Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amethyst pendant

This was new for me. Setting a stone in sterling silver isn't, but I was borderline terrified to work with a more expensive stone (ok, it isn't like it was tons of money, but more than what I usually pay). I hadn't ever set a faceted stone--only cabachons, so I had to do some research before I got started.

My little (much taller) sister had her first child in February. Her birthday is this month, and I decided I wanted to do a pendant for her with the baby's birthstone. (I'm sure this will MORE than make up for that whole going through childbirth thing!)

About a week before the amethyst arrived, I received the most recent Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine with an article that had some good pictures and explanations of a project setting a faceted stone, so I referred back to that often while I planned and worked on this pendant.

I really wanted a solid, durable setting that almost looked like a tube setting--just not "dainty". I didn't know that the cutlet (pointed tip) of a faceted stone should not touch the backplate (it makes sense, but I would have never even thought about it), so I soldered 12 gauge sterling wire to give the amethyst a seat inside of the bezel. That seemed to do the trick, so hopefully it will hold up the way I intended.

Here are the materials, mid-project:

I spent way too much time trying to figure out what to do for the bail, but finally decided on some sterling sheet and added it to the top. Then I sanded (and sanded, and sanded) and polished the setting. It's an 8mm stone, so the entire pendant isn't very big. Getting into all of those little places to clean up the setting can be tedious, but it's important. After the hand polishing, I popped it in the tumbler for 24 hours. I like using the tumbler for the final polish for a couple of reasons--it helps to do that final clean up, but it also work hardens the metal that gets softened via heating during soldering, and it helps me to be sure that all of the soldering points really "took". Once in a while, I will find the bail separated from the pendant when I remove the piece from the tumbler...not a huge problem, just a quick solder job, but I'm always grateful to find it there and not have it fall apart when someone is wearing it!

I am truly excited about the way this turned out and I hope my sister loves it as much as I do. I have a few more of the faceted stones--another amethyst and some lemon quartz--and have been thinking about what to do with them.

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