To kick off 2021, I wanted to start with an uplifting jewelry piece. No better time than now to bring out my "Winged Victory of Samothrace" die. This die depicts the famous Hellenistic sculpture of the same name which is displayed at the Louvre in Paris, France.
Photo 1: When working with impression dies, I mark the die to determine how much silver I need to fit the impression. For this pendant, I'm using 0.8mm thick sterling silver sheet. After cutting my silver to size, I anneal (heat and quench) it so that it's soft for pressing.
Photos 2 & 3: I use urethane in my hydraulic press as the pushing material to force the silver into the die.
Photo 4: To avoid splitting the silver in the die, I don't go too hard for the first pressing. The best I get is the outline of the impression.
Photo 5: After the first pressing, I trim the silver around the impression. Too much silver around the edge prevents the silver in the centre of the sheet from moving into the die during pressing.
Photo 6: Because the silver has been work-hardened by the first pressing, I need to anneal the silver again to soften it for the next pressing.
Photos 7-9: With each pressing, I increase the pressure and I'm able to bring out more details from the die. To achieve the minute details, it's crucial to soften the silver by annealing between each pressing. I also use small pieces of cardboard and/or leather with the urethane to press deep into the die. For me, the difficult areas to press are right in the edges of the impression. For this particular die, I paid special attention to get the feathers on the top curvatures of the wings.
Photo 10: Once I'm happy with the details in the silver, I trim the remaining excess silver around the impression.
Photo 11: At this point, the front of the pressing looks great, but the back is hollow.
Photo 12: Taking another 0.8mm sheet of sterling silver, I prep it to be the backplate for the impression.