A long time coming…

I started work on this belt this summer & I had no idea what a job it was going to be!  I had been wanting to build one for myself for years & just hadn’t gotten around to it.  I couldn’t bring myself to buy one, medical information pills it just seemed wrong when I could do it myself.  So this is how it started:

I had the great idea to incorporate Buffalo/Indian Head nickels.  I have loved them for years, viagra dosage to me they are an iconic symbol of the west.  I have used them since the beginning of my jewelry career on my clasps.  They have become a bit of a trademark of my work.

I started drawing shapes &  laying it out VERY ROUGHLY.  I made the dumb decision to try this in German Silver a.k.a. nickel silver a.k.a. biggest mistake ever!  This material is much cheaper than Sterling Silver, advice the sheet pictured above in Sterling would be hundreds & hundreds of dollars. I figured because I would be covering it with stones & nickels as well as stamping the surface it would be ok.

See, this is just one sheet of the material of the damned.  Folks, this is why these concho belts cost thousands of dollars, all the materials (all sterling silver) & the insane amount of work they entail.  I should have bit the bullet & done it in sterling, the crazy cost would have been far preferable to the frustration.

I was so excited about the design once I decided what I would pick for colors.  I didn’t want to just go turquoise, that seemed too plain.  I’m a total orange freak & I figured there wasn’t much that I wore that wouldn’t go with this color combo.

 

So I got 6 of each shape cut out & filed.  Now was time for the sterling silver bezel cups.  These are a bit of a cheat, but in some of the sizes I needed more than 100 of them!  In some of the older belts, each one of these little bezels would be cut out, measured, then soldered together BEFORE they even got to this stage.  That meant days more work, so I took a little short cut.  Here we are all ready to go on the soldering brick.

 

This is where my world fell apart.  I really didn’t expect the nickel silver to behave like sterling on the soldering brick, but I sure wasn’t prepared for the mess I got into.  For you, who aren’t versed on soldering & metal work but are surprisingly still reading this – long story short, to solder, you need to heat up the metal to the same temperature in order for your solder to flow.  That means heating up the biggest piece first.  If you heat up the whole thing at once, you’ll melt your little bits (like bezel cups).  I’ve done this more than once in my early soldering days.

This thing defied all logic when it came to soldering.  I had a mess of materials: the nickel silver, actual nickels from 1936 & sterling silver bezel cups.  I had a hell of a time getting everything to flow & stick together.  I had everything looking & sticking great & just as I’d move it, something would fall right off!  I still don’t have it figured out as I didn’t finish all the conchos & still have to finish the buckle that goes with it!  I needed to take a few months break from it, so I wouldn’t give up & throw what I had left in the bush.

 

 

So here’s what I ended up with, before stamping started.  I really love stamping metal.  I have a book on the history of Navajo jewelry & the stamping is fantastic.  The most fascinating thing is they made them all themselves!

Here’s a little dry fit before the stamping began!  The kids hate it when I’m stamping metal, its so loud, but like most activities like this, its a great st
I started work on this belt this summer & I had no idea what a job it was going to be!  I had been wanting to build one for myself for years & just hadn’t gotten around to it.  I couldn’t bring myself to buy one, healing it just seemed wrong when I could do it myself.  So this is how it started:

I had the great idea to incorporate Buffalo/Indian Head nickels.  I have loved them for years, approved to me they are an iconic symbol of the west.  I have used them since the beginning of my jewelry career on my clasps.  They have become a bit of a trademark of my work.

I started drawing shapes &  laying it out VERY ROUGHLY.  I made the dumb decision to try this in German Silver a.k.a. nickel silver a.k.a. biggest mistake ever!  This material is much cheaper than Sterling Silver, the sheet pictured above in Sterling would be hundreds & hundreds of dollars. I figured because I would be covering it with stones & nickels as well as stamping the surface it would be ok.

See, this is just one sheet of the material of the damned.  Folks, this is why these concho belts cost thousands of dollars, all the materials (all sterling silver) & the insane amount of work they entail.  I should have bit the bullet & done it in sterling, the crazy cost would have been far preferable to the frustration.

I was so excited about the design once I decided what I would pick for colors.  I didn’t want to just go turquoise, that seemed too plain.  I’m a total orange freak & I figured there wasn’t much that I wore that wouldn’t go with this color combo.

 

So I got 6 of each shape cut out & filed.  Now was time for the sterling silver bezel cups.  These are a bit of a cheat, but in some of the sizes I needed more than 100 of them!  In some of the older belts, each one of these little bezels would be cut out, measured, then soldered together BEFORE they even got to this stage.  That meant days more work, so I took a little short cut.  Here we are all ready to go on the soldering brick.

 

This is where my world fell apart.  I really didn’t expect the nickel silver to behave like sterling on the soldering brick, but I sure wasn’t prepared for the mess I got into.  For you, who aren’t versed on soldering & metal work but are surprisingly still reading this – long story short, to solder, you need to heat up the metal to the same temperature in order for your solder to flow.  That means heating up the biggest piece first.  If you heat up the whole thing at once, you’ll melt your little bits (like bezel cups).  I’ve done this more than once in my early soldering days.

This thing defied all logic when it came to soldering.  I had a mess of materials: the nickel silver, actual nickels from 1936 & sterling silver bezel cups.  I had a hell of a time getting everything to flow & stick together.  I had everything looking & sticking great & just as I’d move it, something would fall right off!  I still don’t have it figured out as I didn’t finish all the conchos & still have to finish the buckle that goes with it!  I needed to take a few months break from it, so I wouldn’t give up & throw what I had left in the bush.

 

 

So here’s what I ended up with, before stamping started.  I really love stamping metal.  I have a book on the history of Navajo jewelry & the stamping is fantastic.  The most fascinating thing is they made them all themselves!

Here’s a little dry fit before the stamping began!  The kids hate it when I’m stamping metal, its so loud, but like most activities like this, its a great stress reliever!

 


I started work on this belt this summer & I had no idea what a job it was going to be!  I had been wanting to build one for myself for years & just hadn’t gotten around to it.  I couldn’t bring myself to buy one, diagnosis it just seemed wrong when I could do it myself.  So this is how it started:

I had the great idea to incorporate Buffalo/Indian Head nickels.  I have loved them for years, to me they are an iconic symbol of the west.  I have used them since the beginning of my jewelry career on my clasps.  They have become a bit of a trademark of my work.

I started drawing shapes &  laying it out VERY ROUGHLY.  I made the dumb decision to try this in German Silver a.k.a. nickel silver a.k.a. biggest mistake ever!  This material is much cheaper than Sterling Silver, the sheet pictured above in Sterling would be hundreds & hundreds of dollars. I figured because I would be covering it with stones & nickels as well as stamping the surface it would be ok.

See, this is just one sheet of the material of the damned.  Folks, this is why these concho belts cost thousands of dollars, all the materials (all sterling silver) & the insane amount of work they entail.  I should have bit the bullet & done it in sterling, the crazy cost would have been far preferable to the frustration.

I was so excited about the design once I decided what I would pick for colors.  I didn’t want to just go turquoise, that seemed too plain.  I’m a total orange freak & I figured there wasn’t much that I wore that wouldn’t go with this color combo.

 

So I got 6 of each shape cut out & filed.  Now was time for the sterling silver bezel cups.  These are a bit of a cheat, but in some of the sizes I needed more than 100 of them!  In some of the older belts, each one of these little bezels would be cut out, measured, then soldered together BEFORE they even got to this stage.  That meant days more work, so I took a little short cut.  Here we are all ready to go on the soldering brick.

 

This is where my world fell apart.  I really didn’t expect the nickel silver to behave like sterling on the soldering brick, but I sure wasn’t prepared for the mess I got into.  For you, who aren’t versed on soldering & metal work but are surprisingly still reading this – long story short, to solder, you need to heat up the metal to the same temperature in order for your solder to flow.  That means heating up the biggest piece first.  If you heat up the whole thing at once, you’ll melt your little bits (like bezel cups).  I’ve done this more than once in my early soldering days.

This thing defied all logic when it came to soldering.  I had a mess of materials: the nickel silver, actual nickels from 1936 & sterling silver bezel cups.  I had a hell of a time getting everything to flow & stick together.  I had everything looking & sticking great & just as I’d move it, something would fall right off!  I still don’t have it figured out as I didn’t finish all the conchos & still have to finish the buckle that goes with it!  I needed to take a few months break from it, so I wouldn’t give up & throw what I had left in the bush.

 

 

So here’s what I ended up with, before stamping started.  I really love stamping metal.  I have a book on the history of Navajo jewelry & the stamping is fantastic.  The most fascinating thing is they made all the stamps & molds all themselves!

Here’s a little dry fit before the stamping began!  The kids hate it when I’m stamping metal, its so loud, but like most activities like this, its a great stress reliever!

 


I took a very special custom project on this year from a incredible lady who has waited 40 years for it to come along! Connie and her husband eloped in 1972; John gave Connie a simple gold band for their secret wedding & she proudly wore it every day since.

This lovely lady, link Connie has been to see me at a show I do in  Bragg Creek for 3 years running.  We’ve talked each year about doing a horse shoe wedding ring for her, order but she wasn’t quite sure.  It was a big deal to take that gold band off her hand in more ways than one!  The ring would need to be cut right off her hand and she wasn’t sure that she wanted it off.  Wearing a piece of jewelry for 40 years, patient you feel a little naked without it!

So finally this year, Connie knew that she kept coming back to the design and that usually means its right.  I get this reaction a lot about the family rings; people say they keep looking at the ring and keep coming back to it, so it must be a sign.

Connie’s Mother recently passed away and so Connie inherited her Mother’s ring.  It is a beautiful, ornate gold and diamond ring that her mother had worn since 1938.  Connie had never had a diamond and wanted to incorporate her Mother’s diamond into her new wedding ring.

This scared the hell out of me!  I am comfortable in my skills as a metal/goldsmith; but cutting up someone’s 74 year old heirloom is a whole other deal.

So Connie had the gold band cut off her finger and we started on the plan.  I would use her wedding ring to build 3 gold horse shoes and we would use the diamond from her Mother’s ring for the center horse shoe.

I needed to work with the curve of the ring to maintain the integrity of the 18K gold,  instead of trying to flatten these pieces out and then bend them into horse shoes.  This presented a bit of a challenge.  I ended up hammering these curves flat as they were and then bending them into horse shoes.  I felt like a bit of a ‘shoe-er’ pounding and then heating up the gold to anneal it (make it pliable again) and pounding some more!

This is how most of the horse shoe rings start.  I choose to narrow the rings at the back as they are much more comfortable to wear that way.  The 2 rope edge rings are measured and cut at the same time.

Here the horse shoes are almost done and ready to be soldered on to the ring blank.  They were tricky, but well worth it.

Here’s a dry fit ready to solder together before I put the diamond inside that middle horse shoe.  The great part about Connie’s ring is that she needed exactly the same size as my family ring, so I could feel that the size was going to be right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mentor, Shirley Paradis aka Obi Wan, had the great idea that we should use the setting on Connie’s Mum’s ring as is instead of taking the diamond out.  The setting is sturdy and had clearly lasted 74 years as it is, so why mess with it?  The diamond was still firmly in place and I thought it would be another great way to incorporate some more family history into this project.  So I cut the square setting off the top of the ring & went about attaching it to the sterling band.

Everything went fantastic, the ring was all polished and ready for delivery.  Connie was so pleased, she got teary-eyed when she put it on!  Its amazing how girls never tire of diamonds, they really are ‘our best friend’!  Connie had never had a diamond and the fact that it was her Mother’s made it even more meaningful.  I’ve never had a reaction like that to my work, and it really made me proud to be able to share it with such a fantastic couple!

3 Responses to “A long time coming…”

  1. Aubree Corbiere said...

    im looking to get a custom family ring done up. what are your rings made of?

  2. Shelagh said...

    They are solid sterling, I just sent you an email, Aubree.

  3. Shauna Jones said...

    Hi I was wondering a price for a family ring with 4 stones.
    Looking to maybe have a few made for myself mom in law and mother for Xmas.
    Thanks,
    Shauna