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Sunday, September 11, 2011


The pendant pictured here was made using a jewelry technique known as reticulation.  Reticulation is one of the more enjoyable, but random, things that can be done with metal.  Although certain gold alloys can be reticulated, the way I do it is to use a traditional 800/200 mix of fine silver and copper (sterling silver is 925/75 fine silver/copper) to actually make the pieces and then I have the ones (or parts of them) that I like cast in gold. Long ago when I first started doing reticulated pieces I had to make my own reticulating alloy to work with.  Now, since a lot of the oddball techniques that I have been doing for 40 years have become more mainstream, my refiner actually offers a reticulating silver to work with.  The process is time consuming in that you have to heat and pickle (throw the metal in an acid bath) repeatedly (10-20 times) so as to build up a layer of fine (pure) silver on the surface. This means that the melting point of the surface metal is higher than the metal underneath it.  After the heating/pickling process is finished, the piece of metal is then heated until the metal underneath begins to melt.  If you're lucky you can actually exercise some control over how the metal moves as the molten metal begins to fold up on itself but the top layer remains somewhat rigid.  If you're not lucky you can still get a lot of interesting results.  And if you're really unlucky it doesn't work at all and just rolls up into a molten mass of metal.  (Try this for a tongue twister: rolling molten mass of metal!) 

Once the silver piece is finished, I usually cut out the shape I want (sometimes the actual shape of the piece I want, sometimes a larger one that I can cut into smaller pieces).  Then it goes off to my casting company who make a mold of the piece and send me back some nice cast ones in 18k or 22k yellow gold.  The pendant above was made up because I had an old customer come in recently with some reticulated earrings I had made awhile ago and he wanted a matching pendant.  I made one for him and put the one above out into my cases.  I'm also currently in the process of trying to come up with some reticulated wedding bands for the cases.  I haven't gotten the metal doing quite what I want yet (I have a few of those rolling molten masses of metal lying around) for the rings but as soon as I do I'll get a picture posted. The picture above, incidentally is thanks to my new assistant, Kady, who it turns out is far more skilled than I am at photography (well just about everyone is more skilled than I am at it, but Kady is quite good and has a part time job actually doing some photography work as well). 

I haven't been writing for awhile because I have continued to be swamped with work.  However there is some end in sight and I am hoping to get a few new articles up soon. I plan on doing another one about selling/scrapping your jewelry as it seems to be a constant topic in the store these days, and I still hope to get an article on opals up.  Actually I have some new opal earrings that Kady took a picture of for me that would make a nice heading for it so let me see what I can do.  I also have some new South Sea pearl earrings made up that I have a nice picture of as well---they'll be headlining whatever the next article is about. 

The piece pictured above is 18k yellow gold with four .03 ct. ideal cut, "E" color, VS clarity diamonds.  Come by the shop if  you want to see it in person. 

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