Thursday, 17 April 2014

A Refreshing Break And Some New Jewellery

I recently took a holiday from my online shops for the first time in nearly five years! Yes I actually put my Etsy and Folksy shops and my website in holiday mode for two weeks. And the reason for this? Did I jet off to the Seychelles/take a road trip across the States/ move all my jewellery tools, equipment and "stuff" into what was a garden shed but is now my jewellery workroom? All very exciting options but it was the last one, the other two will just have to wait until my next break in another five years! 

Yes, I now have my own space to work in which is like being in heaven after working on the dining room table and in the kitchen for nearly five years, having to get stuff out and put it away again (then get it out again when I realize I need to do a bit more soldering!) I love my jewellery shed, it's not quite there yet with the organizing and finding homes for everything but it's mine. I'm planning on writing a post about it next week with photos once I've finished the final tweaking.

I did take the opportunity to catch up with making new pieces once I'd moved into the shed as I didn't have to worry about stopping to do findings orders and other things that usually stop me making jewellery. It was lovely actually :D
I used some of the shiny, sparkly cabs and half-drilled pearls I bought from Joopy Gems and made a few pendants and several pairs of earrings...

This is a hollow form pendant I started at jewellery night class. It started life as two different size diameter pieces of copper tube that I added a front and back to and a white pearl cabochon. The etched design was from a really detailed stamp that I wasn't sure would work but it did and I think it's a lovely busy pattern.

I used some silver textured in my rolling mill and added some smooth silver as an overlay with pale pink rose quartz rose cut cabs. I think they look like freaky bugs!

Believe it or not these are the first gemstone studs I've ever made plus a white pearl pair. The labradorite cabs have lovely flashes of green-gold and the peach moonstone are a sweet dot of colour.

These copper post earrings remind me of "spinning jennies" more formally known as the seeds of the ash tree. The green/gold quartz really sparkle in the light. This is the first time I've used posts in a longer style of earring rather than the usual stud style.

 And finally another two hollow form pairs I started at night class. These started life as round copper tube that I shaped using some bezel mandrels I bought a while ago. I always knew I'd find a use for those square/hexagon/triangle mandrels that were part of the set! I turned the square shapes into beads with a hole top and bottom and added them to some copper wire and thin tube to make a pair of twist earrings. The triangles have a leaf vein texture on the front and smooth sides and back. There's something very satisfying about making hollow forms and seeing the transformation from a solder covered piece of metal ( in my case anyway!) to a form that through filing and sanding ends up smooth with a barely visible solder line.

Look out for my post with photos (yay!) of my new workspace coming soon.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

An Alternative To Jump Rings And Some New Enamel Pendants

Until recently I've always used jump rings to attach my enamel pendants to a chain. Enamel is great but some of the methods of attaching things to other things commonly used in jewellery, in other words cold connections and soldering can be a bit tricky when combined with it. It is possible to solder and rivet enamel pieces but not without some difficulty. So....I just used handmade jump rings and always felt vaguely dissatisfied with the final look.

Then I realized I could use my wirework experience and make my own bails! Why has it taken me so long to think of this? Who knows! I must have been thinking of "other things" (that means chocolate).
I made some new pendants last week, two with pierced out detail and finished them with a cold connected wire bail. 

Very simple in design - a length of 16g/1.2mm sterling round wire hammered at both ends and a hole drilled in the centre of the flattened areas. Tidy up the ends and bend into a loop then squeeze the ends gently so they sit close to the pendant on either side. Line up the holes then thread a balled up piece of 22g/0.6mm wire through and wrap around the loop to secure then trim and gently squeeze in the end. Oxidize and polish. Ta Dah! 

I think the bail makes the pendant look much more "finished" and is a vast improvement to a jump ring. You could also use this method to connect a smaller enamel piece to a large silver piece too. I'm also thinking that a small silver disc or decorative silver spacer would look nice sat between the ball and the front of the loop.
I'm just going to have to make some more enamel pendants and try!


Friday, 7 March 2014

Pearls, Hoops And Stacking Rings

I'm slowly increasing my little collection of rings for sale. I made a set of three hammered sterling silver stacking rings which you can see in the photo above put together with a prehnite rose cab stacking ring. I made the plain band rings in the photo for me (for a change!) and find them so easy to wear.

 I photographed them in their bright shiny state then oxidized them and photographed them again. 
Etsy makes it easy to sell items with different variables like size or finish so the buyer can select when they pay. My website and Folksy shop don't have this option so I'll have to list the rings separately. I've learned that buyers don't always read everything in a listing ( something I'm also guilty of!) and I've had to contact a few to find out the size they want in the case of bangles bought from my website and Folksy. So expecting someone to remember to let me know the size, stone and finish they want in the case of my gemstone rings would be pushing it a bit! So when I get round to listing the gemstone rings on my website and Folksy shop they will all have to be listed separately with a large notice asking the buyer to let me know the size and finish they want in the hope they will actually do that and save my sanity! 

I spent the last couple of days making a pair of copper rose hoops and some silver disc earrings with pearls. The turn in the weather (it's sunny!) means I've been able to photograph them today.

I use copper bezel wire for the "roses" which makes life easier than having to cut thin strips of copper sheet myself. I solder the end closed then sand the bottom flat and solder to a flat piece of copper for a base. Having a flat base makes it easier to solder the rose to other things afterwards.

The pearls are beads I've had for years that are button shaped so most of them are ideal to turn into cabs. Sanding the bottom of the pearl makes it nice and level and lowers the holes so the bezel hides them when they are set. I like the look of pearls with oxidized silver. I have some bigger pearls on order which I'm really looking forward to using.

I'm hoping the pearls will arrive soon (tomorrow would be good!) so I can start thinking about what to do with them. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Rings And Gems!

I posted last week about Joopy Gems and the order of pretty 6mm rose cut cabochons I was eagerly waiting for. Well they arrived last Friday, which is pretty good going considering they were posted in Hong Kong on the Monday. And I didn't have to pay any VAT on them which was even better!

I was really impressed with the quality of the cabs and the faceted top side makes them sparkle nicely in the light. I got to work making rings with them that I'm going to start selling made to order. They do look very pretty so I'm just going to have to make myself a couple! I'm planning to add some plain textured silver stacking rings too so they can be mixed and matched with the gemstone rings.

I also made a couple of twist rings using thin strips of silver and copper to make stylised roses (use your imagination!) I think I'll just make these in particular sizes to start with rather than made to order...... but that may change!

I bought myself a proper ring mandrel too. I had been using an aluminium UK ring sizer not realising it wasn't a proper ring mandrel. I don't know how I thought it was as it's shorter and not as hard as steel so it's looking pretty sorry for itself now. You can see the shiny new steel version in the ring photo above. So there'll be no stopping me now :D

If you would like a 15% discount off your first order from Joopy Gems this link
will take you to a discount code that you can use with your order. I'm going to place another order with them very soon!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A Real Gem - Joopy Gems

I decided last week that I was going to start making rings to sell. I've made a few for myself but so far have shied away from making them because of the possible size problem. By that I mean sending a ring off only for the buyer to contact me to say it's great but it's a bit too big/too small can you resize it? Making to order in the size the buyer asks for should hopefully make this a fairly rare occurance (I hope!) 

I'm going to start with stacking rings - plain and with gemstone cabochons as they seem very popular. I do have a lot of smooth cabs but after closer inspection I found a lot of them are a bit rough in places or even scratched. The saying "you get what you pay for" definitely rings true with cabochons! I've decided for my own sake and the sake of my jewellery it's worth spending more on stones to get the quality I would expect if I was buying handmade jewellery myself. There's nothing wrong with buying cabs in bulk for low prices but if half of them aren't useable it doesn't make much sense really.

After a bit of research I fell in love with rose cut cabochons so the next step was to find a supplier. Rose cuts are cabs that are flat on the bottom and faceted on the top. As usual finding something a bit different is virtually impossible in the UK at the mo, Kernowcraft sell a limited selection but one of the best sources I've found is Joopy Gems. You can also find them on Etsy.

Joopy Gems is run by Brit Julia Aufenast. Based in Hong Kong Julia specialises in rose cut and faceted cabochons as well as smooth cabochons, faceted gemstones and a large range of pearls. What's nice to know is that Julia sources and selects all of the stones herself, seeing the stones in the rough before they are cut. The quality is high and the prices are reasonable. All the photos here are from the website and as you can see the cabs look lovely! I asked Julia if it was ok to do a blog post about her website and she was very happy for me to do so. She told me she has family in West Sussex and also here in Eastbourne so it really is a very small world!

I spent quite a long time deciding what I was going to buy as there is a lot to choose from. The prices are more than I've paid for cabs previously but the quality and choice make it worth it in my opinion. In the end I went for 6mm rose cut cabs in labradorite, prehnite, almandite garnet, amethyst, carnelian and blue chalcedony. A nice rang of colours but there were so many other stones I loved which will have to wait for next time! I did get 10% off my first order which helped too. I'll probably get clobbered for VAT by customs (about £14 according to their online calculator) but it will still make the total cost for each cab reasonable. The postage from Hong Kong was under £4 too which was a pleasant surprise.

15% off your first order!
So......have you fallen in love with these beautiful gemstones like I did? If so and you want to order some of these lovelies for yourself how does 15% off your first order sound?
The link will take you to a discount code to use when you place your first order - lovely!

I'm eagerly awaiting my first order and as soon as I've made some rings using the cabs I will write a post. I'm so keen for the cabs to arrive I've already made the ring bands!
And here just for the sake of it some more lovely gemstone and pearl photos.......

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Using Copper And Enamel To Make Your Own Cabochons

One of the things I wrote in my "things to do in the new year" list was to make more enamelled cabochons. I'd previously made a couple of 9mm small enamelled cabs which were a bit fiddly so I thought I'd make life a bit easier and go bigger this time. I also mixed the colours instead of sticking to just the one for a bit of variety. They are easy to make - just cut and dome a copper disc and enamel it! I still counter enamel the discs (just in case) then flip them over to do the fun side. You need to use a binder like Klere Fyre (which is spelt really oddly and I can never remember it!) as the domes are fairly steep and the enamel will fall off without something to stick to. Once they are done you carry on as with a normal cabochon. I use a wooden bezel pusher (an adapted peg in other words) as I invariably slip at some point when setting and I've had enough of ruining a piece at the very last stage by slipping and scratching the stone which is what usually happens when I use metal setting tools.

I made a pink cab using pastel pink opaque with a raspberry transparent on top and a green-turquoise version made with a blend of blues and greens topped with transparent turquoise. And here's what I did with them........

The turquoise green version is teamed with an amazonite cabs and silver textured using patterned card. I used sterling silver tube for the bail which is super easy if you just want something simple.

My new favourite jewellery-related programme at the moment is Gem Hunt which is on the Travel channel at 9pm week nights at the moment. It follows three "gem hunters" - a gem dealer, jewellery expert and a geologist as they travel abroad looking for gemstones for clients and for their own businesses. It's very American in that it tries to make everything seem very dramatic, constantly repeats what you already know and feels the need to explain what's going on despite the fact you've just watched what's going on....but the people are likeable and the gemstones they are looking for are stunning. They pay big prices for them but make absolute fortunes in some cases once they are cut and sold on. Worth a look if you are interested in gemstones :D