Empress Theodora Necklace

Theodora started out life as a circus performer but became one of the most influential and powerful empresses of the Byzantine Empire.   I wanted to make a necklace that represented both sides of her story- the whimsy and the grandeur all rolled into one crazy necklace.

I used a hydraulic press to create the domed fine silver bases, and then hand scribed designs in the fine silver.  In keeping with the Byzantine theme, I used 24K gold cloisonné wire.  (I roll my own wires- I like to be able to control the width and depth of the wires.  It's so much nicer.

It was a painstaking procedure to attach all the wires to the domed base- I first laid down a layer of clear enamel, and then fired the wires in place in several stages. There are about 10 thin layers of enamel color, which help preserve the translucency and create a nice shading effect.

After the colored enamels were finished, I used a diamond stick and polishing papers to grind off the excess enamel, and give the piece a smooth finish.  A final fire in the kiln resulted in a gemstone like finish.

And now, onto the setting.  I made a special texture plate for the back of the piece that complemented the front design.  I coated a piece of copper with asphaltum, and used a scribe to make the designs.

After a nice soak in the acid bath, I had myself a nice texture plate.  In hindsight, I should have used brass, but I only had copper on hand, and you know what? It worked out just fine.   (But I've already switched to brass for future projects, it's takes a lot more wear and tear...)

I used the textured silver as the backing, and 18K gold bezel wire.  I didn't want to see the silver on the sides, so I fitted the bezel wire around the pre-shaped backing plate.  

Checking to make sure I have a good fit for the bezel setting.

I made a chain of 18K gold wires.  Always make more links than you think you need.  It always happens to me- I either melt one, or don't have enough to make it a comfortable length.  In this case, I made two extra and used both of them.  Even if you don't end up using them, you can save them in case the person buying the necklace wants it to be longer.