Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom, Part One

Pearls can be stunning in both classic and trend setting jewelry styles. I use both man made and freshwater pearls in my pieces.

Pearls form when a particle enters a mollusk's shell by accident, acts as an irritant, and a material called nacre is formed in layers around the particle. Pearls formed without any human intervention are called natural pearls and are very rare.

The most commonly used pearls in jewelry are cultured pearls. The principle of a particle entering a mollusk shell and forming nacre is the same, however, in the case of cultured pearls, it is man who introduces the irritant. Mollusks are removed from the water, a foreign substance in put into their tissues, and they are returned to the sea so the pearls develop. Cultured pearls are cultivated in both fresh and salt waters:

Freshwater (shown in pearl and amethyst necklace): from China and US. Many shapes and sizes, abundant and popular, inexpensive to moderately priced
Tahitian: saltwater, also called black pearls (they are not really black but are usually shades of green, blue, grey, or purple, etc.) very expensive, only pearls grown in French Polynesian islands may be called Tahitian pearls
South Sea: saltwater, large, round, white, expensive, mostly from Japan but from other Asian countries as well
Akoya: saltwater, small, round, brilliant color and luster, expensive, from Japan, other Asian countries, and Australia, used often in classic pearl jewelry
Mother of pearl (shown in fan shaped pearl earrings): the iridescent shell lining of various mollusks. It has many irregularities and is less expensive than pearls. However, it is used as inlay, pendants, as well as various bead shapes can be very gorgeous jewelry component.

Man made (shown in pearl and wire wrapped pendant): (also referred to as imitation, simulated or faux pearls) have a crystal or glass core with a pearl coating. They are uniform in shape, often round, and come in a dazzling array of colors and sizes. In my opinion, the most beautiful faux pearls are made by two companies - Swarovski and Preciosia crystals. There are also faux pearls made of plastic or cotton and can really be fun on some types of fashion jewelry.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Favorite Necklace

When I asked my friend Sandy what she wanted for her birthday, she said a necklace like one I had made several years ago for my collection in the Nob Hill Gallery. It had hand wrapped wire shapes linked to colorful beads. She said it was one of her favorite pieces and, believe me, she has a treasure trove of jewelry.

This piece is similar to the one I made for Sandy. No two of these necklaces are ever alike! That's what makes them fun to create and fun to wear.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not Your Mother's Denim

From years and years of crafting, I have a stash of fabric, trimmings, buttons.......you name it! So I decided to add some of these materials to my jewelry designs, opening unbelievable creative possibilities. On this piece I tore a strip of denim (leaving stray threads on)and wove it with stainless steel chain through large brass links. Then I added a hand made heather gray tshirt flower embellished with a brass button from my friend Ricci's grandmother's button collection (thanks, Ricci!!!) and Swarovski rhinestones. It's so much fun mixing unlikely combinations of materials.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Midas Touch

I would love to do more work in gold, but it's too hard on the budget. So I learned how to do Keum Boo (or Kum Boo), a Japanese technique of diffusing bits of thin gold foil onto silver. Fine silver (no alloys) works perfectly. If you use sterling silver (which has copper and other alloys), you must use a process called depletion gilding to bring the fine silver to the surface and then apply the gold. Even though I've done a couple of Keum Boo projects already, I just purchased a book by Celie Fago called Keum-boo on Silver to fine tune my skills. 

Here is a toggle clasp that I made using this technique. I textured a sheet of silver using my rolling mill, then made the toggle with my disk cutter and applied the gold circles. I'm excited about the results!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Heavy Metal

I'm taking a metal smithing class each Wednesday morning this month with Elaine Weisman. Not only does she know practically everything about working with gold and silver (she has an MFA - Master of Fine Arts) but she has the patience of a saint. 

The classes are freewheeling. You decide what you what to learn and Elaine spends time with each of the five students on a specific task. At the first class on July 1, I learned how to work with sheet wax to make an object ready for casting in precious metal. Specifically, I made a cone model for use when I make my multi strand necklaces. The wax comes in different gauges (thicknesses) and you can bend it with your fingers and/or heat the "dentist" tools that you use to work with the wax in the flame of an alcohol lamp. With the heated tools, you can join pieces of wax, dribble liquid wax, make marks in it, etc. 

Sheet wax lends itself to very organic forms - the kind I love so much.

Here's are pics of the wax cones I made, one embellished with leaves and one with stars.  You'll have to make a very large leap of faith to see it in gold or silver :) (I also show the wax tools and a brass store bought cone on one of my necklaces so you can how they are used.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Show Stopper

I "test drove" one of my new necklaces the other day and it got unsolicited rave reviews everywhere I went from the mall to the bead shop to the grocery store. Even the bag boy said: "What a great necklace!" At least ten people remarked on it.

It's made of turquoise slices on a brass chain with freshwater pearl, white coral and blue sodalite accent beads. Looks terrific with anything from dresses to jeans.

Monday, June 1, 2009

You Ought To Be In Pictures

I'm so excited!!! A necklace and earrings of mine will be shown in the movie, A Dry Land starring America Ferrera, scheduled to be released in 2010. The costume designer, Jerry Carnevale, liked the turquoise and quartz necklace so much, he bought an outfit to go with it! What a compliment. The actress wearing the jewelry is Kate Schroeder (in the role of Kathy Valdez).