How it's made
How It's Made
What is Married Metals:
Almost all of the jewelry that I make uses a technique called Married Metals. It is essentially a metal inlay process of several different types of metals. Many people think at first that I dye the metal, or etch it, when in fact it is different metals. I gravitated towards this technique because it creates subtle, elegant clean designs.
Starting with a Sheet of Metal:
All Married metals pieces start as two or more sheets of different types of metal. I buy the sheets in different thicknesses depending on what type of jewelry I am going to make out of them. In the "Bee Pollen Cuff" shown above the orange colored metal starts as a copper sheet and the bees and pollen are made from a separate sheet of silver.
From Dreams to Metal:
First I start with a pattern that I have designed. Each piece must be cut out separately by hand. I paste my pattern onto each type of metal I'll be using and then I am ready for the next step.
Preparing to Cut:
Before I can start cutting out the piece of metal, I first drill holes so that I can thread my blade into the piece. The drill bits are very tiny and spin at over 25,000 rpm. Each unconnected part of the design must have its own start hole. The Bee pattern below has over 10 start holes that need to be drilled.
The blades that I cut the metal with are like a miniature coping saw blade. They are about the width of a piece of sewing thread. Each time I load a new blade into my jewelers saw frame, I must hold it up to the light to make sure that the teeth on the blade are pointing in the correct direction. These blades are very delicate and break easily if not used correctly.
This is the longest and one of the most critical parts of the process. I must follow my pattern line exactly so that the other pieces of metal will fit exactly into the spaces that I cut out. The blade shown in the picture above is fitted into a metal frame called a jewelers saw. It is essentially a small coping saw. In the picture below you can just barely see the blade going through the metal disc that I pasted the Bee pattern onto. Blade tension, rhythm, speed, precision, coordination, focus, and patience are critical for a successful cut. Some designs take over two hours to cut out.
Fit together like puzzle pieces:
After all the different pieces are cut out I fit them together like a puzzle. The two types of metal in the piece shown are brass and silver.
Soldering to Marry:
Once I have fit all the pieces together correctly I am ready to solder it. Soldering with silver solder I join the two, or three types of metal. The solder melts and floods the piece, filling in the seams and covering the surface of the pattern. After soldering there is no recognizable pattern on the piece.
To get the pattern back out and make the piece flush I must sand the piece. I do this using a wet belt sander. It keeps the piece and solder seams cool while sanding so that the solder does not remelt and cause defects in the surface of the piece. I must be very cautious when sanding on the belt sander because one slip and the piece goes flying and my fingers are quickly pushed into the coarse grit of the belt. I have also experienced broken fingers on top of superficial flesh wounds.
After sanding the piece with a rough belt they need to be sanded with a finer grit. Instead of doing this all by hand I employ the use of three successively finer grit tumblers. It takes about a week for one piece to move through all three tumblers, but it comes out polished and nearly finished.
Finally I stamp the piece with my trademark so that you know you are getting a genuine piece of art, and I stamp it with the .925 designation to show that the silver I use is sterling silver. Then I attach any parts such as jump rings, tubing etc., that will make each piece, into a pendant, earring, or bracelet.