STEP 1 - The Design
The design is based on my favorite computer game of all- Wizardry! It was a dungeon crawl game that I played on the Apple II many years ago. I've always wanted to make that iconic dragon from the first game box. The design was a little tricky though- I wanted to capture the motion of the dragon, but not box it in with just a square or circular design. So I superimposed it on a circle and then had the dragon "break out" into the silver parts of the necklace. There was a lot of extra black space, so I figured I would set a stone there to balance out the piece.
I used Illustrator to figure out the design. I drew it on paper, then scanned it in and converted it to vector art so it would be easy to resize and adjust.
STEP 2 - Bending the Wires
My jewelry microscope was essential for this step. These wires are so tiny and to get them just right, I needed that extra 30X magnification. I used fine silver wires, with the tiny exception of his eyeball, which was 24K gold. I know it's just a small detail, but I like to go all in. Rest assured, it took many hours to bend these wires...
STEP 3 - Fabricating the Base
The silver base is created by fusing two sheets of silver together- this gives me the area to inlay my enamels into. I actually cut out the top piece before bending the wires because of the "overflow" design with the silver, so I needed it as a reference while doing the wires.
To finish the base, I cut another larger sheet of fine silver and fused the top sheet to it. I'm afraid I don't have any images of the fusing of this piece, but you can see in the picture below left the before fusing. (I like to work on many things at once, so you can see some other things I was working on. Basically I use a torch and heat the metal until it melts together. (That's a whole tutorial for another day!) On the right, you can see the finished silver base. I've already drilled a hole where I'm going to insert the stone later.
The scales were way too small to make with wires, so I used a small punch to add a scale texture to the silver base.
STEP 4 - Setting the Wires into the Silver Base
This is always the most agonizing step! It's like playing "Operation" on nightmare level. To prep the base for the wires, I added two coats of counter enamel to the back of the piece and sifted a coat of pale green enamel on the front. The glass will hold everything together, so it's important to always have a layer of glass between all the pieces of silver. After placing the wires, I sifted more enamel on top and fired them in place. I fired them in three stages- starting with the head and working my way downward...
STEP 5 - Adding the Colored Enamels
I started with the green enamels because I wanted to be sure that the opaque black enamel wasn't going to seep under the wires. On the left picture below, you can see the first layer of green enamel being added. The enamels are basically just ground up glass, and I mix them with water to get a smooth coat, then (after drying) I fire them at 1450 degrees. I did two solid coats of green before starting on the black enamel, and then alternated between the transparents and opaque colors to prevent any cross contamination. I can't quite remember, but all told, it took about 7 coats of enamel to reach the top of the wires.
STEP 6 - Grinding and Polishing
Now it's just a matter of removing all the excess enamel and polishing it to a brilliant shine! I start with the "big grind"- I use an electric grinder to remove the enamel overflow and obtain a perfectly smooth surface. Then I hand polish with papers until the silver is without any scratches or blemishes. Finally, I put the whole piece back in the kiln to remelt all the glass and achieve a high polish. Finally, I used very fine polishing papers and polishing compounds to give it a final luster, and after a quick stint in the tumbler, I added the little tube set ruby. (I had originally thought a fire opal would be nice, but it was too orange- the ruby was the perfect foil for all that green, so I switched stones at the last minute).
The Finished Pendant:
So, only six steps! I know this tutorial has been pretty abbreviated, so if you'd like more information, please check out my video tutorials on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0gCgDmbgS0IoQArbQxVQw