Learning Center

Critical Notes

Jewelry making covers art, commerce, and science. In Critical Notes, experts address these facets and give advice to both beginners and professionals.

46 ARTICLES
Article
The Ethics of Materials

I have always thought that if no other lesson had begun to seep through peoples’ inertia and greed, that at least a sense of the fragility of the earth and an obligation to ecologic diversity had begun to be routine. But reality intrudes,…

Article
The Value of Ideas on Metalsmith/Jeweler’s Repertoire

This essay originated as a presentation at the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ conference in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1986. It has been revised and edited for publication in Metalsmith. Metcalf’s theme concerning the value of ideas…

Article
How to Use Time Fully

Always try to understand, that you are your own best enemy. Be nice to yourself when tackling the unknown. Realize that you are going to fail a lot before you are going to succeed. ALLOW TIME FOR THIS FAILING TO HAPPEN. Creative work is not mechanical.…

Article
The Ardagh Chalice

Ardagh now is scarcely more than a place-name; it is in County Limerick in Ireland. In 1868, while a peasant was digging potatoes he found at a depth of three feet some bronze objects and a silver chalice. These objects were taken to the convent…

Article
Basic Approach to Product Design

Design is a perennial issue for all who produce objects meant for a specific use, utilitarian, in contrast to objects which have an exclusively expressive function. In America the postwar period dating from the 40’s was characterized…

Article
Anodizing Principles Update

Although the basic anodizing principles involved in the reactive metals have been discussed in the past, a deeper insight into the process can aid the artist in solving some of the technical problems encountered. The publication of my thesis,…

Article
CNC Milling vs. 3D Printing

For someone new to the jewelry industry, the sheer assortment of tools and equipment in the typical workshop can be overwhelming. That’s especially true when it comes to technology, which changes so rapidly. If you’ve invested…

Article
Safer Pickle Alternative

Procrastination can sometimes lead to wonderful discoveries. Tom Arnold, owner of Facets Fine Jewelry in Arlington, Virginia, found this out first hand, when his avoidance of a particularly nasty sizing job led him to whittle away some time…

Article
What Causes Casting Marks?

In the Spring 2003 Issue we asked the question “What causes these marks on this casting?” Around 100 readers responded to the question. Everyone that responded said the same thing; Water Marks. Investment needs to be finished…

Article
Platinum Consideration Factors

Jurgen J Maerz of the Platinum Guild International USA outlines factors to consider when adding platinum to your line of manufactured jewelry. Technical education is the key successfully manufacturing platinum jewelry. Platinum is often…

Article
The Digital Tool Debate Continues

In approaching this article, I found there are many avenues to pursue in the exciting and controversial subject of digital design. I felt it best to give an overview for those not yet informed about the technological waters nipping at the shores…

Article
Craftsmanship Improvement Method

This is a method to reduce technical problems which one repeatedly experienes. We all find during the learning process that there are times when the same problem presents itself over and over again. Sometimes when beginning one overworks…

Article
Notes on Presto-Lite Torch

We use a method for cutting down firescale when using a Presto-Lite Torch along with an acetylene B tank. The torch tips are engineered to take in so much gas through the gas orifice and so much air through the air inlet ventura so they burn to their…

Article
Important Principles of Casting Safety

Here’s something to aim for: a well laid-out, orderly workshop, well-lit by multiple non glare light sources, well-maintained equipment, electrically and fire safe, with low dust and few procedures involving solvents, with excellent…

Article
Production Project Proposal

This is an example of a production project proposal involving the reproduction of two historically important buttons. This shows how the project is described in terms that allow the client to see what is involved in manufacturing. It is a sample…

Article
Depletion Gilding Notes

This is an academic paper, not a technical ‘how to’ guide. Many of the procedures described are unsafe in practice.

Article
The Enamelist’s Vocabulary

Each medium has its own vocabulary and so it is with enamels and enameling. The glass glaze material that is fused to the metal is enamel, the finished work is an enamel piece and the process is enameling. In other words, you enamel enamel with…

Article
Confidential Disclosure Form

This form may be used if you have an idea for a product and wish to approach a manufacturer. It is a very good protection against a company stealing your idea.
I met a sled designer at a party in Montreal once, we discussed this subject, he had…

Article
Jewelry Workshop Safety Report

This talk briefly reviews issues of studio safety and discusses ways of recognizing risks in the studio and reducing hazard by substitution of materials or processes. The premise is that any reduction in risk improves the safety conditions…

Article
Chemical Inventory and Profiles

If you know what the chemicals are that you use and what their dangers are you will be less likely to hurt yourself with them. In your “Right to Know” binder your should have a list of the chemicals in your workshop (a chemical inventory), MSDS sheets…

Article
Cracks in Jewelry Manufacturing

As many jewelry manufacturers and goldsmiths know from hard experience, cracking in jewelry can occur at any time during its manufacture. It can also occur much later, after the jewelry has been sold to the consumer or during repair. Cracking…

Article
Basic Fire Safety for Jewelers

Have a fire plan; ask your fire department for advice. Keep the appropriate extinguishers around and in good shape. Get ABC all-purpose extinguishers. Get the manufacturers manual and read all the instructions carefully at least three times.…

Article
Learning Metalsmithing Process

An art school is in some ways a difficult place to learn to be a metalsmith. Traditional systems of industry education took from 3 to 7 years of concentrated time to educate a goldsmith. This is because metals, as Jamie Bennett puts it, are a ‘process…

Article
Maintaining Good Workshop Air Quality

Four areas in the jeweler’s workshop produce harmful substances that MUST be properly removed from the shop in order to maintain the jewelers’ health. The toxic particles produced are generally chronic in nature. This means that immediate…

Article
Structuring for Efficiency in the Studio

Being more organized, and planning how you use your time will mean that you will spend less time on some jobs and you will therefore have this time available. I tell my students that they need to plan their time and work fast, smoothly and efficiently…

Article
The Teachers’ Role

I believe the teacher’s role is as a guide, an instigator, a devils advocate as well as instructor. A teacher should provoke the student to constant re-examination of their work, guide the student to objectivity and clarity in conceptualization…

Article
The Hard Facts of Sapphires and Rubies

Ask any jeweler to list the gemstones with which they prefer to work, and sapphires and rubies would undoubtedly rank near the top. With a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, these popular varieties of corundum have long been considered nearly impossible…

Article
Separating Work and Home

Often craftspeople start out making craft objects in their living space, a kitchen, a living room, and sometimes continue working in them even when they have grown to the point that they need a separate studio. It is not wise to share one’s living…

Article
How Jewelers Approach Work Materials

This diagram shows how jewelers approach working in the field in terms of how they relate to the material. The approaches chosen will ‘filter’ the results available, that is that what kind of work you do is partly a reflection of the way you approach…

Article
Studio Lighting Considerations

How you light your shop, illuminate your working area, experience the reflection from surfaces and the paint you choose for the walls all have an effect on your ability to work in your studio. Poor lighting can strain the eyes, contribute to…

Article
Solder Flow Retardant Notes

While goldsmiths normally strive to have their solder flow easily, there are times you don’t want it to flow, such as spilling over a decorated surface, if it ‘freezes’ a mechanism, or if it threatens to open a gap in a seam soldered earlier in…

Article
The Artists as Curators and Critics

Fortunately, change is inevitable. Even for those individuals in the art establishment who assert that artists cannot and should not be active as curators or critics. This assertion is part of a traditional art would – one built on a foundation…

Article
Art vs Craft

The Art versus Craft issue is a complex question and one that has bedeviled creators a great deal in the last fifty years or so. I once heard a gallery owner say that the difference between an art object and a craft object is $3000. The American Craft…

Article
Justifying Art for Art’s Sake

For many years, I have struggled to find ways of conveying the meaning of art and its importance. I had come to believe that when critics and teachers talk about art they primarily only talk about what we see on the surface, the formal issues of…

Article
Patination Safety Considerations

Jewelers use so-called -oxidising- solutions to darken metals like silver, copper, brass, nickel silver, bronze and, with specialized mixtures, on gold. Metalsmiths patinate both large and small objects, as well as jewelry. We usually…

Article
3 Details of Jewelry Refinement

Quality matters to Michael Bondanza; he has been known to rebuild entire finished pieces — some containing hundreds of precisely inlaid stones and articulated component parts — to ensure that the gems aligned exactly, the hinges opened…

Article
New Generation Gallerists

What does it mean to be a gallerist today, especially one who deals exclusively in art jewelry? To find out, we investigated three twenty-first-century galleries in the United States launched by a new generation of dealers. We learned that…

Article
Goldsmithing in the Future

This article is a set of predictions for what the jewelers bench and workshop will experience in technological change in the future.

Article
Pickling Notes

Jewelers treat soldered objects with dilute acid solutions to remove oxides produced from heating and soldering as well as glassy flux residues. This process is called pickling. I believe the term comes from the chemical jewelers once used…

Article
The Effects of Global Warming on Pearl Oysters

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…

Article
Hammering and Forging Safety Guidelines

Goldsmiths and silversmiths use hammers frequently in their work, silversmiths especially. A regular trade goldsmith might use a bench hammer with a ring on a mandrel twenty or more times a day. Blacksmithing operations use coal fires, gas…

Article
The Trouble with Pyrite

The first reference that I have that links copperas with the collection of fossils is found in the ‘Life and letters of Edward Lhwyd (second Keeper of the MUSEUM ASHMOLEANUM) Oxford March 28th. 1695’. Below is an excerpt from ‘A Museum of the…

Article
Recycling Gold from Electronics

With over 300 tonnes of gold used in electronics each year, end-of-life electronic equipment offers an important recycling potential for the secondary supply of gold. With gold concentrations reaching 300-350 g/t for mobile phone handsets…

Article
Technology’s Relevance to Jewellery Design

Jewellery design is generally considered solely from an artistic standpoint, and the jewellery is viewed as an expression of a designer’s artistic talent. How does technology fit into this scenario? Certainly design and technology are…

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