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My friend Duncan Miller sold this stone to me about twenty years ago. It’s a moonstone, although it looks more like an ocean-stone, with flashes of light that move across it like moonlight on the sea. He insisted that the stone was right for me, although I could think of no setting for it. The stone has languished in various drawers, and endured a move of workshop, during that time, and occasionally I have taken it out and looked at it. Once, about 10 years ago, I created a sort of fringed frame for it, but that didn’t satisfy me, and I never went further.

Recently, investigating images surrounding the Orpheus myth, I have been drawn to images from the Renaissance.  I was attracted to ship images, like the one found on the crest of the City of Paris, and suddenly I remembered the moonstone.

Crest of the City of Paris

I’m very pleased with the pendant that resulted. It has no relevance to the Orpheus myth – except perhaps as a reference to Jason’s Argo. Orpheus was a crew-member on that quest, and he would calm the testosterone-drenched Heroes down with the music of his lyre when they fought among themselves.

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

It’s about this size:

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

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I’ve been carving waxes of renaissance-themed things. When you carve a wax, It’s pretty-much like any other carving, say wood or stone –

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you work away removing material until a satisfying form emerges. Wax carving has an extra option, though –  the ability to add material by melting blobs of new wax on. This gives the wax carver a safety margin not available to the marble worker. If you cut too deep, never mind – you can add more wax. If you break off some small feature by accident, it can be welded back in place.

But there’s an extra process that is not usually seen. The wax is going to be embedded in plaster than melted away in a kiln, and metal will be poured into the gap left behind. But how will the metal get in? There must be channels or sprues through which the molten metal can enter, that will take the metal to all the right places and make sure that everything gets filled – by no means a certainty.

IMG_9444The mantis-like structure squatting on the back of the Head of Orpheus will bring the silver to all parts (I hope). After that it gets cut off, and everything filed up, polished and engraved.

Here are a couple more waxes for pendants, where the sprues can be clearly seen.

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I got a stone from Namibia, a pietersite. Pietersite is an interesting stone – it starts off its life as asbestos, and gets silicated – the fibrous blue asbestos being replaced by silica – becoming tiger’s eye. The tiger’s eye is then subjected to tremendous temperatures and pressures, becoming a fubarite version of tiger’s eye – the stone that was discovered by Sid Pieters in 1962 in Namibia (now also found in China.)

It’s impossible to photograph pietersite because of the way that it changes depending on the angle of the light. Flashes move across the stone resembling aurorae. Perhaps HD video could come close.

Nevertheless, here are two pictures of the stone:

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With a dark sky and flashing aurorae, the stone said “night” to me. I had been thinking about the goddess Nyx (night) and posted a poem that I’d written based on an Orphic Hymn to Night. So I thought I’d represent her (in two phases, before and after midnight) on a ring. Here’s the result:

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Nyx; ring, silver & pietersite

Nyx; ring, silver & pietersite

A friend wanted a bangle to go with a garnet pearl clasp at her son’s wedding. I made this – carved in wax, then cast by lost-wax casting. I wanted something which would reference both a ring and a watch, as well as suggesting a container or separated space, which could hold anything (magic).

Bangle: Silver, garnet.

Bangle: Silver, garnet.

I’ve been commissioned to make a dragonfly brooch. It’s a daunting task, as it has been done so often and (sometimes) so impressively – Notably by Rene Lalique.

I decided to focus on two of the things I find fascinating in these ancient insects – the magnificent sheen, often in blues and greens, and the interesting patterns on the wings.

Dragonfly brooch in progress.

Dragonfly brooch in progress.

I found a piece of labradorite which had the right colours and cut these stones.The cutting is done by hand using the rotary drill and small diamond discs, as well as other diamond tools (which I cadge off the dentist.) I polish using fine corundum paper and finish with a diamond paste.

I found photos of dragonfly wings and simplified them. As you can see above I then printed them out and epoxied them to a sheet of silver. They are drilled and then cut. I’m pleased to say I haven’t broken a blade while cutting this. When I was an apprentice, I would have broken dozens.

I’ll post a pic of it when it’s done.