Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Welcome Heidi Ahren Williams!

Opal Perfection ~ Australian Opal Doublet Hand-Fabricated Earrings

Hello and thank you all so much for the opportunity to write an article for Earrings Everyday! How fun is this?! Let me quickly introduce myself, and then I'll go into a bit of the process of creating these Opal beauties, from finding the gemstones, to following the Muse and her winding, twisting, adventurous path to perfection!

My name is Heidi Williams, and I'm sure I know many of you from Facebook and Instagram - I stay pretty active in a lot of those groups, and on social media in general.  I live in Wyoming, near the Snowy Range and Medicine Bow Peak. We love to hike, camp, and motorbike in the mountains, enjoying the beauty of the untamed wilderness. Every time I return from the mountains, I feel rejuvenated and freshly inspired to create!

Back from one of these wonderfully relaxing mountain adventures, I began creating these Opal earrings - they are sweetly petite, with tiny little teardrop opal doublets, (which were a challenge to fabricate bezels for) and elegantly organic with a sleek, lightweight design. I love keeping such beautiful gemstones as the star of the show, while adding my own touch of hand-fabricated metalwork to create a One-Of-A-Kind design.

Finding gemstones that are of high quality, and yet unique can be a challenge at times, although social media and the popularity of Instagram and Facebook sales makes this much easier...I am always on the lookout for fabulous gemstones, especially in matching (or semi matching) pairs for future earring designs! I collect these gemstones and then when so inspired I will design around the stone - I rarely purchase a stone with a specific design in mind.
Having settled on these teeny tiny opal doublets from Australia, I began fabricating the smooth silver bezels - choosing the correct height of bezel wire is so important, and something I still mess up on occasionally, but I am happy with these! After soldering the bezels to silver back plates on which I remembered to stamp my little signature heart, and popping them in the pickle pot, I begin work on the upper portion of the earrings.

I select narrow bits of silver sheet 
hand cut and hammered, 16-gauge wire for the front which will be what the opals attach to, and 20-gauge wire for the ear wires. For this portion I use medium paste solder, placing all of my silver bits together in their places on my soldering board. I begin soldering by heating up the 16-gauge wire first - making the end of the wire ball up to create a nice drop for the loop that the opal will hang from. After the 16-gauge wire is balled up sufficiently, I begin heating and soldering the rest of the earring upper. 
Once soldered, I let cool before removing from my soldering board,  as Argentium (935) Silver is brittle when hot - I've shattered one too many designs because I was impatient and tried moving the piece before it was cooled enough! 

These upper earring parts are now popped into the pickle pot, and out comes the tear drop bezels! I trim off the excess silver, file and sand edges, and solder jump rings to the top of each. 

After all of these pieces are sufficiently pickled, I file, sand, and polish. Then out comes the LOS gel (which I LOVE), giving them a nice black patina. (Black Max is also a great blackening agent for silver!) After tumbling, I again polish the bits up, taking off enough of the LOS to highlight the texture. Setting the stones is the next to last step - and a tedious process to keep the bezel smooth and wrinkle-free, especially at the corners. Sometimes I like that wrinkly rustic look, but for this pair of earrings, I wanted a smooth setting.

 I always begin at the corners, smoothing them down first, and move around the setting gradually working the bezel down a bit more with every rotation. Slow and gentle will have your bezel looking amazing in the end! A bit of filing, sanding, and polishing to top it off (avoiding the stone of course), and we are ready to attach the opals to their upper earring parts. These earrings were so much fun to make, and best yet, a success!

Some product information for the curious:
Have you ever wondered what an opal doublet was? Well, quite simply Opal Doublet as the name suggests, is a thin layer of precious Opal cemented onto a backing, usually a piece of common Black Opal or Ironstone. They were originally created from Opal that was perhaps too thin to produce a solid stone.

Wondering about Argentium Silver? Let me tell you! Argentium Silver is .935 pure silver, with germanium as its alloy instead of nickle. It is hypoallergenic, nickle free, and perfect for those who are allergic to traditional Sterling Silver!

Thank you so much for having me! I hope this little article inspires your muse a little!

Be Inspired, Stay Creative~

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  1. Heidi, so great to see you here!! And your earrings are absolutely beautiful. I love opal and combined with silver it is just wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing "the making of". I am in awe, surrounding these tiny opals with the bezels.

    1. Janine!! Thank you so much!!!! I'm so tickled to have the opportunity to share a little here!!! :D ~Heidi

  2. Hurray and welcome Heidi! Love your work and a great post xx

  3. What a great post! Gorgeous earrings and fascinating to learn all about the skills involved in the process. Magic!!

  4. Heidi, I enjoyed your post. I think many people don't realize the time, effort and skill that goes into the making of a pair of gemstone earrings like this. And the only way to become skilled is to work at it, over and over until it becomes something you really know how to do. :) Practice, right? I've watched you from the beginning of your metal journey as you seemingly raced through to the point you are now. You are inspiring. Thank you for posting for us today.

  5. Wonderful post Heidi! Welcome to the blog :) There's SO much work that goes into creating such a small bezel setting like these. I'm so glad you were able to show the various steps that go into making these beauties. Gorgeous work!

  6. Fabulous post Heidi and I love your earrings.

  7. YAY! Heidi's here! I love your work, and it's wonderful to get a bird's-eye view of your process (I love process posts anyway). Thank you for the information about Opal Doublet, which I didn't know anything about. And your finished earrings are gorgeous! xoxo