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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

12 Types of Handmade Jewelry

Black Onyx White Jade Chunky Handmade Necklace Sterling Jewelry Beaded
Black Onyx and White Jade Necklace, Shadow Dog Designs

There are many different types of handmade jewelry, so I thought I'd share a few of them with you here.  Maybe you'll discover something new!  These are in no particular order.

1.  STRINGING:  First of all, we have stringing.  This is basically just stringing the beads on beading wire or cord.  Catherine of Shadow Dog Designs does a great job of this.  Here is one of my favorites.  It's not so obvious here, but when you look at the whole necklace, it reminds me of our California Banded King Snake named Ringo!  Stringing is usually the first thing a jewelry designer learns to do.  Although, some people are more talented at it than others, and Catherine is certainly one of them.

Copper Wire Nautilus Pendant
Wire-wrapped Nautilus Pendant in Copper, Wagoner Wire Works

2. WIRE-WRAPPING:  Wire wrapping involves making things out of wire.  It could be as simple as connecting two beads together, putting a little accent on something, or making a bail to attach a pendant.  Then there's the advanced version, and this copper wire wrapped pendant by Wagoner Wire Works is definitely a prime example.  I can't imagine the skill and the time involved to make something like this nautilus pendant.  I also love the back lighting in this photo!

 Teal and Orange Flower Earrings Polymer Clay with Swarovski Crystals
Teal and Orange Flower Earrings, Blue Morning Expressions

3.  POLYMER CLAY: This is special clay that when you bake it in the oven it turns into something like plastic.  Crafty people have all kinds of fun with this, including making miniature food, etc. Also it doesn't require a lot of equipment to be able to do it.  A talented polymer clay artist can make very intricate and beautiful designs,  Floral designs are popular, such as these teal and orange floral earrings by Blue Morning Expressions.

Mountain Range Picture Jasper Cuff Bracelet,  sterling silver bpjo1396
Picture Jasper Cuff Bracelet, Lunar Skies

Dragonfly Necklace, Rio Rheba Boutiques
 4. METALSMITHING - This is the traditional sawing, forging, soldering that most of us jewelry makers aspire to do.   Quentin of Lunar Skies certainly has it down pat.  In this bracelet we see all of those skills put to work and more.  He even cuts his own stones!  I am a big fan!  Since the jasper looks like a mountain landscape, he continued the mountain design onto the cuff itself.  The sky on the cuff has been textured and a patina added to make the mountains stand out.

5. RESIN:  Resin jewelry has become very popular lately.  It's easy to make and doesn't require a lot of equipment or special skill.  People who make this type of jewelry frequently purchase a bezel to use, although some make their own.  You can cut out a photograph, text or patterned image for a background then pour the resin on top.  This necklace by Rio Rheba Boutiques looks like she has two images, the dragonfly on top of a newspaper clipping.  If your bezel is thick enough you can add rhinestones, small flowers or other 3D objects under the resin.  It can also add color to jewelry when depressions in the metal are filled with colored resin.

Deep Violet w/ Ultramarine Blue Lampwork Glass Bead Handmade Earrings
Lampwork Glass Bead Earrings, Crystal Bazaar

6. LAMPWORK:  Making lampwork glass beads does not require a lot of equipment, but it does require skill.  You have to be able to put that hot glass in just the right spot to get the desired result.  At left is a pair of lampwork bead earrings by Sally of Crystal Bazaar.  The blue dots in these beads were drops of molten glass, as were the white dots underneath those.  To get them all about the same size and place them exactly where they need to be, and then to get them round and smooth, takes some talent in my opinion.

Multi Color Swirl Woven Cuff, Irish Expressions
7. WEAVING:  Weaving involves making something on a loom.  This involves two different sets of threads going perpendicular to each other, warp and weft.  When thinking of weaving, if you're like me, you think of people weaving big rugs on big wooden looms with a shuttle that goes back and forth.  That's not always the case.  When I was a child, I was taught to do seed beading.  My loom was a cardboard box with little slits in each end to hold the thread!  Most woven jewelry is made with seed beads, and you can make the most awesome, intricate designs.  Here is a colorful woven cuff by Irish Expressions.

Antique Silver  Bracelet Yemen Flexible Chain Mail Technique
Antique Yemeni Chain Mail Bracelet, Crafts of the Past

Reflection of Tree in Pond Fused Glass Art Glass Pendant Necklace
Reflection of Tree in Pond Pendant, Meant 2B Cherished

Leaves and Lampwork Copper & Brass Pendant
Enameled Leaf Pendant by Iron Mountain Jewelry

8. CHAIN MAIL - Chain mail (sometimes called chain maille) jewelry is made by attaching lots of jump rings together tightly in a pattern.  This can be fairly simple, as in a pair of earrings, or very complicated, for example if you are trying to make a ring in a certain size.  I came across this antique chain mail bracelet at Crafts of the Past.  This pattern is so tight, I'm guessing the person who made it may have pulled it through a draw plate to make it smaller and tighter.

Gorgeous Turquoise Beaded Earrings
Turquoise and Beaded Earrings by Bijoir Designs

9. FUSED GLASS: The difference between fused and lampwork is you need a kiln to make fused glass.  Compatible glass, usually in sheet form, is stacked on the shelf and then melted.  This is why it usually has a flat bottom.  Metallic looking dichroic glass is very popular with fusers, as are enamel or gold fuse on decals, like the tree on this beautiful wire wrapped pendant by Maureen of Meant 2B Cherished.

10. ENAMELING:  Enamel is actually powdered glass that is fused? onto a base layer of metal.  This is usually done with a kiln, but can also be done with a torch!  There are many different enameling techniques, most of them with French names.  My favorites are cloisonne and plique-a-jour.  I'm not sure what enamel technique this is, other than maybe what is called "painted enamel".  The round green bead is actually a lampwork bead, but the green on the leaf is the enamel.  This copper and brass pendant is made by Iron Mountain Jewelry.

11.  BEADING:  Native Americans are known for this type of jewelry.  I think often the beads are stitched onto a supporting piece of fabric or leather, but they don't have to be.  I have seen some unbelievable beaded creations at the Bead and Button show.  Here is a pair of beaded turquoise earrings by one of our newer members, Bijour Designs.

Textured Silver Drop Pendant Blue Brown Multistrand Handmade OOAK
Textured Reverse of Desert Rain Pendant, Shanghai Tai

12. METAL CLAY:  A a relatively new medium on the jewelry scene, this clay is made from microscopic bits of metal mixed with an organic binder.  You can shape it like clay, then fire it in the kiln and all the organic material burns away.  Only the metal is left.  It is wonderful for putting textures in metal.  This is actually the back of a pendant by Roxanne of Shanghai Tai.  This one is fine silver, but it also comes in gold, copper, bronze and even steel!

So, I'm not saying these are the only methods, or the best methods, they are just twelve that popped into my head.  (So don't send me angry emails!)   Thank you to all the artists of the Jewelry Creators Unite in Numbers (JCUIN) guild for providing the jewelry photos!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Custom Anniversary Necklace

This was a secret, but it's not a secret anymore, so I guess I can share it.

One day I got an email from a man who was looking for copper jewelry for his wife.  Their 7th anniversary was coming up, and it is the copper anniversary.  He wanted to buy her something special and said he was impressed with some of my pieces that he saw online.  He is a westerner who lives in China, and his wife is Chinese.

So I asked him a few questions about his wife regarding her tastes in jewelry and also how sensitive her skin is, because some people are allergic to copper.  We discussed a bracelet that he liked, but then I asked him if his wife wore bracelets, and he said actually she doesn't.  She does wear a lot of earrings, so he sent me a picture of her earring rack.  Here is the picture he sent me:

Notice anything about her taste in jewelry?  Here's what I noticed:  She doesn't like things that are too big, but she doesn't like them super dainty either.  She likes things that are feminine, round and dramatic.  She also likes dangle and movement.

He decided on a necklace and earrings.  We wanted the piece to have meaning.  We decided it also needed to have some dangles and roundness to it.  We decided the focal piece would be a circle with the names of their two children on it, and two dangling crystals in the colors of their (western) birthstones.  Here is the focal piece:

I have added a blue-green patina because I thought it needed some color.

It is reversible, so if she doesn't want her children's names showing, she can turn it around the other way.

We added three dangles, for a total of seven, to represent the seven years.  There is a Chinese character on each side, fortune on her right and happiness on her left, with a floral/heart design on either side of those.

Here are the dangly earrings.  They both say "love" on them, and also have the birthstone color crystals.

The ear wires look like copper, but they are actually niobium.  It is much more hypoallergenic than copper.

In the background you can see the handmade spiral clasp.  Again, this is a repetition of the round theme carried throughout the design.

Here is the whole necklace shown with the earings.  We discussed doing copper chain, but he thought she would prefer beads, and then we also don't have to worry about an allergic reaction.

Here is what the necklace looks like if she decides to wear it in reverse.

My customer let me know that his wife liked the jewelry, and I think he was very happy with the fact that he could be involved in the design process every step of the way!

If you are interested in a custom design, you can view some of my work currently listed for at my Artfire studio, or contact me by email at