We are often asked to make special and unique pieces of jewellery in our workshop, and whether it is remounting sentimental gemstones, shaping a wedding band around an unusual engagement ring or carving a one-of-a-kind dragon bangle, our fabulous goldsmiths are always up for the challenge. The latter is the task our team were given recently by a customer who wanted a solid silver bangle in the shape of the mythical creature.
Goldsmith Issy Starkiss took the lead on the piece which came with a range of practical and technical challenges. After completing the project she filled us in on the steps involved in producing the awesome detail on this incredible creation.
The first stage in the process was to carve the dragon's head out of wax, including the details of eyes, nose, mouth and characteristic spines. First the outline of the head is drawn onto the wax and this is carved out, before refining the shape and adding detail. Once the design is complete the wax is ready to be sent for casting in silver; this method of production is less wasteful than carving directly into a block of silver.
The main body of the bangle is made from chunky silver wire which must be bent into a bangle shape. Although silver is a malleable metal, a wire of this thickness requires a lot of strength to bend into the required shape! We also asked our customer to come and try the bangle on for size so any alterations could be made before the delicate details were added. On the images the wax head is shown alongside and we can begin to get an idea of what the finished design will look like.
While the head is away being cast, attention turns to the other end of the dragon: the tail. This part of the process also requires strength...and a hammer! Hammering one end of the bangle causes the metal to flare out as it is flattened. This flat section can then be filed into a spearhead shape to represent the dragon's tail.
The head is cast in solid silver, complete with spines and face detail. Time is now taken to add further refinements to ensure the detail really stands out and create a smooth finish.
A post is soldered onto the head and a hole drilled in the main body of the bangle to receive it. The head can then be fitted and soldered securely into place.
To blend the head section into the main body additional spines are carved in silver and fitted to the bangle behind the head, again using pins and drilled holes to ensure a secure and smooth finish. So that the details will stand out in the final piece several finishing processes are carried out. At this stage the bangle is oxidised and then polished back bringing definition to the spines and facial features. Lines are marked out inside the bangle to add detail to the dragon's lower body.
Next the scales are added; this is one of the most time-consuming parts of the job! Once a suitable stamping tool has been selected, each scale has to be individually stamped onto the body. For the bangle this was a day and a half of work in itself! Once any unnecessary marks have been tidied the bangle is oxidised again to give the overall finish with the internal lines and details polished to give a contrasting shine.
The bangle is complete and ready to be hallmarked at the Sheffield Assay Office before a final check over. This completely one-of-a-kind piece is then finally ready to be handed over to its new owner.
If you are looking for a bespoke piece of jewellery then get in touch. Our talented team of goldsmiths bring together a wide range of skills, helping to meet most challenges. Visit our showroom and chat to one of our jewellers; talk through your ideas and find out what's possible.