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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Boho Chic Jewelry

Years ago, when I first heard of "boho chic", I didn't really know what it meant.  But after seeing the word used a few times, I got the idea.  At some point I went and looked it up to see if it actually meant what I thought it did.  According to Wikipedia, boho chic is a style that draws on "various Bohemian and Hippie influences."  It defines Bohemianism as "the practice of an unconventional lifestyle."  

A busload of hippies.
Get a haircut you damn, dirty, hippie!

Now, no one needs to define the word hippie for me.  I was a child during the 60's, and I know (and love) the hippy look.  But for those of you who don't know, it was a lifestyle back in the 60's.  To say it was a subculture may be an understatement.  I think it was an entire generation.  Think pot, LSD, psychedelic music, psychedelic clothes, flower power, love beads, peace signs and fringe.  I think probably what started it was the reaction of young adults to the Vietnam War, but it spread to other countries as well.  It reached it's peak in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the late sixties.

Janis Joplin

Of course, rebelling against the war doesn't entirely explain the fashion style.  Part of the fashion was definitely rebellion.  Men grew their hair long and didn't shave.  The natural look was certainly in, which was pretty much the total opposite of the early 60s.  Another influence was when the Beatles went to India to visit the Maharishi.  Add psychedelic drugs to the mix and stir it all together and you have hippie fashion.  Now, I'm just speculating at all of this, so if anyone wants to correct me, feel free.  (I'm too lazy to do the research!  Oh, did I say lazy?  I mean busy!)

The Beatles and the Maharishi - notice the beads!

Brown Cotton Macrame Bracelet with Rhinestone in Silver
Bracelet by Pink Sunset Jewelry Designs
The hippie jewelry was not expensive.  I'm sure quite a bit of it was homemade.  Macrame was in for plant holders and jewelry too.  

This macrame bracelet looks very much like something a hippie might have.  Although the large rhinestone might be a little on the fancy side.  A hippie might be more likely to have one or more 
cheap colorful beads.
Om Raku Pendant Necklace Handmade Jasper Gemstone Swarovski Jewelry
Necklace by Shadow Dog Designs

I still remember the necklace I used to wear all the time.  I had a yellow shirt and the pendant was orange.  It was round.  It may very likely have been a peace sign.  I'm sure I still have it packed away in a box somewhere.  Even though this one isn't a peace sign, the om would fit right in too (reminiscent of the maharishi!)

Triple chain charm anklet
Ankle Bracelet by Joyce's Custom Gems
We've all heard how hippies didn't like to bathe.  Actually I'm pretty sure that, even though they may not have had a bathtub, they did like to go skinny dipping!  They didn't necessarily like to wear shoes, or even any clothes at all.  That's why I couldn't resist including this bare foot with the ankle bracelet here.

Boho Beaded "Jesus Saves" Inspirational Wrap Bracelet
Bracelet by Allen Designs by Michelle
This bracelet looked hippie to me because of all the different beads that have been incorporated with one focal piece.  Like, yeah, I've got a bunch of beads, so let's throw them all together! (No offense, it looks great!) Although a true hippie would have a peace sign for the focal piece.

Filigree Earrings Boho Chic Gold Pearl Iris Crystals Niobium Ear Wires
Earrings by Shanghai Tai

Long and flowing is definitely a hippie mantra, especially when it came to hair.  "Let it all hang out!"  Dangling and eclectic, these earrings would fit in at the commune.  Even though these pearls are very organic looking rather than expensive, a real hippie probably would have some kind of bead other than a pearl.  These have a bit of a gypsy vibe, which was definitely "in".

Silver Lined Teal Tube Beaded Chevron Patterned Dangle Beaded Earrings
Earrings by Specialtivity
Ok, now for the pièce 
de résistance, in my opinion:


As I was looking through fringed, seed beed earrings for a pair to include it was almost like I went back in time for a second.  I remember the pair I had.  They were kind of grey, and I think all one color.  This pair looks a little nicer than mine.  Mine were really cheap, and I'm sure they were made in Japan.

What happened to the hippies?  The war ended and I guess they all grew up.  I like to think there's a little hippie still left inside all of us.    I don't know about you, but this has certainly inspired me to go dig out some hippie clothes and see if I can find my old jewelry!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Peculiarities of Pearls

If you know me, you know that I love pearls and make a lot of pearl jewelry.  So I am going to share with you a few of the many,  many different kinds of pearls that are out there. 

Real Pearl wire on a sterling silver Heart

Sterling silver ring by Zoomgraphik

But first, a little about the two basic kinds of pearls:  saltwater and freshwater.  Pearls are formed when an irritation gets inside a mollusk (an oyster or a clam).  If the pearl comes from a mollusk that lives in saltwater, the pearl is a saltwater pearl, also known as a sea pearl.  Freshwater pearls come from mollusks that live in freshwater. 

Near Round Freshwater Pearls - Bracelet by Diane's Dangles

Salt water pearls tend to be larger and rounder than freshwater pearls.  Sometimes they also may be round with a little point on top.  Tahitian, South Sea, and Australian pearls are all types of saltwater pearls.  They will naturally come in white, dark silvery grey/peacock grey, pale pinks or even gold.  

  Freshwater pearls tend to be smaller, on average, than the sea pearls.  They also often have kind of a squashed shape, more rice/oval shaped, or almost round but a little squashed on the bottom.  Freshwater pearls are much more affordable than saltwater pearls, so you see them much more frequently in handmade jewelry.

This shows the typical "squashed" look common in FW Pearls

A natural pearl is a pearl that is found naturally in the wild.  A cultured pearl means that the mollusk was induced by man to produce the pearl by inserting a nucleus, usually made from a small piece of shell.  Natural pearls are very rare, so almost all pearls available are cultured pearls.  The most prized shape is perfectly round, even though most pearls are not perfectly round. 

Pearl Hoop Earrings, Hoop Earrings,  Dusty Mint Green, Hemlock

Pearl Hoop Earrings by Maggie's  Jewelry

A pearl that is not round is called baroque.  In recent years, producers of freshwater pearls have taken to using various different shapes of nuclei resulting in some unusually shaped pearls, including diamonds, coins and crosses.  

"Mystère" - Ivory Freshwater Pearl and 14k Gold-Filled Earrings
Center drilled coin pearls, earrings by Adora by Simona

In addition, freshwater pearls are often dyed or irradiated to give them various colors.  They naturally come in a white to a pale peach color.

Twisted Pearl Handmade Necklace Torsade Green Peacock Seafoam Celadon

Freshwater pearl necklace by Shadow Dog Designs

Many pearls are drilled all the way through, and then strung temporarily on strands that are very closely matched.  Some pearls are what's called half-drilled, drilled only half way through so they can be mounted on a post.  

Half drilled freshwater drops by Shanghai Tai

The highest quality (and most expensive) pearls are perfectly round, perfectly white, have no visible flaws or grooves, and a very high luster.  However, pearls with flaws can also make wonderful jewelry, because they look very organic.  
Freshwater Pearl and Green Glass Earrings with Leaf Charms

Baroque Pearls, earrings by Pretty Gonzo

If you would like to learn more about pearls, you might enjoy this video I found which really goes into a lot of detail:   Japanese Cultured Akoya Pearls Part 1.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My First Metal Clay Video

Yesterday I spent a few hours at a studio of a friend of mine, Sue of Purr-fectly Unique Jewelry, shooting my first jewelry lesson video.  Sue and her son have just started a jewelry lesson website, and asked me to do a tutorial on metal clay.

For the first one, I decided to do a very easy beginner project:  a simple stamped pendant in silver metal clay.  This doesn't require any experience.  (It does, however, require a kiln.)

Here is Christopher setting up the lights.

Here I am getting ready to do the introduction (under the hot lights!):

Photo by C Karczewski, CK Entertainment

When the video is finished, there will be a trailer, which I will share here on my blog.  In the meantime, you can check out the site at

Friday, July 4, 2014

Black Max Patina

Right now I am busy making jewelry for an upcoming show.  (My last show went great, so I'm a little low on inventory!)  Yesterday I was working with some silver metal clay that I had just fired, so thought I'd take a couple of behind the scenes pictures.

A patina is a coloring that we put on the metal, usually to show detail.  In this case, I had some earring components that had Chinese characters stamped in them, and I want to make sure the characters are visible.  Silver is so reflective, that unless I do something, they will be hard to see.

Below is what they look like when I start.  Here they are all shiny, because I have run them through the tumbler.  The Black Max is in the jar.  It looks like really dark pee!  But it will turn black on the silver.

I could just dip them in the Black Max, but then that's more black to gunk up the steel shot in my tumbler.  So I decided just to paint the detail with the patina, and that way, hopefully, it would polish up quicker and be less dirty on my shot.

Here are the pieces after I painted them:

Next I put them in my tumbler with the steel shot and burnishing compound and tumble them for awhile.  The surface gets clean but the shot doesn't get into the recesses, so those don't get clean.  That's the plan anyway.

Here they are in my tumbler:

After tumbling for awhile, the letters/characters are black, and the rest is shiny silver.  I didn't take a picture of them because I was too anxious to make the earrings.

Here is a picture of the finished product:

Hope you enjoyed that quick look at Black Max patina.  Do you ever use patina?  What kind of patina do you like to use?