Spirit of Earth

How metalsmith jewellery are made

Metalsmithing is a traditional craft, a manual process of creating jewellery through the manipulation of metals like silver, copper or brass. It was one of the first techniques used by humans in metalworks. However, to create an attractive wearable piece of jewellery from raw metals, it requires a series of steps and hand tools, and of course skill.

Here I am happy to lead you through the main steps I use in the process of our jewellery making!

Uniquely designed jewellery, made from prickly pear cactus, a plant that is well-known in the Mediterranean area. Each piece has a special organic structure and is prepared by hand; hence the result is an original one-of-a-kind artisan jewellery

Planning the design

I spend quite some time with planning the perfect designs for our jewellery. We often go our for a walk or a dive with my husband to make nature photos. Sometimes a bird or a flower we see on the fields instantly inspires me and I immediately visualise the finished piece of jewellery. I like to keep pieces of papers everywhere in our house and in my bags, so that I can make a sketch wherever a vision hits me. Some of my sketches are on hankies, when I couldn’t reach a decent piece of paper. But other times planning takes a little bit more time, so I need to scroll through a lot of nature photos to find a shape I like. Then I make a drawing from the version I like from all the different photos I found. An important part of this is to figure out the perfect size and positioning for an earring or a pendant. Most of the time I prepare models first from cardboard, with different elements of the jewellery, so that we can play with them like with puzzle pieces, and actually try the different versions on to see how they look when worn as a jewellery. Then I choose the one I like the most, and then it’s time to go to the next step where even more fun awaits…

Hand Sawing, filing

Now I draw the shapes I chose on a plain brass or copper sheet, and then I start to cut the shape out with a jewellers handsaw. This handsaw has a very thin saw blade with tiny teeth, I need to choose the size according to the thickness of the metal sheet. These blades, being really thin, are thorn easily, so sawing an intricate, complex design needs some planning again, and extra focus. If you follow us on social media, I share videos about the different stages, so there you can see how sawing is actually done.
After a piece is completely cut out, I have to file all the edges to make them smooth. For this I use different shape files and then fine sandpapers.

Annealing

Annealing is again a fun part of working with metal. It is a heat treatment process, during which the hardness of the metal is reduced, to make it more workable. It requires a very high temperature, that is achieved with a blow torch. The metal has to be heated to at least 400C, so it needs to be done with some safety precautions. It also requires patience, focus and precision. If the metal is accidentally overheated, then it quickly reaches the melting point and the whole piece is ruined. After reaching the right softness, I grab the metal with insulated tweezers and dip it in water to cool it down. This step does not harden these types of metals, just cools them down so that I can continue working with them.

Etching?

During this phase I hand-draw patterns on the surface of the metal with a special paint, then I place the metal in an acidic bath, so the acid can ‘eat up’ the bare parts. As a result, the metal surface will get the structure or pattern the actual design requires.

Shaping: forging, chasing, hammering

Art of Nature | Contemporary Jewellery
@artofnaturejewellery

Art of Nature | Contemporary Jewellery
@artofnaturejewellery

Art of Nature | Contemporary Jewellery
@artofnaturecontemporaryjewellery

Art of Nature | Contemporary Jewellery
@artofnaturecontemporaryjewellery