Archive | January, 2008

Gem Heaven

31 Jan

Heavenly Jewelry made with love
Jo at Gem Heaven uses lovely color combinations in her jewelry designs.

Like all modern women, Jo can't seem to find enough time to do everything she wants to do. This is what she says:

Sometimes I wonder where the days go – I spend half my week looking forward to the weekend – and then the weekend mysteriously disappears into Sunday evening and the cycle starts again!! Personally I think weekends should be 3 days long – now this isn't anything to do with having days off – you'll find me creating whatever the day of the week it is.

This bracelet is made from tiny (4 – 5 mm) rounds. There's lots of wire wrapping and dozens of gemstones in this design:

jewelry designer
A Kiss of Spring Bracelet
Rose quartz, Peridot, Amethyst, and Aquamarine

Artist Statement
My name is Jo and I live in Cornwall (United Kingdom), a beautiful inspirational place surrounded by sea, yet with wilds of moorland, so much to inspire me! I hope you enjoy my jewelry as much as I enjoy making it. I can truthfully say each piece has been "made with love." Using Sterling, Karen Hill Tribe, or Bali Silver, gemstones, lampwork (artisan beads) and sea glass – each component is chosen for not only its quality but its beauty. Every care is taken to create a piece of jewelry for you to treasure. My designs are unique, and should you see something that has already "gone to a new home" then contact me to see if I can recreate something similar but unique to you! Every woman (or man) should own a piece of Heavenly Jewelry!

jewelry designing
Gifted Earrings
Petrol Tourmaline, exquisite colors from ambers to greens

Schermo Beads

30 Jan

Ann Baldwin at Schermo Beads started out using seed beads in her teens, and has evolved into a full-blown glass bead artist. Her site is extremely interesting and informative, complete with pictures, especially the Art of Making Glass Beads page. She even teaches bead making in her area.

And believe me, the lady makes some gorgeous beads:

lampwork beads
Iris Flower Bead

The art of bead making by winding molten glass around a steel mandrel is often referred to as Lampworking, because the early glass bead makers in Venice used oil lamps as their heat source for melting the glass. Today, it's more common to use torches that use a mix of propane and oxygen to get a precise flame that allows the bead artist to control the heat as the glass melts.

How long does it take to make a single bead ?
Ann says:

About seven hours from start to finish, including dipping the mandrels in bead release, preparing the glass rods, melting and forming the bead in the flame, annealing the bead in the kiln (that's about five + hours right there, but I can go watch TV during that stage of the process), and then cleaning out the beads when they're done.

In truth, most beads take from 20 to 60 minutes to actually make the bead in the flame, depending on how many layers of glass and sparkly bits like dichroic, goldstone, or foils I add. It also depends on how much sculptural work of melting, shaping, pushing, pulling, pinching, forming and cool down is involved.
I've tried to time it, but when I am staring at a the flame, I lose all track of time.

handmade beads
Chubby Stripes and Swirls Beads

Artist Statement

My interest in all things beady goes back well into my teen years when I made beaded cigar band rings and love beads like every other teenager in the late 60s. My bead obsession went into remission as I was making my way through raising children in the real world in my 20's and early 30's.

About ten years ago, my interest in beads was reawakened by two curiously unrelated events: I started noticing the beautiful seed bead work done by Native Americans, and bought a huge quantity of opaque primary colored, irregular seed beads, which I still haven't figured out what to do with. I also bought a book about making beads out of polymer clay.
That, I did know what to do with!

From there on, things kind of snowballed. I started making polymer clay beads like I was possessed, and then I realized that I needed other beads to go with my clay beads. I started buying glass beads to use in necklaces and earrings. The more I bought, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I wanted. The more I wanted, the more jewelry I had to make and sell in order to afford the beads I now NEEDED. Bead Addiction: it's not a pretty sight.

And in the midst of my obsession, an idea took hold. I had heard about glass bead making. It looked fascinating, but I actually thought that the biggest problem was that I would probably cut myself on the sharp edges of the glass. Fantasies overcame fears, and in March 1999, I signed up for a class with one of the BEST lampworking teachers in the country, Kate Fowle, and took her two day beginning bead making class. I was hooked.

That class taught me not only the necessary basics, but also confirmed that I seemed to have a knack for it. I went home, ordered my equipment and my glass rods, and started cleaning out the garage. I was on a mission.

Now I have a bead making studio in the garage, and I spend several days a week making beads, or teaching bead making to others. I have upgraded my equipment, added additional ventilation and cooling, and bought a digital controller for the kiln which handles all the steps of adjusting the temperature, so I don't have to keep running out to the garage to mess with it while the beads are annealing. This past year I bought another torch; BIGGER, hotter and scary looking. It's gone from an expensive hobby to a satisfying business.

My Lovely Beads

28 Jan

Zoya Gutina: Jewelry Designer
Zoya at My Lovely Beads works with seed beads, but she also creates designer gemstone jewelry, and much of her work is a combination of the two. She is well-known for her intricate designs using tiny seed beads. In 2007, she won first place in the Rings & Things Design Contest in the Glass category for her design, Aquamarine Morning and Amethyst Night Necklace.

This necklace perfectly illustrates the way she uses seed beads and gemstones in the same design:

handcrafted jewelry
Amber Lace Necklace
Seed beads and Amber gemstones

This is one of Zoya's gemstone creations. I love the big hunk of Agate in this design:

designer gemstone jewelry
Lone Leaf Necklace
Agate, Tiger Eye, Mother of Pearl

Artist Statement

During my childhood in the USSR, my mother taught me to sew and knit, both with hooks and needles. I really took to needlework, and have continued its pursuit in all of its variants during all of my life. Very many different categories of objects have been produced for my children, my family, my good friends, and myself.

Also, during my childhood, I became familiar with bead work. At that time I was studying ballet, and needed a dress for practicing. A dress was sewn for me. However, I decided to decorate it, and sewed a gentle bead work flower onto my chest. The beads were a transparent yellow color, very pale, and the dress was of a cream-colored material. At that time I felt was an appropriate combination, and I was right. It looked very pretty.

When I came to the USA about 10 years ago, I decided to continue my bead work. I scurried around, trying to acquire everything about bead work, but it turned out that too few books were available. At that point, I started to experiment by myself, with beads of a whole range of various dimensions, and with gemstones.

The experimentation started to bear fruit, and were my first serious efforts. In a while I was invited to participate in selling my handicrafts at an art market in Manhattan. It gave me a good feeling of encouragement, that my artifacts are desired and appreciated.

Inspirations for my designs come to me night and day. At night, when I close my eyes, fantastic colors and forms of my future efforts appear before me. Often, I cannot even find beads of those colors. During the day, images appear when I see flowering trees outside, or just flowers in the spring; during the winter, geometric frozen shapes; and then during sunrise and sunset.

Potomac Craftsmen Gallery

Precious Metal Clay

27 Jan

Precious Metal Clay is truly precious because it gives the jewelry designer the freedom to create totally unique piece of jewelry. It looks and feels like modeling clay, but it contains tiny particles of pure fine silver or pure 24K gold. It can be rolled, pinched, molded, impressed, extruded and sculpted into any shape.

The basic clay material is called lump form. It comes in a sealed foil packet and is ready to use. Lump form can be used to roll slabs or snakes, and can be molded or sculpted. It can be thinned with water or used as a paste. A rubber stamp or any textured object can be used to impress beautiful designs into the PMC before it is fired.

jewelry designing
Precious Metal Clay Circle Pendant
Fine silver, PMC copper, brass, and resin enamels

Slip form (or paste) comes in a jar or loaded in a syringe. The paste form is used to glue wet or dry PMC objects in place or for slip casting, for painting onto an object for a hollow form, and decoration. The syringe is used to extrude wire for decorating, setting stones, or filling cracks.

Paper form is a very thin sheet of clay that can be used to make bezels for objects to be set, used for ring shanks, or folded like origami. Shapes can be cut out with punches and applied as decoration. It can also be laminated with water to make it thicker.

This piece illustrates how PMC can be formed into any shape:
Precious Metal Clay jewelry
Abstract Precious Metal Clay Pendant

Man-made gemstones, like Cubic Zirconia, and many natural gemstones can be set into the clay either wet or dry, and safely fired in place. Porcelain, glass, dichroic glass, and parts such as clasps, can be fired along with the clay. You can even bond metal clay directly to sterling silver.

Artisans and craftspeople will enjoy making pendants, rings, earrings, or pins that can be free-form and trendy or your own version of a vintage piece. Using the Low Fire clay, you can experiment by adding beads, gemstones, or glass cabochons to create a truly unique design.

After the PMC object is fired in a kiln or with a torch, the clay part burns away, leaving you with a piece of pure gold or fine silver. The metal object can then be filed, sanded, carved, drilled, engraved, riveted, enameled, or polished to embellish the surface.

If you would like to learn more, there is an Excellent Resource for Precious Metal Clay at Squidoo.

Cool Tools for PMC
Amazing Art Clay Silver

Czech Glass Beads

24 Jan

Czech pressed glass beads are made in the Czech Republic the traditional way, by pressing hot glass into a heated mold. The 19th century was a period of industrial innovation, and new machines that could produce a wide variety of beads were developed.

This meant that thousands of identical beads could be turned out quickly and inexpensively, but the process of making the molds was difficult. Cottage crafters were given several molds for each bead press, and turned out beads to order for their local factory.

The Czechs became the masters of pressed glass. Most of this work is still done in rural areas with small family-operated factories. Glass finishes are added in the final step, many of the luster coatings are made with heated metals including gold.

Czech beads
Czech Glass Leaf Beads

Thick rods of glass are heated to molten and fed into a machine that stamps the glass, including a needle that pierces a hole. The beads again are rolled in hot sand to remove flashing and soften seam lines. By making canes (the glass rods fed into the machine) striped or otherwise patterned, the resulting beads can be more elaborately colored than seed beads.

glass beads
Czech Glass Window-cut Heart Beads
Blue with bronze luster coated edges

Czech Glass Beads are greatly valued because of the high quality and tremendous variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and finishes. The term table-cut or window-cut refers to a molded bead shape, usually with a matte finish or luster coating applied that has then had slices or facets cut off and polished to reveal the glass beneath.

bead jewelry
Czech Glass Milky Luminous Pink
Flat pear pendant bead with hole running through thin end at top

Matte glass is achieved by dipping the bead into an acid etching solution. The many shapes available are often reproductions of vintage glass molds from the 1920s to the 1950s. Some shapes have been created more recently such as cats, butterflies, fish and turtles.

Glass Beadmaking
Czech Glass Beads
History of Czech Glass

Metal Bracelets

22 Jan

Yes, gemstones are nice. They're classy and elegant, and very stylish. But there's nothing like a big hunk of metal on your wrist to make a strong fashion statement. And, according to the predictions, jewelry for spring 2008 is all about big and bold. And if that big hunk of metal is textured in some way-hammered, reticulated, or partnered with other metals-then WOW!

metal jewelry
Brian Hertzog Reticulated Silver Wide Cuff
Designed and Handcrafted in San Francisco

Sterling Silver
Derived from the Latin for white and shining, Silver entices us with its sophisticated sheen. Like gold, silver in its purest form is too soft for jewelry making. It must be alloyed with other metals for durability, the most frequent being copper.

Sterling Silver is a mixture of 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent copper. Silver does tarnish, but frequent wear will minimize tarnishing. Sterling Silver is much less expensive than gold and other metals, so it is a favorite of jewelry designers and their customers. Silver is also popular with people who like a more casual look.

metal bracelet
Sterling Silver Basket Weave Cuff
Sterling silver 'X' shaped basket weave motif
The beautiful, polished sterling silver is pliable, so once you put this bracelet on, you can bend it to make it fit snuggly on your wrist. This jewelry is handcrafted by artisans in Mexico, and your purchase will help them maintain the art of silver jewelry making that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Gold Leaf
Gold Leaf is gold that is beaten into extremely thin sheets. It is available in a wide variety of karats and shades. 23-karat gold is the most commonly used. Judith Neugebauer handcrafts her jewelry with die-formed, brushed sterling silver with an overlay of 23k gold leaf applied in sweeping, calligraphy strokes, like this bracelet:

jewelry designer
Stepping Stones Link Bracelet

Humble Beads

20 Jan

This post began with researching art beads, but then I found Humble Beads by Heather Powers. And I fell in love with this lady's beads. I know there are lots of beads out there in the marketplace, but I think these beads are exceptional.

The Colors
The interplay of colors speaks to my artsy side. And why wouldn't they? Many of them are inspired by Impressionist paintings. The colors of the beads coordinate and complement each other beautifully.

Art Inspired Beads
Beads that take their inspiration from Heather's favorite painters and designers. All beads are handcrafted from polymer clay and buffed to a matte finish.

polymer clay beads
Monet's Garden Bead
Inspired by watery hues and brush strokes of Monet's water lily paintings. This bead can be made into a cuff bracelet or a pendant. Each one is a unique mini-masterpiece.

Cuff Beads
There are six horizontal holes the size of a standard head-pin in the bead pictured above. So you can string a strand of beads or whatever through the holes to make a cuff bracelet, like this:

designer jewelry bracelet
Raspberry Cuff Bracelet
Bold cuff features a garnet, cream, & purple art bead with six strands of seed beads on memory wire. This cuff opens from the top to wrap around your wrist. The wire will never lose its shape. This design has been featured in Bead Style Magazine, Bead & Button's Beading Essentials, and on PBS' Beads, Baubles & Jewels.

Artist's Info
Heather Powers is an innovative bead and jewelry artist, creating art beads collected by bead enthusiasts all over the world. Her work has been featured on television, in magazines and books. Her mixed media jewelry designs are sold locally at art galleries and markets. Heather graduated from art school with a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Kendall College of Art & Design. She lives in San Antonio where she is a work-at-home mom, balancing business and family.

Beadmaking tips
Van Gogh's Starry Night Disk Beads
Inspired by the colors and texture of Van Gogh's Starry Night painting. Stars of yellow and gold swirl around the midnight blue sky.

Heather also sells Jewelry Kits, for two of her most popular bracelets and a lariat necklace. Everything you need is included, so you can make your own masterpiece!

Absolutely gorgeous!

Heather is a very generous bead artist. Visit her Tips for Artists and Polymer Clay Bead Making Tips pages for lots of helpful information. I found these articles especially interesting:

Shell Bead Tutorial
Practice Makes Perfect
Translucent Clay
Stamped Beads

For additional information, visit the Art Bead Scene Blog

Niobium Jewelry

18 Jan

Are you familiar with Niobium? Niobium is a dull gray metal that is rarer than gold and more precious than sterling. It's a refractive metal that produces brilliant colors when it's heated or anodized. Anodizing is a process in which metal is dipped in an electrically-charged bath.

metal jewelry
Holly Yashi Paradise in Bloom Earrings
Leaf-shaped earrings adorned with one simple bloom and multi-hued branches
Available in other colors

In both anodizing and heating, a natural oxide with a very high refractive index forms on the surface of the metal. Depending on its thickness, this transparent oxide layer produces interference colors, like a beetle's back, or oil on a puddle.

jewelry designers
Holly Yashi Niobium Reversible Earrings
Niobium, Amethyst, Sterling Silver ear wires, 1-1/8" long
To reverse, simply remove earrings from ear wires and turn them around. 1 1/8" long

In the anodization process, Niobium will display different colors on its surface, depending on the voltage of electricity that is applied. You can also repeat the process to get more than one color on the same piece, and the colors never fade or tarnish. So beautiful!

Niobium is also environmentally clean, lightweight, and hypoallergenic. It's used in a lot of body jewelry-the stuff you see stuck into young people's lips, noses, eyebrows, and foreheads-because it's completely non-reactive with human tissue. It's safe to wear for even those most sensitive to metal allergies, and it can be colored beautifully.

Links to additional information about Niobium Jewelry:
Working with Niobium
Niobium Floral Earrings Tutorial
Large selection of Holly Yashi Niobium Earrings

Abalone Jewelry

18 Jan

abalone shell has been highly prized by jewelry makers for centuries, because it reflects the beauty of the ocean on a sunny day. Some call the Abalone's iridescent shell Mother of Pearl, but that term refers to the lining of an oyster shell.

Abalone shell offers a shimmering palette of colors, from blues and greens to sunset pinks and purples, all in one amazing piece.

fashion jewelry
Abalone Mosaic Bangle
This bracelet is the Metropolitan Museum's adaptation of the iridescent peacock blue Tessarae (tiles) that once encircled a column in Tiffany's showrooms on Madison Avenue. You can buy it at their website. Just click on the image.

Abalone jewelry is a great alternative to gemstone jewelry. It glitters, it's nature-made, it's beautiful, and it's very affordable. Because of its play of colors, you can wear Abalone jewelry with virtually anything. It accessorizes well with a myriad of colors. It can be casual or elegant, and it looks great with silver and gold.

designer jewelry
Abalone Pendant
Purple, pink an gray cast Abalone, Jade, and china white beads

These highly-prized mollusks are also a delicacy in many cultures, found naturally in California, Japan and other Pacific regions. Abalones like to clamp tightly to rocky surfaces and dine on the algae floating by. Abalone cultivation began in the late 1950's and early 1960's in Japan and China. It grew rapidly in the 1990s, and is now widespread in many countries, including the USA, Mexico, South Africa, and Australia.

The largest cultured abalone producer in the world is China with over 300 farms and a total production of approximately 3500 tons. Worldwide, there are over 15 species of abalone which are farmed and commercially important. Species can live in water temperatures ranging from 2C to30C.

About Abalone
Abalone Shell Jewelry

Designer Jewelry by Rhonda Reagan

16 Jan

Rhonda Reagan at Stunning Details offers a wide range of jewelry styles at her estore. She works with several different media, from mixed metals to totally unique handcrafted metal pieces, from chainmaille to wire-wrapping, from geometric pieces to designer gemstone jewelry. Her pieces are young and hip, yet earthy and classic. Her interpretation of shape and color is intuitive.

These earrings are a new design, and Rhonda has made them convertible. The gemstones are wired separately, so you can easily take them off the hoop. So you can order extra pairs of gemstones and create a whole earring wardrobe, with just one pair of hoops. You can also wear the hoops plain. Rhonda is going to offer these earrings in several color choices, including the blue chalcedony shown here. You can use the form on the Contact Us Page to find out about other gemstone choices.

jewelry designer Rhonda Reagan earrings
Argentium Silver Half-Hoop Hammered Earrings
Hoops are heavy 18-gauge Argentium Silver wire, 3/4" in diameter, with sterling silver posts and backs, totally handmade.

Argentium Silver tarnishes much slower than regular sterling silver. And when it does tarnish, it's a soft yellow color that can be easily removed with soap and water-no harsh chemicals necessary. Argentium is a little more expensive than sterling, but I believe the advantages far outweigh the extra cost.

And she has some really cool rings:

designer gemstone jewelry
Champagne CZ Infinity Ring
Heavy gauge 14k gold-fill wire has been shaped into an abstract infinity symbol and hammered for strength and beauty. It's topped off by a highly faceted 8mm champagne cubic zirconia. Also available in sterling silver.
gemstone designer ring
Peruvian Opal Ring
A gorgeous chunk of Peruvian Opal is accented with 14k gold filled wire with a slight criss cross design on top to accent the beauty of the stone. Peruvian opals have brown, white, and black mottling in them and each one is unique. Also available in Argentium Silver.