Claire Troughton Fine Jewellery Design

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Creating a commission flying silver dove necklace

By Claire Troughton, Sep 28 2015 11:18AM

I often get asked how I make a piece and how long it takes. Well the answer is completely different each time, but I thought I'd share the story of one recent commission here.


One gallery I sell my work through was approached by a gentleman looking to commission a necklace for his wife. It particularly had to feature doves as the couple keep these birds. As the gallery didn't stock a jewellery designer who already makes dove jewellery they decided to approach me. The customer was impressed with the detail of my bees and dragonflies and thought that I would be able to capture the essence of the dove. It was important to him that they be a realistic representation rather than very stylised and also that they be shown flying and be 3D rather than flat. Quite a lot to fit into the piece!


The first stage was to produce some sketches for the customer. I sometimes produce images with CAD (computer aided design) if a very accurate representation is required, but I feel this works better for less organic pieces. Therefore I did a few quick pencil sketches for the customer to choose from and he picked this one.

I've never made a bird before never mind a dove, so the first stage was to work out how to make it. Some people like to carve from wax and then cast the piece, but I like to work with the metal itself, manipulating it into the shape I want using various techniques. I started with the body, using different thicknesses of wire, hammering them at points to get a basic form. Then I soldered pieces on to build up the form and filed bits away where more definition was needed. I kept on working like this until I was satisfied I had the basic form right.

I then moved onto making the wings, which were saw pierced from silver sheet. At this point I took photos and asked my daughter's opinion. She's only 7 and is the biggest fan of my jewellery, but also my harshest critic. Verdict "Well it could be a dove Mummy, but it could also be a duck!" I think you can see what she means from these pictures.

Dove commission necklace making a flying silver dove
Dove commission necklace making a flying silver dove

So, the next stage was to add a tail, again made from saw pierced silver sheet and refine the form of the body. I also hand shaped the wings and engraved a feather pattern. When I was finally satisfied with the doves they had jump rings soldered on to attach to the chain. This was a particularly tricky stage since there were already several solder joins in a very small area, so getting too much heat on one part could cause the solder to run again and make a wing fall off. Soldering on precious metal is done with a torch with a small propane flame, not a soldering iron used on base metals. You need to heat the metal in the area you are soldering to allow the solder to flow without heating up old solder joins and when using silver the heat can spread very quickly, so you need a good eye and a steady hand.


The final stage was to polish the doves, to give them a nice shiny finish and attach to the chain. Here's the finished piece. What do you think? Please feel free to comment.



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