Reproducing custom made jewellery – mission impossible

Reproducing custom made jewellery is very difficult. Here is just a story.

I received an order to reproduce a pair of earrings with a different stone color. It looked quite easy, but turned out to be a real challenge.

The original earrings were cut by pinking shears (see picture) from precious metal clay sheet. This technique resembles cutting Japanese origami shapes from paper. Technically the cutting is the same, the craft shears go through PMC sheet as easily as if it were paper. But, of course, silver sheet is not paper! Every wrong move costs money. And each cut off piece has to be collected, and, if possible, re-used (PMC sheet is not easily recyclable).

Therefore I have chosen the symmetric square design, where the cuttings could be used for decoration. Fastening unfired PMC sheet elements together is not easy, since PMC sheet literally disintegrates at contact with water. Some artists recommend using colorless craft glue, but I discovered that after firing the glued pieces tend to peel off. So fixing them with Art Clay Silver Oil paste and refiring is a good option.

Thus the squares were fired, fixed and refired. The square stone – a beautiful blue spinel CZ  – was set separately in silver clay and fired. Then the squares and the stone were glued together with oil paste and co-fired. In the meantime I made the earstuds with the smaller blue spinel CZ.  The last important step was oxidizing the earrings with liver of sulfur and selective polishing to create a nice contrast.
The result was quite interesting. And, of course, since it was my first experience with cutting PMC sheet, the shapes were not symmetric.

This experience helped me to plan the second version better. I made a drawing on the PMC sheet (you can draw easily on it with pencil) and cut it carefully according to the drawing. Somehow I miscalculated something and the squares turned out to be larger. But it was a kind of divine providence, because the main story is yet to come.

Since I didn’t have any red stones in stock, the stones had to be ordered in a US online shop. I always purchase my CZ stones there, since their stones can be fired safely even at highest temperatures. So I ordered and waited…and the customer waited patiently too.

However, when the stones finally arrived, there was a big surprise.
A) The square stones were not 0,6×0,6 as ordered but 0,9×0,9 (did they know my squares were larger?) and B) The smaller stones did not match in color the larger stones, so no ear-studs could be made with those stones.
As a result of A) I had to make different bezels for the larger stones too, using fine silver bezel wire instead of silver clay. And, as a result of B) a different solution had to be found for the ear part. After consulting the customer I have chosen the simple ear-hooks.
Nevertheless the earrings were beautiful, more beautiful than the first version. Larger, more regular, more stylish. See and judge for yourself.

I learned a couple of important lessons from this experience:
1. Buying stones online – even from the most reliable shop – can bring surprises as to the color, size etc. It is not always possible to send the delivery back. Sometimes it is better to make the best use of what you’ve got.
2. Making an exact copy of designer handmade jewelry is virtually impossible. However, trying to make something similar but better can give you a great feeling of growth. And the result can be surprising – I mean – nicely surprising.

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