Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sentimental Charms

My ongoing search for unique jewelry-making material makes me a frequent visitor at a couple of church hosted thrift stores in my town. I have gotten to know some of the women who volunteer at these shops, and we occasionally have conversations about the projects that I'm envisioning as I make a purchase. I think that some of the women were initially horrified to find out that I was cutting apart beautiful platters and taking apart vintage jewelry, but then I started bringing in some of my completed pieces. It helped to show that I was giving a new, repurposed life to items that had been let go by previous owners.
One of the women recently asked if could do a project for her. She had two sterling spoons, part of a set of 5, that had been in her family for a long time but were no longer used.
She thought that instead of sitting in a drawer, maybe two of them could become a bracelet so that she could actually appreciate them. No problem!
I took a quick measurement of her wrist and began the project later that week.
The bowl shaped end was cut off with my jeweler's saw, and that cut was filed and sanded smooth. I drilled a hole in each end of the handles, making them large enough for 16 gauge wire. Because the spoons were undoubtedly over 50 years old, I wanted to take special care in curving them to fit a wrist. Older metal that has been used repeatedly can become brittle and can crack if over-stressed.
Both handles were annealed with an acetylene torch, making them malleable. Using a high density plastic mallet, I shaped the handles on a steel bracelet mandrel. A vintage crystal was wrapped with sterling wire, linking the two handles together. Sterling wire was also used to connect the sterling clasp. Because the annealing process burned off the natural patina that age had created, I gave the assembled bracelet a treatment in liver of sulfur which turned the silver a dark, matte gunmetal color. Light sanding with a fine grit sanding foam block revealed the lovely floral pattern once again.
I delivered the bracelet last week, and it was received with joy and delight. I, however, felt uncomfortable when asked,"How much do I owe you?" I hadn't agreed to do the project to make money, but it had taken time and my "expertise" in order to complete the project. This volunteer had been telling me for several months that she had charms that she wanted to give to me for my jewelry making endeavors. I suggested that we make a swap- the finished bracelet for her old, unwanted charms.
When I stopped by the thrift shop yesterday, I was handed my 'payment', and it was much more than what I had expected. I had known that there were going to be girl scout pins and charms, but there were also charms that had been awarded for specific achievements. I love finding treasures like these during my thrift store hunts, but that's when they are anonymous and abandoned. I know that the volunteer has children and asked, "Don't your kids want these?!"
Nope....she had asked, and nobody wanted them.
I guess that I'm overly sentimental, but I would never have let something like this wonderful bracelet go out of the family and into the hands of someone like me. Some of the charms are from high school and some are from college. Some have the volunteer's name and date engraved on the back. As a special bit of irony, her name is also Cynthia. In a strange way, it feels appropriate that these bits of her history are now in my care.
Her bracelet is similar to a special piece of jewelry that I own.
Years ago, when I graduated from college, my dad gave me a bracelet that he had made with charms that had been awarded for his athletic and coaching accomplishments.
My dad had been a basketball star at St. Bonaventure University, was one of the initial players when the NBA was formed and had a very successful career as a high school coach. These charms help to tell part of his story.
This bracelet will never be abandoned at a thrift store.

1 comment:

  1. I love that bracelet! The delicate floral pattern with the slightly more modern edge of the light and dark contrast is stunning.