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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gifts: Wired Lotus Free Rolling Mill Tutorial & Flowers From Mom

Fellow jewelry artist and friend, Susan Barzacchini, of Wired Lotus, has begun a wonderful new blog. She launched her new blog with a free gift for everyone interested in the rolling mill. She has created and generously offers a very concise and thorough tutorial on using the economy rolling mill. You can find the free "Flat to Fab: Patterning Metals with the Economy Compact Rolling Mill" here on her blog. What impresses me the most about this tute is the quality of information. I happen to know that she went so far as to have the tutorial reviewed by the experts on the mill before she even released it to you, the public. She walks you through every aspect of using the mill from how to set it up right out of the box to defining terms to using patterns. She provides clear relevant pictures with each step. The tute leaves no question unanswered- however, if you do find that you still have any, then she has generously offered to answer your queries on her blog. This is Susan's first tute and I think only the first of what will be many more outstanding tutorials. Great job, Susan! I know that you generously gave me some credit, but the credit is all yours- I just helped with some of the techno babble. :)  Not to say that I don't appreciate it because I certainly do. Thank you :) and thank you for offering us your expertise.
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I have a story of early Christmas to tell. I have to share this because it made me so happy and maybe will touch a few of you also.

Those of us of a certain age have the same sad, shared experience of losing a parent. I have lost both of my parents. This is the tenth anniversary of my mom's passing. My mother was my best friend and if anyone had asked me I would have told them that I could never live without her, but here I am, carrying on. I think of her often, but have not felt her presence as strongly, in a very long time, as I did recently.

Shortly before she passed away, she gave me 2 Christmas cacti. We had a habit of giving plants versus flowers because plants live on. They bloomed magnificently that year. For many years they sat in 2 pots. I did all the things you are supposed to do to get them to bloom. They never did. I planted them together in the same pot and prayed that it wouldn't kill them and it didn't, but still no blooms. The planter has hung in my living room for years. I have never been able to bring myself to get rid of the stubborn plants and have long since given up on getting them to bloom. They are a green reminder, hanging unobtrusively on a hook, for those moments when I glance over and think of Mom.

A few evenings ago, while playing our regular game of darts, I happened to glance over and see something caught in the branches of my cactus. I thought one of the kids had thrown something up in it and made a mental note to chastise them. I went to relieve the branches of the offence when I discovered that it had, in fact, bloomed!! For no good reason that I could tell, it was actually blooming. Immediately, what sprung from my mouth was, "Thank you, Mom!" (Actually, I said "Mommy"- not Mom, but that sounds strange even to me.)  I had a very pronounced feeling that Mom was in the room. I was utterly delighted. What I found most amazing was that I didn't fall into a bundle of melancholy over the "sign", rather; I had a great sense of happiness and warmth. I have had some big changes in my life and have stepped into her matriarchal shoes. I measure myself against her and for the first time, I felt as if she personally approved of the job I've been doing. I can't think of a better Christmas gift. Thank you, Mom. :)

I hope all of you experience some sort of miracle for the Season, as well.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ahhh, Lovely Lapis

I finished this piece up this morning and thought you might like to see the before and after pictures. Some of you may remember seeing this cab before. It used to be in a necklace made of copper.


Well, I was getting it ready to list for sale in my boutique and I decided that I wanted to see it in silver instead. I had always been on the fence with it. So, I redid it this morning and tweaked the setting a bit.

BIG Bright Blue Solid Lapis Sterling Silver Large Handmade Pendant
Clicking this image will open it in a new tab.

I think the bottom was a little heavier before. This time, the bottom has less wire, but the concept is the same. However, the top has more silver now and the shape created by the bail and weaving echoes back to the bottom. At least, I think it does. I like the contrast between the silver and blue. I liked the copper a lot, but I like the silver better. What do you think?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Peruvian Gel Rhodochrosite

I finished this today. I'm so happy with how it turned out, I wanted to post it right away.

I tried to put this on my Facebook Fanpage. After about an hour, I gave up trying. It seems Friday evening is a bad time to try to upload pictures. I'm still learning the FB ropes. One thing I was told is that if I get 25 likes, I'll get a shorter URL. Will you visit and like me? (I'm smiling while typing this because, really, I sound like I am in kindergarten- I doubt I'll ever get used to FB. :) ) I promise, I'll try to visit everyone and like you, too. I might be slow, but I'll do it. I think I have that much of FB figured out now. Sorry, do I sound frustrated?? LOL! OK, yes, FB frustrates me, but I am learning.

Back to the Rhodo.....


This is a reddish, pink- darker gel rhodochrosite from Peru. Looks way different than the Argentinian variety, doesn't it?? This is much darker and very translucent. I tried my best to get a good picture of the translucency.

I originally tried to do this wrap in stainless steel. I had so much trouble with it that it went in the trash. The bundle is 6 wires thick. That was way too much for my hands with the steel. Too bad, it would have looked nice. Copper saved the day- it's plenty strong enough and gentler on the hands and looks great especially with this color.


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Lois featured the Jelly Bean Jasper piece from my last post on her site, Copper Wire Jewelers. :) Thank you, Lois!




Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time To Play Catch Up!

Aside from working on the last installment of my stones series (which will be done soon), I have been playing catch up on a bunch of things. Since making the exclusive time to open my boutique, I have gotten behind on everything. Of course, housework would be number one. Yes, there are plenty of people in the house now to share the load, but some things are best done by a woman. Sexist? Well, yes. I learned years ago not to let an adult male touch the washer! Then there is the stack of jewelry that I have had to go through. A lot of things are not going to make it into the store. I have piles- one each for daughters, one for my darling granddaughter, one for repair/refine and one for scrapping altogether. Then there is a stack to go over and get ready for listing. I have learned the hard way to go over each piece with a fine tooth comb before listing it for sale.

In between the catch up chores, I've been able to make a few pieces of jewelry and even had some practice with stainless steel wire, like with this Dumorturite. Stainless steel is tough to work, but I really like the look.

Unisex Slate Blue Exotic African Dumortierite Stainless Steel Handcrafted Pendant
Clicking opens image in new tab.

Yesterday, I put the finishing touches on a new piece with one of the biggest stones I've ever wrapped. What I find interesting, is that my dear husband really likes this piece a lot. He often likes my work and is very encouraging, but this Mexican Jellybean Jasper really caught his eye. He says it seems Italian to him and that the colors remind him of worn alfresco paintings. I love when he is inspired by a rock! :)



BIG Statement Jelly Bean Jasper Sunbaked Colors Handmade Necklace
Clicking image opens image in new tab.

After these pictures were taken, I added a nicer clasp of hammered 14g wire with a great patina and made it a little longer. It is 22 inches. The beads are each 16mm worked with 18g to give you an idea of the size of this. The stone is about 60mm long or about 2 1/2 inches. The setting did a good job in minimizing the size a little, I think.

In my recent order from Rio Grande, I got a brass brush that Mary Tucker recommended here on her blog. It made the job of rubbing down the patina on the Jellybean piece a lot easier to do. I was not looking forward to doing all those beads, but the brush made quick work of it and I love the job that it did. I used it on sterling silver, too. I used sterling to finish a stunning pink and purple Tiffany Stone. Because the stone is so incredible, I wanted nothing on the face of it. Instead, I added some detail to the sides with twisted wire and gave it a patina. The brush worked like a charm on the sterling, too.

Gone to a new home :)

To round this post out and bring it to a meandering close, I share with you- Cat- who has been a constant (sometimes irritating) companion. He has had a belly ache for the last few days. When he doesn't feel good, he is a big baby and has to be right next to me so I can hear him moaning and groaning like an old man. Poor guy.... I don't have the heart to move him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Drum Roll Please........ Store Now Open!

I am quite pleased to announce that my store is now open! Yippeee!

To celebrate, I'm offering FREE SHIPPING for a limited time to the US and Canada and $4.00 International. Have a look at the STORE FAQ for more about shipping.

This was so much work and planning and I had high hopes that this announcement would come sooner, but it is, at last, finally done. For those of you that have been waiting to see it, THANK YOU so very much for your patience.

I am using the free Ecwid store, as a result, I can only list 100 items. If there was something you wanted to see, it will be placed in the store as other things leave. Odds are good that your favorite piece is not sold, just not yet listed. If the store does well, I will upgrade and list more items including exclusive tutorials.

This store will be homebased on the blog, but will also be in several other places. As things sell in one store, they disappear in the others. Store announcements, sales and changes will be made here.

Thanks for your patience everyone :) Now that this is finally done, I can get back to doing what I love to do. Make jewelry and blog about it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgoodness for Experiments

After the big dinner, laughter and hugs, I had a quiet night to sit and work out a technique I have been playing with. I like how it worked out. The piece is nothing special, but it was just an experiment to see if I could do it. And, it worked better than I thought it would. This is pretty long because of the bail I chose. It's 3 1/4 inches long, but the rhodochrosite was pretty long to start with.
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At long last, I have some more silver on the way. I love copper, but some of my stones call for silver. I'm really excited to be able to do a nice silver piece and not worry about running out. Now, I just have to decide which I want to do first. :)
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For the challenge at jMf I am going to be sampling some musical favorites today and waiting for something to start wrapping wire for me. :) If I am lucky, that's just what will happen. I love being inspired, it makes the work so much more fun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

For those that celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday. For everyone else, I hope you all have a great weekend, too!

I've been working tirelessly to open my store. I never would have guessed that this would take so long and be so much work! I'm close enough to take a break and work on the late last part of my stone series this holiday weekend. I'll be too full tomorrow and I'll be giving thanks for the many blessings I've had through the year.

Gone to a new home.


Here's a piece I found when getting my things ready for the store. I made it awhile ago and had to change it up a bit. I like the improvement a lot better. This is petrified wood.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ecwid

Ok, I can take a breather now and give you all a heads up on what I am doing.

I was reading a thread posted at jMf where Laura mentioned this cool way to put a store on your blog. We began to discuss it on another thread. Basically, a company called Ecwid has a store platform that is FREE. (For up to 100 items.) You can even sell downloadables, like tutes. The beauty of it is you can set it up anywhere you want to (just about); on blogs, Facebook, websites, etc. It is nothing but code that you put on a page. The code directs all the inner workings of the store to the Ecwid website. 

I am using this blog to grow my store and see it work. I have about 54 items done, the categories and shipping done. Next, I need to set up the payment platform. It should be as easy as the rest. It has a whole slew of payment options that the seller can choose from.

Other than an emergency home repair, that is what I've been doing. At first, it was slow going, but now that I know the ropes, it is moving along nicely.

Why am I boring you with this??? Because it's so easy to do, you can do it, too. Why not? Even if this is just a hobby for you, if you have a blog, put your things on it. The store is indexed by search engines, so you have nothing to lose and potential sales to win. :)

(And, no, I haven't forgotten that I am late on the last installment of the stone series.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SORRY! If you had weird some emails from the blog, just ignore them

As you may have noticed, I have been working on my store. Right now, it is hosted on the blog, where I am learning how it works. But, it is completely portable and I'll be moving it around to other sites when I am done.

I intend to share more about this when I am done. But, for the time being, I am working diligently to get the store up. The stores platform has been pretty easy to use. It was my error in posting new categories to a post rather than a page, which is why you may have been notified of a new post. Sorry, to be so annoying. :(

More later.....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Some Updates

First, let me thank everyone who has come over to visit and register with the new forum- Jewelry Makers Forum or as we like to call it, JMF. I see lots of familiar "faces" and some new ones, too. It's a great beginning!!

I have been sharing some Gimp and Photoshop instructions and Susan is working on a tute for the rolling mill. As some of you may have noticed, there isn't much to be found about mill work online. I am really looking forward to her instructions. A mill isn't a purchase in my near future, but I am anxious to see how it works. I admire so much mill work! :) Speaking of which, pop over to see Susan's new piece, it's ssssssssensational! It really goes to show what you can do with a mill and wire.
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As much as I hate to do it, I am going to start selling my jewelry. With a full house now, I spend my hobby money on necessities- at least for the time being- so, if I want to keep splurging on my passions, I'll have to support my habit in other ways, like by selling my jewelry.  It'll be real hard to part with some of them :( I'm looking to selling online. Doing shows and home parties is not practicable for me. For days now, I have been trying to get all my pieces organized, photographed and edited with my new font. I haven't made a single piece of jewelry and I'm jonesing to do some. I'll probably need the break soon because after about 105 pieces of jewelry and 50 or so left, not counting rings and earrings, I'm loosing my mind.
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When I began the series "What I look for in a stone" I envisioned 6 installments. Five are now completed, there is one left- Cost. I'll be working on that this week.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What I Look for in a Stone: Part 5, Durability

Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

This post will be a little different. Instead of a bunch of pictures, I'm going to discuss durability and include a few (test) videos that I made with my camera. Sadly, my actual video camera is terrible for close up.

How a stone will hold up to a certain wrap is a big consideration. Not only do I not want to damage a stone, I also don't want all that time and work gone to waste. A good example would be of a stone I recently set. It is a Candy Stripe opal or Bacon opal (yeah, I know, dumb name). Here is the stone before I wrapped it.


Here is the stone after a simple wrap.


OUCH! I had never worked with this kind of stone before and had never had problems with any kinds of opal before, so I wasn't as careful as I could have been. However, the way the corner just crumbled, I think it is more a matter of the stone being very soft, than my being too rough. 

Deciding which kind of wrap to use, is also a consideration. With the opal, if I had done a loose type of sculpture versus a tight border wrap, it may have held up. One has to also consider whether or not it is going to be a wrap which has lots of sharp ends. If so, one had better file those ends, because some stones can't go in the tumbler- namely malachite. The polish on a malachite usually suffers from being in the tumbler. I have been told by a few reputable sources that ZAM polish works to bring back the shine, though I haven't tried it, yet, myself.

In a previous post, I mentioned rainbow hematite. It has been, hands down, the most delicate stone I have used to date. There are only a few ways it could be wrapped. It is a type of druzy, though one like you rarely see. Most aren't even suitable for jewelry. Another great, natural druzy is the green garnet, uvarovite. Druzy or drusy stones take a lot of care in setting and wearing. I approach every one on a case by case basis. The video below is of the stone in the picture that I linked to. It is so bright that it is hard to see the color in the video. Just imagine that all the sparkles encompass the color of a rainbow, hence the name.



Then there are the stones like mystic topaz that have an easily scratched surface coating. Likewise, the titanium coated druzies scratch real easy. Honestly, I don't even use these stones, because, although beautiful when new, they can look pretty bad, real quick, if not taken very good care of. But, that's just my opinion.

Some stones do not take a good polish. Some lapidaries put an epoxy coating, like Opticon, on them to produce a shine. These stones are often soft, too, and the surface may have minute pits that needs to be sealed with the epoxy. I have seen this treatment on serraphinite and on my newest stone purchase of rare, Russian fuschite. It is also on my astrophyllite (see videos) With this treatment, the stone is coated, to produce shine and to seal. These stones, I won't usually tumble, though some of them I will, like ammolite. Natural ammolite are often given a coating of Opticon to protect it.



(This is the first video I have done for the web and it was one helluva challenge! I deliberately made this dark and light because I couldn't decide which looked better for the sparkles. :)  I should have done this for the last part of the series!!)



There are stones like turquoise and variscite that are soft, too, but because most are treated to produce a more durable cutting material and cab, I don't have a problem with them. However, many of the stones have a soft matrix that can be tumbled out of them. This creates an undercutting of the matrix, resulting in an uneven surface. (or worse)

Some stones are backed. A backing, often of quartz or basalt, can be added to a thin or delicate stone to produce a more durable cab. These stones are like doublets- only backwards. With a doublet, a top is added instead of a bottom. Usually clear quartz or created spinel is used. The clear top also magnifies the colors in the stone. This is one reason why you often see them on opals and ammolite. I've never had a problem with a doublet or backed stone, so long as they were made correctly. If you purchase a doublet, check with a loupe or magnifying glass for tiny bubbles. There should be none, or, at least, very few. Bubbles can eventually destroy the stone because as the top gradually loosens, it often takes a layer of the stone with it. I have only seen this happen twice, though. (Both on ammolites!)

The question that I have most often been asked is, "Do you tumble opals?" My answer? A resounding, "Yes!"  If you take a look at what an opal is made of and the vast variety of them, you can get an idea that it is pretty hard. (keyword being silicate) I can't make any blanket statements about opals in general, but for the precious opal that we most often think of- the colorful, white ones and the crystal ones- they take a great polish and are hard enough to tumble. Koroit, boulder or matrix opals are hard, too, but I take a good look at the overall stone before I tumble, making sure that the matrix can take it. There is no science to it, I just eyeball it and rely on experience. As for wrapping, I would use any wrap on any opal- except candy stripe opal. So far, that has been MY experience and I offer no guarantee or warranty on it. :) I think people are worried about opals because they appear so delicate. Now, as a caveat, I have to say- don't bother wrapping a cracked or crazed opal. If you have seen one, then you know what I mean. The words are perfect descriptions. Don't use them. They will not hold up to either time or a wrap.

In closing, I reiterate that there are few stones that I won't wrap. However, there are some that take special care like druzy, soft stones and coated stones. If you ever have a question about a stone's hardness, go to Mindat.org for all the info you ever wanted and more. The hardness of stones is listed right at the top of each stone's page. If I have left something out that you wanted to know, specifically, leave it in the comment section :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A New Place to Meet


I have been so busy! And, I am really excited about it! A few jewelry artist friends, Renate and myself have set up a new forum dedicated not just to jewelry, but to creativity and inspiration, too.

We hope to build a place that you can visit for new ideas- inspiration. A place to visit when your muse has left you and for when you can't keep up with her. Share you jubilation or find a shoulder for your sorrow- we all know what it is like to have a fickle muse.

We will have challenges to get your creative minds going and we invite you to submit your own. These are not contests, there are no prizes, but everyone is a winner.

It will be a place of mutual respect and sharing. Come for friendly critiques or show off your latest accomplishment.

Come and share your experiments, ask your questions or just wax poetic about the different aspects of creativity and what it means to you.

Come to learn from fellow artists. (There is already one free tute in the making.) Come and post your own tips and tricks. Maybe you'd like to share your own mini tute?

Our forum will be moderated, so you needn't worry about trolls and after an initial "grand opening" we will close certain areas to members only so as to protect some of your sensitive content. 

We are using a free host- Proboards. We aren't making any money on this, we just wanted a place of our own to go to that had an emphasis on creativity and inspiration.

Come and check us out!

Register and join in, we'd love to see you there :)


For Whichever Direction Your Muse Takes You

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Saturday Post- couldn't wait

I have created a document that I think contains some pieces that I would consider Dieselpunk or Neo Deco. Please let me know what you think. Some of these you haven't seen before. :)

deco

To add to those pieces is a new piece that I finished today.

This is a Finnish Spectrolite in a modified sail shape. I allowed the shape to dictate the wrap. This stone has vexed me for years, because it did not hang straight, but I fixed it. When I wrapped the bail, I brought the wrapping around to the side it needed to be on to make it hang right. Subtle, yet effective :) The bottom wire that follows the sail line also helps balance the stone. This stone is more directional than most, but, boy, when it lights up, it is stunning!

Gone to a new home.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Defined

Like any artist, I want to stand apart and create an image for myself. Some people would say that I have already done that. Maybe, but you know artists- they are never satisfied. So, I have been working on making a cohesive look for myself that I call Neo-Deco, which can also be called Dieselpunk (a subset of Steampunk, which I am sure most of you are familiar with). I think of it as Art Deco inspired, with clean lines and an emphasis on geometrical and streamlined shapes, but with a modern sensibility and new materials being used. Whenever I design, that's where my muse leads me and I have been happy to follow since I am rather fond of Art Deco. :) This change has meant that I needed to lose the font that I so adore and have been using for about a year. It also means more direction in my work. Whatever that turns out to mean. So, wish me luck with my new branding and tell me what you think. :)
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Just in case you missed this new wrap at JL, here it is again with a variation and my new font. This is one I would like to do a tute for.







Monday, October 24, 2011

What I Look for in a Stone: Part 4, Unique or Rare

(Part 1, part 2, part 3)

After discussing other qualities of stones, it's time to look at the fun category of "Unique or Rare". Sometimes, you just want something different or special to work with. Once in awhile you run across a really cool stone that you have never seen before and you just have to have it. Rare is usually hard to get; unique need not be. You just have to have a good eye to catch the really unusual ones. Here's an example of what I mean. The regular old agate in the example just happens to be a very unusual picture agate. But, unique can also describe the properties of a stone, like an opals flash of color or a druzys sparkle.

Before I begin showing the pictures, let me tell you that it is NOT easy to get good pictures of some of these juicy gems. Try as I may, I can not capture the flash of opal, the sparkle of druzy or the brightness of ammolite with a camera. You will have to use your imagination with some of these. And, add to this category some of the stones I have already mentioned in previous posts. I don't want to duplicate any rocks. Where would be the fun in that? But, I do want to point out that I have already shown you some rare and/or unique stones in past posts in this series. Lastly- please excuse my hand in the photos. These gems look best at certain angles to the light and not lying flat in my light tent, so pretend I have beautiful, young model's hands. :)


 This is an ammolite, natural freeform. Ammolite has been called the world's rarest gemstone. The best examples have more colors, this one has them all. I wish you could hold this in your hand to see how lively and bright it is. I have wrapped slews of them and though they seem delicate, I haven't had any problems with them.


This beauty is a royal purple, ammolite freeform. It is the rarest of the rare. What you can't see in the picture is the way the sheet of color seems to hover over the surface of the stone. It is very unusual, something I have never seen before. I don't know what causes it, but it is stunning to behold!  This isn't the very best example, but it is one I could get my hands on and I'm more than happy to have it. (The light spot near the middle is just lighter, not a chip.)



Here's another little piece of dragonskin ammolite. This one has different colors according to the direction of the light. Pretty cool, huh? Ammolite, like most light loving stones, needs care in deciding how best to mount it. This one, though, is bright all around and the challenge would be how to mount it to show the color changing properties.


This is a big opal with lots of multicolored flash. Too bad it doesn't photograph well. If I had to guess, I'd say this is from Coober Pedy or Mintabe, Australia- it is definitely Australian. But, I love opals of all kinds!


Here is a crystal based, semi black and gray opal from Lightning Ridge. Blue and green fire roll through the stone. If I were to place this on a black background the color would blind you. As it is in the hand, you can see how clear and colorful it is. This one has always been a challenge for me because it is so clear and really needs a backing to do it right. It will have to wait for me to develop new skills with metal. (A new challenge?)


This is a natural, black druzy. I think druzy looks best on a dark stone. This is sooo sparkly!


This is an astrophyllite. You don't see them very often. I like the ones that are darker. The darker background helps to show off the ribbons of shiny, copper color. It looks like shredded tinfoil in the stone. This is actually a bead. I haven't decided whether or not to treat it as a bead or cab. This stone is soft. I'll have to be careful with it and not tumble it.


Here is a stone that just refused to be photographed. You will have to trust me that this spectrolite's beautiful and rare pattern is bright. It is so glassy that the reflection prevented me from getting a good picture. I love spectrolites. The tricky thing with these is knowing how to orient them to show their colors best.


This stunning stone is a very rare and drop dead gorgeous, rainbow hematite. This is a natural druzy type stone. The colors are like sparkles of crystal oil in water. This stuff is mega delicate. I have only had a few stones that would hold up to a wirewrap. This one will. I ran across a story years ago, that I only half recall, that says that the ancient people of Brazil used to pave their roads with this. I don't know how true it is, but it would be beyond beautiful.


Not rare, but certainly unique, this is the blue goldstone. It is glass. The real stuff is getting hard to get as it is made by monks in one place in Italy. The word is they are the only ones who know the true recipe. However, there are some cheap knock offs coming from some unscrupulous dealers in parts unnamed. This is one of a few "stones" I use that aren't real rocks.


This is a stone that, while it is actually stone, it is not natural stone. This is a Victoria Stone or Imori Stone. It is rare as hen's teeth and very lively. The fern shaped, chatoyant patterns move in the stone with the light. There is a very interesting story about this material you can read here and while your there check out the beauties this guy has. Wow!


This is an unnatural union between a rutilated quartz and a bright blue spectrolite. I doubt if you have ever seen one before and you may never again. The man who made this, made only a few. I'm sure you have seen the lapis/rutilated quartz. Well, this has spectrolite instead of lapis. It is crazy, moving around in the light with the blue flashing and creating a great backdrop for the golden rutile needles. Pictures will never ever do it justice. :)



These two "stones" are cabs that I made when I was doing glassblowing/lampworking. Pretty cool, huh? They definitely fall into the unique category. The top cab has since become one of my favorite pendants. The bottom was sold a long time ago. Every time I wear it, I lament that I can no longer do the work. :(


Last but not least, is this beautiful, antique, carved, malachite cameo. How's that for adjectives? LOL! Seriously, if you ever come across one- grab it!! They are very, very rare and collectible. I only managed to get this because the woman selling it didn't know what it was and posted a real bad, blurry picture. I knew what it was though and paid 20.00 for it. (The moral is- keep your eye out for the good stuff. There are bargains to be had.) There are so few of these because, like lava cameos, malachite cameos are soft and didn't survive the centuries very well. I had to show this because it is a rock, after all, and rare.

This post wasn't so much as how a color or shape inspired; rather, how a property or uniqueness of the stone inspired. Some of these are examples of the showy stones, the ones that make you want to do something special. They are the ones you save your gold wire for or your best wrap. They are for the discriminating client or for your own best bling. Certainly, wearing one of these special stones or ones similar gives you bragging rights.

FYI- Rio Grande is giving better metal discounts

Check it out-  You need to open the pdf on the page to get the details.

I'm seriously looking at selling some scrap, too. They are now paying 85% of spot for silver scrap. Hmmm... There may be some new silver in my future. YAY!

They now have no minimum, too!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

What I Look for in a Stone: Part 3, Shape

 part 1, part 2, part 4, part 5
In the last two posts in this series, I explored pattern and color with examples here and here. This post will explore shape and how it influences design.

My last project was influenced by shape. It was influenced by other factors, too, but I couldn't have done what I did without the shape, first. The top of the stone begged to be topped off. It was perfect for a halo or crown. It could easily have been inspiring turned upside down, too.

I love cuts and shapes that are versatile, that have some character. Two of my least favorite cuts are round/oval and square. I think this is because they are somewhat limiting to me and uninspiring. My favorite cuts are the most unusual, custom cuts. They offer endless possibilities and push my skills as both designer and crafter, forcing me to develop new ways to use wires. My best work has been done with very unconventional cuts. However, using exotic cuts demands an exacting eye. Study those unique stones carefully before buying because, although inspiring, they may not be practicable. 

Updated: This is how I ended up finishing this stone.


Gracefully curving shapes seem sexy to me and call for a more feminine look. This is what I would call a modified flame cut. The challenge with this would be to make the stone lie straight and vertical. If you notice, the "weight" of the stone is unbalanced, if you drew a line from point to point. I have passed up many awesome stones simple because there was no way to wrap it and have it hang straight looking. This charoite is likely salvageable, though. The stone was too nice to pass up, so I'll give it a best shot.


Another purple beauty, this rare old, Manganoan Sugilite is an awesome stone with color changing qualities and collectability. The shape is unique. I can't resist a triangle especially one with such gently curving sides, but what you can't see in the picture is that it is only 2.7mm thick. That presents a challenge. I have wrapped such thin stones before, but they aren't easy. I have to consider as few wires as possible. One thought I had was to wrap it with another stone, say bustamite or cobalto. Pink, druzy cobalto would be cool because of the texture contrast.  I am really looking forward to working this one when the time is right.


This, another sweet, purple triangle, is a quite large tiffanystone (opalite, beryllium, bertrandite opal). I love it for its color and pattern and, well, you know me and triangles ... :) This is big, though and that's what makes it different. It is 50mm by 43mm! I want to go real simple with this to minimize the size a little, but it is too special to do a straight up borderwrap. It, also, is a thin stone.


I immediately fell in love with this cut! It presents endless possibilities. The color is intense parrot green with chrysocolla, which is also inspiring. This, too, is a very large stone. My favorite wrap for this cut is still in the design stages. I intend to explore it more fully. In fact, this might be the next one that I work on. Hmm ... sounds like a good weekend project.


I've had this pink chalcedony, limb cast for years. I pull it out from time and time and quickly get discouraged. This one may be better left to the silversmith. The shape itself is what sold me, but at that point in time, I didn't also consider size and thickness. It is small and very disproportionately thick. What I have always wanted to do was transform this shape to a fleur de lis. I'll keep it for awhile, yet. Ya never know ...


Spectrolite (Finnish labradorite) is one of my all time favs. Spectrolite, like labradorite, tends to look best in only one or two directions, but this is bright in all directions. This wonderful, big, geometric shape gets my creative gears going. I have done a few and was happy with the results. Readers at JL may remember a piece called, Geometry, that I had in the gallery. I tend not to repeat my designs very often, but I may do something very similar with this.


Druzy, bull's eye pattern and ocean jasper, what could be better except for adding a unique shape to the mix? This tongue shape was left with the druzy quartz at the top. The sides are rounded, like most tongue shapes are. This poses lots of very interesting problems AND possibilities. I envision some prongs on this, but time will tell.


Would this scare you off? I certainly hope not! It has loads of character! This was cut from a geode. It has a long side of druzy and a jagged side of "rind". Let your mind go.With what you know about wirewrapping, what would you do with this?

In the proceeding posts in this series, I listed many other stones with interesting shapes. For example, the orange quartz, has a beautiful beveled edge. Bevels are so well suited to round wires. They tend to want to roll in and hug the stone and the bevel is only too happy to accept.

Have you seen any other unique shapes to inspire you? Do you have a stone that has sat waiting for you to come up with the perfect solution? One that captivated and challenged you at the same time? I hope so, nothing is better to expand your talents with than a gorgeous stone with a unique cut. If you don't already look beyond the calibrated cuts, I hope this will encourage you to give those edgy stones a second thought. Make your work stand out and give your skills a new challenge. Your muse will love you for it. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lady Liberty

Here's a new piece that I just finished. There are two stories behind it. One, I am saving for another post because I want to work it out right. The second story, the one I'm going to tell is the birth of the piece and the title.

You may notice this technique from another recent piece. Funny, because this was also inspired by a comment. My original idea was inspired by Nicola Tesla because he fascinates me. This shape really lends itself to the arching of electricity above it. I sent the idea to Renate,  fellow jeweler and friend, who commented that it reminded her of the Statue of Liberty. I liked that even more and went with it. Here's the original idea. (Actually, it got a little more involved than that with lightning bolts up the side, too. But I nixed all of it and went with Lady Liberty. The balls at the bottom had to be dropped, too, because I can't get my little torch to get melty with my copper.)


What I ended up with is similar enough but inspired more by the rays in Liberty's hat and the flame of her torch. My piece has 2 flames on either side on the stone. I'll have to do Tesla another time. :)





Gone to a new home. :)

The Statue of Liberty is formed with copper and so is this. I was REAL tempted to do an ammonia fume on this to bring out the green in the copper, but wasn't sure how it would affect the stone, since it is shot with bronze.

This is a Mojave Turquoise. I haven't worked one before. I found it to be real easy to work with and it took the tumbler well. The color is insane, though! Is it blue or is it purple? You think you know until you put those colors up next to it. I had a heck of a time figuring out the beads to use. I ended up using some baby blue to pick that color up in the stone and then some really cool textured glass, bronzy copper colored "pearls" and various small purple glass and stone beads with copper spacers. This is 18-20". I rarely use man made stones but this one is just too good NOT to use. And, it is only half man made. It is actually real bits of turquoise- dyed and pressed with some bronze (or bronze color, not sure) into a cuttable slab. The bronze provides a real nice metal spiderweb.

Hope you like this as much as I do. I was really excited to get it finished. :)