For those who may feel too intimidated to take a jewelry making class,
Product Editor Lorraine Suermann offers this account of her recent experience
at the Revere Academy. She found class can be instructive and fun
From Hawaii, from Philadelphia and everywhere in between, we travel to
San Francisco to begin a new class at Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts.
I am one of 11 students who find our spots at workbenches that Alan Revere,
the academy's director, designed in the style of those used by goldsmiths
for 200 years. But our focus is on the future, not the past. Our goal: to
learn how to make jewelry in a class titled "Beginning Fabrication."
"The mission of this class is for each student to walk out with
basic fundamental skills for making jewelry," says instructor Karen
Designed for people with limited or no experience in jewelry making,
the class is perfect for me. I have no such experience, but in my job as
product editor, I must evaluate jewelry for use in Professional Jeweler.So
like many newcomers to the jewelry store, I need to learn the basics of
how jewelry is made.
The three-day class begins with a rundown of safety procedures followed
by instruction on how to use and care for 36 tools.
Our fabrication assignments: make an identical pair of geometric earrings,
bend wire to make French hooks, make rings and set an onyx in a bezel. The
necessary skills are measuring, drilling, sawing, soldering and finishing.
Here's a closer look at each.
- Measuring. Accurate measurements are crucial in making rings
and bezels. I use a caliper to find the diameter of a ring blank. Multiply
the diameter of the ring by 3.14 and add 3.1 times the thickness of the
metal to determine the necessary ring blank length. A bezel is more difficult,
and I find out the hard way how the smallest calculation error can throw
off the entire bezel. I use a slide caliper again to measure the diameter
of the stone and the metal thickness, add these two numbers together and
multiply by 3.14 to get the bezel length.
- Drilling. My classmates and I learn how to use a flex shaft
and pedal with a chuck key for drilling, and we discuss the purpose of
different drill bits. The mantra during our practice: "high feed,
- Sawing. How to hold and turn a saw while cutting - without breaking
a blade - is a talent all its own. Unfortunately, I think I hold the
record for most saw blades broken in any 10-minute period (eight).
- Soldering. While using a natural gas and oxygen torch, I learn
what to look for in a flame (pale blue flame with a blue cone) and then
learn and practice four soldering techniques:
- Tension soldering, when solder is held by tension between two ends
that need to be joined.
- Pallion soldering, used when solder has to flow into a seam.
- Pick soldering, which involves heating the solder until it balls up.
The piece to be soldered is heated, then the solder ball lifted with a
soldering pick and applied.
- Sweat soldering, when solder is applied to one piece, which is then
applied to another piece to be soldered together. During this lesson I
learn to work with different types of solder (hard, medium, easy) and to
manipulate using heat.
- Finishing. Filing, sanding, buffing and polishing - the finishing
touches - are accomplished with a variety of tools. For example, I
learn about such files as the Barette, three-squared, square and half-round.
Then there's buffing and the polishing wheel, used with safety glasses
and with my hair and clothing secured.
These techniques are easy to learn - patience is another story. Getting
that perfect finish is something to experience and helps me to greatly appreciate
the work that goes into it.
What I Learned at Camp
I walk away from the three-day class with an incredible learning experience.
But it's more than that. I had a tremendous amount of fun. It reminds me
of summer camp: I made lots of things, learned wonderful things and made
The Revere Academy offers 40 classes in such topics as fabrication, repair,
stone setting, design, casting and gemology. Fees range from $125 to $750
per class (not including supplies, which can run from $10 to $200). Certificates
are awarded upon successful completion of each class. Combinations of classes
lead to diplomas in Jewelry Technician and Graduate Jeweler programs.
by Product Editor Lorraine Suermann include an identical pair of geometric
silver earrings and a soldering project (top), one pair of copper ear wires
(right), three silver bands (bottom), a sterling-and-copper twisted ring
(left), and two 14k gold bands and one onyx set in a bezel (center).|
Annealing: Heat-treating work-hardened metal to reorganize its
grain structure and return the metal to a softer, more workable state.
Ferrous Metal: Any metal containing iron, including steel and
Fire Coat/Boric Acid Solution: A mixture of denatured alcohol
and boric acid powder in a slightly soupy solution. Protects metal from
oxygen to keep the surface from oxidizing.
Fire Scale: A purplish scale that normally forms on the surface
of silver when overheated. A mixture of 50/50 nitric acid and water slightly
heated normally removes fire scale.
Flux: A solution used to guide the solder flow. It's applied during
annealing, casting or soldering operations, forming a glass river that enables
the solder to flow in the area and sealing the seam from oxygen oxides.
Non-Ferrous Metal: Any metal that does not contain iron, including
gold, platinum, silver and copper.
Oxidation: A blackened film on the surface of the metal caused
from cooper-bearing alloys combined with oxygen oxides.
Plating Solution: A cyanide-based solution used in conjunction
with the plating rectifier (see definition under "Equipment").
Work Hardening: When a piece of metal is hammered, bent, rolled
or subjected to another form of fatigue.
Flexible Shaft: Used in drilling, polishing and setting stones.
It's operated with a foot-activated rheostat.
Grinding Motor: Used to grind steel to shape tools, gravers and
Pickle Pot: Used to remove crusted boric acid, hardened flux,
fire scale and oxidation from the surface of non-ferrous metals. The solution
contains one part sulfuric acid to 16 parts of water or a dry chemical compound
(such as Sparex pickle compound).
Plating Rectifier: Used to plate the surface of metal to create
an even color.
Polishing Lathe: Used for polishing, grinding and inside ring
Steam Cleaner: Used to clean excess polishing compound from a
piece of jewelry. The polishing compound is used to keep out contamination
during the polishing process.
Ultrasonic Cleaner: Used to clean jewelry. An electrical sound
wave is sent through the cleaning solution to clear away dirt.
Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts Inc., San Francisco, CA; (415) 391-4179.
-by Lorraine M. Suermann Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.