Hope Strength Necklace

My Hard And Fast Rules For Making (And Selling) Jewelry

No matter what you do, or how you do it, you need to have a few rules to guide you. As a big fan of free-form, spontaneous, “what would happen if we did/used/added this…” school of jewelry making, you’d think I wouldn’t follow any rules.
But you’d be wrong.
I don’t have a lot of rules…but I stick to them (99.9% of the time.) And I don’t necessarily think that my rules are right for anyone else. They’re just rules that seem to work for me.
So here they are – in no particular order.
Leave your workspace clean/straightened up.
Now I know that I am not alone among most craftspeople who don’t work just on one project at a time, but several. Which means different piles of “stuff.” What I try to do at the end of day (or night) is put all those little piles in a container, hopefully with a lid, or at the very least, stacked neatly atop another container.

Small containers for each project, extra beads, etc.

Small containers for each project, extra beads, etc.

Put your tools away. This is really Part B of above. There can be nothing worse than going to reach for a certain tool and not being able to find it. Or having your basset puppy begin gnawing on it. I keep hammers/files and tools I don’t use all the time in a 3-drawer cart under my work table. I can reach out and grab what I want practically without looking, because I know where my tools “live.” The pliers and cutters that I use all the time sit on top of my desktop in a partitioned carry box. Saws, Dremel, vises, clamps, etc are on shelves next to the work top.

Gemstones etc are labelled and stored in this container that sits on my work table.

Gemstones etc are labelled and stored in this container that sits on my work table.

Label and File Away Wire and Gemstones This one took me a while to do. I order/buy a lot of supplies. And while I think I can guesstimate how much items cost, I often guess much lower than actual cost. Now, especially with gemstones, I put them in a tiny baggie, and mark WHAT it is (yeah, I forget that too) and HOW MUCH it cost. This is invaluable when trying to price out finished jewelry pieces. I store my gemstones in a multi-drawer plastic storage unit I picked up at Lowe’s for about $20 or so. 

Non-precious metallic wires are stored in another Lowe’s container that I attached to the wall above my worktop.

This container is attached to the wall and holds my non-precious silver plated  wires

This container is attached to the wall and holds my non-precious silver plated wires

Precious metals (including solid copper) are stored in an accordian-file folder, labelled by type and size. This also serves to keep the sterling wire out of the light and air.

Only Make Things You Like And If You Really Don’t Like It – Start Over.

This probably my most important rule. I don’t expect everyone to have the same taste as me. But if my gut tells me it’s not right – for whatever reason – chances are other people are going to think it’s not right too. I often make things that I would want to wear – and I do – before they go on sale, or if they aren’t selling. But even if I make something that I may consider too “girly girly” for my tastes…or not “my colors”…as long as it is well made, unique, and interesting… it’s okay to put up for sale.

Price It Fairly – For You AND Your Customer

Hand Forged Copper and Silver Filled Sheet Metal with Moonstone Pendant

Hand Forged Copper and Silver Filled Sheet Metal with Moonstone Pendant

My husband always tells me “you’re not charging enough.” But in my world, I’m right on target. I’m not looking to win the million dollar derby with one sale. But I’m also not a big fan of losing money on materials and time. (Yes – the time it takes to create a piece of jewelry comes with a price tag.) So I usually roughly add up my material cost, double or triple it, and add in a bit for my time.The true test is – does it sell at that price point? Am I making  a lot of the same type of item – and is it selling quickly? If so, then it’s time to raise the price a bit.

Well, that’s about it for me. I’d love to hear what some of YOUR rules are!

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The Ruined Silver Pendant…Resurrected!

For those who read my last post on how I ruined a perfectly good sterling silver and moonstone pendant I was working on…a follow-up. I removed the damaged moonstone…polished up and re-textured the sterling silver base…added a new sterling silver spiral to serve as the bail…and a gorgeous flashy-blue labradorite dangle to add some interest. Still needs to be polished, and I will probably re-wrap the labradorite briolette…but here’s what I’ve got so far.

The Aftermath - a new pendant takes shape from the old one I ruined.

The Aftermath – a new pendant takes shape from the old one I ruined.

Overworking It: How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Piece Of Jewelry

When I make jewelry, I tend to futz a lot with it. (Futz is sort of a technical term…it means “play with”)
And, as sometimes happens, I go overboard and ruin the piece.
Case in point: I had a very nice piece of sterling silver sheet that I cut down to about 1 1/2″ x 1″. I textured it. I patterned it. I stamped it. I filed it. I punched holes in it.
Then I soldered on an oval bezel I had made for a really nice, flashy blue moonstone. All was looking pretty good…but I knew that more had to be done with it.
I ended up soldering a sterling silver spiral onto the top – overlapping the top by maybe 1/4″. Now we were getting somewhere. The spiral would serve as the bail for the chain. Looking good!

Until I realized that no matter how I tried, with many different methods, I couldn’t get it polished right. Just didn’t look the way I wanted it to.

Flash forward to me scrubbing, rubbing, polishing, dremel-ing and more to get some gunk off. Long story short – spiral falls off. Okay. back to the pickle, clean it up, and try to solder the spiral on again. Nope. Not happening. Fire got so hot it started to melt the spiral.

Bring it back into the studio to rethink. By this time, I had also realized that what my pendant needed was something in the middle between the spiral and the moonstone.  I decided a rivet with a decorative washer would do the trick.  And it did.  For a while. Until I realized again how grimy it looked.

Decided to toss it in the pickle again and try to re-solder the spiral. Did it at the end of the day.

Big mistake.

Forgot about it. When I remembered this morning, the moonstone was toast. (Reminder to me: pickle=acid=not good on soft gemstones).

So now, it’s back to square one. Going to remove the moonstone and the bezel (if possible) and start over.

What I learned:

* stop and think before doing

* if you don’t have the right tools, findings, materials – order it and wait for it

* sometimes less is better

* learn from your mistakes!

work in progress - with moonstone and sterling silver spiral bail

work in progress – with moonstone and sterling silver spiral bail

IMG_0843

Overworked – and ruined! Back to square one…..

Amazonite Earrings

What Kind Of Stone Is That? My Take On Turquoise, Amazonite and Howlite

As my jewelry has been evolving, so has my taste in materials. I am having fun mixing metals, soldering, riveting and the like. I’ve also changed many of my “splashes of color” from handmade artisan beads to gemstones – semi-precious, mostly. I bought myself two guides to identifying gemstones and am actually starting to recognize some at shows I go to.

As I become more interested in using copper in my work, I find myself reaching more for blue or green stones to pair with it. And I have started searching out turquoise, amazonite and howlite.

TURQUOISE natural turquoise is found in many parts of the world. In the U.S., there are (or were) several mines in the Nevada area where the turquoise is highly prized and can be quite pricey. I have several pieces (small) of Number 8 Turquoise from Eureka County, Nevada. This mine has no longer producing turquoise, but there is a reserve of it that is slowly being sold. Once this is gone, that’s it for this beautiful stone celebrated for the golden brown to black distinctive spider web matrix and its vivid blue color. Another mine – the Sleeping Beauty mine in Nevada – also produces highly collectible turquoise. Kingman Turquoise, from Arizona, has a deep, intense blue color. Dry Creek Turquoise is very rare – it is the palest turquoise in the world. In many cultures, turquoise is a holy stone, a bringer of good fortune or a talisman.

Something to keep in mind – there is a lot of man-made turquoise out there. Generally, a stone with a uniform color is not natural turquoise. Also – there is no such thing as purple turquoise. That is a stone that has been dyed or treated.

AMAZONITE  is found in the United States, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Russia, Australia, Namibia. It is usually light green to blue-green, mottled and sometimes contains light striations. It is sometimes confused with turquoise, but I find the green to be very distinctive. The more you see of it, I think you’ll agree. It reminds me of a color I might see in the Caribbean.

Amazonite Ring by fat dog beads

Top: Number 8 Turquoise
Center: Dyed Howlite
Bottom: Amazonite

According to legend, Amazonite is said to enhance creative expression and improve self-worth. Amazonite is considered a soothing stone that offers confidence is called the “hope stone” because it inspires confidence and hope. One source says it is useful to activate lazy teenagers. Not sure about that one!

Dyed Howlite Copper Pronged Ring by fat dog beads

HOWLITE is a soft, light mineral with a chalky white color that is very porous, and therefore easily dyed. In most cases, it is dyed light blue to resemble turquoise. It has been found in large quantities in California, and is reasonably priced.

According to some meditation forms that use crystals as focus points, undyed howlite can be an excellent means of concentration. Some believe it is highly stress relieving and is recommended as a means of quieting insomnia. Some crystal users suggest that the mineral helps balance calcium levels in the body, and acts as an absorbent for negative energy. It is also said to correspond with the Zodiac sign Gemini. Another source says, “place a howlite stone in your pocket to absorb your own anger – or another’s anger that is directed toward you. It helps to overcome critical or selfish behaviour.” All good stuff, right?

NOTE: be aware that some not-so-honest gemstone dealers DO try to palm off dyed Howlite as Turquoise.

Have you worked with any of these stones? Would love to see what you’ve created! Send pics!