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heather-reilly, metalsmith | custom jewlery

finally, the ribbon pendant

ahhh, the ribbon pendant.

I have been procrastinating and not writing this post, because i get emotional and then don’t write well at all.

earlier this year, I forged a very special commission: a survivor ribbon for one who is battling breast cancer, from her husband, a gift of love, a pretty, sparkly, solid ribbon of hope & camaraderie, a ribbon that says…I stand with you, I support you.

sterling silver ribbon pendant with rubytender spots were hit as i forged this ribbon.

(scroll down for a better picture but without the stone)

it was quite the process, creating this piece for a most passionate husband.

I hammered in a stone for her, pink for breast cancer, and imagined forging ribbons in a myriad of colors ~ we all have our causes, after all.

of course, i am a cancer survivor myself, six years clear and counting. colon cancer, diagnosed 6/6/06, removed a week later, and forever clear… I believe blue is the color most associated with colon cancer. i see tanzanite in a platinum ribbon for me. now there’s a smile.

I milled my stock out of sterling ingot and created my version of ‘ribbon’. quickly it became apparent that the silver was not going to gracefully bend into a beautiful bow shape, as silk ribbon would. a turning point was needed, I needed a pivot around which I could hammer and forge, a strong pivotal point. I needed a fulcrum.

… and i LOVE fulcrums.

a pivotal point, the point upon which something turns, that is what a fulcrum is. when blacksmithing, you almost always create a fulcrum for your job. I will forge an original curve and then weld it onto a steel table. when ready to turn my steel, I forge around my fulcrum and have perfect curves every time.

sterling silver ribbon pendant

when you’re battling cancer, you need a turning point. the point at which you realize that you are going to be okay. whatever the outcome, you will survive…

my fulcrum came to me post opt, through the morphine haze I heard what the surgeon said after removing the tumor from my colon. I listened to him talk about what the cancer looked like, what everything else looked like, and I turned a corner. I realized that I was going to survive, whatever that meant, I was going to be okay.

everyone who has every had a disease, been abused or forgotten, needs a turning point in their journey. they need to know that they will survive. live or die, they are powerful and they will survive.

believe that all is well, be strong and believe. for someone else, for yourself, for all of those who will someday battle. show support, give support.

so even now as I write, my throat swells, my eyes well, and it is why it has taken so long to share my little ribbon in anything but pictures, but finally I am so ready to really get these ribbons out there and forge right through the tears into the sparkly happy bits of life…

heather-reilly, metalsmith | custom jewlery

platinum wedding band, 18k yellow gold miracle accent

do not try this at home….unless of course you absolutely love stressing about really expensive precious metals…melting and contaminating each other… ruthless.

this platinum wedding band with 18k yellow gold was the final piece in a client’s wedding ensemble.  i had already created her engagement ring and her wedding band.

and while forging his wedding band, was finishing a handmade chain with all the colors of 18k gold and diamonds in platinum.

so this ring was not the thing to, mess up, shall we say….

apparently, i did not think this all through when kris came to me with his wedding band design.  while i love mixing gold and platinum, do it all the time, i have never been quite so ambitious in my endeavors to join such a large surface area of gold to platinum.   these two metals have very different properties and when one joins them, the different temperatures at which these metals become liquid, (read, MELT!!!), combined with the radically different tensile strengths of gold and platinum make joining the metals extraordinarily difficult. top it off with the only drawback to working with platinum, it’s susceptibility to contamination from other metals at temperature…

oy

let me put it this way.  in conversation with three different jewellers, each one said they would have turned the job away.  well now they know where to turn… smile

i had forged the whole platinum band, made the gold band to fit perfectly next to the plat, and proceeded to join the gold to the platinum with solder.   proceeded being the wrong word…

in a flash, the gold covered the platinum (like a cheap suit) and the platinum took on the appearance of a clinker, in the bottom of your coal fire.  sorta like a heavy piece of lava rock.

lovely…

without boring you with the rest of the details, let it suffice to say that after lighting a candle, shedding a few tears, lighting another candle and saying a hail mary for good measure, i somehow managed to save the whole ring and weld the gold to the platinum.

i have always had a knack for “forge welding” and in desperation, i treated the gold and platinum just as i would treat steel. i hammered the gold onto the platinum before i even let it cool.  and no, it did not stress fracture!

the reason i write about this experience is because it literally is what keeps my craft so invigorating…best way to learn, the big challenging jobs that defy traditional smithing techniques.

this photo shows the inside of the band, i opted not to mess with it, keeps me humble…

and at the end of the day, fire transforms and lives are joined.

be so well,

heather

heather-reilly, metalsmith | custom jewlery

olympic rings & other custom jewelry musings

a lot goes into designing & creating a bespoke jewelery piece; here are some general thoughts and a recent custom jewelry project by way of example.
okay so let’s say we are designing a gift for your sister.
ideally, we actually connect on the phone and chat, engaging in a dialogue about your sister’s style, personality, lifestyle.
a few questions to get my creative juices flowing….
is this a piece of jewellery she is going to wear everyday, or rather a “special occasion” piece?
…how much wear and tear will this piece of jewelry withstand?
i seem to make a lot of rings (always had a thing for rings) and so…
does she do a lot with her hands? a gardener, a surfer, a blacksmith?
will this be worn with other jewellery that she wears everyday already?
are we adding to this ring later on? (in the case of an engagement/wedding ring combo)?

oh wait, this is for your sister, right…sorry :)

does this gift commemorate an event, i.e the birth of a baby, a wedding anniversary? if so, can we incorporate anything symbolic in the design?

ideally, i like to listen to the answers to these questions over the phone…subtle nuances that help me to free form/brainstorm. from here i can begin to design.
ideas at first, conceptualizing the feel of the piece…

here is a good example.

dean called, wanting to custom design a piece of jewelry to celebrate the birth of their first child, due in a few days. as i listened to him just talk about his wife, i immediately saw a necklace. as a new mom she wasn’t going to be fussing with jewellery, so something she can put on and not have to take off seemed appropriate.
as the mom of two little ones, i immediately saw nursing infant, ripping at shiny golden gems. note to self, sturdy chain with a pendant soothing to the touch.

dean mentioned that they had been married for some time and were excited to become a family of three. this made me think, it would be cool to represent all three of them in the piece…how about three forged yellow gold rolling rings, interlinking circles, attached to a sturdy gold snake chain.
dean wanted to incorporate his son’s birthstones. i want to incorporate stones to represent him and his wife as well. i see these interlocking rings in my mind, “sort of like the olympic rings” and he says, “perfect!” dean is involved with the u.s. olympic sailing team and he and emily spent a blissful time together in china during the summer olympics.
:)
i flush set one side of the center link with imperial topaz, november’s birthstone, and the other side with three white diamonds, graduated size to represent him, her and bambino.

here is the finished piece:

custom olympic ring pendant

here is what she said:

“Thank you so much, Heather, for your beautiful work! I love the three rings — both their style and their meaning. The topaz and diamonds are the perfect combination, too. And the chain makes the whole thing come together beautifully.”
Happy New Year,
Emily

often, someone who finds me on the web, emails…just wants a “quick quote” on a piece that has excited them. sorry, not really possible.
all of the portfolio pieces on my site were designed especially for someone. a unique piece of jewellery is going to have as many custom variables as the person for whom it is being designed.
pretty fun process
be so well
heather

heather-reilly, metalsmith | custom jewlery

price of platinum versus 18k palladium white gold

one of the questions that people shopping for custom platinum engagement rings often ask is “given the price of platinum, what is a good alternative for platinum engagement rings or platinum wedding bands?”

my answer in a particular alloy of gold that i love to forge: 18k palladium white gold.

palladium is a member of the platinum family, but unlike platinum, palladium is extremely affordable. when alloyed with 18k white gold, we have a metal that is intrinsically as close to the color and weight of platinum as anything one could custom create.

so unlike regular 14 and 18 karat white golds, palladium white does not need to be rhodium plated to create its fabulous deep color and so will wear beautifully over time.

to give an idea of its versatility, color and luster, here are some photos of different custom jewelry i have designed and created in 18k palladium white gold.

18k palladium white gold pendant, ring and bangle

18k white gold anniversary ring

18k white gold anniversary ring

18k palladium white gold engagement ring

18k palladium white gold engagement ring

heather-reilly, metalsmith | custom jewlery

WordPress for my online custom jewelry portfolio

custom jewelry portfolioafter a lot of experimentation and research into what works best for publishing pictures and information about my custom jewelry work, and what has worked best for my followers and readers, John and I have decided on WordPress as the best foundation for a complete and easy to use online portfolio of past work, from engagement and wedding ring commissions to my ready to wear peace sign, wishbone, and om pendants, soon to be available online here in clean, easy to use online shopping interface.