A Silver Cacao Bean

Inspiration strikes.  That’s how this piece came to me.  It was just there, in my head one day.  Out of nowhere.  Honestly it has been awhile since I have made jewellery.  I used to make jewellery full time, but my partner’s job moves us when we aren’t always expecting it, and back in the day before the internet was so social, restarting my business each move seemed a daunting task for a small business.  Especially one with such high costs associated with it. So I stepped away from goldsmithing.

This Sterling Silver Cacao Bean pendant can be worn with the husk of the cacao bean facing out or the shelled side out, showing off both sides of the cacao bean.

Right now it looks like I am back.

two sides of a silver cacao bean
showing the different textures on each side
Sterling Silver Cacao Bean

Now where did this idea come from?  I’m not really sure, it just was there in my head a little while ago.  This piece was the first piece that was just there, but in a matter of minutes I had designed many chocolate themed jewellery pieces, including the Cacao Pod, which ended up being finished a few weeks before this Cacao Bean.  It was so surprising that out of nowhere, with something I hadn’t been working with recently, so much just flowed out of my mind.  Creativity was certainly flowing that day.

My husband told me I was giddy with excitement that the ideas all just came.

In my mind I turned the idea over and over in my head for a few days.  Was I going to make jewellery again?  Should I make jewellery again?  Honestly I wrestled with this for a while, owning a small business is hard work.  Especially a jewellery business that has a high overhead.  I remember busy times, crazy times, sleepless times, production times, and lots of hard work.  There isn’t a whole lot I can delegate in the process of making jewellery either.  I have a great support system, but they aren’t jewellers.  I do 90% of the work all by myself, hands on, physical work.  Could I do this again?  Did I want to?

My workbench has never had such an array of things on it.  You can also see the sterling silver cacao pods in progress as I work on finding the right beans for casting.

So this little cacao bean…. It hasn’t been easy.  Yet, here I am.  Making jewellery again.

This was the jewellery piece I wanted to launch first.  This was my big idea.  This was where to begin. However, I ended up launching the Cacao Pod piece first as it was ready first as I had complete control over every step of the process to create it. The silver bean though…

This sterling silver cacao bean was not easy.

First of all I had a super clear vision in my head of what I wanted to create. Yet I didn’t have all the information I needed to even know if I could create it.  I know my way around a chocolate bar, but didn’t really know much about how a cacao bean was made up.

So, I made plans to have brunch with Elfi and Maxime of QANTU Chocolat, as they are friends.  We’ve shared meals, chocolate bars, and I’ve been in their chocolate space many times.  I had a feeling they would be able to answer my questions.  So, over a delicious brunch in Montreal, I brought up the idea of chocolate jewellery.  Now, likely they had no idea I am a goldsmith, that is my background and the schooling I have.  So we chatted.  I spewed out a lot, then backtracked and slowed it down and explained what I wanted to do.  That I could likely do it, but needed more information.  Then I asked a million questions about cacao beans.  They patiently answered all my questions, and were so helpful.  Then the question from Elfi, could I do it by Valentine’s?  Could I?

The little bean that could.  This is the actual cacao bean that these are created from.  I love how it fits perfectly on the cacao bean on QANTU’s packaging.

A week later I opened a package of beans QANTU sent me. Many sizes, shapes, kinds, roasted, unroasted, all different.  I asked for a dozen beans to play with and explore, but they graciously offered up far more than 12.

A photo of a tray of cacao beans I took on a visit to Qantu.  I am grateful for the support and encouragement they gave me as I explored creating this sterling silver cacao bean.

This is when the research began.  I had been reading about cacao beans, and their organic composition, as I hoped to do an organic casting.  (Side note, I once worked in a jewellery manufacturing company so I knew the ins and outs of the casting process and had big ideas).  I read, then once the beans arrived, I dissected them.  I spent at least a week at my workbench examining the different shapes, sizes, textures, and parts of the cacao beans.  I also researched casting companies as well, looking for a casting company that could get me the end result I wanted.  Organic casting is tricky, some companies won’t do it, others want to do it their way.  I would have loved to cast them myself and have control over this portion of the process, however it involves equipment that I cannot run in a home studio.  So after long conversations with a few casting companies, I decided to move ahead.

Satisfied that I knew what I wanted as an end product, and that there were a few casting places that could possibly get the result I wanted, I did some trial runs.

This was difficult.  I dropped off my cacao beans and crossed my fingers.

Then I waited.  And waited.

Casting is a multi day process.

Then I got the casting back.  Disappointment.

It wasn’t what I wanted.  The organic casting had not captured the details of the bean, its textures, it was full of holes due to its organic nature.

So.  Now what?

At this point I was in full on production mode with the sterling silver cacao pods, as I did every bit of them by hand in my studio. My hands were itching to create and the cacao pods kept me busy as I waited.  Was I still pursuing the cacao beans?  Should they wait?

Still excited about the cacao beans, I got on the phone with the casting companies I had tried and discussed the issue and how to get the result that I wanted.

A few interesting things on my workbench, a candle, wax, cacao beans, felt, dental tools (by day I am a dental assistant), and a rainbow heart.  Always full of joy when I am at my bench creating.

So, I got some more beans ready.  I sent them out again.  Each company I talked with had a different solution to get what I wanted as a final product.  Trust.  I trusted their expertise and again, I waited.

And waited.

Then came the photos, and clearly one casting company had a far better result.  This was maybe going to happen.

Then the mail arrived, and I was so excited to open it.  The details on the cacao beans were amazing.  I could see and feel the textures of the cacao bean. 

But.  They were larger beans, and the piece was so heavy.  No way would someone want to wear this around their neck for a day.

So that evening I went though all the beans QANTU had offered up, looking for a smaller one, weighing it, doing the math to convert it to silver, measuring it.  Looking for a pretty one, one with details, one that stood out as lovely.  I chose a few.  Then I moved onto peeling part of the beans, being extra careful not to peel too fast or hard.  Too much pressure and I’d have cacao nibs, or finger nail marks in the cacao bean.  Gentle, slow, precise.  I peeled many cacao beans before I found one that was beautiful inside and out, that its shell broke away in an aesthetically pleasing way.

A candle and some very fine wax alongside cacao beans.

Then, I needed to add the bail (you know, the loop the piece hangs from).  Luckily, some cacao beans have this little stem in them.  It is like the bean is telling me where it wants to hang from.  Nature eh?  Its kinda amazing.  So I worked with some wax wire, which is possibly the most delicate thing on earth, to make the bail.  At one point I called my husband down as I needed another set of hands as everything was too delicate to hold in clamps or tweezers.  He happily helped hold what I needed so I could finish the piece.

I enjoy working on a small scale, but I often wish I had a few more hands.

Then, again, I sent it off into the world.

And waited.  And waited some more.

A photo came back after one cacao bean was cast.  Was this what I wanted, would I give the go ahead to cast more.  It was hard to tell from photos, but even though the piece was raw, unpolished and just a photo, I knew it was what I wanted.

Yes!  Finally!

Then, I waited again.  Remember this is a multi day process.

A friend picked up the pieces in Montreal once they were cast and sent them this way with his partner who works in and commutes to Ottawa. That morning waiting for them to be dropped off, was the longest morning ever.  Ever.

A handful of cacao love!  Sterling silver cacao beans in various stages of work mixed among the other Chuncho Cacao beans.

It was amazing to open the bag of sterling silver cacao beans and hold them in my hands.  I could see what they would become.

So I went to work, finishing up the pieces, making them beautiful.

The first finished piece, ready to be packaged up.  This one went to the wonderful folks at QANTU. Also shown is the paper I made of chocolate bar wrappers, and this piece has a heart piece of cacao husk in it.

Here they are for you.

Sterling silver cacao beans.  Wearable chocolate art.  Chocolate jewellery.  Wear one close to your heart.  Show others how much of a chocolate lover you are.  Start a conversation about chocolate when someone says ‘what is that on your necklace?”  Love cacao.

Here is the finished piece, one side has the husk of the cacao bean still on it, while the other side has the exposed bean.  The texture and finish of this bean is just like a real cacao bean, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it.

This is a limited edition piece with only 100 available.  Shop here.

Each solid Sterling Silver Cacao Bean necklace comes with a bar of QANTUs 70% Chuncho, a bar made with these same beans. 10% of the profit of this piece also returns to the farm where these cacao beans are grown.

Please let me know if you have any questions about my cacao bean necklace.

Have a fantastic and peaceful day!

Published by Canadian Chocoholic

I’m exploring the world of chocolate one bite at a time. I live in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, though I have lived in many area of this wonderful country. Besides chocolate I love water, trees and all things handmade. I’m a creative artist and love making things with my hands which lead to my passion project Happy Mail for Chocolate Lovers.

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