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Article: Very intricate sawing for jewellery

Very intricate sawing for jewellery

By Simone WalshMaking jewellery

... That's what I've been doing an awful lot of in the last few days. And here is the outcome of some of that work - an arabesque pendant in sterling silver with glass beads.

(This is an old blog post. Visit the Jewellery Blog for the latest)

About saw piercing

Intricate saw piercing in our sterling silver arabesque necklace with red beads.

If you've ever tried sawing (or saw piercing) detailed designs to create silver jewellery (or other precious metals), you'll know that it's a skill which takes many hours of practice and a lot of patience to perfect.

Jewellers use incredibly fine saw blades which break very easily. Every novice jeweller will break hundreds if not thousands of them, generally without getting much good work finished. It can be a very frustrating experience when you start out as a jewellery maker - and even when you're just having a not great day at the jeweller's bench.

I've long suspected that jewellery teachers start newbie jewellers off with sawing to weed out those who simply don't have the patience required for this sort of work.

As for me, I got better at it over time - as everybody does with practice - but it wasn't exactly a task I relished to start with.

But then something changed ...

A change in perspective

Several years ago I unexpectedly developed a great love for doing very intricate saw piercing work when making jewellery designs. This was the result of a change in thinking about sawing: I realised it has a lot in common with sculptural carving, which is a process I enjoy a lot.

Rather than anxiously sawing along detailed lines I found my work flowed a lot more easily with a simple change of perspective. These days I feel like I get in the zone with sawing and can saw away quite happily, even with very complex jewellery designs.

Since then have spent thousands of hours sawing out such designs and constantly improving my skills while doing so. I now feel I'm pretty handy with my saw frame and enjoy taking on much more challenging designs.

Of  course I still break my fair share of jewellery saw blades - such is the life of a jeweller (along with scrabbling around on the floor hunting down tiny components or gemstones, of course!).

Fretwork sawn into sterling silver sheet with a fine jeweller's saw before the outlines are cut out.
Jewellery components sawn out of sterling silver sheet by hand using a very fine jeweller's saw blade. These pieces are yet to be filed and sanded.

Above to the left is a sheet of sterling silver with the fretwork for some designs sawn out. To the right are the designs fully cut from the sheet, before any filing, sanding or other cleaning up work was done.

If you like this sort of intricate and unique jewellery, you should check out our online jewellery shop.

Interested in chain making?

If you're interested in the techniques of silver jewellery making, check out a time lapse video we made of a handmade silver chain being made from scratch.

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