The making process
A little bit about ali
I am a contemporary jewellery designer/maker based in beautiful rural Herefordshire, but with my heart still firmly based in Cornwall.
I specialise in creating etched silver jewellery, and I often oxidise my work to bring out the definition in the etching.
I use photographs to create the etchings, and these are usually based on Herefordshire flora and all matters relating to the sea.
My collections are constantly evolving and each piece is entirely unique due to the nature of etching.
Commissions, based on my style of work, are welcome.
Silver etching with nitric acid
First stage : Altering the chosen photograph
The photograph needs to be a negative, reversed image and then altered to a black and white, not grey, image. Lots of contrast, and approximately 50%black and 50% white is best. The black part of the image transfers to the metal and acts as a resist.
This image gets printed onto blue photo etch paper (called PNP Press n Peel) with the use of a laser printer.
Stage two: Transferring the image onto the silver.
The silver will be cut to size required. The metal then gets heated; I use an upturned iron, held in a vice for this. A piece of greaseproof paper is placed onto the iron plate, and the clean silver sheet on top of that. The next part takes practice. Quickly and smoothly, place the photo etch, face down on top of the metal and rub the surface with a folded piece of paper, to protect your fingertips! The metal gets cooled down in water. The back is peeled off, to reveal the black from the paper transferred to the silver.
Stage three: Etching in acid.
Nitric acid is very dangerous and corrosive, so PPE is a must as well as good ventilation. 70% proof acid gets mixed at a ratio of 1:3 with water.
The back of the silver needs to be protected from the acid, I use brown parcel tape. Once prepared the metal goes into the acid bath for a period of time. The length of time depends on the room temperature, how old the acid is, how many pieces of silver are getting etched together etc.
Bubbles form on the surface of the metal, which need to be wiped away gently, using a feather; feathers don’t react to acid. If the bubbles remain on the surface, they become a barrier between the acid and the metal, creating pits in the surface of the silver. Sometimes this is desirable.
Stage four: Cleaning the metal and ready for use.
Once I feel that the etch is deep enough, using plastic tongs and PPE, the silver is removed from the acid. Immediately it is rinsed with lots of water. The backing tape is removed and the remains of the black photo etch transfer is rubbed off using the finest wire wool. Now the metal is ready and the real work begins!
My workshop in Ross-on-Wye, by appointment only