Jewelry Fabrication: Quartz Kelp Pendant, Part 3

After several weeks of not seeing the quartz for my Kelp Pendant, Michael looked at the stone and went “Hm. Are you sure it’s not a fluorite? Could be fluorite.” And then we proceeded to drop it from the bench over and over, as if it could be anything BUT fluorite.

In my at-home gemstone-dropping experience, fluorite scratches with incredible ease on anything even remotely hard (such as other fluorite). It’s safest in earrings; when I do use it in necklaces, I either leave it untouched by other stones, or cushion it between smooth round beads in a way that minimizes rotation-caused marring. (Besides, can fluorites even have needle inclusions? I’ve only seen striped, or banded, or zoned…) All in all, I really hope it’s a quartz – and that it will survive the precarious process of my learning to bezel-set.

Quartz or Fluorite

See the inclusions? And the milky zoning? And how often is translucent white fluorite even cut into cabochons?

Meanwhile, the “Maybe Fluorite” Kelp Pendant has seen progress and continues to be a fantastic learning experience. For instance, I committed several beginner faux-pas while attaching the face plate to the side lining, such as… using overwhelming amounts of solder… and heating the piece for so long that it took a solid ten minutes of pickling to get the oxidation off, despite me having basically dipped it in flux before soldering.

I also tried a short-cut that should probably be left un-trail-blazed! I’ve yet to gracefully succeed at the soldering procedure Michael teaches us: heating the solder pieces until they ball up; picking them up with the tip of the titanium pick; heating the flux until it becomes glassy; placing the solder balls onto the seams to be joined… For some reason, my solder balls constantly climb the pick, and will happily detach anywhere except near the seam. So I tried to beat the system and neatly placed all the solder chips on the fluxed copper joints BEFORE applying heat.

Hahaha! Clever me totally forgot that solder melts way after the flux melts. And when flux melts, it flows and boils and spreads, taking the chips with it – so only about half remained where I oh-so-carefully positioned them. As a result, a lot of the solder melted without ever touching the seam, leaving it with gaps. Fortunately, these were easily closed with a follow-up soldering attempt, but I learned my lesson: leave the trailblazing for the experienced.

1_JustAfterSoldering

Question for the experienced – what can I use to polish off all that silver solder from inside the pendant?

All of that extensive heating effectively annealed the copper, making it “as soft as butter” – moldable with just the strength of your hands. I forgot to consider this when selecting methods to remove the overhanging edges of the pendant face, and first went with an approach that totally freaked me out.

At the encouragement of experts, I began to remove metal against a coarse sanding strip that rotated vertically at high speeds. Now, Michael tells me that when this kind of sanding is done at a proper angle with properly steady hands, you shave off exactly what you want without damaging the rest. However, as you can see from the photograph below, I’m not there yet. I must have misapplied the pressure, as the edges ended up pulling on the lining and bending the pendant out of shape. Not an irreversible error, quickly corrected with some tapping of the rawhide mallet – but visually scary!

2_TwistedAfterSandingOnMachine

The pendant curved as if the face plate was pulling the side lining up.

As an alternative approach, I also tried cutting the edge off using shears. That didn’t work for me because I couldn’t cut at a curve without leaving jagged rips. Finally decided that using a jeweler’s saw would be the most straightforward way to achieve a close and clean-cut – and voila!

4_ExtraEdgesSawedOffBack

Am so glad to have a jeweler’s saw at my home studio!

I used my needle files to give the pendant a smoother edge; this was mainly to make it friendlier for holding, as the main finishing of the piece should wait until all the metalwork is complete.

5_EdgesFiled

Pretty angle!

Here it is all ready for setting of the bezel! Next week I will: a) solder the step and outer bezels together; b) cut out the bezel shape from the pendant; c) fit the bezel into the pendant.

8_ReadyForBezelPlacement

Maybe I’ll even finish this in another 6-9 hours !

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