Getting Started - metal and solder tips for circlets
Amanda is a metalsmith. This section is a collection of questions and answers as she's helped folks out as they worked on their elven circlets.
These questions are based on making circlets like Galadriel and Elrond's.
What kind of metal should I choose?
If I were making a "gold" circlet, I'd probably use the sort of brass that's called "new gold" or, more technically "rich low brass," which is 85% copper and 15% zinc (compared to most brasses, which are between 60 and 70% copper, and all or most of the rest zinc but sometimes with some lead too). RL brass has a very nice golden color, and doesn't have the "brassy" green cast of most brasses.
I love doing metal work myself but I am no metal smith ~~...as the rings these days a lot of them a cast using a wax model for the base, would that be possible for a base of a circlet?
You *might* be able to find a pre-made seamless (or already seamed) circle of the appropriate size- try Metalliferous (http://www.metalliferous.com/ ), but they won't have it in the rich low brass, just the regular brass. To my mind, though, making it without it being a solid base would be better- if there's a gap, you can make it fit various people, various hairstyles, with or without wigs, etc. So I'd make it somewhat like an adjustable ring.
I don't know how much luck you'd have in finding a jewelry caster to do something that big. You might need to look for someone who does architectural pieces or sculptures. A lot of jewelry casting equipment, especially for the people who aren't doing gigantic quantities, is too small to do such a large piece- and it would be stronger and more flexible to fabricate it, anyway.
I think if you wanted a solid circlet for a base, though, it'd be pretty easy to find a jeweler/metalsmith who could take your fitted piece and solder it up for you!
Do we need to go into soldering? etc..? I find soldering could test some people's patience...?
BTW, when I'm talking about soldering, I'm talking about the so-called "hard" solders that are used for jewelry, not the soft ones used for plumbing, stained glass, etc.
Yes, doing a whole circlet- not just the base- would involve a LOT of soldering if you made it that way. It's a large-scale filigree work. I think wire wrap approaches would be effective, though- especially if you used both a heavier wire or wires for the design elements, and some very fine ones wrapped tightly around the "joints" to hold the components together. The fine ones would visually be almost invisible if you matched the wire colors, or a nice design element if you used contrasting ones.
Gold toned or Silver Solder?
The problem with soldering it is that most appropriate and affordable solders are silver-colored. I do have a gold-toned solder made for working with gold-filled stuff, but I haven't tried it yet. Otherwise, you'd end up paying more for gold solder than for the rest of the metal! So one needs to have pretty good technique, put the seams where they'll be less-noticeable, and clean them up REALLY well so no more than is absolutely necessary is visible!
I do want to try making a circlet in silver someday. I have the loveliest stone for it- it's just a lab-grown citrine, quite pale, but it's cut so it has stars in it. Very elven and magical!
And even if it was all made... do we use polishing machine or by hand?
Depends on whether you have access to a machine! There are a lot of different kinds of machines- tumblers (which are probably too small to be effective unless you have access to a really huge one), buffing wheels, various things you can put on a flex-shaft or Dremel, or really hand, non-mechanized items. I would probably do the larger stuff on a buffing wheel, then get into the details using points on a flex-shaft. it's totally possible to do it all by hand, though! It'd just take longer.
And when I read that circlets in LotR were electroplated....how much do they cost?
I don't really know- only that it'd be way cheaper than doing it in solid gold! <g> It depends on how much set-up is involved, how many layers put down, and how much precious metal is used. I mention the layers because one usually wants to put a layer of nickel between copper or any copper-bearing metal (including sterling) and gold-else the tarnish from the copper can bleed through the gold.
I'd prefer to make the circlet in silver, then maybe have gold details plated on. But I'm approaching it from a jewelry perspective, rather than a costuming one. Plating with silver is certainly a reasonable approach if you're not going to be wearing it a lot, as the movie demonstrates!
This page was last updated 04/22/08