Tag Archives: jewelry

57: Grandma’s Costume Jewelry, as interpreted by my laser

It’s no secret I like antiques, and have since I was a little girl.  It probably was no surprise to my mom when I became a museum curator.  In my own personal collection, I have a handful of mid century costume jewelry pieces from my great-grandmother Rachel.  Much of the laser cut jewelry I make over at Isette has its roots in designs from the past, but those designs are a loose interpretation.  For this week, I wanted to get more true to the original; what would costume jewelry looked like if it had been designed for a laser cutter?  I had the perfect piece from Grandma Rachel to try to recreate.

The original costume necklace and earrings
The original costume necklace and earrings

wgermanyThis necklace and earring set is unsigned, but I know it is post WWII because the earrings are stamped “W. Germany.”  The design seems to be a throw back to an earlier, pre war era, when Art Deco flourished.  Perhaps it was made for a  older woman, such as my great grandmother, in mind, or it is simply a reminder of those bright years between the wars.  Because of the angular nature of the links, translating the design to vector would be just a matter of numbers (lots of numbers!).  The stepped design layered colors layers could be easily recreated with super thin acrylic with a little Rub n Buff for highlights.

A quick word on the color.  I would have sworn the necklace was silver colored.  To that end, I ordered acrylic in a silvery gray (which in retrospect is too matte for this) and the only pink that was really an option to recreate the necklace.  In reality, the original necklace is more like a white metal that has had 70+ years to age slightly yellow.  It kind of reminds me of old paste, the yellow tinge it has.  This yellow tinge is a monster and has taken over all my photos, making the necklace look positively golden, especially next to the cooler gray of the replicas.

My initial sketch with measurements.
My initial sketch with measurements.

The first step in recreating the design was a sketch.  While I didn’t use the sketch directly, it helped me study the piece and learn how it worked together visually.  It also gave me a place to write down my obscene numbers of measurements.  As you can see, I measured anything that I thought I might need to translate the design into illustrator.

The geometric symmetrical design made it beautifully easy to draw lines once I got the guidelines put into place.  I started with the complete design, then broke it up in to the necessary layers.  This recreation is 5 layers, more than I’ve ever designed with before.  To make the assembly part easier, I purchased the pink and a sheet of the gray with an adhesive back.  The bottom layer is the only one without an adhesive.

From Left to right: 1 - the box is the foot print of the original design to keep me in line.  2 - Total design, with all the layers, sto see how it works together. 3 - back piece 4 - layer 2 in pink, 5 - third layer ni gray 6 - layer 4 in pink and the piece on the far right is the gray cap to finish it off.
From Left to right: 1 – the box is the foot print of the original design to keep me in line. 2 – Total design, with all the layers, to see how it works together. 3 – back piece (gray) 4 – layer 2 (pink) pink, 5 – third layer (gray)  6 – layer 4 in pink and the piece on the far right is the gray cap to finish it off.
First attempt with Rub N Buff
First attempt with Rub N Buff
Pulling off the transfer tape after the silver is applied was nice and slick!
Pulling off the transfer tape after the silver is applied was nice and slick!

The pink enameled layers on the original piece have the silver line and dot work.  To recreate that, we engraved the designs and filled them with silver leaf Rub N Buff.  On my first attempt, I applied it straight to the acrylic, but it was a pain to rub off such tiny pieces.  I didn’t really get it all off if you look closely. So on the second, final version of the design, Ryan applied some transfer tape to make the painting easier.

5-layers
All the layers painted, lined up and ready for assembly!

 

In progress layering
In progress layering

Once painted, the assembly was easy – expose the adhesive back and line it up correctly!  I did all 5 layers because the original necklace link is silver capped, but I actually liked to look of 4 or three layers better, I think.

The final bit of bling was a 4mm crystal on the center top (the original is much flashier – an actual crystal rather than a craft store acrylic version!)  All the elements of the original are there, and it’s fascinating to me how the laser cut recreation looks like the original, but at the same time not.  The material difference and the straight edges that result from the laser cutter are part of it, but I think it’s also missing 70 years or so.  Age is a hard quality to recreate.

Old and new!
Old and new!
Side by side, left to right are the original, Version 2 and Version 1.  Version 2 is spot on for size, and once I go the correct length, the decorative line work worked better.  Other than those tweaks, I also thickened the linework between version 1 and 2 to make it more visible.
Side by side, left to right are the original, Version 2 and Version 1. Version 2 is spot on for size, and once I go the correct length, the decorative line work worked better. Other than those tweaks, I also thickened the linework between version 1 and 2 to make it more visible.
Of interested to the only the most geeky laser people - check out the holes on each side of the top.  They don't look like it, but they are technically the same size.  Version one, we didn't do offset paths to take into account the amount of material burned away by the laser.  It is truly minuscule, but on such tight margins, it's the difference between fragile and secure holes.
Of interest to the only the most geeky laser people – check out the holes on each side of the top. They don’t look like it, but they are technically the same size. Version one (right), we didn’t do offset paths to take into account the amount of material burned away by the laser. It is truly a minuscule amount, but on such tight margins, it’s the difference between fragile and secure holes.
shiny-vs-not
I made a couple extra large versions as well, measuring 1.5 inches tall. The link on the left is made with brushed aluminum acrylic layers, and I loved it. It made the Rub N Buff pop and the black bottom defined the layers much better than the silvery gray.