Close

Upcycling, recycling, reworking

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

Last year I seemed to become the “Divorce Ring” go-to jeweller!  Didn’t know it even existed?  No, nor did I.  But not all wedding and engagement rings maintain that sentimental “love you forever” meaning, especially when a couple separates.  Many women don’t want to carry on wearing those rings in the same way – they need to be re-fashioned into a “this is the start of my new life” ring or another piece of jewellery altogether.  Lots of people inherit old-fashioned pieces of jewellery that they love, but it just isn’t their style, so why not get it revamped?

My first upcycled piece was a very personal one to me.  My dear father died at a crazy young age.  I ended up making my mother a new ring with 2 types of metal wrapped together to signify the two of them, and their initials pierced out on the inside – she loved it and decided that it was all she wanted to wear on her ring finger.  A while later, she asked me if I would like her engagement, wedding, and eternity rings to use in other pieces.  I was a bit taken aback – surely they had huge sentimental meaning – but she insisted that she wanted me to have them and didn’t want them left in the back of a drawer.  I ended up cutting the gold shank off the engagement ring and using the classic solitaire diamond setting as a gorgeous pendant on a gold chain for my mum – she hasn’t taken that off since either.  I made myself a ring with all the remaining gold and the diamonds and emeralds from the eternity ring – it was the kind of primitive, medieval style that I favour and the only extra bit I added was a gorgeous ruby.  I think of my dad every time that I wear it.

Sometimes I am asked to retrieve the stones from settings and then use them in completely new metal.  There might not be enough metal for me to be able to melt down and re-use – if there are only small amounts I might melt it down into tiny balls and use them as additional detail on the new piece.  Cutting stones out of old jewellery is not a fun job, so don’t expect that it will be a cheap way to get new jewellery – it is actually pretty stressful, especially if the tiny stones are flush set in hard white gold or platinum.  I break out in a cold sweat worrying that a diamond is going to ping out and fly across the studio (this hasn’t happened yet I hasten to add – the stones have usually become so grimy through wear that they are pretty well stuck into the metal!).

Gold and garnets recycled from an unwanted brooch

Gold and garnets recycled from an unwanted brooch

9ct gold and silver with garnets

9ct gold and silver with garnets

Silver and rose gold with diamonds, emeralds, peridot and tourmaline

Silver and rose gold with diamonds, emeralds, peridot and tourmaline

18ct gold around silver with sapphire and diamonds

18ct gold around silver with sapphire and diamonds

If there is a good amount of metal to melt down (and hallmarking is important here – you need to know exactly what you are working with), I melt it into a nugget and then spend a considerable amount of time and energy hammering it out, re-annealing it, and putting it through my roller to give me something to work with.  It might also require the addition of some metal grain to increase the volume.  Because my work tends to be chunky and bold, the re-fashioned gold and silver may form a layer over new metal.

A lovely piece that I made recently included 2 narrow rings of 9ct gold that didn’t have a lot of value, but they had belonged to my client’s late grandmother – she wanted something made from them so that she’d always be reminded of her.  My client liked my Juno rings, and I struggled for a while wondering what to do with the small amount of metal.  I decided to hammer and texture the bands and then solder them together to form one ring – it was then topped with a carved silver bezel containing a blue topaz.  She was thrilled with the result – one of my Juno rings plus the added meaning offered by her grandmother’s jewellery.

Another client had never particularly liked the setting of her engagement ring – it was one of those awkward situations of having to admit to her husband after 10 years that she’d really rather have it re-styled.  The diamond was an absolutely stunning princess cut stone – very valuable.  She liked the style of my jewellery, but I don’t do any traditional claw-set pieces – mine is all pretty contemporary.  I warned her that her diamond would not get the same amount of light shining through it once set in a carved rub-over setting.  She decided that she would rather have the contemporary style and have something that she really would enjoy to wear.  Luckily she was thrilled to bits with her new ring and I breathed a sigh of relief!!


I find myself part of a Study on Craft

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

A couple of weeks ago I had a professor from Cardiff University come to spend some hours with me in the studio. He wanted to do one of my workshops and also spend some time chatting and watching me work to understand the process as part of a general study on artisans and crafts workers. He has written a beautiful piece about the process of making his own silver ring.

He sent me some pictures and here is a little snippet of his words:

"Like many makers I have met, Ellie conveys a great sense of calm, not least because she has the confidence in the things where I lack confidence. The actions that for me are clumsy are assured and habituated for her. But of course, unlike my trying to learn from a book or instruction manual, say, she can see what is “enough” and guide me appropriately – as well as offering general encouragement and advice. My silver ring is definitely another trophy... The measure of success lies in the work and knowledge that went into making it rather than the object itself. I am none the less gratified that the ring is as it was intended: round, shiny, the right size. Just as in other studios, there is a gratifying sense of entering a domain of long tradition."  (Professor Paul Atkinson)

At the bench - teaching the Professor

At the bench - teaching the Professor

Soldering a stone bezel to the ring shank

Soldering a stone bezel to the ring shank

Teaching in the studio

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I love my studio space, and had a moment of struggle in my mind about sharing it, but happily I had the loveliest time teaching over a couple of days.  All teaching will be one to one as the studio is set up that way.  We soldered, pierced, domed, and set moon stones onto pendants that Susanna will be selling.  It was great to talk techniques and to remind myself of some basics, such as tool names, which, because I use them everyday, but don't discuss them had flown from my brain (maybe that says a bit too much about me though!!).

Polishing with the pendant drill

Polishing with the pendant drill

Piercing (sawing) silver and managing not to break a single blade!

Piercing (sawing) silver and managing not to break a single blade!