When I'm designing a complex piece, I'll start with a sketch to work out concepts.
Then the metal work begins. For the sculptural components, I use metal clay, a mix of microscopic metal particles with an organic binder. I use mostly my fingers and a few tiny tools to form birds, leaves, and flowers one by one. The material is fine enough to pick up fingerprints, so each piece
After sculpting, the tiny components go into a kiln to fire at over 1600"F. The binder burns away and pure metal is left behind. I usually use fine silver (99.9% silver) or 22k yellow gold, but sometimes sterling, bronze or other golds.
I carefully cut and shape the wire rims that border the piece, fusing multiple cuts together, then delicately hammering the texture. Bezels for stones are made individually for perfect fit.