Monday, March 16, 2015

3.16.15 A matched set

Gertrude and Julius Drayer
Birmingham, AL 1935

I adored my maternal grandparents.  People often referred to them as a "handsome" pair.  My favorite photo of them is from early in their marriage, in it they are the image of 1930s sophistication.

Julius' cufflinks
I have quite a few pieces of my grandmother's jewelry - and some cufflinks that belonged to my grandfather.  Among these items was a matched set of women's collar pins and men's cufflinks, made of 9 karat yellow gold, each with a small diamond set into an engraved star pattern.

As with so many pieces, these were in a drawer, useable and wearable - but not my style, and certainly not my husband's (he's not a shirt with French cuffs kind of guy).

Gertrude's collar pins

Coming up with ideas for repurposing this set was more of a challenge than some previous pieces.  I spent a while looking for ideas, until I saw several pairs of vintage cufflinks that had been converted to earrings.  That was my "AHA" moment!

I talked to Courtney and Wynn at Creative Side, and they agreed that converting these would be a perfect project for some additional private bench lessons.

We started with the collar pins - which we converted to earrings -  because they were simpler to deconstruct.  The first step was to remove the pin mechanism from the back, and determine how to create a loop so that they could be hung from earwires.

I had presumed we would simply make a loop from a piece of gold wire, but Wynn had a better idea (and the benefit of years of experience) - he said we could take the pieces that formed the hinge, and reuse them by soldering them to the back of the pin pieces, so that they could then be attached to a pair of leverback earwires.

Next, we moved on to the cufflinks, which were considerably more complicated than the pins.  Nonetheless, we were able to make another pair of earrings (from the back buttons) and two pendants from the fronts of the links.

First we sawed the buttons off the back of the links, then clipped the bars off the front pieces, which we saved to melt down later and make wire for jump rings.  We cleaned and polished the pieces, and filed the backs, where the links had been separated, to make them smooth.  We did not attempt to "pretty up" the reverse sides, because the more we worked with each piece, the more likely we were to damage it.

The next step, involved taking the scrap gold and turning it into wire.  This took over an hour - and was probably the most amazing part of the day.  Wynn put the scrap into a crucible and heated it with a torch, until it became liquid and formed a tiny ingot, about the size of a seed. 

Wynn assured me that there was plenty of gold there to make a couple of inches of 20 gauge wire, that he would use to form the jump rings.  He began by putting the round ingot into a metal roller, pulling and turning it until he had a small rod, about one eighth of an inch on a side, and an inch long.  Then he took the rod and pulled it through a drawplate, using increasingly smaller holes until he had made about two inches of gold jewelry wire.  From there, he formed four jump rings, and soldered them to the two back buttons and two link fronts.

The final result - two sets of a pendant and earrings, one each for me and for my daughter.  Not to mention a whole lot of new knowledge for me about working with gold.

Pendant and earrings set for my daughter
Until next time

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