Good to see you again on our tour of our jewellery workshop and the goldsmithing skills and tools use we use daily!
Following on logically, but not necessarily chronologically, from filing is emerying. When it comes to working with precious metals, there is an important distinction to make between filing and emerying – filing (with a file) removes relatively large amounts of metal. Emerying doesn’t. Emerying is primarily for smoothing, or finishing, the metal. Emerying does take away some (top layer) metal but it is not a means for shaping metal.
You may think of emery paper in relation to doing your nails, or sandpaper for sanding a wooden floor. In the same way that the grit and coarseness of the papers involved in these scenarios is different, the fineness of emery paper used when finishing jewellery is also very important. The coarsest, or roughest, emery paper is 180 grade, followed by 240, 360, 400, 600, 800, 1000 and 1200 grades. Grade 2000 emery paper is extremely fine – after this we start polishing, which we’ll cover later in this series of ‘Behind the Scenes’ blogs.
Emerying with a lower grade emery stick is a good start when smoothing a surface or edge. Like filing, emerying is a pushing movement. Having finished emerying with one grade, it’s then necessary to repeat the same step with the next grade up of emery paper. And again, and again until you have worked your way up the grades of emery sticks until the required finish is achieved. How tedious, you may think! Sometimes it might seem like a good idea to skip a grade or two to make everything progress faster but, unfortunately, that generally doesn’t work!
Emery sticks are great for hand finishing jewellery. We also use large sheets of emery on a hard flat surface when we have to get a sharp, flat surface on a piece. For curved edges, we wrap smaller strips of emery around a small drill head called a split mandrel. This allows us to access areas such as the inside of a ring, or the curved lines of our Balance collection. These are powered by a motor to spin around, and the goldsmith controls the speed with a pedal!
As always when it comes to small and fiddly things, it may be that your standard emery stick is too big and clumsy for the job in hand. As necessity is the mother of invention, you will find all sorts of handcrafted smaller emery sticks on a goldsmith’s bench – some of them are really cute! Be it large or small, it’s very easy to make an emery stick to size with a solid piece of wood for the centre, a sheet of emery paper and some double sided tape – who would have thought that an old ice-cream stick would be so handy?
‘Matte finish’ is another name for a finely emeried finish on a piece of jewellery. We have opted for a matte finish on the silver bands of our Cocktail rings – it contrasts dramatically with the high polish finish on the 18ct gold setting for the gemstone – what a showstopper!
We hope you’ve enjoyed the initial steps of our guided workshop tour in our ‘Behind the Scenes’ blogs, giving you an insight into removing, shaping and smoothing metal by piercing, filing and emerying. Believe it or not, this is only the beginning! In our next post we’ll start to look into more extreme ways of moving precious metals – being hard materials, they can really be pushed, bent, hammered and put through the mill!