Total Pageviews

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Old Techniques Brought Back to Life

I've been making jewelry for so long that I have done pretty much everything in the field at one time or another.  But I have also had certain techniques that I have done in the past and then they get pushed aside, either because I just haven't been moved in that direction, or I've forgotten about it, or I've changed how I do certain things, or just because I haven't gotten around to it.  Anyway I used to make jewelry with a certain technique that I kind of came up with on my own.  I'm not sure it's completely unique to me but I haven't seen it out there, at least not done in the way that I do it.  I recently had a customer who came in who had lost an earring that had this particular technique on it and she wanted a new pair of earrings with the same feeling, although a different shape.  I usually call it my 22k gold dust effect and that is kind of what it is.

Some of you may know that I use a special, often hand produced, 22k gold alloy that the recipe for was originally given to me by a school that taught antique jewelry techniques called the Kulicke Stark Academy of Jewelry Arts.  (I believe Jean Stark, one of the original owners is still producing her granulated jewelry.)  However, over the years I have made some slight personal alterations to achieve the effects that I want (mostly that I actually enrich it to a point where it is more like a 22 1/2 kt. gold). One of the reasons I like to use this mix so much is because I can fuse it together (heat it until it almost melts to form a bond) instead of using solder.   This means that the pieces are often pure 22k but more importantly I can get a particularly nice granular finish on the metal that I can't achieve in any other way. It usually looks like it came straight out of an ancient tomb and it's a great effect.  Also it's always a challenge because bringing something up to almost the melting point without having the metal slump down, actually melt and lose all of the design is difficult and once you screw up there's no going back.  But I like to make jewelry because it is often a challenge. If I wanted to do something boring with my life I would have done something like dig holes all of my life (not that there's anything wrong with digging holes but it doesn't exactly challenge the brain cells).  But the dust effect I do is even a little trickier because basically what I do is file a bunch of my 22k gold so that I have a pile of 22k gold dust. Then I take a sheet of my 22k gold, either with or without previously fused decoration on it, and drop the dust on it. Then I have to heat it until it forms a bond with the solid metal below, again without having the whole thing melt into a blob, or in this case just melt into the solid piece beneath so that it doesn't look like I have done anything.

So I had the opportunity to produce a new piece using this technique for this customer and having been reminded of how nice it looks I'm going to try to get something out in the case soon too that has it.  The  picture above is a picture of the earrings I did for the customer. There are small diamonds in bezels in them as well.

The picture to the right is another custom pair of earrings I made for a different customer at the same time using their turquoise beads.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Updated Blog Directory

I have updated my blog directory to include a new section of some of my favorite posts. For those of you new to my blog there is a link on the right side of the page to my blog directory article which is a handy way to get to the subject matter you want a little quicker. Unfortunately this took me so much time to do that I have no time left to write a new article so I'll save that for another day. The ruby and diamond earrings above are a new design that I just did recently. There has been a recent push to eliminate the ban on importation of ruby material from Burma recently due to their improving civil rights situation. It would be nice if this happened as fine Burmese ruby material has gotten harder to come by because of the ban.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


The other day one of my customers came in for a ring cleaning of the only piece of mine she had left after she had been robbed recently. Now ideally we would all have up to date appraisals and good insurance policies to cover ourselves in the event of a robbery but that never seems to be the case. So then the question of how to secure our valuables becomes even more important. This particular customer actually had a safe that they kept their valuables in but they only locked it when they went away on longer trips. But they got robbed when they were just out of the house for a little while.

Fortunately most of you will never have to deal with a robbery but there is nothing wrong with being prepared. I've had to live most of my life with this as a very real possibility so I tend to pay more attention to the topic than most of you have and I know a fair amount about it. So let's talk about security a bit.

Home security, just like it would in a store like mine, means setting up different layers of protection, that, when used together act as a deterrent for a criminal. Most criminals are looking for the easiest possible hit. Anything that puts up blocks in their way will help. All of the security is dependent, however, on proper use of it by you. If my customer had made it a habit to lock the safe every time they left the house (or kept it locked all the time and only opened it when they needed something from it) they wouldn't have had nearly as large a loss.

So when you think about security for your home, you should first take a look around outside and try to put yourself in a criminal's shoes for a little while. Is there a tree that would allow easy access to a second story window? Is there a bush that blocks the view of your cellar door? Is it easy to access a backyard where someone could break in without being seen? The harder you make it the less likelihood you'll be robbed.

For your indoors, obviously it helps to have an alarm system installed, preferably one that connects to a central station or the police station (although most city police departments don't allow this anymore). But you have to remember to use it! There are more things that you can do as well indoors. You can have a safe, although please remember that a small safe can simply be picked up and taken out. The safe either has to be so large it can't be easily moved or secured to the structure of the house. A simple gun type safe is just about useless because anyone can open one with a crowbar. Preferably you should have one with a UL rating of some sort (you can look up UL safe ratings if you want a better understanding of them).

Dogs also act as a great deterrent. Any size dog that will bark will tend to be something most criminals simply don't want to deal with. Again they don't want to face the unknown. Given two houses, one with a barking dog and one without, they will always choose the one without.

Finally, if you can't afford a safe you need to find someplace to secure your valuables that most criminals won't think to look for. Anyplace you think of that comes to mind immediately is the wrong place (and yes they all know to look in the freezer). Find someplace even you take awhile to come up with: a duct vent that can be relatively easily removed for your convenience, buried in some innocuous looking storage closet (not in your bedroom), maybe in a suitcase, or some other equally unlikely place.

There is a vast wealth of information on the Internet today about setting up security in your home and I urge you to look at it. Just remember that the criminals can look it up too!

While I am on the this topic I want to bring up one other issue that deals not only with your security in not being robbed, but your personal safety as well. I can't tell you how many (especially young) women I see walking down the street at all hours of the day and night with earphones on listening to music. THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST DANGEROUS THING YOU CAN DO IN YOUR LIFE, ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT, ESPECIALLY IN A CITY, BUT ALSO AT ANYTIME. When you have no idea that someone is coming up behind you, you leave yourself at great risk to be mugged or attacked. If you can be somewhere like a subway where you are sitting down and can watch everyone around you it's fine to put those headphones on. But once you get up again and start moving around it is the worst thing you can possible do. You may think you're safe, but the criminals know you have no idea what is going on behind you until it's too late. There were recently a couple of instances of this in Cambridge, but it can happen absolutely anywhere!

I would urge you all to read my recent posting on insurance, so even if something does happen to you, you should have some coverage for it.

The earrings above are 18k gold with tourmalines.