal as possible when polishing, so as to retain that chunky look.  I’m never 100% happy with anything and that’s what pushes me to improve and try to do better the next time.

In my next post, I will be showing some before and after pictures of a suite of jewellery I made for my daughter’s prom last year, and its reincarnation after I made it for her again this week to wear with her prom dress to a ball this weekend.  My initial attempt is so embarrassingly bad that I had to remake it but she refused to let me tear it apart to reuse the gems as it holds too much sentimental value for her.

Blue lace agate pendant
Chinese turquoise and sterling silver ring

Chinese turquoise and sterling silver ring

Blue lace agate pendant
helen hill

helen hill

helen hill

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Helen Hill September 16, 2009 at 4:08 am

Hi Hope, Thanks so much for your lovely comments. I think the practical element of my chemistry degree means that I learn a lot from observations, and this has helped me enormously in teaching myself how to make jewellery – watching how the metal behaves when heated, for example. Of course, Orchid has also been an enormous help in my journey so far and will continue to be.

Unfortunately, I never did follow up with a blog about my daughter’s prom jewellery – not have I found time to blog once a week, but I’ll endeavour to catch up soon hopefully with some new pieces.

Have fun making beautiful jewellery!

Taueret September 16, 2009 at 12:26 am

oh I loved reading this post. I am at that beginning, pitiful stage right now, but like you, thoroughly enjoying myself. i am impressed that you got as far as you did completely self-taught. I bogged down somewhere in the book and tool acquisition stage, and joined a beginners’ class partly to get some idea of which tools I actually needed and so on! My first bezel set stone doesn’t look as good as yours, and I did it in class! Anyway i will enjoy your blog!

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