AI generated image of a jeweler crafting at a table.

Creating an AI Designed Pendant

AI generated. Prompt: A product photo of a piece of jewelry made from a 1" square of copper
DALL-E 2’s original pendant design

Today I began to create the first of my AI jewelry projects, an AI designed pendant as imagined by DALL-E. It will be a very simple copper pendant, hung from a jump ring and strung on a copper chain or leather cord (I haven’t decided yet). On its face is a rich, blue patina. It’s a heavy piece, made from a rectangle of 18-gauge copper sheet metal.

A 6×12 sheet of 18 gauge (1mm thick) copper

I had originally planned to proportion my rectangle to the golden ratio, beloved by nature and creators for the appealing shapes it creates. I knew I wanted my short edge to be about 2.5 centimeters, so with a little help from Chat GPT, I determined that the long edge should be about 4 centimeters. The resulting rectangle was much longer and thinner than what’s represented in the AI design. I decided to be true to the computer’s “vision.”

First Step: Shaping the Metal

I used Photoshop to approximate the dimensions of the pendant and determined that my rectangle should be 2.4 x 3 centimeters. With an ultra-fine point Sharpie, I carefully marked out lines on my copper. And then, it was time to saw.

A broken saw blade. This should be my avatar.

I am far from adept at sawing. I could almost feel the saw wanting to cut through the metal, but in my clumsy, beginner’s hands, the blade zig-zagged and bound up in the metal. It took me three attempts and as many blades before I produced a rectangle with sides that were even remotely perpendicular. In the process, I managed to back up my saw blade and cut a small nick in one edge.

Wear a mask when filing metal!

With a lot of filing, I was able to even up my edges and achieve a fairly respectable rectangle. One edge remained a bit out of square for my liking, so I busted out my rotary tool with a grinder bit. That worked to level out the edge. In the process, I managed to nick the front of the piece, but I was able to polish away the damage with sandpaper.

The almost-finished piece, ready to patina

My little piece did not yet look like something that was destined for the jewelry box. It was just a hunk of metal, and not a very interesting one at that. Using one of my scrap pieces, I began testing various hammers to see how they would affect the copper. Once I had an idea of what I liked, I began to apply patterns to the would-be pendant.

Slowly but surely, the blank piece of metal began to take on more character. It still felt a bit harsh, so I lightly rounded the corners with a file. After a bit more hammering, filing and sanding, I had a reasonably pleasing shape.

There’s a Tool for Everything

It was time to punch the hole for my jump ring. Rather than try to measure such a tiny distance, I cut a piece of paper the width of the pendant, folded it in half, and used the distance from each side to determine the middle of the piece. I chose to make a 1.25 mm hole—just large enough to accommodate an 18 gauge jump ring.

I began to question whether my hole-punch pliers were up for the job—they’re rated for “soft metal up to 18 gauge.” Copper is a soft metal, but wasn’t this copper half-hard? Would half-hard be too hard? I crossed my fingers and carefully lined up the punch. Pop! A perfect little hole appeared, and my pliers seemed none the worse for wear. (As it turns out, I actually purchased dead-soft copper, so I had no reason to fret.)

Heading for the Finish

Hole punched, tape applied!

I wanted a thin border of shiny copper around my patinated finish. I used my rotary tool with a felt polishing pad and jeweler’s rouge to attempt a mirror-bright finish around the border. Next, I carefully masked off the edges with painter’s tape. In the AI design, the blue color appears to extend to the top of the piece, so I left the top open, masking only the narrow edge of the piece.

To achieve a blue patina, I followed this Instructables. It uses common household chemicals: ammonia and table salt. I sanded the front of the piece to clean it, being careful not to disturb the painter’s tape. Then, holding it cautiously by the edges, I dipped it under the faucet and salted it heavily. It was surprisingly hard to see where the salt landed.

I created my “fume chamber” by drilling holes in a retired, round food container and threading two wires through the holes to create a platform. I placed a crumpled paper towel in the bottom of the container and sprinkled it with ammonia, then gently placed the pendant on top of the wires. Some part of me expected to see a color change right away, and for a moment I imagined the blue tape was a patina already forming!

Testing My Patience

After a little under two hours, I began to see a change in the surface of the copper. It looked more black than blue, and was definitely not even. I tried to distract myself so as not to check the finish every few minutes. The Instructables mentions that the patina might take from two hours to two days to develop, so patience was going to be a virtue. I reminded myself that if it didn’t turn out as I wanted, I could always start again.

Beautifully patinated salt.

By five hours in, a rich patina had formed heavily in some spots, while others were still quite bare. I decided to halt the experiment. I rinsed and re-sanded the piece, using a coarser grit of sandpaper. Then I laid the salt on thick before lowering the pendant back into the fume chamber.

A few hours later, a fairly uniform blue color had begun to cover the face of the piece—I should say, on the salt. But after a couple of days of patient waiting, I was able to rinse off the salt without removing the patina. It wasn’t as heavy or as uniform as I’d hoped, but it was certainly attractive. I could have happily given it another try or five—patinating copper, as it turns out, is a whole lot of fun.

Ready for lacquer!

Next Steps

Next, I have to lacquer the piece to protect its lovely new finish. Then I’ll add and solder the jump ring and choose the hanging material. I’ll reveal the finished AI designed pendant in my next post. Stay tuned!

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