Save the Pieces, Part 3: Jewelry Projects Using Scrap Silver
I’m a super thrifty girl. In my household in general, I dislike wasting things—but especially in the studio. With metal prices these days, I’m sure no one will blame me! Those high prices make it all the more rewarding when I can find clever and even beautiful ways to use my scrap silver, copper, and brass in jewelry projects. (Maybe if I’m thrifty enough, long enough, I can add gold to that list!)
In part one of Save the Pieces, I wrote about how my grandmother used to call out “Save the pieces!” in such a funny and endearing way whenever someone dropped and, possibly, broke a dish or glass. It’s extra funny to me because when she heard the clatter, she didn’t know whether the dropped thing actually broke into pieces or not. She was just being facetious and I love remembering that. It certainly stuck with me!
Now when I break something, see some forlorn broken thing in a store, or find a piece of whatever in the studio, I remember her saying “Save the pieces!” and I find a way to use them. (Ask me how many noseless snowmen or broken-wing angel ornaments I have to repair for the Christmas tree.)
We do a lot of sawing in metalwork, and that always results in metal sheet leftovers. In the recent July/August 2019 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, a few projects stood out to me as scrap-friendly pieces that create impressive designs without a lot of metal investment. From leftover edges of metal sheet, to the cool negative space left from sawing out a design, to true tiny bits of scrap silver, these projects use scraps and leftovers in different but inventive ways. They inspired me to look at what’s left on my bench and listen to what it tells me it can become.
There’s More Life in That Metal Sheet
Peggy Haupt’s Coral and Floral pendant project instructions show her using a sliver of silver leftover from cutting out circles to create a pretty little bail. Would you have used that edge of silver sheet in a thrifty way or would you have just recycled it?
When you have a particularly long edge left on your silver sheet after you’ve cut out various pieces for other designs, you have a gift! We’re rarely left with long pieces, but these long strips are easily made into rings or even circle designs like the ones in Denise Peck’s Surprise Inside earrings. Being the Queen of Wire, Denise used flat wire in her project. But you can easily use a narrow strip cut from your leftover metal sheet.
Small elements like bails are perfect jewelry projects for using your scrap silver in impactful ways. But what about the true scrappy bits, the jagged little leftovers that remain from our snipping and sawing path to a finished project? These can be more challenging yet even more rewarding scraps to use.
Scraggly Bits of Scrap
Many jewelry artists use these scrap bits as texture, by fusing them onto sheet silver and running them through a rolling mill. You can do this with hard metals to make texture plates for softer metals, or you can fuse and use the patterned sheet as is. For stunning examples, see how Marne Ryan turns these fused sheets into cuffs and rings.
You’ll find another inspiring example of fused silver scraps being made into jewelry projects in Debra Hoffmaster’s Homage to Collage pin. Anything goes here—it’s a true scrap-reuse effort that turns a pile of leftover silver (Argentium is ideal for fusing) into a one-of-a-kind piece. The designs can be as abstract or literal as you wish. “Making an abstract pattern gives you the greatest leeway, but . . . I’ve also created horse, dog, and dragon collage jewelry from silver scrap,” Debra says. It’s fairly foolproof, too. “Once you think everything is fused, stop. If you push it too far, you will start to melt the scrap and lose the shape of the individual pieces. If that happens, you still have scrap, it just looks different now!”
Reconsider What’s Left After Sawing
If you prefer a little more intentionality in your designs, consider Bill Fretz’s Fold It Over pendant. Bill creates the metalsmithing world’s most coveted hammers and metal forming tools, but he’s also a skillful jewelry designer. Many of his designs in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and the videos he’s done for us feature circles and discs. These shapes can eat up a sheet of silver faster than any other, am I right? But they create inspiring negative space and leftover metal that makes me want to use it in unexpected ways.
I suspect Bill cut the metal the way he did for this jewelry project on purpose. But if you’ve cut some discs from your sheet, you could use that leftover piece purposefully as well, just as it is, by folding it over.
I often use leftover sheet with circles removed on a smaller scale with enameling. After I’ve cut many small circles from a metal sheet, I cut and dome a large round piece of it and enamel it. It’s extra striking layered over a back piece, perhaps domed pieces, with contrasting enamel inside similar to champlevé.
Make Scrap Silver Jewelry Projects
You’ll find all these projects and much more in the July/August 2019 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. So gather up your scrap (make some if you have to!) and see what it can become!
How do you repurpose your scraps? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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