My Etsy Shop

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learning a lesson

I had made a bracelet for a regular customer--a Helms/Parallel bracelet in 18 gauge, with a toggle clasp. She was thrilled, and wore it daily. Until it fell off when she was reaching across her desk.

Why? While it's looks airy and makes a beautiful bracelet or necklace, Helms weave is the least sturdy of the chainmaille weaves I work with.

Most chainmaille patterns have than multiple rings being interwoven, lending their strength to each other like in Byzantine (my two-year-old once grabbed a byzantine chain around my neck and hung from it with NO damage to the chain--can't say as much for my neck).

Helms, also known as Parallel weave, is an airy weave with single larger rings going smaller doubled rings. In a heavier gauge, like 16, say, this is not usually an issue. But 18 gauge rings don't have the strength that the 16 gauge rings have, particularly with a large ring as used in Helms weave. That makes a Helms chain crafted from 18 gauge rings lovely and lightweight, but also vulnerable to damage. If one of these single rings catches on something, it may open, and come loose from the rest of the chain. Not usually a problem for necklaces, but bracelets see more action, as it were, and they are more likely to catch on something.

That's what happened to my customer. Fortunately, she didn't lose the bracelet, and brought it to me for repair. She apologized (SHE apologized!) and I apologized, too. I was embarrassed, and I was going to make sure I reduced the chances of this happening again.

How? Heat hardening. One of the marvelous properties of Argentium Sterling is that you can harden it in a home oven--550 degrees for 2 hours will do the trick. Unfortunately, this does discolor the silver and requires pickling in an acidic solution or LOTS of polishing to return the color to it's normal state.

Hardening a Helms chain made from 18G wire won't make it breakproof, but it will make it less likely for a ring to open if it catches on something.

So, that's what I did for my customer. I returned the bracelet to her, she's been very happy with it, and I learned a valuable lesson. I don't heat treat all my jewelry now--it's not necessary for most weaves--but I do it for the more delicate pieces that might be more prone to damage if I didn't.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to see that you're blogging and will be following along with interest!