Monday, August 29, 2011

Mookaite Cabochon

I recently posted about one of my first stone-setting experineces, with the Biggs Jasper Cab. My next class project was to step things up a bit with an irregularly shaped stone. These are a little harder to set because any stone with "corners" requires more fitting of the bezel, and a slightly different method of setting the stone. I am also not very good at generally designing with asymmetrical shapes. It's a bit more involved to have the finished piece look intentional and balanced. PLUS we had to add embellishments to our jewelry item...this is a big step up from the quote-unquote simple cab setting of the last post!

I went through my stash, looking for a stone with *semi*corners...a stone that didn't have hard points but would still allow me to practice setting corners. I found exactly what I wanted in a piece of Mookaite. A member of the jasper family, Mookaite is found only in Australia. It's named after Mooka Creek, the local area where it's found in Western Oz.  Its colors are so intriguing to me - I love the lush pinks and burgundy hues mixed yellows and whites. I've never seen another stone like it. Here are some examples from my stash:

GORGEOUS, no? I was fortunate to purchase some of these beauties from one of the stone sellers who regularly come to the Spruill Center where I take fabrication classes. The cab on the left is probably the best example of what I mean by "soft" corners.

And for fun, here's a big ol' slab of Mookaite

 TRULY amazing. Look at those purples! I have never seen Mookaite with purple in it, but you can bet that if I do I'll be buying whatever I can of it.  :)

Side note: I am often asked at festivals if I cut my own stones. And my typical answer is some version of "Hell no!" (depends on the customer, of course). I leave the stone cutting to those who can do it far better than I. I'd much rather buy the cut and polished pretties and then set them!

Anyhoo, I sat down with my sketchbook and doodled around with this project for a bit. I always trace around the exact stone I'm going to be setting (so I have a size reference) and then start adding things around that until something looks right. Here's a shot of my sketch:

And the piece in progress:

The above was a quick and dirty picture taken at the bench. The trick with soldering all of these extra embellishments on is that they don't always stay in place. Usually you have to do more than one round of soldering to get them all adhered and in the right spot. So I like to take a photo to remind me of what the end result should look like. Otherwise I'll end up with little bits of metal on the soldering block and I can't remember exactly where they should go!

You'll also notice that it's a bit different from the original sketch. Usually I use the sketch as a preliminary design idea, and then I tend to adapt (read:  punt!) as I go along. Sometimes the original design looks "off" when I start fabricating it. Too many details, too few, or the wrong detail in the wrong place. Or I just start playing around with silver and realize I like what I'm doing better than the original sketch. It's the magic of creating! Even I don't always know what the end result will be until I get there.   :)

There are many more steps left in the process after the above photo, but I'll spare you the details and show you the finished piece:

Stone setting is a whole new mountain for me to climb. It requires me to plan ahead - not my strength! -  in my designs (at least initially, before the "punt" phase), and it is trickier work than almost anything I've evah done in jewelry design / creation. But the results are so, so gratifying. I can't wait to make more.  :)

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