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Riveted brass an copper earrings

Last summer I took an amazing class for one of my art electives: Metalsmithing and Jewelry Making. As a designer, we’re drilled in proficiency in print and web design, however, in class discussions we frequently talk about Design as a concept applied to more than just print or web. When the opportunity to apply my Design training in a new-to-me medium arose, I jumped at it.

The class focused on metal sheet and wire forming techniques and we learned only cold connections. Cold connections, those not requiring any heat (hence the name) often become design elements in a piece. For instance, the brass and copper earrings shown here are riveted together. The copper rivet contrasts with the brass on the front strip, showing how the connection’s made, but also becoming integral to the design.

If you’re remembering all those old cartoons showing construction workers with buckets of hot rivets and wondering why my rivet doesn’t look like those on the girders, a rivet in jewelry making is simply a short bit of wire inserted into a small hole and hammered into place with a riveting hammer. Using proper technique, the wire mushrooms out creating what in profile would look like a capital I, holding the two (or more) pieces of metal fast. I’ve sanded these so they look nearly flush.

Another technique I learned involved a different kind of hammering. A couple of them, in fact. Chasing hammers have flat smooth heads that leave extra shiny marks on metal when forming it. Using the chasing hammer allows the metal to have variations in size and texture and gives a piece of wire a deliberateness in the design that it wouldn’t otherwise possess.

Copper Necklace

Copper plate and copper wire necklace

Textured hammers do just what they’re name suggests: impart a texture to metal. There are lots of different textured hammers available for purchase, but it’s also possible to make your own.

I used a textured hammer with long stripes cut into the head to make the texture on the cut ovaloids in the copper necklace and a chasing hammer on the formed wire elements. After piecing this puzzle together to determine the proper length, I took it apart again and dapped each piece for a better fit.

Each element connects to the next with brass jump rings which have been treated with Casey Gun Blue so they blend in with the rest of the necklace.

I’ve got the metalsmithing bug, now, as you’ll hear about in a future post. In fact, because I just took the level two class, I’ve been dreaming an awful lot about metal. Up next? Heat, Beg, Curse, Repeat.

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