Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Never, NEVER Get Overconfident

My previous post was about prong setting and how it was such a nice change from swirly wire wrapping.  An Amazonite cab was my maiden voyage and, because I started with the most simple setting and actually followed instructions, it turned out rather nice.  Naturally, I figured it was pretty easy and I was now an expert.  Not!
The prong setting requires 16 gauge square wire (I use 93.5% slow tarnish argentium silver) and although you can use a lighter wire, the 16 gauge makes it good and strong.  My stash was getting very low and I only had about a foot left for my second attempt.  (Canadians are kind of schizophrenic about measurement - we flip back and forth from metric to imperial, depending on the subject.)  I had a rhodonite heart picked up at a gem show sometime, somewhere, and decided that I'd push the envelope a little with this one.  It was going to have a double bail - no problem, just add an extra wire in the centre.  I toyed with the idea of balling the prong ends with my torch, but that would have required using pickle and putting the prong bundle in the tumbler to clean it up and that would harden it.  It was actually the pickle that made up my mind, because I have no ventilation in the winter and I'm afraid of gassing my dogs.  So I decided to hammer the prongs flat, instead.  
You can't really see what went wrong from this picture of the back of the heart.  The double prong worked out fine and I would do that with all of these settings; it looks nicer.  The original instructions called for the tail pieces from the bail to be folded flat against the wraps, but I like the loops, it looks more finished.  But this is the second attempt.  The first looked just as good but I kept getting interrupted and didn't do a good job plotting the angle of the wires and where they intersected with the stone.  It's very important to be accurate because you have to file the wire where it bends.  Since my measurements were out, I kept bending and straightening one of the prong wires until, naturally, it broke right off.  
It wouldn't have been a big deal for me to start right over.  Except for the fact that I didn't have enough wire left.  So I snipped the bail wires right at the wrap to use as prong wires and had just enough wire left to use for bail wires.  Just.  Which is why the prongs are so close to the centre at the top and bottom.  I thought I was past the stage of wasting wire trying new techniques!  My credit card got another workout because I put an order in to MonsterSlayer for more argentium and of course, you can't just order wire.  When it arrives, I'll redo the whole thing.  (Maybe it'll be warm enough to try the ball prongs and take the pickle out on my porch!  And maybe groundhogs really can predict the weather.  Maybe pigs will fly while we're at it.)
I guess if you don't try something, you'll never know how it will turn out.  I now know that I don't like the hammered prongs.  I wish I had learned all of these things when the price of silver was down under $10 an ounce.  I also know that rhodonite has a MOHS hardness of 5.5 - 6.5 and this one looks like it has a fault line right down the front but it took a lot of abuse with a leather mallet and didn't break.  
And I know that I still have a lot to learn. 

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