Autumn is coming and I have been busy at the bench…

Walker ringRainbow moonstone and Lapis pendant

Here are two quite different pieces I have made recently.
One was a flight of fancy and is for sale at a smidgen under four figures!
It is a pendant that measures 53mm from top to bottom and I made it in yellow and white gold and set it with a stunning rainbow moonstone and
an unusual piece of lapis lazuli and three twinkling diamonds.  I have called it Wish Upon A Star!
The ring on the left was a commission and I made it in 18ct gold, it is set with a pretty blue sapphire and diamonds to
reflect the style of a lost engagement ring. It is a little bit smaller than the pendant – the centre stone is 6.5mm.

The first step is to draw the designs

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Filing

Joanna Thomson Jewellery FilingThe first step is to draw the designs; if it is for a production piece the inspiration can come out of my head from some idea or shape that has occurred to me.  That inspiration might be a cat sitting on the sofa in a particular position or a flower from the garden or simply one of my hallmark leaves!  The wonderful flowing lines of both Art Nouveau and Celtic knots just seem to come out on the page when I pick up a pencil and start drawing. I also think about how many different ways the design can be used – that was one piece of information I gleaned in college when a manufacturing company’s designer came to talk to us.  It has stood me in very good stead!

Often a customer will come to me with an idea of their own.  This can be a fun part of the process as I translate their thoughts or simple sketches into three dimentional shapes that are both wearble and durable and, of course, beautiful!

Some recent commissions

Napkin rings square

Scottish Bluebells small squareHere are some recently completed pieces.  The napkin rings are set with amethyst and were a present, they are now the other side of the world.  These are a ittle larger in scale to my usual work and were an interesting challenge to make!  The Bluebells were a birthday present as was the Golden Eagle kilt pin.  It’s 4 inches across and a piece that I really enjoyed making!  Golder Eagle Kilt Pin Square

Now comes the first tricky bit

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Filing

Joanna Thomson Jewellery FilingNow comes the first tricky bit, translating a few lines on a page into a 3D piece of jewellery. I use fine piercing saws to cut out shapes from sheet, and use various methods to change the shape of the sheet, sometimes bending with fingers or with pliers, sometimes using doming tools, sometimes files of varying shapes and sizes, sometimes using hammers, sometimes my rolling mill.   Wires come in a wonderfully diverse range of shapes and I use similar techniques to those I use on the sheet to alter the shape and flow of the metal.

So I make my jewellery by constructing; shaping and forming the metal to the shapes I want as I build up the designs.  People are amazed at the size of the hammers and files I use!


Solder the pieces together

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Filing

Joanna Thomson Jewellery FilingThe next step is to solder the pieces together using a gas blowtorch – or two at the same time if it’s a big job – to melt the solder.  A lot of heat is needed to melt precious metal solder.  Not far below the melting temperature of the metal itrself. To ensure that they do not contaminate the metal they need to be of the same carat or grade as the metals you are joining.  A great deal of patience is needed for this part of the process.  It’s probably the part that takes the most swearing!!  Solder has a habit of pinging off as you heat it up as the flux reacts, or flows completely the wrong way when it does melt!  Fortunately most customers are blissfully unawate of this part of the process…

I love seeing how my designs emerge as I build them up, adding shapes and connecting wires until I am happy with the flow and balance of the design.  Settings need to be made and soldered into place.


Adding my unique mark

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Filing

Joanna Thomson Jewellery FilingNow that my piece of jewellery is made, before it is set with the stones and polished it has to be sent to the Edinburgh Assay Office for testing and hallmarking. Every piece is tested for purity and will not be hallmarked if it fails.  For instance if I were to use 9ct gold and 18ct gold together then the piece would be marked as the lower purity of 9ct.

Before it goes off to the Assay Office every piece of jewellery has to be marked by me with my unique mark – in my case it is JT in a diamond shape.  My hallmark enables anyone to tell who made the piece of jewellery. The other marks that are applied by the Assay Office show what the metal is, what the purity is, where is was hallmarked and the year it was made.  A really useful bit of provenance.


Setting the stones

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Setting Stones

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Setting StonesOnce the piece has been tested, passed and fully hallmarked then I can set the stones.  No glue used here!  It is vital that when I have made the settings I have been really accurate.  Too big and the setting can look uneven and cover too much of the stone, too small and it simply will not fit!  Trying to encourage a stone to fit into a setting that is too small or not quite the right shape will always end in tears!!   To hold the stones the metal is pushed over onto them to keep them in place – this can be nerve wracking when you are setting brittle stones like opal and emeralds – however careful you have been making the settings!

Sometimes I have to leave setting the stones until after I have polished the piece to avoid risk of damage during polishing or cleaning in the ultrasonic tank.

The final process is polishing

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Pink Sapphire

Joanna Thomson Jewellery Pink SapphireThe final process is polishing.  Most pieces are barrelled first for a few hours to get into the backs and parts that are hard to reach with polishing mops.  Going into the polishing shed requires some covering up and wearing a face mask. It’s a filthy business!  Not the least but romantic but it is lovely to see the real shine of the metal coming through as I attack each piece with 4 inch buffs travelling at 3000 rpm on my big polishing machines!

Great care is needed to avoid polishing away fine details or having the mop grab the piece and throw it across the workshop!  Assuming the piece has survived the attack, the next stage is to clean off the residues of polishing compounds this is done in an ultrasonic tank.  Some stones do not like being in the tank and these have to be set after the polishing is finished.

Lastly, the fittings are added to the earrings, chains to pendants, pins to brooches.

And this is the beautiful end result, set with an exquisite pink sapphire and diamonds…