Oftentimes, people will ask how we make our jewelry or how we get ideas for our necklaces or bracelets. So we decided to devote some blog posts to precisely those topics — a kind of behind-the-scenes look into our workshop with a detailed explanation of how a product came into being.
For our first installment, we chose the Vikings Lion of Judah bangle.
Concept: The Lion of Judah
The Lion of Judah bangle is an item we added to our catalog earlier this year, so it’s still very new.
We were thinking of the popular TV shows Game of Thrones and especially Vikings and some of the cool bracelets and bangles they have on the show. We noticed the kind of Celtic way they made the bangle part and the head that was attached to the ends.
So we knew we wanted a kind of Medieval, Celtic look, but we were still thinking about what to use for the ends.
We wanted to have a cross, but we weren’t sure that was enough. We actually started with just a cross, then we considered adding balls on the ends, then diamonds — just trying different ideas.
Finally, we thought of a lion, the symbol of the Hebrew tribe of Judah, and the concept of Narnia, that big lion from “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
We wanted to use something cool and something symbolic, not just a cool cross, but some type of animal. Lions are strong, bold, and symbolic in Christian faith. When we started to conceptualize it, we didn’t know how to make it more Christian. We considered adding a scripture reference or a cross to the head, somewhere on the backside or under the jawbone.
The weird thing is, we kept “seeing” a cross symbol on the forehead and nose area.
So, we looked at different ways lions are portrayed and started to sketch some lion heads.
We weren’t sure if that was enough, so we added a cross — that cross we were seeing in our mind's eye — to the lion’s head, to kind of combine those two ideas.
The Lion’s Head and a Cross
As we were trying to figure out how to get this cross onto a lion’s head, we wanted it to look natural. We wanted it to blend in nicely.
We got some preliminary sketches on paper and then on to the computer.
We also did some research online to make sure there wasn’t anything like it already out there.
It was really cool because the lion’s snout kind of looks like the bottom of a cross, and the broad eyes of the lion form the bar across the top of the cross. It kind of blends in with the hairline. This is what we were originally seeing.
Once we refined that aspect of the design, we sent it off to our caster. He works with a model maker because we don’t have the time to create a model out of clay ourselves.
We sent it off to him to see what he could conceptualize for the bangle itself and the lion heads at each end — based on our notes, sketches, and drawings.
It’s a two-part, two-piece process. The lion head is one piece and the bangle is another piece, both created separately.
He started carving the head out of a chunk of pewter. Using the right tools, you can easily sculpt a model that’s perfect for a sample mold.
For the bangle, he took a brass-wire core and then cut three pieces of wire and three lengths of ball chain and began the process of tightly wrapping all the wires and ball chain together around the core. Once it’s wrapped, it's glued into place and the ends are soldered so it can go into a mold where it's attached to the lion heads.
This gives the bangle its strength and a Celtic/Viking look.
If you look underneath the lion heads, you can see where we welded the bangle to the head. The head is kind of hollowed out on the back side. That’s where we really needed the caster’s help to make sure it was going to be a solid design so the heads won’t come off. It’s attached very well.
After all those stages, samples were made and sent to us to approve or request changes.
Building a Bangle
We’re always thinking of new ideas and we wanted to create a bangle to go along with our bracelets. We’ve done cuffs, which are flat and smooth, but never a bangle.
In a conversation with our caster, we were kicking around this idea of using pewter, but because the metal is kind of brittle, it would have to be thicker to last. We wanted it to be able to withstand some bending, as long as it was used properly.
As it turns out, this bangle is probably four times thicker than anything we’ve ever done before. We had three or four different kinds of designs, but we went with a ball chain and wire twist.
Pewter has been used for centuries to make tankards and dishware. It was one of the first metals used to make plates and tableware.
It has a very raw, dull kind of matte finish when it comes out of the casting molds. So, it has to get tumbled to make it shiny. To get the darkness down into the cracks and grooves, it’s tumbled with some media that covers the entire thing, but it comes off the raised surface.
It really adds to the depth of the product.
Testing the Finished Product
BILL: “I’ve been wearing this bangle for several months and it holds up extremely well. In fact, I haven’t taken it off. I even wear it in the shower, when I'm working outside, whatever. I’ve even gotten paint on it and it rubbed right off.”
The ball chain and wire are very intricately designed, so if you get any debris into the grooves, it will come right out. It’s very easy to clean. Just use a mild soap and water. And the darkness that’s in the grooves — it’s there to provide depth. That stays in place even when you wear it every day.
We like to field test all our products to make sure the quality is good. If we have trouble with it, we know our customers will have trouble with it, so we make sure to test everything before putting it out for sale.
Bend But Don’t BreakPewter is a soft metal that can be snapped in half. But because this bangle is made of a very solid, thick pewter, it will tolerate some slight bending. We don’t recommend extreme bending, though. The best way to take good care of this bangle is to slide it on with minimal bending. Once it’s on, bend it slightly to the fit you like.
If you follow these simple instructions, it will last a lifetime.
Also, you'll be happy to know it’s lead-free and cadmium-free. And the finished bangle comes with a velveteen pouch to protect it.
What do you think of this Lion of Judah bangle design? Please send us your comments and/or questions. We always love to hear from you.