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Brooch and bolo combination

Textured silver sheet combines with a soulful art-glass cabochon for a stylish—and convertible—bolo/brooch combination.

Wear this simple, bold brooch alone, or team it up with a snappy snake-chain bolo for a whole new look.

Suitable for either sex, this version of the classic men’s bolo tie has been updated—with panache! It’s actually composed of two pieces of jewelry that can be worn separately: a contemporary bolo-style necklace sporting a swirled-wire slide, and a lively stone-set brooch.

A silver bezel set atop textured metal showcases a glass cabochon whose colors are picked up by a pair of squared citrine accent stones added to the ends of the bolo tie. For your version, choose any combination of large and small stones that pleases you.

Brooch and bolo long version

SUPPLIES

  • 1 large cabochon (a 28x35mm art glass cabochon was used in this project)
  • Sterling-silver sheet: 20-gauge, enough to back all three cabochons
  • Fine-silver bezel strip, height and length to fit each of the three stones
  • 2 small cabochons to coordinate with large cabochon (6mm citrines were used in this project)
  • 3-piece pin finding set: catch, hinge, and 2 1/2-inch (6.35cm) pin stem (or as needed)
  • Sterling-silver sheet: 28-gauge, two 5x10mm strips
  • 3.2mm snake chain, 30 inches (76.20cm)
  • Sterling-silver wire, 16-gauge, 5 inches (12.70cm)
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Jeweler’s files
  • Flux
  • Torch
  • Tripod and screen (optional)
  • Silver solder: hard, medium, easy 
  • Bezel and ring mandrels
  • Steel block (optional)
  • Abrasive papers
  • Paper, handmade or other for texture (optional)
  • Rolling mill (optional)
  • Plastic or leather mallet (optional)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Pickle solution
  • Jeweler’s saw frame and blades
  • Copper tongs
  • Buffing machine, rotary tool and polishing wheels, or extra-fine steel wool
  • Bezel pusher 
  • Burnisher
  • Pliers: roundnose, chainnose, flatnose, parallel jaw
  • Drill bit, #31 (optional)
  • Third hand or long tweezers

INSTRUCTIONS

Plan the design. Place the large cab on a piece of 20-gauge sterling sheet and plan the size and shape of the backing. Decide how much silver you want to leave showing around the bezel and whether it should be textured or plain. If you have a rolling mill available, creating an overall texture is a snap.

In the project shown, the character of the glass cab provided inspiration for bands of contrasting texture. Leaving the backing plain is easier, but bear in mind that an unbroken area of smooth metal will show any scratches or other flaws in the finish much more than a textured surface will.

Make the bezel. Shape a piece of fine-silver bezel strip around your stone. Cut it to length, file the ends square, and solder them together with hard solder. Lay the stone on a flat surface and test-fit the bezel. It should slip easily over the entire stone; when you pick the bezel up, the stone should not stay in it. If the stone sticks inside the bezel, either the bezel needs to be better shaped to the stone, or it is slightly too small. Sand the top and bottom edges of the bezel. If you are going to texture the backing, proceed to the next step. If not, jump to step 5.

PART 1: THE BROOCH

Brooch and Bolo Step 1
PHOTO 1
Brooch and Bolo Step 2
PHOTO 2
Brooch and Bolo Step 3
PHOTO 3
Brooch and Bolo Step 4
PHOTO 4
Brooch and Bolo Step 5
PHOTO 5

Texture the backing. Using a rolling mill, you can texture silver sheet with almost anything. The texture shown was achieved with a simple sheet of paper. Portions were cut away to leave parts of the silver smooth. Select paper that will yield a suitable texture for your design; handmade paper creates a handsome texture, but even ordinary paper towel works well. Put your stone on the piece of paper and trace its outline. Draw lines that extend outward from the pattern of the stone [PHOTO 1], or create a design that’s pleasing to your eye.

Decide which parts of the design will be textured and which smooth. Cut out the areas where you want untextured metal, but leave the paper in the area that will be under the stone intact to preserve the layout [PHOTO 2].

Lay the paper on top of your backing; put a piece of paper towel under the backing if you would like to texture the back (this encourages a deeper texture on the front as well). Set the rolling mill so it takes moderate effort to roll the stack through; pass your materials through the rolling mill [PHOTO 3].

Use your hands or a plastic or leather mallet to flatten the textured backing. Decide where the stone looks best on the texture and trace the stone’s outline on the backing with a fine-tip permanent marker [PHOTO 4]

Solder the bezel to the backing. Flux the backing and the bezel. Using your drawn outline, arrange the bezel on the backing so the design corresponds with the stone. Solder it in place with medium solder, then pickle. If your backing is large, like this one, you may find it easier to solder from beneath using a tripod and screen, with a large flame. Using a jeweler’s saw, cut the backing to the final shape and smooth the edges with a file [PHOTO 5]

Add pin findings. Flux the piece again and place it face down on the soldering surface. Arrange the hinge at the top and the catch near the bottom. Place a tiny snippet of easy solder next to the findings and heat evenly across the silver. Don’t direct the heat too close to the findings or they will reach soldering temperature before the backing does, causing the solder to melt only onto them. It is important to get the backing hot enough to melt the solder. Pickle, then finish the piece as desired.
 
If there is any firescale on the silver, sand it off, or hide it by bringing up the fine silver.
Clamp the pin stem into the hinge. If the tip protrudes beyond the catch, cut off the extra and file a new point. Polish the new point using a buffing machine, polishing wheels on a rotary tool, or by stabbing it repeatedly into extra-fine steel wool—just be careful not to stab a finger!
 
Set the stone. Make sure that the area inside the bezel is finished to your satisfaction. Any transparency in your stone will allow the backing to show through. Set the stone. 

 

PART 2: THE BOLO

Brooch and Bolo Step 6
PHOTO 6
Brooch and Bolo Step 7
PHOTO 7
Brooch and Bolo Step 8
PHOTO 8
Brooch and Bolo Step 9
PHOTO 9

Make the bolo-tip accents. Make bezel cups to fit your two accent stones (6mm cushion-cut citrines are shown). 

Using roundnose pliers, shape two 10mm strips of 28-gauge silver into U shapes [PHOTO 6].

Rub them across abrasive paper on a flat surface to make the edges straight and flat [PHOTO 7].

Make sure there is enough room for the 3.2mm snake chain to fit snugly through the U-shaped connectors when they are held against the bezel cups. Set the chain aside. Solder the connectors to the bezel cups with easy solder [PHOTO 8], and pickle.

Slip a #31 drill bit through the connector to hold the accent bezel during polishing and setting. Polish, then set the stones [PHOTO 9]

For the rest of the instructions for this project, download the free PDF!

There are also instructions for what to do if your bezel is too tight, and advice on the best pliers that you (probably) don't have!

And if you're curious about depletion gilding, or bringing up the fine silver in your project, check out the last page of the project!

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