Again I have chosen Australian opals (doublets) to make earrings. Doublets are perfect for earrings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches. The only item of jewelry I wouldn’t use a doublet for is a ring because a ring is bound to get wet and repeated immersion in soap & water can undermine the glue that’s adhering the opal slice to it’s backing.
Opal colour and fire is directional so it’s important to find the setting position that will show the opal at it’s best.
Next … the bezels. I make them from fine (pure) silver, about .6mm thick. Fine silver is very malleable because it doesn’t contain any copper. The copper content in sterling silver, 7.5%, is what causes it to tarnish but also what gives sterling its strength.
Inside the bezel, square wire is pushed into place so it conforms to the bottom of the opal. The fit must be so snug that the wire will not move during soldering. It goes without saying, no gaps are allowed. If an opal is not supported at all points – sides and complete base – it may become stressed due to uneven pressure points and eventually crack.
Next, I make the wire surround. Again I use fine silver square wire. I measure it roughly …
… and then either solder the ends together, or overlap them like I’ve done for this pair. I make the surround a little too small so I can gently forge it to the correct size and shape. This ensures that there will be no gaps between it and the bezel.
Once the fit is perfect it’s soldered to the outside of the bezel.
The setting needs to be refined and jump rings are soldered to the setting for the ear wires to go through …
The final steps are to shape the ear wires, high polish the setting and set the opals … and then enjoy wearing the earrings!
It’s also good to have a ‘studio dog’ like Rocco to make the day happy. He’s a mini poodle with a big heart but very limited jewelry making skills.
To see more of my jewelry visit my website: http://www.robinphillipsjewelry.com.au
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