Thursday, February 4, 2016

Space Rock Meteorite Necklace

At a gem show two years ago I bought a few pieces of meteorite that caught my eye and called out to me. 

What is a meteorite? I checked Google and read this same description on a bunch of different pages:

meteorite is a fragment of rock or iron from outer space, usually a meteoroid or asteroid, which survives passage through the atmosphere as a meteor to impact the surface of the Earth. Meteorites are believed to originate in the asteroid belt between the planets of Mars and Jupiter. A meteorite may range in size from less than a gram to more than 60 tons.

As the meteoroid passes through the atmosphere, ablation occurs where melting and vaporization removes material from the surface. This ablation can also produce regmaglyphs which are flight marks produced during the passage of a meteoroid through the atmosphere and often look like thumbprints pushed into the surface. This melting of the exterior surface from heating due to it's high velocity through Earth's atmosphere is also what causes the fusion crust seen on the exterior of meteorites.

How wonderful is it to have a space rock that survived this violent passage? The meteorites I purchased have been polished, so they resemble hematite and their shiny silvery blackness. 

The gem seller showed his meteorites used as belt buckles and other manly jewelry, and that's fine, but I wanted to make necklace and chose the largest one for my experiment It's about 3 inches long and one side is almost flat, so it could conceivably lie against a base and be held in place by prongs.

After asking for a consensus and the metal studio, opted to follow the advice to use it horizontally. 

I spent a fair amount of time debating the base shape - should I echo the shape of the stone or make it an easier, more geometric shape? Following the shape of the space rock won out.

I cut two base plates in sterling sheet for a layered tectonic plate look and kept refiling the shapes until the last minute before soldering. I also wanted to be able to see the back of the meteorite, which involved sawing out the inside.

Prongs. I learned the hard way that I had to first drill holes on the base and solder them into the holes so that they didn't snap off when bent. This meteorite is highly irregular and quite tall in the center so the prongs would have to be long and carefully placed to do a lot of the work, plus I didn't want to see too many of them. I thought that 5 was the minimum that I could get away with.

I marked with a sharpie the places where it needed to beheld fast, then chose a drill bit that matched the gauge of wire that I wanted to use, probably 14 ga sterling.

Just after soldering and pickling, still wet.

There were some rather sharp burrs and edges that needed to be filed down so that the rock would sit more comfortably and not injure the handler.

Under the magnifier. Love the textures that tell of its journey to earth!

One prong in particular had be quite long and wrapped over the top edge, because there could be NO GLUING involved.

Seeing through the first layer. You can faintly see where the prongs are, but it won't matter as this layer will be covered  by layer 2.

Both layers soldered.

After getting excess solder off. 

A lot of finishing was involved between the last picture and this one. Traces of solder had to be removed, the shapes were refined and rounded out before setting the rock, polishing and where to place the jump rings for chain attachment.

I also tumbled the setting for a few hours to harden the metal prongs. The prong ends have to be filed on both sides so that the tips both curve better and are not sharp if touched.

Most people prefer bright silver, but I am partial to the matte or satin finish. I knew that I wanted to oxidize the piece for contrast so a bright finish wouldn't be right. 

I painted the piece with darkening solution before setting the rock and used a piece of red Scotch Brite sponge to lighten certain areas and add texture. I went in a few more times to re-paint and highlight. 

I had some elongated cable chain left over from another necklace and it seemed to be the right scale for this. I didn't have enough so I added some hematite pill beads that looked very similar to the meteorite and gave me a little more length to work with. 

Yup, that is a very long top prong. No way around having to have that.

Most of the back of the rock is in contact with the back plate, but not all, as you can see on the left. Thats okay, though - it's not going anywhere. :)

At the moment I'm wearing this piece myself as I decide how to showcase the two remaining rocks. It was a complicated project and I want to enjoy the piece before deciding whether or not to keep it or list it in the shop.

Here are the other two meteorites. The one on the left is very similar is shape to the one I used but it's about an inch smaller. 

It's a challenge to deal with oddities like these, as well as a privilege to be able to share such extra-terrestrial beauties! 

To be continued.....