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I have added a kiln to my studio and bronze  clay to my list of materials.  LOVE this work, and so far I'm very pleased with the results.  The only down-side is the firing time -- either 5 hours or 9 hours PLUS cool down time of at least an hour!  SHEESH!  But I am cultivating patience, and organizing my work day around the chosen firing schedule. 
Of course, before a bronze clay piece goes into the kiln, it needs to be refined as much as possible while still in its leather-hard state  -- sanded, holes drilled, cracks filled, etc.  Bronze comes out of the kiln incredibly hard, so refining before firing saves a lot of work!

 

Copper and Brass ("and bears. Oh My!")

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I'm trying to learn to love alternative metals. (God help me!) 

I did a show in Chapel Hill (NC) last weekend.   Even with the price of silver declining somewhat, I had decided to make some alternative metal pieces -- that is -- non-silver. One of these pieces, the bracelet pictured here (copper washers, brass jump rings, brass filigree and an inch of copper tubing), was the first thing that sold.  I was pleased with my sales -- 3 times my entry fee plus food for two at the show.  BUT, didn’t sell a single silver piece.  Hmm…….

Actually, I'm very taken with this bracelet and will design more in this line, but it is somewhat of a  departure from what I have been doing.

 

Leap of Faith

With Silver prices flunctuating wildly, but staying up in the stratosphere (I'm currently paying more than twice per troy ounce as I paid this time last year), I have found myself running into resistance from customers, re pricing.  I love the look of sterling silver, but it's difficult to offer true silver jewelry at a reasonable price point. 

So, I decided to look into Silver Fill as an alternative to sterling silver, at least in chainmaille where forging is not an issue.  I had heard from several of my trusted jump ring suppliers that Silver Fill is a viable alternative to sterling silver and is hands down superior to silver plated in terms of durability.  Plating is merely a very (VERY) thin coating of silver over a base metal.  On the other hand, Silver Fill starts with a thin tube of silver which is then filled with copper.  The ammount of silver in Silver Fill is 10% of total weight -- this compares favorably to the ammount of 14k gold in Gold Fill which is only 5% of total weight.

I tried Silver Fill on a small scale, using a ringpack from Chainweavers,  ( http://chainweavers.com/ ) for use in weaving their beautiful "Waterfall" earrings.   I found the jump rings  beautiful and easy to work with.  It seemed to me that the Silver Fill jumps rings have less "spring-back" than the Argentium  sterling silver jump rings I am used to working with.  So closures tend to stay  closed which I think is a very good thing.

I certainly will consider using more Silver Fill jump rings in my chainmaille.   There will be some transition issues.  For instance,  Silver Fill and sterling silver jump rings must not be used together in a piece -- but I already segregate Argentium sterling and regular sterling jump rings.  Also, the Silver Fill must be be tagged as such, so that customers know what they are getting.  However, I already mark Gold Fill as such (not that I have any pieces that are gold. LOL)  But, I think it's worth sorting these things out.
 

BRONZE is more Copper than I knew

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I created "Indestructible" using three strands of JPL using square-wire jump rings of brass, bronze, and stainless steel.  I attached the tri-metal strands to single, "catch" strands of stainless steel to go around the wearer's neck, just on the off-chance that the bonze would react with the wearer's skin as copper often does for some people.  I really hadn't anticipated a perfect storm -- the juxtaposition  of a pre-teener's skin, a tank top, and a very humid summer's day near Lake Erie.  Evidently, under certain circumstances, bronze can turn the wearer's skin green.  I will certainly keep that in mind for future reference.  In the meantime, I will be replacing "Indestructible #1" with "Indestructible #2," to be woven entirely of stainless steel rings!