17 Apr 2018

Jewellery weekend classes in Great Missenden,Buckinghamshire

Jewellery Weekend courses at Missenden Abbey in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

To book, please click here for the Missenden School of Creative Arts website.

9 and 10 June 2018 (non-residential £197, residential £286)

This course aim to cover the basic techniques of jewellery making while adding a level of complexity by introducing stone setting. We will make a ring and discuss ways to size rings and design options. This will include sawing, shaping, filing, hammering, soldering, cleaning and finishing the piece of jewellery before setting the stone. We will also learn what to do for stones that aren’t totally flat on the bottom. We will then progress to making a pendant, learning how to saw and file shapes out of sheet, how to choose appropriate textures and how to design and make a bail for your pendant. The pendant will also have a bezel set stone, so you can practise your new skill. You can also make a second ring instead of a pendant if you wish. Time permitting, we will discuss embellishment options. If you have your own cabochon stone that you would like to set, please email the tutor to determine ahead of time if the stone is suitable: machidewaard@gmail.com. If you would like to progress in jewellery making, the tutor can advise of suitable classes.

9 and 10 August 2018

This course aims to teach students the basic principles of jewellery making and bezel setting a cabochon stone. You will start by learning how to use the basic tools required to make jewellery, such as the piercing saw, benchpeg, pliers, hammers, mandrels and torch. The first project will guide you through the fundamental techniques of jewellery making, such as piercing, shaping, filing, sanding, hammering, soldering and finishing. We will also make a bezel setting for a cabochon stone and solder it on to your piece of jewellery. We will then learn how to set the stone in the bezel setting. We will practise texturing techniques using hammers and the rolling mill. We will discuss how to design and plan your second project and depending on what you make, we will cover other techniques of jewellery making. You will leave with at least two finished pieces of jewellery in either copper or silver. The tutor can advise you on further courses to take if you would like to continue making jewellery. If you have questions before the class starts, please email the tutor at machidewaard@gmail.com

16 Apr 2018

Jewellery related trips on holiday in Death Valley

I just went on a trip to Death Valley in California and it turned out to be surprisingly jewellery-related. Death Valley attracted its fair share of miners during the late 19th century gold rush, but interestingly there were hardly any profitable mines in the area. One mine which was profitable was the borax mine! I may have been one of the most interested parties walking around the borax museum!! The museum was an outdoor selection of equipment used to mine and transport the borax mostly from the 1880s.

After the museum, I went to see the old borax mine. It's quite amazing to think of the miners slogging away in the desolate surroundings, especially as the average temperature during the summer months is 47C. If you click on this photo, you can read a bit about "white gold"! And you can see a photo of the iconic mule trains that were used to transport the borax. The mule trains became a symbol of the miners working in the Death Valley area, despite the fact they were only used for about 6 or 8 years total!

This is the view away from the borax mine down to the car park. It's amazing how much space there is and the sweeping, impressive views.
Here you can see part of a remaining mule train car - although the mules have been replaced by an engine. Imagine the same wagons with 15-20 mules in front - it would have been an impressive sight.
Some of the miners lived very close to the mine. It's hard to imagine the conditions, with the heat and desolation and very limited water sources. I believe they ate mostly tinned food, and certainly the Chinese workers recruited from San Francisco didn't really get a good deal!!! (Click to read more details)

Besides all the borax, a group of clearly very intrepid entrepreneurs decided to start a charcoal making operation way, way, way up in the mountains. You have to go pretty high to get to anywhere with some trees. These picturesque and impressive kilns were lined up in what really felt like the middle of nowhere. The charcoal was made by burning wood for days and then cooling it for days. The charcoal was sold to a "nearby" (NOT very near!!!) mine for silver smelting. (That's according to the sign I forgot to take a photo of!) The charcoal operation didn't run for very long - I think it was either 3 or 5 years. Stunning location, but so very isolated it's hard to imagine how the people there got enough food and water.

To top off all this jewellery-related excitement, in the nearby Owens Valley we passed a plant processing sodium bisulfate! That's safety pickle to jewellers!

We also went to the ruins of what was a profitable gold mine...about which more later when I get the photos downloaded.