Friday, May 23, 2008

Plique a 'Jour Ele and Quartz

This is my latest plique a' jour enamel piece. First I carved the smoky quartz. Then I spent about three years figuring out what to do with it. I mean I don't live in Botswana anymore so the imagery for jewellery is different.
Here in St Maarten it's the sea, dolphins and the like. In Bots it's elephants , hippo's, lions and those kind of animals.
Anyway, I decided to do a ele head, because I find that even though St. Maarten is Carib country, elephants still have a strong 'presence' world wide.
I had only finished the quartz to 220 grit so I finished it with a felt buff to 1200 diamond and then final polish to 50,000 diamond grit. I just use diamond powder and extender fluid to charge my buffs. Works like a dream...
The tusk is 18ct white gold. I set the diamond pavé and all the soldering was done with hard solder.

When the piece gets torch fired, the glass will contract and cause the ele head to warp as it cools, and then the quartz not to fit anymore. This was the reason I made a temporary steel blank and tied the thing to the bottom with stainless steel binding wire.
This is a more 'serious piece' so I was more carefull in making my copper 'background' neat and tidy, even though a lot of this was experimental. ( read, high chance of failure)

The other thing that was a bit of a problem were the colours for me. I mean, you can't make a elephant green with purple, say. It pretty much has to be brown-ish grey-ish. And coupled to the already muted tone of smoky quartz this pendant was not going to be a Rio Carnival show piece...
So I merged grey transparent (Thompson Elan Grey No. 2910) enamel from the front trunk side into Thompson Otter Brown No. 2120 towards the (r) ear.
Anyway, the above picture is after the first firing. How I fire this is shown about two or three posts back, when I made some earrings.

After I finish firing it thrice, I pull the copper backing off. Notice the copper oxide left on the enamel. This I sand off with 220 grit sanding mandrel in a hanging motor and the clean it up with nitric acid. Then, after it is spanking clean, I fire the piece in my oven at 750c for about 1 to 2 minutes to 'fire polish' the glass. This is scary stuff, because the piece can easily be ruined by over firing, thus causing loud and unseemly language to be heard. After that is done I anneal the piece at 500C for ten minutes and then let the oven cool to room temperature.
I pickle the pendant at room temperature sulphuric acid for about 10 minutes to remove the oxide layer on the gold. It does the enamels no harm, because these are the bunny hugging lead free type of enamels.

The quartz is 'set'. It has a hole drilled through the top that is riveted to the top cap. At the bottom the white gold leaves are folded over and then the sweat is wiped off the brow. My brow.

Quartz weighs 16 cts.
Gold is 10 grams 18ct
Height 55mm x 35mm
Construction time 45 hours.

The next projects are a few enameled picture pendants and a plique a jour dolphin . Then I can use some nice aquamarine and blue colours..........

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