Found Objects Plus Cold Connections: Make Nature's Treasure Box Necklace

There are so many possibilities for personalization with this pretty necklace tutorial from Karen McGovern, a member of the Nunn Design Innovation Team. Karen works with endangered birds and other animals, and I love seeing how her work experiences show up in her jewelry designs. There's usually a nature theme in her jewelry, and nature is of course the best source of inspiration for artists of all types. I can't wait to try her necklace project and to put things inside the mixed-media jewelry "treasure box" window that will move around, like sand and tiny shells or maybe teeny river rocks and mineral crystals.

 

Nature's Treasure Box Necklace
By Karen McGovern, Nunn Design Innovation Team

I spend as much time as I can outdoors, and I have always been a collector of nature's bits and pieces. Ever since I was a little girl, I filled my pockets with found objects like beach stones, pretty leaves, feathers, twigs, and yes, pretty dead beetles and bugs. I especially love dragonfly wings and always brought home any I found in my outdoor wanderings. I wanted this pendant to be like a wearable treasure box of what I imagine the little girl in the photo would carry in her pockets: treasures from nature. 

Materials:

2  3×3" patterned or etched brass sheets
Nunn Design antiqued brass large deep round bezel
6  2" brass micro screws & nuts
short brass tube rivet
clear Plexiglas sheet
Nunn Design vintage image
dragonfly wing
Nunn Design small brass bee
Nunn Design small brass leaf
Nunn Design medium brass flower
Nunn Design 8mm copper jump ring
Nunn Design 6mm copper or brass ornate jump ring
small brass dragonfly wing or other nature charm (leaf, twig, etc.)
glass-tipped head pin
bird element or flat-backed bird charm
16-gauge brass wire
dried flowers
Nunn Design flat-backed chatons or crystals
loose 2mm gemstones or crystals
Nunn Design 18" brass chain
Nunn Design brass lobster clasp
small spacer beads to fit a 1/16" micro screw
bench block
riveting hammer
chasing hammer
metal shears
Dremel or flex shaft with 1/16" bit or hole punch
jeweler's saw and blades
Sharpie fine marker
rivet flare tool
micro screwdriver
needle and flat files
sanding sponge
fine sandpaper

Steps:

 

1. Mark the center of the bezel with a Sharpie. Drill or punch a hole at the mark. Clean the hole with a needle file.

2. Set the bezel on the back (plain side) of a piece of patterned brass and draw a fan shape around the bezel, leaving enough room on the sides of the bezel for your leaf and bee elements to be supported.
3. Cut out the fan shape using metal sheers or a jeweler's saw. This will be the front of the pendant. Using the first fan-shaped piece as a template and placing the brass sheets with patterned sides facing out, trace and cut another fan shape for the back. File the edges of the metal smooth using a needle file or sanding sponge.
4. Place the bezel face down on one of the fan shapes and trace around it with the marker. Use a jeweler's saw to cut out the circle; file and sand the edges, and make sure the deep bezel fits through the opening. This creates the "frame" for the bezel.
5. Place the bezel face down on the clear Plexiglas and trace around it with the fine marker. (Leave the plastic coating on the Plexiglas while you work.)
6. Cut out the circle using a jeweler's saw. File the edges smooth and size until the Plexiglas fits just inside the lip of the bezel. The Plexiglas "cover" will be suspended over your interior elements (flowers, gems, etc.) and held in place with two micro screws.
7. Drill the holes in the bezel for those two screws, one on either side of the center hole. Not only will these screws be holding the Plexiglas in place (and further secure the bezel to the back piece), they also hold the small bee and leaf elements on the front.
8. Make two marks with a marker about 1/4" in from the edge of the clear Plexiglas, directly opposite each other. Drill or punch those two holes. Place the Plexiglas inside the bezel and mark through the holes using a marker. Drill or punch those holes and set the Plexiglas aside.
9. Mark and drill the front patterned brass piece to ready it for assembly. Make four marks with the marker: one in the center toward the top, one on either side of the bezel opening, and one centered at the bottom. Try to make the holes at least 1/4" from the edges of the fan. Drill or punch those holes.
10. Lay the front and back pieces together, align the edges, and mark the next holes through the drilled holes onto the back piece and then drill or punch them. Tip: Taping the front and back pieces together will help when drilling these holes. Make sure the pieces are aligned perfectly, tape together with packing tape, and drill or punch the holes.
11. Attach the bezel and small floral element to the back piece (etched design will be on the back): Drill or punch a hole in the back piece and in the center of the small brass floral element.
12. Insert a medium brass tube rivet through the floral element, back fan piece, and bezel.
13. Place the stack on a steel bench block, flare the rivet end exposed in the bezel, and hammer the rivet flat using the round end of a chasing hammer or riveting hammer. Make sure the rivet is flush to the interior of the bezel and everything is held tightly in place.
14. Stack the two fan shapes together (plain sides touching) and place the bezel in the hole you created on the front piece. Make sure the edges of your stack align; then mark through the hole in the bezel to the bottom fan shape using a fine marker. With the bezel held firmly in place, drill through the two side holes through the back plate; these holes will be for the micro screws supporting the Plexiglas cover.
15. To add the bird element, lay it in place, mark where your hole should be, and drill or punch the holes. Test fit the wire in the next step while the bird is in place (you'll attach it permanently in Step 18).
16. Use the 14-gauge wire to form an arched bail over the bird and connect at the two holes drilled near the "corners" of the fan. Bend the 14-gauge brass wire and cut the length to fit over the bird and reach the holes on either side of the fan shape. Flatten the ends of the wire using the round end of a chasing hammer. Flare the ends of the wire enough to drill or punch a hole in them. Texture the wire as you like by hammering, etc.
17. Attach the brass dragonfly wing or similar charm and glass head pin to the 8mm jump ring. Create a simple wrapped loop on the head pin, drill or punch a hole in the dragonfly wing or charm of your choice (if there isn't a hole or bail already). Open the jump ring and add the elements. Close the jump ring carefully, and make it snug. Set this dangle aside to attach later.

Now that most of the pieces are prepared, you will be assembling this design from the back to the front.

To assemble the pendant: This is where everything starts coming together. The pendant layers are going to be separated by spacer beads threaded on the micro screws. You want the front fan piece to be level with the outside edge of the deep bezel. You will have to adjust the number of spacer beads as needed to get a level, snug fit.

18. Begin by threading the micro screws through the four holes in the front piece. Add a few spacer beads and insert the screws through the bird element (top), the wire bail ends (on either side of the bezel opening), and through the 8mm jump ring with dangles (bottom).

19. Finally, line up the back piece and thread the screws through the matching holes. Add and remove spacer beads as needed until the pendant "sandwich" is level all around. Attach micro nuts to the back of the screws, turning until tight. Use the micro screwdriver to really tighten the screws. Turn the pendant over and snip or file the excess off the screws from the back.
20. Carefully place the pendant face down on a bench block and flare the ends of the screws using a riveting hammer or round end of a chasing hammer. You want the nuts and screws tight, so check as you hammer and tighten as needed. Hammer the ends at an angle until you create a smooth flared rivet holding the nut and screw in place, and all the other elements.
21. Whew, you are almost finished! Turn the pendant front side up and fill your bezel. Cut a photo image of your choice to fit the inside of the bezel. Orient correctly and glue in place with any craft glue. Use a needle file to poke through the two remaining holes so you can see them. Add dried flowers, loose gems, chatons, twigs, beetle wings, anything you wish to go with the natural theme. I used a real dragonfly wing glued across the little girl's face like a veil. Use craft glue to secure anything you do not want to move around behind the Plexiglas. Be creative, just be sure to leave the holes clear for the micro screws. Let all glue dry and set according to package instructions or overnight to be safe.
22. Drill or punch a hole in the brass bee and brass leaf elements. Thread a micro screw through each, then through your Plexiglas cover. Add a few spacer beads (you want the Plexiglas to be level with the edge of your bezel), and thread the screws through the final two holes in the bezel. Attach the nuts, screw tight, then CAREFULLY turn the pendant over, snip the excess screw material and hammer the end to flare. Be careful here, you don't want to create too much vibration or shake loose any of your bezel elements. Make sure the screw heads are supported on the bench block when you hammer.
23. Finally, add a 6mm copper or brass jump ring to the wire arch bail and add chain of your choice. Attach the lobster claw clasp and enjoy your new necklace.
 
Karen's alternative design.

Get inspired and learn to make more gorgeous necklaces when you order your copy of 101 Bracelets, Necklaces, and Earrings–or download the digital version now!

Resources:
patterned brass sheet, Plexiglas, glass head pin, brass wire: Etsy
bezel, vintage image, bee, leaf, flower, jump rings, crystals, chain, clasp: Nunn Design  
micro screws, nuts, rivets: Objects and Elements
bird element, dried flowers: Michael's

About the designer:

Karen McGovern is a member of the Nunn Design Innovation Team. She's also an environmental jewelry artist who donates most of her proceeds to support wildlife conservation programs through the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, RareSpecies.org.

Growing up in Florida wilderness shaped every aspect of Karen's life, so a career in conservation biology was almost pre-destined. Her work allows her to travel to Caribbean islands, African savannas, and Mexican jungles–not to mention living every day with endangered parrots, primates, and African antelope in the 30+ acre wildlife preserve she calls home. Her work as an artist and jewelry designer directly reflects her deep respect for nature and passion to preserve creatures living wild in the world. Karen is an avid collector of the unusual and prefers to use mixed media, recycled or repurposed elements in her work such as reclaimed metals (copper and brass pipe and sheet), sterling silver, and all manner of found objects including bone, fur, antiquities, and botanicals. You can learn more about Karen and her work at Beadkeepers.com, "Where ART and the ENVIRONMENT Meet."

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