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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More New Work (and a Cry for Help)

Well, I have finally ventured into the brave new world of rose gold. I thought it would be fun to pair this warm, rosy metal with a nice pink tourmaline. It's about a size 9, and will be listed in my shop soon.

rose gold ringFair trade California pink tourmaline with recycled 14k rose gold.

recycled rose gold
fair trade tourmaline
Now on to the 'cry for help' part. This may be a bit rambling and un-interesting to those of you who don't make jewelry, so feel free to skip it if you're in that camp. :-)

Since I am largely self-taught in the techniques of jewelry fabrication, I don't have anyone in my 'real life' to go to when I hit these little technical problems. My first question to you, oh jewelry-making mavens of the internet, has to do with polishing and cleaning a ring (or pendant) with an open back, like the one above. After I set the stone and polished the ring, there was so much polishing compound wedged in the little shelf behind the stone and it was really, really tough to get it all out. The instructions that came with my ultrasonic machine say not to use tourmaline in it, so that was out. I spent a lot of time trying to clean it with a toothbrush, attempting to wedge those little bristles in between the metal and the stone to get it clean. Finally I put it in the tumbler for a while, which seemed to be the most helpful. I'm still not sure if I got it totally clean, but it's at least a lot better than it was. How can I deal with this in the future? Should I be polishing the back of the setting before setting the stone? Or is there some other trick I don't know about?

My next technical question has to do with oxidizing sterling silver. I get great results using liver of sulfur on textured pieces, such as a floral patterned band. But when I try to fully oxidize a smooth surface, the oxidation tends to flake off. Is there anything I can do to prevent this, or does oxidation just not lend itself too well to smooth surfaces?

Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions. Please don't make me feel all pathetic by not commenting!


rhienelleth said...

I can't help much with the oxidation question - I only oxidize patterned pieces, so far.

I've taken to doing as much of the polishing as I can before setting the stone for exactly the reason you talk about - I recently switched from red rouge to zam for silver polishing, and it seems to get EVERYWHERE, though I do like how it polishes. *sigh* Perhaps I need to get a different polishing tip for applying it.

A note on tumbling - I have successfully tumbled tourmaline and even softer stones such as pearls in a rotary tumbler with no problems! (Not to say there would never be a problem, but I've taken the risk many times and haven't had anything to cry about yet.) A vibratory tumbler is supposed to be even easier on stones, so I'm amazed they say to avoid you use a polishing compound in the tumbler, or just the standard dishwashing soap dawn + steel shot? (Again, not sure if there's a difference in material between rotary vs. vibratory.)

A question I've been burning to ask you - I'm also 90% self taught, and I've been admiring those flush set little stones in bands for some time. I've found some fairly detailed instructions I might get brave enough to try one of these days, but I have no idea if the holes are drilled/stones are set before the band is shaped or after? Seems like it would be more difficult on a round surface, but then bending the band around a mandrel might warp the holes...

√Āngela said...

It's been a while since the last tme I made a ring, but I'll try to help anyway! Did you try a little bit of warm, soapy water to help loosen the polishing compound? Another possible solution could be to try baby wipes.
Carles Codina's book says to wash the piece with soapy water between each polishing brush, also to try not to use too much polishing compound. Hope it helps!

Tamara said...

Thanks for your ideas rhienelleth! I guess the only reason I have hesitated to do any polishing prior to setting the stone thus far is that I am worried that it will work harden the piece, thereby making the bezel harder to push over the stone. (And in the case of this particular stone, it was tough as is - the rose gold was really stiff!) But I think I'll give that a try next time and see how it works.

Yes, I have always had no problem tumbling stones as soft as turquoise in my tumbler; I wasn't really concerned about the tourmaline's safety in the tumbler - only in my ultrasonic cleaner. I'm not sure what you mean by a 'vibratory tumbler', but I think it's different from an ultrasonic. The ultrasonic doesn't have any shot in it - it's just a tub that you put water and cleaning compound into and it somehow sends ultrasonic vibrations through the water I guess? to clean the piece...

To answer your question on the flush set stones, you definitely want to form the band before you drill the holes or set the stones. Here's the sequence I follow -

- form ring (have it fairly well finished and sanded - I usually get it to 400 grit and sometimes even do a pre-polish at this stage)

- mark placement of holes on band

- center punch on each mark

- drill hole about 1/2 diameter of stone

- re-sand inside of band where drill holes made it rough

- use setting bur and set stones

- final polish

Hope that helps!

Tamara said...

Thanks Angela. The place where the compound was wedged was in between the stone and the metal backing - it's not really in an area where baby wipes could reach. I did soak it in soapy water for quite a while though in between my attempts with a soapy toothbrush and the periods of time in the tumbler.

Anonymous said...

On the oxidation issue, I find Silver Black works best for getting the all-dark look on smooth pieces. It is a pain on textured pieces because you have to polish the silver parts back up, but for even, dark oxidation, Silver Black is simple (just dip it in the toxic stuff) and works well every time.

Hope this helps!

Tamara said...

Thank you!!! Where do you buy it? Does Rio Grande carry it?

Jennifer said...

The silver black sounds interesting! I've used Renaissance Wax in the past with good results.

Michele said...

I am old school taught and a little Comet and a toothbrush is what I use and then a compound rag for the final polish. Works wonders!

Virginia Leigh Designs said...

I have that same problem..Besides the tooth brush the only thing I know would work is a steamer. The ones in Rio and other catalogs are pretty pricey, but there are some smaller cheaper ones for basic home cleaning.

rhienelleth said...

Thanks so much Tamara! That really clears up a lot for me. :D Now armed with that and my print out of directions, I'll feel more confident about trying flush setting.

Sorry about the confusion in my answer to you - I read "ultrasonic" and my brain went "vibratory tumbler". Have no idea why, LOL.

I haven't noticed any issue with the bezel work hardening too much by polishing beforehand, yet. But I might be using a smaller gauge/easier to push.

BrighidsForge said...

Very nice pieces!!

My mentor always had/has us polish the piece BEFORE doing the setting, then do a hand polish with the silver cloth. Or if we do have issues with spaces like that, we cut a Q-Tip into a wedge shape, put that into the flex shaft and carefully clean off the polish.

Silver Black IS good - it makes a BLACK oxidation, rather than the dark brown of LoS, but it holds better and works faster. I find that a using a wire tip (as if for a satin finish), oxidize then polish but not buff again will allow an lightly oxidized finish on (virtually) smooth finishes.

Thanks for the info on the flush set stones - I've been too timid to try it, myself, but have some tsavorite coming that I might try, using your procedure.

Tamara said...

Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions! I guess I should post technical questions more often; I think we all learned from each other. :-)

Anonymous said...

Silver Black should be available at Rio Grande--I got mine at, but it is Griffith brand, which seems to be available most everywhere.