Monday, December 28, 2009


I'm sure you've heard of wicked stepmothers....but have you even heard of wicked stepdaughters? Because that is exactly what I am.

No, this is not one of mine. This is my stepmom's wedding ring. I've had this thing held hostage here in my studio for at least half a year. Leaving my poor mother wedding ring-less (or as she likes to call it "without her shackle"). Terrible. I've been wanting to size it up and put a new half shank on it. But when I got it sawed in two and prepared to solder on the new shank, it wouldn't solder, no matter what I tried. I think I am being too conservative with the heat because I am afraid of ruining something that has a lot of sentimental value. The ruby, in particular, worries me because it has inclusions. Which I think add to its loveliness, but they do make it more likely to crack when heat is applied. I think the stone will need to be removed. But I'm going to take it to someone who specializes in repairs, because I'm just too close to this thing. It's like a surgeon who can't operate on family (or something like that....).

Meanwhile, I couldn't leave my mom shackle-less, could I? And exposed to the advances of strange men at the grocery store? Not I! So I made her something pretty to wear while I get the ring repaired:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Dearest readers, If you have seen the last few posts you know that I have been struggling to get my casting operation up and running. I have so many new ideas in my head that are dying for a chance to make it into metal form and I have several pieces in my current collection that are much easier to make by casting rather than by hand fabrication. Well.... I did it! Or, I guess I should say "we did it!", because my faithful Shop Monkey was there assisting, and he managed to snap this very unflattering photo just after the event:
Man, am I happy. I can't even explain how happy I am. I've done casting before, but always under someone more experienced who was "in charge". This was the first successful casting that I did under my power. There is a difference.
(On an unrelated note, for all of you jewelry junkies out there who might think making jewelry is glamorous....check me out above. That is pretty much how I look at work. Grubby, hot, hair pulled back, with dirty fingers. Not terribly glam.)

And it worked!

First I took a lot more care with my wax carving:

(in process)

Which is carved down from a slice of this:

Using these:

I don't know why it is, but somehow I automatically assume that when the ring comes out in metal it will magically be better than the wax. But that is not the case. You have to make the wax as perfect as you possibly can, because any flaws will be exaggerated even more in the metal and you will spend so much time finishing the final product that it makes it not even worth it to cast it in the first place. Checking the proportions:

I thought I had done a really good job on these waxes, but it turned out that every little file mark on the wax was a hundred thousand times more pronounced in the metal. So I spend a lot of time filing and sanding the next day. Live and learn.
I then invested the molds and burned out the wax. I think what was key for the success here was that I bought a new casting machine:

This is a centrifugal casting machine. You wind it up and then heat your metal in an attached crucible. When the metal is almost ready, you have your Shop Monkey remove the flask from the super hot kiln and place it on the swing arm inside the drum. After you have pushed the exit hole of the crucible up against the mouth of the flask you let the arm swing around, forcing the molten metal in the mold. It works like a charm, and I trust it so much more than the vacuum casting method.
The unfinished results:

They look pretty rough here, and I think I need to get higher heat investment. I talked to Jeff Hoover (at Hoover and Strong, my metal guys), and he suggested the centrifugal machine and different type of investment for the palladium white gold that I use a lot of. He said what I have for now is fine, but it would be better to get the other stuff when I run out. I have a 100lbs of it, so I don't know how soon that will be....
But here is the finished product!
Sapphires, diamonds, moissanite! I love stones!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I won't lie

I got into making jewelry for the stones, not for the metal.

(Although, 18kt gold is winning me over to the metal side slowly but surely. )

I've always been a magpie, ever since I was little. I love shiny things, especially if they are translucent. I have a huge collection of marbles. Yes, I own jars (that's plural, I won't tell you just how many) of marbles. I like clear things and things that shine and things that sparkle. So my first priority when I started learning goldsmithing, was not so much the goldsmithing, but more the stone setting. I guess I sort of viewed the metal as the delivery method for the stones. I still do sort of feel that way (as my designs can attest), but I'm getting more into the metal stuff. I don't think (actually, I KNOW) that I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for shiny pretty stones.

But I don't want to limit myself. So I'm really going to try to focus a little more on the metal. Not too much, since I adore (and that is not hyperbole) stones. For example, the little raw pendant pictured above and below. I could have left it plain, it was simple and lovely plain. But I couldn't! I had to (HAD TO) add a stone.

But these! I restrained myself and left them plain. Although I do think I will be adding stones to them in the future. Maybe just small shiny ones....maybe one or two sparkly ones set into one of the columns. Maybe.....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ok, I'm over it

Ok, I've gotten over my little disappointment from Monday. I can't be upset about things I have no control over. I did write the guy, but he didn't respond. Oh well. I want to thank everybody who left some really nice comments, it's crazy how nice people can be. I'm always surprised when things aren't going too well and I blog about it, and then I get lovely support from people. Strangers are awesome!