Trying New Things: Jewellery Making

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Last night I tried Jewellery making for the very first time at the Sussex Jewellery School.  I didn’t even know we had a Jewellery school here in Eastbourne until a few weeks ago.  I found out about it via Facebook of all places!

The workshop was entitled: Gemstone Earrings Intensive 2-hour class (wire-rapping with a little basic silversmithing). The course is run by Sarah Jane Whittaker.  This class is suitable for the complete beginner and all materials are included in the price of the course.  At the time of booking, there was a special offer via Groupon which was promoted by Visit Eastbourne on Facebook.

Prior to the course, I was sent detailed information about the course, what to expect and what to wear.  On the evening of the course, all of our supplies and equipment were neatly laid out at our workstations.  Sarah took us through the details of the class for the evening and went through all of the Health and Safety issues.  A jewellery workshop is a potentially dangerous place.  Some of the tools are very sharp, there are chemicals, and you play with fire.

After making sure we understood the format of the evening and Heath and Safety issues, we were ready to make our earrings.  First we practiced on a pair of turquoise beads with copper wire.  Sarah explained the procedure and then showed us how to do it in stages.  The first stage was wrapping the wire around the bead.  If you haven’t done it before, it isn’t as easy as Sarah makes it look.  It isn’t complicated, just fiddly.  As with anything, it takes practice.  Fortunately, our wrapping wasn’t meant to be perfect.  We first used a thicker copper wire just to get the hang of wrapping, and then we tried it with a thinner wire to prepare us for using the silver.  The copper wire was then discarded and we were ready to wrap our gemstones with silver wire.

The gemstones given to us are semi-precious and I was allocated a pair of small yellow citrine beads which were chosen randomly.  The smaller the bead, the more challenging it can be to wrap as the holes drilled in the top are very small, and it can be quite easy to break the tips off.  Nice!  Actually, they are really pretty.  The silver wire needs careful handling as it is softer than the copper and can break off if too stressed.  I managed to wrap my stones nicely, but not too neatly as we were shown.

The next stage involved making the hooks.  This stage requires careful handling of thicker wire, pre-cut, that we had to straighten before creating a bobble at the end.  This is where we get to play with fire!  We used crème brûlée burners for this.  I never used one before.  Sarah demonstrated the procedure and then worked with us one at a time.  I have to say that this part was probably my favourite as I thought it was extremely cool how one can turn a straight piece of wire into a piece with a little ball on the end.   The heat of the flame makes the wire move up on itself to create a little ball.  I’m sure this part could lose its appeal after a while once you’ve made quite a few.

After we made our bobbles, we then soaked our hooks into an acid bath to remove the tarnishing that occurred through heating the metal.  The bath removes the tarnish and results in the silver having a white coat which is then brushed with a wire brush to bring up the shine of the silver again.

After brushing, we were ready to make our hooks.  Sarah demonstrated and we again followed her example.  This was very easy.  Afterwords, we were ready to file the ends and hammer the metal to strengthen the hooks.  Once the hooks were how we liked them we were able to put our beads on and finish them off.  This is what I made…

  I am actually quite pleased with them and they look very pretty on. 🙂

How do I rate the course and the tutor?  If you have never done any jewellery making before, this class is a very good one to start with.  It is only two hours.  There were only three of us this evening, so we received a lot of attention and the time passed quickly.  All materials are included in the price and you come away with something you can use.  The tutor is very organised and explains how to do everything prior to demonstration and why.  Sarah is very knowlegable, encouraging and positive.  I really like her.

What I liked about the course:  I liked everything about the course.  Being a hands-on, methodical person, I enjoyed the whole process of  learning a procedure with a finished product at the end.  I enjoy working with my hands and making things.

Would I do another course?  Yes!  I learned a new skill in just two hours.  The object of all the courses is to provide you with skills to make items at home.  If I wanted to, I could make hundreds of little pairs of dangly earrings to sell or give as gifts.  I will most likely do a course using silver clay, once I find a free weekend.

Tips:  Wear old clothes.  There are chemicals and fire.  Need I say any more?  Oh, and bring glasses if you need them for reading.  I realised that I need to upgrade my lenses on my glasses.  The photo of my earrings show more detail than what I can see at the moment.  Although there were plenty of light sources in the room, obviously working in daylight is best.

So, what new thing have you tried lately?

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One response

  1. It was an absolute pleasure to teach you, Arlene, and you’d be welcome back any time. We have dates throughout the year for the Beginnings in Silver one-day course (where you make a hallmark-quality solid silver pendant and pair of earrings in just one day), so just call the Sussex Jewellery School on 07939 696 465 when you’re ready to explore your creative ideas in silver – and to make some more lovely jewellery of course! Enjoy your creative journeying – I shall look forward to following your adventures via this blog.