Alan's Master of Defence Collar and Medallion

I was given the opportunity to make the medallion for Master Alan's elevation to the Order of Defence. I was told the theme he was going for was based around the Mary Rose, and generally the Tudor period. It was also suggested to avoid a leather based collar, although that was the preference of the person sponsoring him.

Design

Mary Rose

During my preliminary research, I did some looking around the Mary Rose museum's website, since they have a small sample of their collection online. I briefly considered doing something based off a boatswain's whistle (image #6) they had in their collection, since their description said they were used more as a badge of office instead of an actual whistle. It was also conveniently on a white ribbon already to contribute to the proper regalia. However, I decided this would be too small to be a recognizable medallion, and while amusing, difficult to use in a melee due to the masks.

I also sent an email to their collections department asking if they had any examples of jewellery in their collection, but sadly, they said not much was intact. They offered to do a search, however it would cost a fee with a low chance of getting anything useful out of it. So, this left me to focus on the Tudor period instead of the Mary Rose.

The Collar

Keeping with the sponsor's wishes, I was avoiding leather in my design for the collar. While some collars were plain leather or elements mounted on leather, there were plenty of livery collars that were composed of components chained together, like the Collar of Esses or one of the many orders of knighthood. My research turned up numerous examples of prints with people wearing collars from the Order of St. Michael, the Golden Fleece, and a few other minor, but still protected, orders. I managed to turn up one etching of a private livery collar, but it was not a style I cared for. It seemed like the most likely place to find private collars would be on monumental brasses, but at the time I was not able to turn up anywhere with images of good enough resolution to make out collars.

Since Alan was becoming a triple-peer, I wanted to keep the collar non-position specific so if he wanted to be fancy but felt more like a pelican that day, it would not be difficult to swap out the medallion and still be able to use the collar. Keeping in the theme of a private livery collar, I pulled the brazier from the bottom part of his heraldry, as well as the green diamond segment of the device it sat on.  

Being Calontir, it makes sense to have a calatrava in there, and the kingdom ensign is also in gold which would match the brazier. My sketch has it on a circle to mirror how I have usually seen the ensign presented, but it was changed to a quatrefoil shortly after. I also made the decision to swap it from a purple background to black because with a gold brazier and calatrava and a green background on the brazier plaque, adding purple would make this come dangerously close to looking like a Mardi Gras chain.

Several collars I saw had a trefoil in the front-center to join the sides together and hang the medallion. I thought the tongs could make a good replacement there in another nod back to his device.

After mocking up the design in Inkscape, the collar felt dense with the brazier and calatrava plaques right next to each other. While I was doing research for the medallion, I came across a sketch of a design for what was likely a button from the same artist that I liked the look of. So, I lifted the design, made it a bit bigger, and turned it into a spacer for the collar.
To try to emulate the look of a white collar the Order of Defence is entitled to, the backgrounds for the plaques and the tongs were to be done in nickel silver for white.

The Medallion

While I was digging in the British Museum's collection for prints of people wearing livery collars, some pendant designs by Hans Holbein the Younger came up in my results. While Hans was German, he wound up working as an artist in the court of Henry VIII during the period I was interested in. I eventually settled in on using this one, because it would a relatively easy swap to replace the inner cross with the badge of the Order of Defence.

Final Design

This is what was sent off for approval.

Construction

The Collar

Fabrication

Work on the collar began with cutting out the spacers. These wound up taking between an hour and an hour and a half each to get cut out. A total of 12 were done.
The assorted bases, frames, and centerpieces were cut out.
The pieces were aligned on a board with pins around the edges to keep things straight, then soldered down.

After pickling, cleaning up the edges, and drilling out the little nubs I left on the edges for jump rings, the plaques were ready for enamel.

Enameling

This part turned into a pain. So, pretty straight forward approach: clean everything, wet pack in a thin layer of enamel, let dry, and fire. Repeat for a second layer, grind down, and flash fire to smooth out the top. Simple. This worked great for the calatravas. The braziers, not so much.

My first attempt with the braziers had some failures because my red enamel turned maroon on the last round of enameling instead of the vibrant red it was. I realized I was setting my torch to be a slightly reducing flame like I was used to, which is good for soldering. It had been a while since I did glasswork, so I forgot that the flame chemistry matters here as well and the reducing atmosphere was affecting the surface of the red enamel.

After trying to blow out the enamel by heating it and quenching, I discovered enamel is only really fragile when it's somewhere you want it to be. The red was not coming out. Lacking options, I wound up making a second set of brazier plaques to try again. With this set, I started having issues with the green enamel cracking. I was being a bit more cautious this time and doing them in small batches so I could experiment with what was going wrong. I eventually realized the ones I was counter enameling were the ones having issues. As much as I like conventional wisdom, I eventually abandoned counter-enameling these plaques.

While the remaining plauqes took the enamel well, I was still a few short due to the counter enameling failures. I found a note on Ganoksin suggesting mixing a paste of 50-50 salt and cream of tartar, wet packing that over the enamel, and firing the piece to remove the failed enamel. It took a few passes and a lot of scrubbing with a steel brush, but I was eventually able to clean up enough plaques that I didn't have to make more.

Assembly

Finally, the components were all made and just needed to be assembled. I made a giant batch of jump rings and went to work putting together chain. The links worked out size wise so if I had five links on the inner loop and six links on the outer loop, the whole chain would lay taut without any ugly bunching.

The Medallion

The medallion was fairly nice to work with, thanks to the high res scan of Han's design, complete with a ruler. I was able to set up a file in GIMP that was scaled to actual size, pull off components I needed, and print them out for piercing. The base layer and top scrollwork came together fairly easily using this method.

For the inner ring, I tried using wire to create the two-tiered inner ring. (Upper right in the photo.) I probably could have made a better attempt at the flourish at the bottom, but I think this was near the end of a full day in the shop, so I didn't think about tapering the wire first and was more focused on getting the diameter correct. Mainly because of those curls, that attempt felt clunky and I didn't really care for it.

I wound up following the same approach as I did with the base pieces - grabbing a template off the original design and piercing it. This also let me attach the bottom section directly to the inner ring, which I was going to have a hard time figuring out how to do elegantly with the old ring.
The inner ring, two "rails" for the pearls/onyx, pearl posts, and the MoD device were soldered down. For the MoD device, I made an alteration from the typical heraldic rapiers to use sideswords to match the period.

Some itsy bitsy scrollwork was cut to decorate around the bottom segment of the medallion where a bail for the pearl drop would go.
After dropping the scrollwork in my sweeps drawer and spending several minutes trying to find it again, it was soldered down, along with a leaf that formed the bail and two grains of sterling silver in the corners of the base.
Four oval bases for the onyx were pierced and seats for the stones were cut into them. I bent bezel wire at 90 degrees and soldered it down on the corners of the seats, with the plan of cutting them down to the size of prongs I wanted later.

Since this was the last time I heated the medallion before enameling, I tried hammering some of the warping out of the medallion to get it laying flat-ish again.
Black enamel was wet packed in, dried, and torch enameled. Unfortunately, while I was struggling to get my torch to bring the whole thing up. I accidentally melted one of the prongs and silver fumed the front of the enamel. I repaired the prong, ground down the affected enamel, and packed in another layer.

While I was preparing to set the onyx, I noticed a few of the prongs were not entirely secure and had to do a little additional soldering. This caused a few flecks of enamel to chip nearby, but I was able to grind it down far enough that it wasn't too noticeable. Grinding everything down also gave the background a nice matte texture I liked a lot more than the shiny black I had planned, so I'll call it a happy accident. A layer of paste wax was applied to the enamel and buffed to help it keep the wet appearance instead of turning a scratchy white color.
Finally, I needed some caps for the pearl drops. Naturally, this meant more calatravas.

Finished Pictures

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