Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Flights of Filigree

I have stepped out and ventured into the gloriously beautiful world of Filigree! I saw my first piece of incredible filigree jewelry in person when I went to a large artisan show in Lancaster PA and discovered by chance the work of Lisa Gallagher. Such tiny beautiful pieces w/ such tiny little pieces of twisted, shaped metal inside. I was, no I am... in awe.

That was 2 years ago... After buying books 
and looking at pieces and dreaming about trying it I finally said -  "Loug, just do it!" so this past weekend I made my first attempt.

The thought was that it would be an initial pin for my sister-in-law of a scarf. Although pleased that I was able to solder the pieces and get them to hold, it didn't come out as I imagined. Then I read some more of the Silver Threads book by Jeanne Rhodes-Moen... and realized that I should have used square wire (I used 18g round sterling) and I should have used Filigree wire (I used twisted 24g round sterling). I could have pounded out the twisted wire to more closely work like filigree wire but I kinda-sorta didn't read that indepth. So I decided... Let's try it again.

Here is attempt #2 a set of sterling silver leaf-shaped earrings with 6mm light blue (fabricated) cat's eye and 4mm moonstone cabochons. I chose the light blue Cat's Eye because I know she had asked for a pair of blue Chalcedony earrings last year for Christmas - and I chose the Moonstones because they are a pretty grey color and dark grey is her favorite color. I initially intended to make them "post" earrings so I pulled out some pre-made bezels for the stones and a pair of pre-made posts - all sterling silver.

This time I smartly hammered out about 14" of 24g twisted sterling silver to a nice flat piece of wire that has 'ribs' on the top and bottom. After doing that I needed to anneal it and that meant putting fire to it to soften it up again. After that - Pickle... that would become my mantra... shape, position, flux, solder, pickle... shape, position, flux, solder, pickle... ;o)

I designed the earrings - because
I use a leaf with my logo on it as my jewelry tag I used that same shape for the earrings. It's a familiar feel I thought it would help me ease into the project. I worked in the stones - behind the blue stone was where I imagined the post would be for the earrings. Not heavily filigree'd but enough to get my feet wet and be pretty. I tend to start my designs in my design book and then move to my computer to work out some details. (Yes I have visions of owning one of the HP design pads that they use on Project Runway!).

Next step was to cut the 18g square sterling silver wire and shape it to form the outside of the leaf and the center "vein". The outside is one piece bent, formed and curved to fit the design... the "vein" is a single piece also formed and curved to fit. I trimmed the pieces so that the Cat's Eye bezels would fit right into the top of the leaf.

Now for the tricky part - well, to me. Snipping and shaping the inside "filigree" pieces that form the curls and twirls of
the earrings center design. These little pieces are interesting to work with. The flattened twisted wire sometimes gave me "fits" but I have to say it was very fun to do. The top twirled piece on both earrings is actually in the form of a stylized up-side down heart. The Moonstone bezel will fit right into one of the twirls of the heart.

Now... step 6 which I don't have a picture for - soldering. I
used my soldering block, small butane torch, easy and medium wire solder and flux. I am a klutz so to take a photo of the set-up w/ a torch ... nope wasn't happening. I thought about putting my tripod up but the 4-legged helpers were awake and that would cause interest in what I was doing more than they already had. (Here is a picture of my Sissy far enough away to be out of the way but close-enough to satisfy her need to be next to me.)

However I do have a picture of my NEW FAVORITE TOOL! My
pickle pot is a small (dip size) crock pot that holds my pickling solution (I use Silver Prep as it's kinder to the environment) ... it is used to remove  
oxidation on the wire that comes from being heated by the torch. Apparently you need to remove the oxidation each time you solder. Well - walking the 10' to the kitchen each time I solder a piece was getting old so I thought hmmm I can get a small dish to put some in and put it on my mug warmer on my work station... My friend Beth reminded me to cover it so the "helpers" don't get into it by mistake. I thought ... cool - I have a tea cup from Hong Kong with a cover... and then I stopped in my tracks .. I HAVE A TEA CUP WITH A COVER *AND* A STRAINER! Now... if you don't do this you have no idea how cool this is... when you put small pieces into a pickle pot the hardest thing to do is get them back out of the pot... with the porcelain strainer your pieces sit in the pickle and are easier to get access too!! Too cool! My new favorite tool!!

I worked the placement and the soldering of the filigree wires and the Moonstone bezel and then after polling my FB fans (calDesign Naturals) I decided to forgo the posts and make ear wires instead. I soldered a 3" piece of 20g sterling silver onto the back of the Cat's Eye bezel to form into an earring wire later.

ere I laid the soldered pieces on the original design to see how close I got... not bad I think, not bad! I'm also looking to see if they are close to being similar left and right earrings.
The closer they are to the design the better off they will be when being worn.

A quick look at the back - I wanted to check the solder points. You want to be sure that they were smooth and would not catch on anything. I used a file to smooth these areas, double checked the ear wire placement and prepared to form the ear wires.

Forming Ear Wires... A couple bends with flat nose pliers, a twirl onto a pair of bail pliers and POOF I have some ear wires. They were about 1/2" to long so I trimmed then down, bent up the ends a little and - ear wires! :o)

Next is to put these in the tumbler. A tumbler will shine up the pieces as well as work-harden the pieces. Each time it is soldered, the heat will soften the wire. Work-hardening it will toughen the wire up so that it's not flimsy bend-able soft. And the "spahkle" it giv
es is wonderful!!

Last step is to put the stones in, shoot, package and send! A beautiful pair of earrings for my sister-in-law.

I hope she enjoys wearing them as much as I enjoyed
creating them. And I can tell you I will DEFINITELY do this again. I love what I was able to create and want to do it again and try and work filigree into my metal clay designs!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Cindy your work, attention to detail, and designs are most amazing. I wish I had a skill like this. I hope to see more filigree designs from you...maybe a bangle bracelet or a pretty pendant with kids birthstones incorporated into it somehow?! :) Beautiful work.

    1. HA! I have an idea for a "mother's pendant"! Great minds!!

  3. Such a fun thing to learn! My friends and family often say "I don't understand what you are doing..." and this was a way to show. :o)

  4. This was such a delight to read and so much like a tutorial, well done

  5. I am SO SO impressed!!! These are lovely!