Chain Chain Chain

When it comes to goldsmithing and jewellery making, chains are pretty much essential. Whether large or small, handmade or machine made, the chain we choose needs to work with the aesthetic of the piece, and hold up to the practical needs and weight of the piece. These choices also determine the cost of the finished piece, so financial balance is considered by our goldsmiths as well. Ideally, we want to feel good about every aspect of our jewellery, so here is a mini breakdown to help you decide.

Handmade and Hearty

Handmade chains tend to be unique and chunky. The desire for a handmade chain is the desire to see and feel the creativity of the artist. These pieces are statement pieces – one of a kind and easy to identify as yours. They tend to be made of solid material, like the solid Sterling silver pieces shown here, or solid gold that can be made upon request.

Half and Half

Almost any chain can be handmade, but the amount of labour it takes to form and solder each link in a dainty, long, symmetrical chain, makes it impossible to compete with the cost of machine made chains. Sometimes, a goldsmith will use machine made chain, not only to balance the cost, but to balance the weight of the piece. This way, the piece falls properly, without turning in a way that requires constant adjustment.

Smart, Savvy, and Symmetrical

We know that machines can make lighter, daintier, more affordable symmetrical chains, but it is not just in their technique. Machines are able to make chain out of material that is not solid gold/silver, such as very light, hollow links, or base metal wire with gold fused around it. The durability and wearablitily differs depending on your intention for these chains, and we have some beautiful options for sale in the studio.

If you are looking for a statement chain, a signature look, an easy accessory, or a replacement for a favourite pendant, come by the studio and let us guide you through the best options for your needs. We are more than happy to nerd out on ideas, or set you up with a quick, effective solution, whichever works best for you!

A Rings Journey

From Wax to Metal

First the rings are carved out in jewellers wax. Often by hand, but sometimes using processes such as 3D printing.
Next our rings are cast using a process called centrifugal casting. The wax rings are put into a flask (a steel tube) and filled with a plaster like material. The flask is then set in a kiln for a number of hours and the wax is melted out, leaving a void in the shape of the rings.

The flask is then loaded onto the machine pictured above, metal is melted in the crucible, and a lever is pulled the entire thing spins incredibly fast, making use of centrifugal force to push the metal into the flask and cool in the shape of the waxes.
After the rings are cast and the metal has cooled slightly, the hot flask is dunked in water. This rapid cooling removes the plaster and the cast rings are fished out.
Freshly fished out rings!
The rings are next cut from the excess metal (called a sprue) and are now ready for files, sanding, and eventually polishing!
Black oxides have been removed using files and sanding paper, revealing the gold beneath.
The rings have been polished and await final buffing.
The finished gold bands!

Street Art in the City

Welcome to a superb Saturday! With the continuing Health Crisis getting to us all, I’m grateful for days like today, when at least the weather makes me happy! Crisp, sunny, late fall days are my favourite – the temperature is cooling off, but it’s so sunny that it lightens my heart. Hopefully you feel the same! Or are at least out for some physically-distanced air, and stocking up on Vitamin D.

Living in the city definitely has its rewards, despite the drawbacks. One of the things I love (in my continuing journey of getting to relearn Toronto), is all the street art. Its become almost a game for me, spotting everything when I’m out and about.

These are just a few of the things I spotted on my walk in this morning:

The art is whimsical, sometimes more meaningful, and colourful. Most of all, I feel inspired by the fact that it’s evidence that people care about their spaces, and that it’s also an initiative to support artists, and it brings them visibility. I think alot of it has been initiated through the StreetARToronto program. If you visit the website there are maps of where different pieces have been done–in this current age of trying to be physically distant,they make a great outdoor discovery adventure.

Friends of mine were inspired by the street art around Toronto, and wanted to support a local artist, so they commissioned this fantastic mural for their shed.

I hope you, too, will be inspired to support local artists and local small businesses as we come up to the holidays, either in person, or through online shopping. Did you know that we have just added alot of new work from all the members of Jewel Envy to the online shop? Pop over and check it out–and don’t forget that we take orders for variants on existing pieces and custom pieces as well! Send us a message to start a conversation.

Happy Saturday, and hope to see you soon!


(House of Cassady)

New art jewellery from House of Cassady

As an independent goldsmith, I make a fair number of pieces that are small batch productions, so, while they are all unique in their own way, they’re still of a similar design, and generally use similar methods.  Part of my practice, to keep exercising my creative muscles is to challenge myself to make larger pieces on a semi-regular basis.  Last year, I made this piece:

Oxidised sterling silver, 10k yellow gold, blue topaz and sapphire necklace with roller printed elements and two-tone blue needled felt. This necklace is very kinetic, and hangs about 19″ long.

If you’re familiar with some of my work, you’ll see that it incorporates a lot of different elements from other pieces that I’ve made, but puts them together in a new and more elaborate way, incorporating some gold and more precious gems than I might normally use.  (If you’re interested in more information about why I use these elements, you can read a bit more here.)

This year, I set myself a similar goal: to make a larger, statement piece, that incorporates a lot of elements that I normally use, in a larger format, and incorporating or extending my skills at the same time.  This piece presented some challenges for me, in terms of the physical construction, because I couldn’t use a lot of my normal techniques to create the individual pieces.  This made it a lot of fun (I like practical problem solving/troubleshooting), but also rather frustrating at times. 

This necklace is part of my sci/art collections, and is entitled Invaders/Defenders. Since it is more specifically an art jewellery piece, the design is associated with different symbolism for me.  The piece has two different finishes.  The oxidised/dark element represents the infectious invaders, with the mostly oval cabochon sapphires being reminiscent of a bacterial shape, and the random placement showing some of the disorder that happens in the infection process.  In contrast, the matte silver/light element represents the immune cells that defend against infection and disease, with the incorporation of texture and irregular cutouts. The more organic nature of the circular shape of the two larger elements reflect the cellular/tissue environment where these biological entities interact, and the two elements are united in a continuous loop with a steel cable, as the different sides of this process are irrevocably linked in biology.

I’m really pleased with the overall effect of the piece, what do you think?  Would you be interested in some smaller pieces in a similar style of one of the elements, perhaps as a brooch or a pendant?

You can contact me here to start a dialogue about this piece, and commission a new work.  I look forward to your comments.

Have a great Saturday!


What’s on my bench this month?

I really enjoy taking on custom work, for a variety of reasons.  Not least is, for the most part, it’s fun to interact with clients, helping them bring a vision they have to life, as well as stretching creative brain cells on new designs.  Especially as they’re often pieces that I wouldn’t just decide to come up with on my own, or they include technical challenges that are fun to tinker with.

I don’t often use very large stones, so this one was fun for that, plus I really enjoyed coming up with additional touches to really make this a one of a kind piece!

This pendant carrier was a technical challenge for me, there were two key things it had to do: be completely removeable, and have the capability to carry a pendant, or not.

My current challenge is actually a jewellery redesign.  My client acquired this great multi-diamond ring for a good price from an estate dealer, with the idea that she would reuse the components (stones and gold) to make a new ring, and I have the great pleasure to bring a new piece to life!

Multi-diamond ring on a thin gold band- bit too weddingy, but a good re-use of materials for a new design!

Our interaction started with a world of possibility, but after a bit of discussion, she decided that she really liked this ring shape that she already had in silver.

sterling silver wave ring

So, I set off to do some ideas of how to place the stones, and came up with a few different ideas:

We’ve come to an agreement about which is the preferred design, and now I’m on to carving the wax.  I could fabricate the design directly in metal, but the wax is more forgiving, and also allows for design changes before making the final piece.  The flexibility casting allows makes it a good choice, not only for pieces where the design is a bit more sculptural in nature, but also where there’s some possibility that the design needs to be modified before making the final piece.

Watch this space for an update sometime soon! 

Like I said, I really enjoy taking on custom work, contact me at the studio to start a discussion about that piece you’re harbouring a desire for in your secret heart!

Enjoy the long weekend, and stay healthy!

Robin (House of Cassady).

It’s that time of year again. The Jewel Envy holiday party!
Join us for a glass of wine, homemade apple cider, and snacks…
And save 10% on all jewellery on display in the store!

This party is all about you! Thank you for being Jewel Envy customers. Thank you for being with us just this first year on Roncesvalles. We couldn’t do it with out you. Thank you!

See you Friday December 13th from 5-10pm.


Is it just me, or did we just time warp through an entire year?!  It was summer like, yesterday!  If you’re like me, and you’re entering this holiday season in a fog of cold denial, then you might need some help in the gift department.  Never fear, we are here to help you with some nifty gifty solutions.

Come in and say hello, and choose something special for someone special!
Have a fantastic week, and happy shopping!

The Circle of Life

I think we can all agree that Mufasa pretty much covered the circle of life, for lions and hyenas everywhere.  If you happen to be a goldsmith, the circle of life is a little different.  Luckily, I am here to impart some wisdom.
Here is me imparting wisdom:
The circle of life, for the sterling silver in my toolbox, begins as trial and error in wax carving.  Here are some early attempts at carving balls:  
Once I have a satisfactory wax carving, I use sterling silver casting grain to cast the ball into metal.
Surprisingly enough, I am not perfect, and when trying something completely new it can take a few attempts before I am happy with the results.  Here is my ball graveyard, where bad balls go to die:
Thankfully, the trial and error period does not last forever.  Below, success!
All the old sterling silver gets recycled, because recycling is part of the process.  In this case, I raided the ol’ ball graveyard.   The bad balls visited the chop shop (er, metal shears), and now have a brand new purpose in life as casting grain.
In fact I am casting tonight, and this casting grain will actually become two sets of weddings bands and a pair of earrings.  
And that, my friends, is the sterling silver circle of life, goldsmith edition.  Hakuna Matata!

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