Thursday, March 13, 2014

Birthstone of the Month - Aquamarine

This pale blue gemstone is March’s birthstone. Its name comes from Latin, aqua marina, water of the sea. Aquamarine was worn in many ancient cultures a form of protection for sailors. Aquamarine is a type of beryl, putting it in the same mineralogical family as the more precious Emerald.
The largest cut aquamarine in the world, the 10,395-ct. Dom Pedro aquamarine obelisk by gem sculptor Bernd Munsteiner, can be found in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

Much of the sky blue aquamarine sold has been heated or irradiated to remove any naturally occurring green tones in the stone and enhance the blue color. Aquamarine is a fairly durable stone suitable for all jewelry, including rings but stones with inclusions may not be safe to clean in ultrasonic cleaners.

Aquamarine deposits can be found in multiple locations in Africa and Brazil.
Heliotrope Jasper, a green stone with red spots, also known as bloodstone, is an alternative birthstone for March.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jewelry Design Adventures

I've been feeling like I'm stuck in a creative rut lately... making simple, (boring), non-creative projects. I have no actual formal art training to fall back on for inspiration and my design sketches are hit and miss because I get upset that I can't draw very well and just quit. So I stumbled across a great jewelry design tutorial series called Think & Design Jewelry by Eni Oken.

credit: Think & Design Jewelry

Each issue walks you through practical hands-on drawing exercises to create new jewelry designs.  Since I'm not currently bursting with spontaneous creativity, I was thinking that working through each of these tutorials and making a project for each will kick start the process. After skimming through most of the tutorials, it seems like the majority will be really useful. Some don't really interest me quite as much (I'm over heart shaped jewelry and butterflies are just too twee) but I will work through all of them anyway. And since I have this perfectly good blog here, I thought I would share what I'm doing.

I will be starting with Lesson #1: the Flower.

credit: Think & Design Jewelry

Flowers are right in my wheelhouse. I love making flower inspired jewelry and I think this tutorial will help me get past the idea of making just realistic looking flower replicas and move into more abstract designs.

I have already sketched some preliminary designs. Over the next week or so, I will share my designs and hopefully at least one finished project from them.

Creativity here I come! (Hopefully...)

Periodic Update

I can't really call it a weekly update anymore... It's edging into more like a monthly update...

Anyway, I finished my casting class. It was super fun and now I'm sad that I don't have the room (or funds) for a whole casting setup in my garage. Someday...

Here were my final projects straight from the casting machine.

The medieval-inspired ring is ridiculously heavy - like I'd be afraid it would crack a floor tile if I dropped it heavy. I'll be keeping it for myself once I figure out how to finish it. I got all of the investment out of it and cleaned it up a bit with burrs and files, but I'm not sure what to do with it now. I originally wanted to put a stone on the top of the little table, but it's already a big ring and that would make it absurdly tall. I'm thinking of cutting/drilling out the top of the table and setting a stone inside, but that would make me a little sad because I worked too hard at shaping that silly thing out of wax just to get rid of it.

I did clean up and finish the silver flower ring. I would love to make a whole series of these. I just love how easy it is to carve a bark/wood texture into the band.

Other than that, jewelry-wise things have been a little sluggish around here. Just a few online orders trickling in here and there and my creativity/muse/whatever has completely deserted me. I have a plan to try to fix that, which I'll share in a different post a little later.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In Which I Covet Jewelry From the Oscars Red Carpet

Anybody else watch the Oscars this past weekend? I usually have it on in the background while I do something else, just so I can look over whenever there's a pretty dress or something interesting going on. I also like to jewelry watch, because there's certain to be a large amount of very expensive, sparkly jewelry.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of variety of jewelry worn at this year's show, though. It seemed to be that all the actresses stuck with the safe choice of clear diamonds. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a nice big sparkly diamond as much as the next girl, but after a while they seem a little boring. No color, and in all the pictures the white diamonds and white platinum just blend into a silvery blur. I guess I can understand that actresses want their designer dresses to be the focus, but it would have been nice to see some color in the jewelry.

The lone splash of jewelry color that I noticed on any of the big name stars came from Amy Adams. Her rhodochrosite, lapis, turquoise and diamond earrings were very pretty.

While still colorless with all white diamonds and platinum, Jennifer Lawrence's necklace was another favorite of mine. I love the rectangular crystal links and the close-up shows how intricate each platinum and diamond link is. She also managed to work the backwards necklace look without looking awkward. (But I really want to tighten the backs on her diamond studs so they aren't so droopy!)

I love the shape of these earrings that Lupita Nyong'o wore.

And I know that the headband has diamonds that are probably worth more than my house, but what I really wish I could find a better picture of is her bracelet - I read that it is an antique gold snake and it looks really cool! (That right hand ring could show up in my mailbox and I wouldn't complain either...)

Cate Blanchett's opal earrings were very pretty too - I love that they give just a little bit of pastel color depending on the angle.

Emma Watson was rocking the stacking ring look... I especially like the multiple band ring on her right hand ring finger.

And not at the actual Oscars, but at an after-party, Taylor Swift's ring is beautiful. It looks like possibly a garnet with diamonds. And it matches her manicure!

Got any favorites? How about the dresses? Or Pharrell's shorts? (or not...)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Updates! Get your updates here...

I'm about halfway finished with my casting class. I've only actually cast one thing so far, but I think this is quickly becoming one of my favorite techniques! I'm still getting the hang of wax carving - I have no idea what shape carving tool is supposed to do what, and I still have trouble planning and thinking in 3D - but I'm having a lot of fun learning!

Here are a few in-progress photos and the finished result of my first ring:

I'm now trying to carve another ring inspired by a medieval design and I think I'm going to make another smaller flower ring in class tomorrow that I'll cast in silver. So fun! I've been trawling Craigslist for casting equipment and kilns in my spare time... Maybe wishful thinking right now, but hopefully soon in the future.

Here are a few other pieces that I have made in the last month (all listed on my website and Etsy shop)

Rhodonite Cocktail Ring

Herkimer Diamond Prong Pendant

Crazy Lace Agate Link Bracelet

Petrified Wood & Amethyst Pendant

I have some other pretty stones in the works on my bench that I'm excited about too. Hopefully it won't take me a whole month to update next time!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Early January Updates

Just a quick post to show off some of what I've been working on in January. The gallery that shows some of my work (Studio 54 in Enumclaw. Check them out if you are in the area!) is swapping out inventory so I'm trying to get some new artsy stuff made to send to them.

This filigree ball was just a little quickie project that I saw in the current issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. I like how it turned out.

This is a fun bracelet with curved copper links connected with sterling rings and riveted on rhodonite circle beads. I found these beads a while back and just thought they would be perfect to try riveting to something.

This is a large brick red brecciated jasper with a coordinating colored leather and silk cord necklace. I even handcrafted the end caps from tube and wire.

And (almost) matching red jasper earrings. Very simple because they are larger stones and I didn't want them to get too heavy.

In non-jewelry doings, I managed to verrrrryyyy slowly haul my out of shape butt up to the top of Rattlesnake Ledge last weekend. Cemented the fact that I need to dust off the treadmill in the basement. Too bad I can't do jewelry and treadmill at the same time!

I also had my first casting class last Sunday. I think wax carving is kind of fun. The jury is still out as to whether I'm ever going to be any good at it, but it was something I wanted to learn. I go back again tomorrow. I'll make sure to take a few pictures of what I'm working on.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2014! It seems like 2013 absolutely flew by! And it will probably take me three months to remember to write the correct year when I have to date things... (yes, cliche but true...)

Check out my New Year's Eve present to myself - a reward for good holiday sales!

An upgraded workspace! I found a local supplier that sells jeweler's benches, so I now have a real bench (no more crick in my neck when I try to saw things!) I also got a flex shaft - the weight of my Dremel has been giving me wrist pain when I use it for too long, so I figured it was time for an upgrade. And a new rug to save the room carpet from dropped hot metal (melting carpet smells bad!) My old desk is now a soldering station.

All I need now is a better chair. I'll probably inherit the chair that's currently in my husband's home office; we just need to pick him out a new one.

It's been a little while since my last update! Here was my table at the jewelry trunk show at Studio 54 Gallery:

And here are a few things I've made since Thanksgiving:

A psilomelane pendant that I made as a gift for my mom for Christmas.

And I got a few jewelry technique books for Christmas so I made my first completely handmade basket prong setting and put it on a ring with two tube set CZs. It's not good enough to be anything but a practice piece, but not bad for a first try!

I start out the new year a little later today with the (un)enviable task of inventory... Counting and measuring and weighing all of my metal and stones.