The "Jewelry Gene"

I was talking to a long lost friend last week and she was telling me how much she liked some of the jewelry on my website.  Well, that's always nice to hear.  But, we hadn't talked in years!  So, I asked about her children and what she's been up to for the last 15 years or so.  While updating me about her (now grown) daughter, she lamented that her daughter didn't get the 'jewelry gene." 

Once I picked my chin up off the floor (I didn't know there were women or girls who DIDN"T get that gene) I started thinking about my children and grandchildren.  Now, I have boys, and I never really expected them to care much about jewelry.  But, my oldest son actually wore one of my earrings to his senior prom, and he has a wonderful gold necklace with a waterbird on it - it's pretty cool.  My youngest son has a Red Wings ring (I think it started life as a key chain!) but that's it - and he doesn't wear that.  So, of my children, only one got the "gene" and he isn't really into the rocks the way I am.  Sad.

Thank heavens I have grandchildren - and they all got the gene!  Big Ben wore a gorgeous turquoise ring until it came off while he was swimming last year.  As soon as I get his current ring size, I plan to make him another - we have to foster this gene so it doesn't die out!  His younger brother (my Cuddle Bug) is very anxious for me to make him his first ring.  He got a shark's tooth necklace about a year ago, but says he would prefer a ring like his brother's.  He even picked out the Ohio flint stone.

Then there are my girls.  Each and every one of them got the jewelry gene.  My oldest only likes metals - and no yellow gold.  But that's ok - she's an artist herself and has a definite style. And some of my most fun silver pieces were made for her.  The middle one loves it ALL.  Even as a baby my Pumpkin would ask if we could get out my jewelry and  could we would spread it all over the bed and could  I tell her all the stories about how and where I got each piece of jewelry.  She would put them on - dozens of bracelets at a time.  She could hardly move her arms when she got done!  My baby is only 3, but she already likes the jewels too and wants to wear them.  I call her Susie Sunshine because she's so good natured - and she really shiines when she gets to put on jewelry, even if it's only plastic.

So, I'm sad for my friend Kathy, but I'm sure that some of her grandchildren will get the "gene" and she'll have someone to pass all her great jewelry on to someday.  If you got the gene - enjoy - and if you didn't maybe you just haven't found the rigiht rock yet!



Rocks and the crawly things they sometimes attract

I have quite a few rocks.  I'm not talking about the little polished rocks that I set in jewelry or that you buy in jewelry - I have big hunks of rocks.  I intend to cut and polish them - but in the meantime they live in my garden shed in crates and boxes.  I love to just go out and sort through them and imagine what I'll get once I slice them up.  (yep!  that takes a big saw)  I sometimes go through them before I head to a rock show so I can make sure I'm not looking for duplicate rocks at the show.  I have a list, but sometimes I misplace it.....

So imagine my reaction when my son came out of the garden shed yesterday and informed me that a rattle snake had taken up residence!  Not only that, he thinks one of the other snakes in there (yeah, multiple snakes in my shed) might be a water moccasin.  Oh joy.

Now, I live next to a national wild life preserve that has large lakes and ponds and I expect some wild life to stroll through my yard on occassion.  And they do.  I've seen white tail deer, bob cats, coyotes, eagles, great blue herons, Canada geese, skunks, racoons, rabbits, etc.  You get the picture - there are lots of critters in my yard and the surrouding woods.  I've even seen quite a few snakes, but they have all been the black snake, rat snake or garter snake varieties.  Nothing much to be concerned about. 

But now these creepy crawlies have invaded my rocks and something has to be done.  Not by me of course.  I'm not going near the place!

I don't really think my rocks attracted the snakes - although rocks do hold heat and snakes like that.  I think it's the mice that have taken up residence.  Cute little field mice with white tummies - they look like little golden hamsters with tails.  I didn't mind the mice too much.  But now they all have to go. 

In my effort to rid my shed of snakes, I have discovered that in the great state of Illinois (where I live) it is illegal to kill any snake.  And, if I don't close up the little tiny openings where they are coming in, they will just come back as snakes are territorial.  In other words, if I have someone move them out of my shed, they will just come back.

So, if you know of a good way to get rid of snakes or if you know someone who would like to have some snakes, please let me know - they're coming between me and my rocks!


Rock Shows

You may have heard of the Tucson gem and jewelry show.  It's in February every year and it's one of the biggest in the world.  For many of the booths and tents, you have to have an invitation to get in.  Others are open to the public for a fee.  Unfortunately, I can't go.  First of all, it's in Tucson - which is a long way from where I live.  Second, it's expensive to go and pay admission to the various venues.  I feel left out every year.

When I lived in Ohio as a child, my dad took us to many rock shows.  A very different type of show from the one in Tucson.  Once I started making jewelry and cutting rocks, I started looking for rock shows where I currently live.  And, I was pretty disappointed for a while.  But I finally found a small one locally and a nice sized one in St. Louis.  Both were held last weekend.

I started at the gem and jewelry show for greater St. Louis - which is actually held in Collinsville, IL (our little version of Tucson).  I've been to this show several times and every year, I'm more disappointed.  This show is primarily finished jewelry.  I did find a few cabs of Red Creek Stone from China - new earrings coming - and talked to a number of jewelers.  A couple of them asked where I bought my earrings and it was fun to discuss how I made them.  They were pretty complimentary, which is always nice.  But, overall, there were no rocks.  I wanted hunks of rock - slabs at the least.  And, this show just doesn't have those.

So, my friend and I headed over to the St. Louis Rock and Mineral Show near the airport.  This is a nice collection of folks who love rocks, minerals and fossils - they even had a baby mastadon and a huge dinasaur skeleton.  I spent some time talking with Mr. Hicks - of Hick's Rock Shop and checking out all his rocks and slabs.  I found two I don't already have - score! - but unfortunately Mr. HIcks couldn't remember what they were. I bought them anyway.  I'll figure them out at some point.  He was able to tell me he dug them in the southwestern U.S. and one of them came from Arizona so that helps with the identification process. In the meantime we call these PFRs (pretty freakin rocks). I looked at rocks and minerals for 3 hours!  I didn't come away with lots - although I did score a Tiffany stone and a California blue jade.  I have big plans for them. 

By the time we had walked both shows, we were pretty tired and ready for some dinner so I decided not to head for the local show. After some much needed rest, on Sunday, I headed to the Williamson County Pavillion in Marion, IL.  Again, it's a much smaller show - but everyone there is a rockhound - some make jewelry too, but the focus is on rocks and minerals - no big dinasaurs here but lots of fossils and guys making stuff out of flint.  Knappers they're called.  There were even some guys with rock cutting equipment that has been rehabilitated.  If only my garage had room for more equipment!

It''s just a different atmosphere - rock shows are about the rocks - the jewelry is incidental.  And there were tons of rocks.  I have a shed full of them already and my son thinks I should have my head examined before I'm allowed to attend another rock show or buy another rock, but I haven't had that much fun in a long time.  And, I just went to the beach!

These little local rock shows offer educational activities for kids, have glow in the dark rock exhibits, and show people many of the minerals you normally would never see.  If you get a chance to attend one in your home town, please do.  They need the support and you might be surprised at how much you will learn and enjoy.

At the beach

It's been a while since I had a vacation.  Four years to be exact.  So, when I came to the beach this week I didn't expect to spend much time working at my full time job OR thinking about making jewelry, which is at best a part time job.  But, I was wandering around some shops in Cherry Grove Beach, South Carolina and I noticed something - there is a lot of beach glass jewelry for sale this spring. 

Beach glass jewelry has been around for quite a while - I have several pieces.  Some I made, some I bought (yes, in spite of the fact that I make jewelry, I still buy jewelry too!).  But, the pieces are getting larger and bolder, much like most other costume jewelry right now.  Bigger seems to be better for jewelry this year.  I'm not a fan.  Some of those necklaces look like you would have to work out for a year to be able to hold your head up while wearing them.

Now, I've collected some beach glass over the years and let me tell you - it comes in pretty small pieces most of the time.  So, where are all these large pieces of glass coming from?  I suspect lots of it isn't actual beach glass.  Real beach glass is expensive; especially in dark blue, turquoise blue, red and orange.  Yet, beach glass jewelry is everywhere here at the east coast and it isn't very expensive. Which makes me think it isn't real beach glass.  And that would be ok, except it's being sold as beach glass.  It's more likely that it is glass that has been tumbled to make it look like glass you would find on the beach. And, when you ask the clerks in the stores, they don't know what it is.

Tumbled glass is just as pretty as beach glass and can be found in larger pieces than most actual beach glass.  Plus, it is very affordable when compared to actual beach glass.  BUT, tumbled glass MUST be labeled as such and not passed off as beach glass.

Do customers care?  I suspect they buy jewelry here at the beach because it looks "beachy" and will remind them of the beach once they go home rather than because it is "real" beach glass.  Still, we should be honest with our customers so that they know what they are buying.  There's so much fraud in the jewelry business:  cheap soft stones that are made to look like more expensive stones, plated metals sold as the real thing, mislabeled stones, lab grown stones sold as the real thing, etc.  I just think we should do everything we can to make sure that our customers know exactly what they are getting - right down to the pretty little pieces of glass we sometimes use to make "beach" jewelry. 

It's been fun looking at all the jewelry for sale here at the beach - glass, pearls, fancy, simple.  I've ended up doing some sketching for when I get home.  Wait, is that work? 

Oh, and I've ended up working every day at my full time job too - I really have to work on this vacation thing and get better at it!  Maybe practice will make perfect.



What constitutes handmade?

I was on ArtFire in a chat room a while back and there was a question about getting your shop "certified handmade."  It's a big deal on sites like Etsy, ArtFire etc.  But, the boundaries have been blurred - as new ways of creating jewelry have been discovered, it becomes more difficult to determine what is "handmade."

Traditionally, handmade meant that you had taken sheet metal, wire, maybe stones or beads and forged or smithed the metal - you might also cut and polish the stones or make the beads - to make jewelry.  This is what I now mostly do - although this site sells hand assembled jewelry too.

Hand assembed, on the other hand, traditionally indicated that you purchased beads made by someone else, stones cut by someone else, and metal findings made by someone else  Then, you the artist, put them together to make beautiful jewelry.  Lots of jewelry makers start out this way.  I did!  I still enjoy creating jewelry this way, although more and more I start with sheet and wire - even cutting more and more of my own stones.  Lots of jewelry makers aren't interested in making other kinds of jewelry - which is great!  We need variety.

Jewelry artisans hand fabricate their jewelry.  These artists begin with metal grain and cast their own sheet, wire, findings, etc,  It takes skill and lots of specialized equipment to do this - it's probably one of the main reasons more of us never learn to fabricate metals.

Now though, how do you determine what is fabricated vs handmade?  I know jewelry artists who use metal clay to fabricate all sorts of components for their jewelry - then add something they purchased from someone else.  Is the resulting jewelry fabricated or is it handmade?  I often make jewelry with silver components and findings I have made, then add stones someone else cut and polished.  Is my jewelry handmade or hand assembled?

On sites like Etsy and ArtFire, if you have a handmade shop - all your work is called  handmade....and that's probably helpful for our customers.  Most customers want to know that your vision and artistry has been used to create the jewelry they wear; not specifically whether you made the jewelry from the grain up.  However, there are customers out there who want to know exactly what you did on the piece. 

So, how should we describe our jewelry when we are selling online or in person?  Well, for most of us, calling our work handmade is fine.  I try to explain for each piece exactly what I made and what I bought to add to the piece.  I do refer to my work as handmade - whether it exactly fits the traditional definition or not, but I hope that by giving more details about what work I have done customers will recognize my vision in the jewelry they buy and wear. 

Of course, as you may have guessed from the name of this site, for me it all amounts to a wearable rock collection.  Why let those rocks sit on a shelf when you can add them to jewelry and wear them?

What is it about rocks?

I've never blogged before.  I've read them, but wasn't really sure why people blog.  Now that I have something to actually write about, I get it. 

I've loved rocks all my life.  I can remember as a little girl picking up rocks and washing them off to see what they would look like when they were "shiny."  Even before my father started cutting and polishing stones, I was fascinated by them.  And, I'm always surprised to find out how many people are equally fascinated by all the rocks Mother Earth produces.

My real job is teaching and just the other night I mentioned something about a rock, and found out that several of my students are also interested.  None of us are in geology as a field of work or study  - we just like rocks.  From the time they were tiny, my grandchildren would pick up rocks out of my driveway and ask if they could wash them off to "see if it's pretty."  My sons used to collect them and carry them around in their pockets as boys....I"m pretty sure that's how one washing machine died.

So what is it about rocks?  For me, it's that there are so many varieties of rocks on this planet.  We're still finding new ones and new varieties of ones we thought we knew all about.  Then, there's the fact that once you spit on them (yes, we rock hounds spit on rocks then rub them to see what they will look like polished!) or wash them, they look completely different.  I mean really.  Have you ever looked at a raw diamond?  It looks nothing like the stone you proudly wear in your engagement ring.  And who first figured out that you could cut and polish these things into a stunning jewel? 

Yes, ancients used rocks as tools.  And they polished them to sharp edges and shapes - so they knew the look of the rock changed as it was polished, but faceting?  Who came up with that? 

My first experience with faceting was with a small brass wheel that had the angles for a brilliant cut (a typical round diamond cut) that you used to determine whether you had ground enough of the stone off on diamond sanding paper to "fit" the brass angles.  It took forever.  And, it was not a stunning success.  Now, I have a faceting machine.  It's pretty cool.  And comes with instructions.  However, I have to say, my first attempts aren't much of an improvement over that brass "wheel" attempt.  I'll learn.

Of course, you don't have to facet a stone - many are not suitable for that, so someone had to come up with the idea of cutting and polishing a cabochon.  Much easier.  I'm actually getting pretty good at that.  Of course, I had two good teachers.  I used to watch my father cut cabs for hours.  And, recently when I began cutting my own stones, a great stone cutter by the name of John Baca helped me figure out all the equipment and how to cut starting with lumps of rock that have to be cut into slabs, then into shapes, then ground into the final shape and polished.  It's really dirty.  And messy.  And I love it!  My sun room that held all my pretty tropical plants became my jewelry making room and my garage turned into a stone cutting room.  Not sure where I'm going to put all those gardening tools, but then, I don't really need them right now anyway.

What is it about rocks?  When I tell people that I cut and polish rocks, they immediately want to see some.  They want to know how it's done.  They want to hold them in their hands.  So, maybe it's a connection to the earth, or maybe we just like sparkly stuff.  Either way, collecting and looking at rocks never gets old for me.  Hmm, I think I'll go cut some of my new morganite.

02.10.2012 | 2 Comments | in: gemstones, jewelry, rocks
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