and another piece of Architectural jewelry …

Sterling silver necklace, again inspired by the Walt Disney Concert Hall: Architect Frank Gehry.

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Disney concert hall necklace, silver


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Architectural Jewelry

This brooch was inspired by architect Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California.

I was immediately drawn to the sweeping curves, the stainless steel finish and the overall beauty of the design. All these qualities lend themselves to the inspiration of making bespoke jewelry.

Disney Concert Hall brooch


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Boulder opal ring …

No birds this time, just one of my favourite rings.

I made this a few years ago and haven’t been able to part with it yet. The design was inspired by the earth’s strata where this opal was formed millions of years ago.

Leave a comment, I’d like to hear what you think.

boulder opal ring 1


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bird beginnings …

I’ve always loved birds, maybe it’s because of my name. A few years ago I began drawing them onto shrink plastic to make earrings and necklaces. Once I started, I realized just how many bird fanciers there are besides me. I hope you like them too.

You can click on the image to enlarge it. The photo was taken with my phone so the quality isn’t great, sorry.

Here are a few unfinished pieces. They still need a backing plate …

shrink birds


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And another fat little bird … sold

This well rounded bird is the second in the series of cloisonné enamel bird brooches that I made to feed my infatuation with fat, little birds.

I think he’s very handsome … what do you think?  I’d really like to know.


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Fat little birds (sold)

Recently, I was commissioned through my website, to make a cloisonné Blue Wren brooch for a ‘significant birthday’ present. It’s not the sort of work that I usually undertake but the gentleman ordering this gift had given it so much loving thought and consideration that I was very happy to do it.

This one little bird has been my inspiration to make a series of cloisonné birds.

Here he is … the first in the series …


I love his robust tummy!


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Opal Earrings … (sold)

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.


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Domed Opal Necklace … getting started (blue opal sold)

First, choose your opal.

The one I’ve picked was given to me so it has special meaning.  It’s a solid Australian opal (of course) and a very unusual colour – butterscotch.


I’ve never seen an opal like this before. It has quite a lot of fire and looks good from a few different angles – very important! Also, there are no cracks, just a minor surface occlusion. It has a flat back which will lend itself nicely to a bezel setting.

This opal will be set in a high silver dome with a neck piece made from hollow tapered silver ‘carrots’. I made the ‘carrots’ out of fine silver (6.5mm) because I wanted a very slim taper. It’s virtually impossible to achieve this taper with sterling (the metal is too hard). These carrots will be shaped into a gentle curve, with the pointed end meeting the opal pendant. I’m unsure how I will finish the necklace at this time, I have to see how it develops.


The next thing to do is make the bezel for the opal. I want the back to be open because it’s a solid opal. With some opals, like jelly or opal crystal, the back is left intact because they are transparent and need a backing plate to show off the depth of their colour. Often this backing is blackened.


The bezel must be a tight fit. The bottom of the opal has to be firmly seated, making contact all the way around with the inner wire that has been soldered into the bezel. This prevents stress on the opal when it’s being set. Some opals can be fragile but if they’re set correctly there aren’t problems in the future.


Next … draw up your design. Actually I was taught this should be the first thing you do but my brain doesn’t work that way. I usually have a pretty good idea of the direction I want the piece to take when I start playing around with the stone but I always remain flexible because – and I know it sounds odd – sometimes the stone has a different plan.

At this point I do a rough drawing of what I want and work out any technical problems I foresee. I always keep a diary of the type of stones & metals used, metal thicknesses and any problems I have along the way and what I did about it.

Below is my opal, the open bezel setting, a flat piece of silver that my opal will eventually live on, the surrounding square wire ring that will be soldered onto the flat piece of silver sheet, and of course the ‘carrots’.


Keeping in mind the shape of your stone, bend the square wire to compliment that shape and solder it closed. Make sure it sits perfectly flat on the base plate – no gaps whatsoever. Now, solder the wire to the plate. The bezel is not soldered down at this point.


Now the fun part … turning the silver sheet into something wonderful. I love that you can take a flat piece of metal or wire and coax it into 3 dimensional life.

The technique is repoussé …


The piece is secured face down in heated pitch and then shaped from the back with either steel or wooden punches and a mallet or hammer. Care must be taken not to destroy the surface by inconsistent hammer blows, easy does it. Remember, metal is not very forgiving if you put big dents or scratches in it. Consistent hammering makes a beautiful texture too.


Now the flat sheet has been given life, transformed into a 3 dimensional form …


A hole is saw pierced to perfectly hold the bezel. The fit must be so snug that once the bezel is pushed into place it cannot move at all.

Again – no gaps! The fit must be perfect.


The bezel is then soldered into place and the excess silver is either filed or sawed away.

And here is the result …


Stay tuned.

Next I need to make findings for the back of the pendant, shape and finish the ‘carrots’, and set the opals.  The pendant on the left will be set with a blue jelly opal.

So far I’m happy with how everything is turning out.

Many months later, the jelly opal piece is finished … I’m very happy with it.


To see more of my jewelry visit my website: or follow me on facebook at Robin Phillips Jewelry.

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