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How I Work: The Making of a Torus Bracelet

Karin Jacobson design process

 Torus Tiny Diamond Bracelet
Torus Tiny Diamond Bracelet

I won’t lie: The process of envisioning and creating new designs is my favorite part of my job. I love soaking up inspiration, letting my imagination run wild, and sketching out a unique new design. But I also hand-craft all of my jewelry in my little Minneapolis studio, and take great pleasure in building a beautiful piece from start to finish. Since many of my designs take surprising twists and turns before completion, I thought it would be fun to walk you through the creation of a Karin Jacobson piece, step by step!

I picked the Torus Tiny Diamond Bracelet because it’s one of my current favorites, a perfect blend of evocative details and elegant simplicity. (Plus it’s super fun to make!) Let’s dive in.

Creating the shape

Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - creating the shape
 First I anneal and bend the bracelet.

I start with a 6" segment of sterling silver. First I need to anneal the metal; this means heating it up until it glows slightly red, then cooling it in water. The annealing process makes the metal softer so that it easier to twist, which is essential since a twist is this bracelet’s signature! I quickly put a matte finish on the metal while it’s still flat, put a twist right in the middle, then bend the whole piece around a bracelet mandrel (a big, steel, graduated tube used for pounding and forming bracelets).

Prepping for the diamonds

Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - diamond layout
Here's how I lay out diamonds and make a divot where I'll drill each hole.

This piece has twenty-four .005 carat recycled diamonds set in inlaid 18k gold tubing, and getting all of those set up is my next step. The diamonds are set into the ends of the tubing, giving each diamond a tiny halo of gold. I sketch the pattern onto the silver with a marker to start. I need 12 holes, but 24 diamonds will be set into those holes since they’ll be set culet to culet on both sides of the bracelet. (The culet is the bottom point of the diamond. Feel free to use all this jewelry jargon you’re learning to impress your friends!)

Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - drilling holes for inlay
Here I'm drilling holes and preparing inlay - the tubing is really tiny!

Next I drill and ream out the holes to fit the tubing and slide the tubes into the holes. But before I solder the tubing into place, I need to protect the silver by dipping it in a mixture of alcohol and boric acid and lighting it on fire. (Which, I must admit, is pretty fun.) The torch will transform the mixture into a borax “glass” which, along with soldering flux, protects the silver’s surface from oxidation that would otherwise occur during the soldering process.

Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - soldering inlay
I'm soldering the tubing in place (fun with fire!) and then removing excess gold.

Then I solder each tube into place, soak the bracelet in hot water to remove the protective film, and sand down the excess gold tubing so that the bracelet’s surface is smooth.

Setting the diamonds

Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - setting the diamonds
Setting the diamonds - each one is only 1mm in diameter!

Now I can start situating those diamonds in their new homes! I grab a tiny burr (think a drill bit, but ball shaped) and drill into the gold tubing just a little. I want the top of the diamond to be flush with the metal so its flat top is level with the surface of the silver cuff. 

I place a single diamond into a prepped piece of tubing, press down with a brass tool to lock the diamond into place, then use that same tool to press down some of the gold around the outer edge of the stone. Next I use a pointed steel burnishing tool to very carefully press just the very edge of the gold down onto the very edge of the diamond. This also creates a polished edge around the stone.

Just 23 more of these, and I’m almost done!

Finishing touches

Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - adding texture
Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - magnetic finishing
I use the reciprocating hammer to texture the bracelet and magnetic tumbler to add shine.

This piece includes some subtle texture on the surface of the silver. I wanted to create the impression that the group of diamonds is expanding outward, like stars created during the big bang! This texture helps enhance the effect by starting heavy in the middle of the piece and fading outward toward the ends. I create it with a reciprocating hammer, a tiny electric tool controlled with a foot pedal.

Then I put the whole piece into a magnetic tumbler, which adds some shine to the non-hammered sections and evens out the finish, making the hammered texture pop.

Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - oxidizing silver
Karin Jacobson making a Torus Bracelet - finished bracelet
Look how the diamonds *pop* once the silver is black!

Now it’s time to oxidize! I mix a little liver of sulfur gel with hot water, submerge the entire piece, et voilá! Blackened silver. The liver of sulfur turns bright silver black, a process that essentially tarnishes it on purpose, but very quickly and evenly.

This whole process takes me about six hours from start to finish, and then the piece is ready to adorn a happy client’s wrist. Hope you enjoyed this little peek into my day-to-day creative life, and if you’d like your very own Torus Tiny Diamond Bracelet, I’d be delighted to whip one up for you!


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