The Mother of All Sapphires
12 January, 2010, 2.00 p.m.
Peter: "Hello, my name is Peter and I was given your phone number by the people at Grafton Gem Club. They said you would be able to help me. I have a sapphire that I would like set into a belt buckle, then a chain maille belt made and attached to it."
Lisa: "Okay, how big is the sapphire? It sounds like something I might be able to manage."
Peter: " Seven and a half by five and a half."
Lisa: "Oh, it's not a standard size so I wouldn't have a setting for it and I don't normally make claw settings for faceted stones."
Peter: "I doubt very much whether you would have a setting for this. That's centimetres, not milllimetres."
Clunk. Lisa retrieves phone from floor.
Lisa: "Is this a joke? Is this some kind of set-up? Are you having me on?"
Peter: "No, I'm serious. It's a 647 carat oval faceted sapphire. Oh, and by the way, I need it done for my Daughter's 21st birthday on the 26th."
Lisa: "26th January? Now you really are having me on! That cannot possibly be done - even if the stone does exist!"
Peter: "It exists all right, I'll bring it over and you can have a look."
So I agreed. Bad move. He arrived an hour later, stone in pocket. Yep, just stuffed in his shirt pocket. 647 carat single stone, in his pocket. As you do. Apparently some 25 years earlier he had been trekking in the Himalayas and had taken a tumble down a mountain side, ripping his leg open on a rather large rock. He saved the rock, spent three weeks in hospital recovering from the nasty wound, then ventured off to New Delhi to have the stone cut and authenticated. It had taken him this long to decide to do something about it - his only daughter was turning 21 and this would make a definite show-stopper! After an hour of very determined talk on his part I agreed.
What had I done???? I had less than 2 weeks to source the materials, make the setting and the belt and get it back to him.
So first we documented the evidence. The Certificate is the same size as a regular credit card.
Next task - the design. We decided to think out side the square on this one. It was not going to work with the flat faceted table on the top - the setting would have to be too deep and make the buckle too heavy. So, upside down it would be. Sterling silver bezel, wire wrapping to hold the stone in place, hooks on the back to latch onto the chain maille, and 108cm of Europena 4-in-1 chain maille for the belt. No problem. Hmmmm. My life was now officially on hold until this was complete. I could sense a great deal of sleep deprivation coming up. We decided that as time was against us, it would be best to buy 5 chain maille bracelets and weld them together to form the belt.
The materials for the buckle were ordered Wednesday afternoon, and arrived Friday morning. The chain maille bracelets were also ordered, but would be eight days before they arrived. Cutting it close!!!Meanwhile I had lost two nights sleep going through the mechanics of getting this monster to work!!
First step - the gallery wire bezel.
Problem Number 1 - of many! The bezel was going to be nowhere near wide enough to capture the girdle of the stone!! Solution - Solder the gallery wire to stepped bezel wire to make a deeper collar.
The next hurdle was the back of the buckle. I had to cut a base and solder the bezel to it - very carefully so as not to melt the very fine gallery wire around the top of the bezel. It took some doing, but I eventually succeeded.
The next step involved cutting a base, and attaching some hooks to grab the chain maille of the belt and some way of the securing the other end of the belt. Major headaches here. Blood sweat and tears - big time!
Not looking too glamorous is it? Now for the REALLY fiddly part - attaching the bezel to the base plate. More blood, sweat and tears.
And a chance to breathe again for a moment. Ah, but where to attach the wire wrapping? More soldering underneath, being so very careful to prevent the bezel from deatching on the other side.
At this point, the basic foundation of the buckle was complete. The rest of the project just required some assembly. The chain maille bracelets still hadn't arrived, but time was on my side.
Now to put the sapphire into the bezel and secure it with some wire wrapping. The coils are handmade from 0.3mm sterling silver wire, wrapped around a 0.4mm mandrel. The beads are sterling silver, 3mm.
By this time the bracelets had arrived. They had to be soldered together to form one long belt. The difficulty here was that the end bars of the braclets were 1.6 mm thick, and the links were only 0.8mm. Soldering the bars together without losing the link was a major problem, but it finally worked!
Once the belt was attached to the buckle, I covered up the attachment points for the wire wrapping with a 3-strand, firgure eight wrapped band, crossing the ends over to attach to the belt, giving the belt even more security.
Ta-da! It was finished!
But did it work? We needed to find a model. No I did not have the body of a 21-year-old! So we enlisted the help of a much more suitable proportioned young lady. I don't think the poor girl had any idea of the value of the piece she was wearing! Much to my relief, the hooks attached to the chain maille exactly the way I had intended them to.
The nightmare was over. It was finished, three days ahead of schedule and I phoned the owner to come and pick it up. To say he was pleased with the result would be an understatement. He really had no concept of what the finished project would look like. The sketches I had given him really did not do it justice. The grin the size of a slip watermelon on his face was priceless. It made all the angst, tears, frustration (and yes okay the occasional swearing fit) and lack of sleep worthwhile. At last I could rest easy knowing that "Elvis had left the building."
Monday evening, 25January, a few hours before he was to set off on the drive to his daughter's party, Peter rang to say he was having trouble packaging the belt. He had purchased a handmade vintage cigar box and just could not get the belt to sit right.
So, again I offered help. I think I have a tattoo on my forehead - "All lost souls accepted." So we proceeded to suitably preparethe box placing foam and balsa blocks so as to support the buckle and allow the chain to be displayed. Then lined it all with black velvet. The piece that had been cut out of the back of the buckle had been polished and engraved. It was attached inside the lid, along with the Authentication Certificate.
Finally, three hours before departure time, all was complete. The end result.
So, to Ali, wherever you are, I hope you enjoy your gift. It was made with much love and care and it was a great privilege to be asked to turn this beautiful stone into a gift from your father to you on the occasion of your 21st birthday. I hope it brings you, and even generations to come, many years of enjoyment.
2010 Grafton Show
Very successful year this year. Eight pieces entered in 4 categories and eight prizes gained, including Champion Exhibit.
Sterling Silver Chain Maille Necklace. 1st Prize - Handmade Without Stone. Champion Exhibit.
Fine silver Fused Bracelet. Highly Commended - Handmade Without Stone
Peridot "Rose of Sharon", design by Perri Jackson. First Prize, Commercial Stone, Handcrafted Mount.
Amethyst Faceted Stone, Sterling Silver Wrapped Mount. 2nd Prize - Coomercial Stone, Handcrafted Mount.
Cosmic Bracelet. 1st Prize Jewellery including Lampwork Beads - Exhibitors Own Work
Snowflake Bracelet 2nd Prize Jewellery Including Lampwork Beads - Exhibitor's Own Work
Amethyst Pluged Dot Set. 2nd Prize - Loose set of Lampwork Beads - Exhibitors Own Work.
Blue Chalcedony Gaffer Glass Set Highly Commended Loose Set of Lampwork Beads - Exhibitor's Own Work.
My Works Reaches the United States!
My necklace, Dragons Blood (see gallery), was purchased by American artist Tony Dortch for inclusion in his art exhibition "The Privileged" in Washington DC. Tony painted a self portrait, depicting the necklace, then included the necklace in the photo shoot for the exhibiton. Following the Opening Night the necklace was on display in the Touchstone Gallery.
Image courtesy of Tony Dortch. Here the necklace is worn as a headpiece by the model.
Tony now has plans to include this necklace in his next exhibition in Colorado in August 2012. It's called "Gothic Lace", modeled her by Kara Larner. Necklace is made from black nickel Swarovski crystals.
How Small is TOO Small?
I set myself a challenge for using my 0.5mm X 1.75mm inside diameter rings. Was it possible to actually make a chain with them? Maybe I was pushing the boundaries too far?
Well, as I always say "Don't tell me can't."
And so I did. I managed to make a Byzantine weave chain for a pendant that I had just made from a black lava bead with a handmade bead cap in sterling silver. I applied Silver black to both the bead cap and the chain to keep everything in keeping with the black of the bead. It was then sent to the Jewellers and Metalsmith Guild of Australia's "Takeaway" Exhibition in Sydney in December 2011. To my delight it was sold! The following pictures give you some idea of the intricacy of both the chain and bead cap.
This picture shows the two sides of the bead cap were joined.