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Nearly every day I find an interesting story about a new designer, a new technique, a new tool, a new place to sell, the retail side of the business, or the impact of various markets on the prices of gems or the prices of metals.   And, of course, I want to show off my own designs from time to time.  This is a place for all things jewelry and all things creative. Welcome to my obsession.  Enjoy yourself.  Post questions or comments.  If you have a story you’d like me to post, e-mail me at: gemznbeadz at g mail dot com

You, sculpted in precious metals and gems – Springwise

In these days of economic gloom and doom, it’s nice to know that some people have money!  (I just wish it was me!)

A service called You Look Like a Million Dollars, offered by legendary sculptors Wrightson & Platt, is accepting commissions to recreate you,  your loved ones, or whomever you choose,  in precious metals, bronze and glass, with personally significant items added and embellished with gems.

The first sculpture is that of a nine-year-old boy named Ben:

million-dollars1

Ben with iPod. Photo by Richard Riddick

For information about how you, too, can be memorialized in this way, visit their website, http://www.youlooklikeamilliondollars.com.  For more of the work of these remarkable artists, see their website, http://www.wrightsonandplatt.com.

Looking Into Glass

In the posts I’ve made so far, I’ve talked about materials such as metal, vinyl,  gemstones, and crystals, but I haven’t yet talked about glass.

After seeing an article today about an opening of a new exhibit at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi called Glasswear:  Glass in Contemporary Jewelry, it was clear that it’s time to talk glass.  In this exhibit, while most of the work can be worn, the focus is on the glass as art.


This string of huge beads spans the exhibit floor. According to an article in the Caller-Times by Dr. Elizabeth E. Reese, the beads are strung on black yachting rope, with knots between each bead. The installation was meant to have 32 beads, but only 28 were used because the weight caused the rope to stretch. This is a problem that jewelry-makers face when stringing and knotting on silk, only on a much smaller scale, of course. Photo by Todd Yates, reprinted with permission of Corpus Christi Caller-Times

If you have not spent a great deal of time at bead shows or in the company of serious glass bead artists, you may not be familiar with glass beads beyond those of the artisans of Murano in Italy.

If that’s the case, you might have missed the spectacular art beads produced in borosilicate glass by Tom Boylan:

I used one of Tom's beads for this pendant.

I used one of Tom's beads for this pendant. Photo by Linda Castellani

Here’s another Boylan bead, from his website http://www.tomboylan.com:

No one works magic in borosilicate glass like Tom.

No one works magic in borosilicate glass like Tom. Photo by Martha Bouquin

or the whimsical beads produced by the incomparable Sharon Peters:

SharonSharon has a skewed – in a good way – perspective on the world around her and finds ways to reproduce what she sees – real or not –  in glass.  One example is this egg bracelet, featuring whole eggs, sunnyside-up eggs, and a matching egg clasp.   For more examples see her website at http://www.smartassglass.com. Photo by Jim Trenkle.

Sharon and Tom work in traditional materials designed for glass beads.  According to the article about the exhibit in Texas, the glass used in the collection also includes found window glass, blown glass,  glass lenses, and laboratory glass, as in the work by Sandra Enterline shown here:

The glass tubes contain various found objects, but there is no doubt that this is jewelry. Photo by Todd Yates, reprinted with permission of Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Here are two other breathtaking examples of what can be seen at this exhibit.  Too bad I don’t have plans to be in South Texas for this; I’d love to see all of the 130 works in the exhibit.

This lighter-than-air necklace of blown Murano glass bubbles by artist Giorgio Vigna is called Gorgoglio. Photo by Todd Yates, reprinted with permission of Corpus Christi Caller-Times

This necklace by British artist Wendy Ramshaw is called Chain of Glass Tears for Weeping Woman. Photo by Todd Yates, reprinted with permission of Corpus Christi Caller-Times

My passion for high tech is equaled only by my passion for all things jewelry, and high on the list of jewelry things I’m passionate about is Swarovski crystal.  Most people who have heard the name Swarovski picture the exquisite leaded crystal sculptures for which the company has been famous for decades; a decidedly smaller group is familiar with the role that Swarovski plays in jewelry.  The variety of crystals available for jewelry designers is nothing short of overwhelming – in a good way! – and the company has been making them for so long that vintage collectors are equally as thrilled as new collectors.

Swarovski makes its own spectacular jewelry – spectacular with a capital Bling! – and now it has found a way to bring that bling into the 21st century by partnering with Philips technology on such ubiquitous items as USB Memory Keys, Headphones, and Bluetooth Headsets.  Yes, you heard me right.  Check these out:

This is one of the USB Memory Keys.  They come in three styles, including encrusted with crystals.  Below is the single crystal style.

The Heartware USB Memory Key is shown as a closed pendant in Vitrail Medium.

The Heartware USB Memory Key is shown as a closed pendant in Vitrail Medium.

Heartware USB Memory Key opened, to reveal the USB plug.  This Swarovski pendant has a 1GB capacity.  I can't believe I just wrote that in a sentence.

Heartware USB Memory Key opened, to reveal the USB plug. This Swarovski pendant has a 1GB capacity. I can't believe I just wrote that in a sentence.

Here’s another USB Memory Key pendant.

The Active Crystal Moonchrome USB pendant.

The Active Crystal Moonchrome USB pendant.

The Active Crystal Moonchrome pendant with USB plug exposed.

The Active Crystal Moonchrome pendant with USB plug exposed.

Two more pendants.

The Active Crystal Happy Laura pendant.  Pull her head off to reveal the USB plug.

The Active Crystal Happy Laura pendant. Pull her head off to reveal the USB plug.

Here is Happy Laura's boyfriend, Naughty Raymond

Here is Happy Laura's boyfriend, Naughty Raymond

Which brings us to Bluetooth headsets.

The Breeze Bluetooth headset comes in white or black, and has an over-the-ear piece and volume control.  One of the crystals lights up to show that it's in use.

The Breeze Bluetooth headset comes in white or black, and has an over-the-ear piece and volume control. One of the crystals lights up to show that it's in use.

The earbuds are next up.

This is called the Amazone.  The earbuds have crystals in them and the chain features a hook at the end to attach your MP3 device.

This is called the Amazone. The earbuds have crystals in them and the chain features a hook at the end to attach your MP3 device.

And finally, an example of the headphones.

This is called the Space In-Ear Headphone.  It comes in three colors, and according to the description, "Listening to music will become your daily highlight as the sparkling crystals shimmer to the rhythm of your favourite beats."

This is called the Space In-Ear Headphone. It comes in three colors, and according to the description, "Listening to music will become your daily highlight as the sparkling crystals shimmer to the rhythm of your favourite beats."

There are other styles of headphones as well – see the URL link above – and so help me, I want some of these devices, but they range from $56 to $260 so I guess I will be admiring from afar for now.  And, just to make sure you don’t miss anything when you go through check-out, you can also buy Swarovski Belts, Binoculars, Keyholders, Mobile Phone Accessories, and Small Leather Goods.  Too bad Christmas is over and gone.  But, I do have a birthday coming up…

The Field Museum Information: Press Room

Whenever I see an exhibit of ancient jewelry, I am always surprised by how current it looks.  I have to remind myself that jewelry-making is an ancient enterprise, using the same materials and essentially the same tools that have been used for centuries.

Here’s a picture of the remnants of a gold, turquoise, chalcedony, and glass necklace from 14th century Iran:

A necklace from Iran, circa 14th century

A necklace from Iran, circa 14th century

I had a jewelry show of my own work earlier today, in which I sold gold, turquoise, chalcedony, and glass bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.

The only difference between what I sold today and the pieces from antiquity is that my materials were beads, and they were strung, not set.

Despite those minor differences, some things just do not change.  When I set a stone in metal, it is very likely to be bezel set – a thin strip of metal in the shape of the stone is soldered to the main piece of the work.  The stone – either faceted or cabochon – is placed in the bezel which is then burnished to mold the bezel to the stone and hold it in place. Take a closer look at the necklace above.  The top two pieces, just below what must have been the clasp, are empty bezels.  They have lost their stones.  Take a close look at the clasp and the pendant.  You can see circles that look almost like bubbles in this photograph.  Each of those circles is an empty bezel that has lost its stone.

Not all of the bezels are circles, either. Other empty bezel shapes like oval and paisley are also visible.

This is an ancient technique.  Undoubtedly the solder we use today comes in a different form than they had – for example, mine is very thin sheet and comes in soft, medium, or hard – but the way it’s used is exactly the same.

In February, an entire collection of jewelry antiquities from Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant, Persia, and the Islamic Middle East will go on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.  They will be accompanied by maps and other illustrations that will place the jewelry in the context of its culture and time.

Beading to Live

Women in Uganda rise from poverty to build a better future for themselves and their families. Beautiful handmade bead jewelry – necklaces, bracelets and Bead Parties!

I love to bead, I love beads, I love to buy beads.  Sometimes I think that, speaking figuratively, of course, that if I couldn’t bead I’d die.

And then I heard about BeadforLife, a group of women in Uganda whose handmade beads of recycled paper are “eradicating poverty one bead at a time.” For them, beads are the way to a better life.

These industrious woman make beads and sell them, and make jewelry from their beads and sell those, along with gorgeous handmade satin-lined gift pouches, CDs of their singing, and note cards.

The proceeds of the sales are used to buy food, medicine, and pay for school fees, but it goes way beyond that.  They also developed a vocational training program in an area where traditional education is simply either not available or beyond the financial reach of most and they are building a village with help from Habitat for Humanity.  They also fund loans to other businesses to become as successful as they have.

The women of BeadforLife and some of their beads

The women of BeadforLife and some of their beads

You might not think it’s possible to make such beautiful beads out of paper, or such beautiful jewelry out of paper beads, but take a look:

Bangle bracelets made from paper beads

Bangle bracelets made from paper beads

The beads and jewelry are astonishingly inexpensive, and available from their Website:  http://www.beadforlife.org/

Here’s a video on the basics of making paper beads:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/video/1016/how_to_make_paper_beads.html?cat=46

And here’s step-by-step instructions:

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Paper-Beads

Modern Jeweler: Articles – Chrome Diopside

I just ran across this article about Chrome Diopside in Modern Jeweler Magazine.

If you are not familiar with this gem, then let me introduce you.  The photo below is taken from the Modern Jeweler article, and the article itself does a great job of describing where the gem is mined, how it found its way into the gem market, and how it got its name.

Chrome Diopside gem, photo from Modern Jeweler magazine.

Chrome Diopside gem, photo from Modern Jeweler magazine.

I think Chrome Diopside gems are what emeralds only wish they could be.

Rocks and Stars

When I first encountered Joseph Brooks’ sleek website http://www.josephbrooksjewelry.com, with its slideshow display of his work, I immediately wanted to include it in this blog, so I asked for permission to use a photo of  this labradorite necklace with its carved Ganesha pendant.  What impressed me about this necklace was more than the fact that I love labradorite and that Ganesha is my favorite Hindu diety, it was how the pendant had been carefully carved to highlight the flash of labradoresence that is the hallmark of this captivating stone.

A Ganesha pendant is the focal point of this Joseph Brooks labradorite necklace.

A Ganesha pendant is the focal point of this Joseph Brooks labradorite necklace.

Another thing that impressed me about his work was how versatile its appeal was to both men and women.

I asked for a bio so I could include a bit of information about the designer and found more than I could possibly have expected.  It seems that not only was I taken with his work, but I was in good company; it is also collected by Madonna,  Lennie Kravitz,  Siouxsie Sioux, and the Jonas Brothers, and Justin Timberlake wore two of Brooks’ turquoise necklaces for his photo on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Most of the designers I know, myself included, would love to have our work in the hands of rock stars like these and we wonder how to make that happen.  My own claim to fame in this department was having been commissioned to make a pair of guitar pick earrings for Judy Collins to commemorate the two Signature Edition guitars issued by Martin in her name. but my experience pales in comparison.

Brooks had his audience already in hand, because, before he became a jewelry designer, he was immersed in the rock music scene, as the owner of the iconic Vinyl Fetish record store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and later as nightclub host and DJ.   He rubbed elbows with all kind of musical acts and jumpstarted the careers of others, like Guns n Roses.  It seems that I had stumbled upon the Website of a rock legend whose passion for a different kind of rocks is adding another facet to his impressive life story.

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