Monday, October 18, 2010

Deep Breaths, But Still There's Stress!

Things are getting a bit tougher on the Jeweler's Path. It feels like every day there is a new project, and every day it is harder to keep up. I had a Bench Test for the Florentine finish last week, which I completed however will need to work on the polishing of the shank. My Florentine finish came out very well though, better I'd say than most of the class. That being said, I am still slightly behind on a few projects. We re-sized one ring, which I still have to polish. Another ring, called Terri's Tapered Band, I still have to taper & polish. Today we got a new project called Rod's Rods, which involved filing round, brass rods into 3 and 4 sided, 2.2mm rods...not as easy as it sounds. I still have the 3-sided rod to complete, but can pat myself on the back for the the other one, which came out perfectly after 4 tries! Another project was Simone's Simple Band - taking that cast ingot and rolling it through a mill to the correct measurements, and then making a slim, flat band out of it. I then had to stretch the ring from a size 4 to a size 10. It's still not finished, as I now have to down-size the ring back to a size 7. After that, I have to begin, and hopefully quickly finish, Betty's Bypass Ring, which will include making a bezel setting for a black onyx cabochon. And, another project is being introduced tomorrow...deep breaths!!!! There is truly not enough time in a day, and far too many distractions in class.
Tomorrow I have another quiz...which so far I have an A-average in quizzes. I need to make a list tonight of the steps I need to take to get all my projects completed. This week is going to be grueling!!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

My First Silver Ingot

This here is my first cast silver ingot!!! Oh, what a rush! It required the catching of breath when finished and carried with it the WOW feeling I remembered from sky diving. The process begins with a small baggie of silver granules - imagine silver Nerds candy. These silver pieces are first poured into the white plastic pipe, as in the top right corner of this picture. When the crucible is ready, i.e. "sweetened" with Borax powder and heated with the torch; the silver is poured into the crucible using the plastic pipe - like a decanter. The crucible is shown to the left of the plastic pipe - made from a ceramic material, it must first be heated with Borax until there is a glassy finish within. Next to my pinkie-finger you can see the steel mold that the ingot is cast in. Using thick, heat resistant gloves I first lightly oil the inside of the mold, and then clamp the two pieces of the mold so they are perfectly aligned. Both the crucible and the mold are heated at the same time with a torch that has a large "rose bud" tip, until a little smoke from the oil can be seen rising from the mold. The silver granules are then added to the crucible and the melting process begins. This takes about 10-12 minutes, until the silver first turns red hot (like charcoals ready for grilling) and then mixes together like mercury. Once the silver is all moving together, it is then poured quickly and evenly into the mold. The mold is then quickly opened, and the silver ingot quenched in water. ~ I suppose the excitement of this cannot be written well in words, but it certainly is exciting!
In other news, I had a good Saturday this past weekend. A couple friends from class and I went to a small Gem Show in Vista, CA just outside of Carlsbad. At one table we met a man named Robert who deal in gems out of Riverside, CA. He expressed to us that his business was more of a hobby, and so he's not out to make much money. Because of this, his prices for gems were more than reasonable, and his collection was very nice. My friend Jeff bought an UNTREATED blue topaz crystal for just $35!!! (GIA testing still to be done). The reason this was such a deal to those not in the know, is this....most Blue Topaz on the market has been heat treated to achieve that color. Your best luck of finding untreated blue topaz is if bought directly from the mine, but once the crystal passes through a few hands, treatment is more than possible, and close to guaranteed. The reason why blue topaz is one of the least expensive gemstones on the market is because there is a lot of it, and its treatment is fairly inexpensive. This all being said, Jeff's blue topaz still will need to be identified by the GIA as untreated and it is really just a specimen stone - not quite gem quality, but perhaps a tiny stone could be cut from it. If a stone were cut from it, and came with proper documentation proving its lack of treatment, it would be worth quite a bit more.
I bought one stone for myself, a 1.7ct Andalusite...about a 7x5mm oval cut stone with a light brown transparent body color, and good pleochroism of reddish orange & green seen all over the stone. = Pleochroism means that the stone has more that one color to be seen and usually the differing colors are seen from different angles. You may know of Tanzanite, which is a pleochroic gem. The best Tanzanite color is a purplish blue, similar to a fine blue sapphire. From some angles, the tanzanite will look more purple, other angles more blue, and sometimes, it can show colors of grey and light violet. How Andalusite is different, is that from the face-up view of the stone, all of its colors (greens, reds, browns, golds) can be seen reflecting at once!! I chose from a small selection of Andalusite. There were larger stones, but they didn't show as much color, and then there were stones that with my trusty Kassoy loupe in hand, I could see were more included (by flaws, but I hate that word). Now, I wish I had bought more of the stones. Andalusite is a rare stone in gem quality, but because it's not a desirable stone in the market, it's rarity does not make it expensive. It sold for $15 per carat, and I got it for $20. If it were not so rare in gem quality, I do believe that Andalusite could be a very marketable stone. It ranks around 6.5 to 7 on Mohs scale of Hardness, which puts it up there near Quartz. And with it's pleochroic phenomenon, it could certainly be desired, if consumers were aware of it. It's entirely possible that a new source of Andalusite could be found, and that it could flood into the market in the future. Because of this, it may be a stone I continue to study and collect, and eventually work into my fine jewelry designs. Ah, the future we will see!!!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Night Lab

Tonight is Night Lab at the GIA. Every Tuesday, those of us who need or want to do extra work meet at 4pm and work till 7pm. I took this picture last week after Night Lab. It is a hanging sculpture near the entrance to the Institute. What we have here is over a million carats of rutilated quartz cut from an 800 pnd crystal found in Bahia, Brazil in 1987. The crystal was set in this hanging sculpture when after 7 years of the cutting process, it broke in to 3 pieces. In the mornings, when I arrive to school, I can watch the sun rise directly behind this crystal through that long slender window. At night, as in this picture, the crystal is lit with glowing lights that cast shadows on the walls. In the silence of 7 o'clock; the energy of this crystal rebounds off the walls. I could swear I feel a vibration in the air surrounding.

So, tonight is Night Lab and another opportunity to see the glory that is this rutilated quartz. I will be working tonight on various tool modifications, as well as sawing out tiny shapes of copper. I am not enjoying the constant smell of copper emanating from my fingers, but learning to saw properly and cleanly is a necessity before going at that silver.

We had our first quiz today in class. I'm ashamed to say that I got 2 wrong and received an 88%. Oh well, there are 17 more quizzes, so I have time boost up that grade. The projects I've done have all been graded "A," though so far these projects have not been too difficult.