Articles and Videos by Suzanne Wade:
The stories are undeniably heartbreaking. Yang Renping, 41 of two children, coughs continuously and walks only weakly. He’s suffering from silicosis, a lung disease caused by 12-hour days cutting gemstones and beads in a Shenzhen factory. His 200,000 yuan (US$25,000)…
Six years ago, the Internet was still in its first flowering, populated largely by academics, students, and computer nerds. Although terms like “information superhighway” were making their way into mass media, the Internet was still more of a geek paradise…
The one tool that allows each of these jewelers to do their jobs better is a laser welder, a technological advancement that is becoming increasingly common in trade shops and manufacturing facilities. By using a sharply focused beam of light to produce very high heat in a small area, lasers are allowing jewelers to routinely accomplish tasks that would once have been either impossible or too time consuming to be worthwhile.
In 1996, Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico, introduced artists and jewelers in the United States to Precious Metal Clay – PMC from Mitsubishi Materials Corp. in Tokyo. The material, a mixture of fine-grained metal powder with an organic binder, could be worked like clay, but became a solid piece of metal when kiln-fired.
how one of 3M’s radial bristle discs to a non-jeweler friend, and you are almost guaranteed to get a lukewarm response: ‘This is what you’re so excited about?’ But to the jewelers who have eagerly adopted them, these simple circular brushes are ‘the greatest thing since flexi-straws…
A summary of the most common treatment techniques used on diamonds, how they are identified by trained gemologists, and what potential problems they present to manufacturers, retailers, and bench jewelers.
Natural rubber or silicone rubber? In the world of lost wax casting, this question is hardly an academic one. The mold material chosen must be up to the task of turning a single original model into hundreds or even thousands of wax models for casting, and choosing the wrong material can lead to some serious hair-pulling in the casting department. There are actually three primary categories of rubber mold making materials.
In addition to reducing the labor required to move a design from the sketch stage to the actual model, CAD reduces misunderstandings between designers and model makers. Because pencil sketches are not always precisely scaled or proportioned, a model maker relies on his or her own interpretation of the designer’s vision. Such interpretation opens the door to misunderstandings.
This crocheted necklace is created by weaving interlocking loops of 18k gold wire into a chain, using a needle. Because the chain is built loop by loop, it is a time consuming process: It can take up to three hours to crochet one inch..
If each sapphire deposit has its own unique chemical mix, in theory it should only be a matter of careful analysis to figure out where a stone came from. But there remains an element of art to determining country of origin, partially because of the limitations of the science itself, and partially because no one has yet compiled complete data on each gem locality..
When the first warnings about color enhancement of golden South Sea pearls came out five years ago, fear struck the South Sea pearl industry. Some of the new enhancement methods for golden pearls were nearly undetectable, leaving dealers and retailers guessing how many pearls on the market were treated and wondering whether golden pearls were going to be the gem world’s next disclosure scandal.
How does concave faceting create so much more brilliance than regular flat faceting? Imagine a typical flat, square mirror, Now push the top and bottom closer together so that the reflective side curves toward you. Than take the left and right edges and curve them away from you so that the whole thing is slightly cylindrical.
The jewelry industry has seen a veritable flood of new technologies in recent yearsfrom CAD/CAM and laser welders to new alloys and Precious Metal Clay (PMC). And after a tentative start, jewelry designers have begun to embrace them. The result has been designs both simple and sophisticated, clumsy attempts and elegant results. Critics have derided the new technologies for producing jewelry that’s sterile or amateur, while proponents argue that various technologies will forever change the way we make jewelry.
Metal clay has not yet proven to be an effective substitute for casting: sterling silver is often preferred over fine silver for its relative strength, and the higher cost of metal clay compared to cast silver generally makes it unappealing for large volume production. But some craft artists have begun bridging the gap between one-of-a-kind and volume production by using metal clay to create production models and turning to traditional casting techniques for their reproduction..
Imagine, if you will, two colored stones. Both exhibit good color. Both are relatively inclusion free. Both tip the scale at about the same weight. But one was cut better, and it’s simply more beautiful. Should you pay a premium price for it? Conventional wisdom holds that the answer is yes. Obtaining a good cut usually means greater weight loss in cutting and higher pay for a more skilled cutter, expenses which can only be recovered through a higher price or a lower profit margin. In theory, the market should be willing to pay a premium for the beauty of a better cut.
The revolutionary PolishPlus process with MiracleMedia is a new mass finishing technology developed by Peter Richardson of Aurum Plus Resource and Development Co. in San Bernardino, California. The resulting polish is reportedly comparable to the finest finishes attained on supercomputer, space, and other high-tech components. Surface finish thus far was measured at 13.9 angstroms.
Casting is one way to move into production, but you can also take your first steps into multiples without mastering the intricacies of molten metal. PMC’s moldable qualities make it well suited for short-run production. In producing multiples in PMC, you’ll use the same techniques used to transfer textures or to produce PMC components for one-of-a-kind bracelets. If you can create a single piece by pressing PMC into a mold, you can do it dozens of times..
An experienced bench jeweler will often be able to create almost any design that doesn’t actually violate the laws of physics. But colored stones are softer and typically less durable than diamonds, and a setting designed for a diamond may spell disaster with an opal or an emerald. The resulting creation may be beautiful when you first present it to the customer, but if the piece is worn frequently, it’s likely to make a quick return to the jeweler’s bench for repair. In this article expert gem setters share their tips and warnings for working with colored stones.
The art of self-promotion is less about celebrity than it is about perseverance. Breaking into print doesn’t take a magic touch or fabulous connections in the publishing world. It does take attractive work, some basic materials such as photos and press releases, a dollop of good luck, and a willingness to keep trying until that luck turns up.
The doors to the craft show have opened, and customers are beginning to make their way down the aisle. One stops at your booth to look at your PMC jewelry.’What is this?’ she asks. That question looms large for many in the PMC community. Do you answer ‘Fine Silver’ or ‘Precious Metal Clay’? Both are technically correct, so the question is, which will help you make the sale?.
At most trade shows, you could stock up on enough pens, notepads, tote bags, and keychains to start a thriving second business as a flea-market dealer. The problem with such giveaways isn’t that they aren’t useful; it’s that there are so many such items handed out that they make only a minimal impression, at best.
When Chinese freshwater pearls began flooding the market several years ago, craft artists took notice. It is not that pearls were new to them. Studio jewelers had been incorporating pearls into their designs for decades, long before the current wave of Chinese freshwater pearls reached these shores. But the growing availability of Chinese freshwater pearls has allowed artists to indulge their passion for pearls as they never could before.
When most of us talk about innovation, we are talking about new tools and techniques. But innovation is not exclusively about technology. It is about the way technology is used. A look behind the scenes in many small shops proves that new technology is often a response to innovative impulses, rather than a source of them. The result of such questioning may be new tools, merchandise, or techniques. In almost all cases, though, being innovative for these small companies means changing the way they do business to be more efficient, creative, and productive.
For jewelry artists, it iss an opportunity to sell work that has become difficult to place at price-conscious mainstream jewelry stores. For the public, it iss a chance to buy innovative jewelry that they might otherwise never have seen. And for the savvy retailer — be it a gallery owner or just an independent jeweler looking for something to set her store apart from the crowd — it iss a great place to find new sources.
Expanding the boundaries of conventional jewelry design through the use of unusual materials — Titanium, Niobium, Copper, Metal clay, Acrylic, Resin –It is not the usual materials inventory for jewelry makers. For millennia, jewelry has been made of gold and silver, platinum and gems — materials the market understands and readily accepts. But what about non-traditional materials?
McCreary is no stranger to traditional jewelry making. She took her first job with a jewelry manufacturer in the early 1970s, and spent several years casting, mold making, and model making for jewelers while she studied for her B.F.A. Her current work features clear acrylic with colored lacquer applied to the edges or carved areas, and 22k gold leaf applied over the lacquer. When you look at the piece, mainly what you are seeing is the clear of the acrylic, the whitish translucence, and the 22k gold leaf — and then the color bleeds out from behind it. It makes the color seem a little more mysterious.
Ivy Solomon combining resin, metal clay, and traditional fabrication techniques, her award-winning pendants are structured around textures and colors in ways that frequently depart from traditional jewelry designs. “When you use stones, you have to design to enhance the stone. The piece is all about the stone,” says Solomon. “With metal clay, it its more about texture, because that iss what metal clay does the best”.
Dulla crochets niobium wire into airy beads and necklaces studded with Swarovski crystals. The result is jewelry that is bright, colorful, and exuberantly joyful. The sheer brightness of her work is even more surprising if you know her personal history. An incest survivor, Dulla has used niobium wire to make sculptures that vividly express the pain of that formative experience, as well as to create bright jewelry that represents her triumph over the past.
Noel Yovovich discovered titanium in her first year as a jewelry artist. “A friend of mine was working with it and doing fairly typical things — heating it from one side to get gradient bright colors, for example,” says Yovovich. “She showed me how to do it, and because I can never leave well enough alone, I started experimenting with it.” That experimentation led her to what would develop into her signature pieces — complex, detailed pins and pendants in silver and titanium, which feature landscapes and interior scenes.
A decade ago, emerald, ruby, and sapphire routinely topped Colored Stones annual best seller list, as befitted the colored stones known in the trade as the “Big Three.” They were “precious” stones, while their equally colorful but lesser-known cousins held the dubious distinction of being “semiprecious.”
But the Big Threes once-unassailable dominance has faded in recent years. In 1999, tanzanite cracked the top three, pushing emerald to fourth place. Pearl followed suit in 2001, when it appeared in the number two slot, as did fancy sapphire in 2004…
Mold cutting sounds simple enough: Using a sharp knife and a simple tool, such as a can opener or a pair of vise grips, the mold maker separates a rubber mold into two halves, allowing the model and subsequent waxes to be removed. But like so many seemingly simple tasks, there are intricacies to cutting a successful mold that go well beyond cutting the block of rubber into two parts. In addition to ensuring that delicate waxes can be removed without distortion, the mold cutter must cut the mold in such a way that the two halves will match up perfectly time after time, and the injected wax will fill well and require minimal cleanup.
Warming waters, changes in weather patterns, and increases in storm activity may all affect the future success of pearl farms, both freshwater and ocean-based. Precisely what impact they will have is a little harder to determine: Relatively little research has been done into oyster husbandry.
There’s nothing like landing a new client. Whether you’re a large manufacturer or a bench jeweler in a home studio, the prospect of new work coming in is always exciting. Sometimes, though, she added workload can turn delight into disaster. Knowing when to say “no” can be the most important business skill you possess.