• Kate Seow

Behind the Scenes: Making the Paris Collection

By now, you've probably seen some pictures of my new collection, and possibly even the time-lapse video on my Facebook page where I'm making the iolite necklace, bracelet and earrings, so I thought in this post, I'd show you a bit more of my making process. First off, here is the video in case you haven't yet seen it (or simply want to see it again!)

To give you an idea of the timescale involved, I filmed this over 2 days and 4 workshop sessions; I tend to spend about 2-3 hours in my workshop per session, and focus on one or two jobs within the making process each time. Of course, all new collections start with an idea, a sketch in a book, a pile of beads and wire just waiting to be turned into something beautiful, and the Paris collection is no exception...

When I first got back into jewellery making a couple of years ago, I bought a mixed bag of beads from Kernowcraft, and these gorgeous pink shell chips had been staring at me ever since. I had also been pondering on the idea of creating a bar-style necklace, and one day in June, the two met happily in my mind, and you can see the results above (these have since been gifted to family members).

When I started to think about making this into a fully-fledged collection, I decided to use gemstone beads instead of shell chips as I wanted something more suitable for Winter, but the gemstone beads had holes that were too small to thread the structural wire through, so I had to have a rethink - this is when I had the idea of wire-wrapping the beads with finer wire onto a "bar".

After another happy afternoon in my shed making some mock-ups, I had a prototype for the Paris collection. I tried using just gemstone beads as well as alternating gemstone and silver beads, but the gemstones and silver won out in the end (as it did with my lovely followers across social media, just! Thank you, guys!)

So, onto how I make the gemstone and silver beads version, and turn it into a necklace, bracelet or earrings... First session, and I start by sawing the round wire that I'm using for the bar to length, and neaten up the ends with a file. Next, I hammer and shape the bar, flaring out the ends and curving them up and round ever so slightly - the process of shaping the wire also leaves a nice texture on the silver. It's then onto drilling holes that the jump rings will pass through when they connect the chain to the bar. The handmade fastenings need to be made next, so more lengths of wire are cut, filed and shaped into hooks, eyes and ear wires. Lengths of chain are cut and connected to the bar and the fastenings. As I close the loops that need to be soldered shut, I file and sand them to make sure the surfaces are clean, and check that they are closed as tightly as possible - the solder won't flow properly otherwise. End of session 1, and time for a well-earned cuppa!

Session 2, and I'm all set to start soldering. Each joint is fluxed (a borax-based paste that stops the silver from oxidising before it is hot enough for the solder to flow, and helps the solder to flow when it eventually does). A small piece of hard solder is placed over the joint, and I heat around the area to encourage the solder to melt and run (flow). Then it's into the quench pot to cool, and the pickle pot to remove the excess flux as well as any surface oxidation. If necessary, I file and sand off any excess solder and generally neaten up the joint. For every necklace, bracelet and earrings set, there are 12 joints that need soldering and tidying. End of session 2, and day 1.

Session 3 consists of polishing. Just polishing. Nothing but polishing. I work through three different grades of polisher - coarse, medium and then fine. Seeing the high shine emerge as I use the fine polisher makes this stage so worth it! Then it's into the ultrasonic cleaner to remove any fine particles. End of session 3.

Session 4 is the fun bit, where the pieces finally come to life. I wire-wrap the beads onto the bars, checking that the colour, shape, size and positioning of each bead is fairly even. I often get "help" at this stage, I think because the end of the fine wrapping wire is so tempting to bat a paw at! Also, feline helpers are not allowed in my workshop during the soldering stage. This is quite a nice "job" to do on an evening once my little monkey has gone to bed. After the pieces are finished, they are ready to be photographed and sent off to the Assay Office for hallmarking.

And here is my Paris collection...

I really hope you've found this interesting, and that you like my new collection. If you would like me to make anything from this collection for you with different gemstones, or without the silver beads, please send me a message to let me know what you would like.

If you would like to be the first to know when this and other collections are released, as well as the opportunity to reserve items before general release, please sign up to my newsletter. You will also receive special news and offers.

Well, that's it for now! Take care, and think sparkly thoughts!

Kate xxx

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