One of the more difficult challenges Chihiro Makio of 314 Studio in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, faced when creating her “Orange Necklace” was getting the citrus-themed elements to sit properly on the wearer’s neck. The piece comprises roughly 30 three-dimensional elements, some shaped like oranges and others like leaves, and deciding how to best get them to sit in harmony with one another took some doing.

To string together all the odd and sundry shapes, Makio first soldered a bail to the back of each shape. She then cut individual pieces of sterling tubing to fit between each shape, and strung the entire piece together on a sterling neck cord. By cutting each piece of tubing to a length specific to its position, Makio ensured that each element was loose enough to move, but also close enough so that no opening showed between the pieces.

Makio gave the same amount of care to the elements, which were all fabricated from sterling and then surface-treated. She textured the orange pieces by dapping them with a small round tool, then plating them in 24k. “It adds a little more body to it, rather than having a flat circle,” Makio says. The leaves have body as well; they are cut from sheet, then cut in half and soldered back together at an angle. A black patina is added for a color contrast to the oranges.

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As a finishing touch, Makio decorated the edges of the leaf elements with tiny red and green beads. After drilling small holes in the leaves, she used nylon thread to hand stitch the colored glass seed beads. This final touch took Makio about 20 hours.

But then again, natural beauty does take time.

This piece won first place in the silver category of the 2005 Saul Bell Design Award competition.

Photo is courtesy of Rio Grande.

Bails attached to each element hold the sterling neck cord in place; the cord then passes through sterling tubes between each element.

Photo is courtesy of Rio Grande.

To get more organic orange shapes, Makio simply pierced the circles out of sheet without scribing any guides first. This allowed her to make them more or less round, but not an unnaturally perfect circle.

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Photo is courtesy of Rio Grande.