Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Sacred & the Profane

In my world as a stone addict, there are 2 types of days: the sacred days, and the profane days.

The sacred days include: days shopping for gems.

The profane days: every other day.

However, this past weekend blurred those lines a bit. I went to the International Gem & Jewelry show at a newish location, the Gaylord Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. I was going directly to my opal vendor, S&S, because I've had customers wanting faceted opal rings and S&S has the best selection. Their faceted opals are the cleanest, clearest, and brightest I've found. So what did I find? They had recently sold their ENTIRE inventory of faceted opals to a 'guy who makes jewelry for TV'.

I. Was. Crushed.

Good for them; sucks for me. AND they won't have a selection of them in stock again for months, after Tucson in Jan/Feb. AND they are not guaranteed to be the same quality as their last stash.

To top things off, my second choice for faceted opals, Best in Gems, was not even PARTICIPATING in the National Harbor show.


Left very unsatisfied. To top it off, I ventured into the small wholesale section looking for chain for my friend Karen, and bought it from a new vendor, only to find my tried-and-true vendor there for the first time, at better prices! OMG I broke my own rule of walking around first before I purchase!

Okay, okay, onward and upward...

Then yesterday, I took my daughters to the yearly local Gem & Mineral show at George Mason University in Fairfax VA. I did score and bought some rough opals at 1/3 the cost they were several years ago from the same vendor. That was good. Just have to cut them. So I'm hoping they'll be beautiful and my customers will 'settle' for the cabochons I cut over the faceted option.

2 years ago I bought 2 gorgeous Williamsite cabochons from a vendor there, and was hoping he'd be back with more, but he wasn't even there. Chances are his stock has completely sold, anyway.... :(  We'll see if I see him at a larger gem & mineral show in March. I'll definitely see my opal guy in March- fingers crossed he has some nice stones with him!

Oh the agony!

To top it off, I got some repeat castings back- I asked for 10 of model #1, and 6 of model #2. Wanna guess what I got?? You guessed it! 6 of the first one and 10 of the second one!

Maybe I'll make some great things this week, as well as some sales, to get my spirits back up.

Lesson learned: buy as much as you can when you see it or you may be sorry later!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Ring Project- Lots of Opals!

This week I made a new ring using some opals. I can't resist the lure of opals- somebody stop me!!

I laid out my stones- I liked the idea of combining a long lean, irregular blue-tinted Australian opals with these orange-hued Ethiopian opals in a row.

This ring, done a few years ago, was similar, but used big granules instead of stones.

First I made the bezel for the large opal, and used commercial bezel cups for the smaller ones- they are time-savers.

I also wanted to encorporate some granulation, because my work has been using that technique lately, and also because there needed some decorative quality!

I fluxed and placed everything, then waited for it to dry, then heated until fused!

Next I cut/trimmed the excess sheet and soldered on a shank from commercial wire I recently got that was nice and thick. Thick shanks are ideal for big or heavy rings- all the surface contact with your skin avoids the rings spinning around on your finger, which heavy rings are often guilty of...

Dunked in an oxidizer to turn it black....

Then the high points polished and stones set. Cool!!

Next week: these for earrings! I may use the same technique of granulation in between stones. Check back...

Here's a listing of the ring in my shop:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Spinner Ring- Illustrated

I recently had posted about the 'trick' of making a spinner ring. This week I documented making one for a customer and thought I'd share. You can see the earlier post here:

First, I needed to make the inner band a size 8, so using my ring chart, and knowing I was using 22 ga. silver (which ran through the rolling mill, hence making it 23 gauge) I figured the length I needed, soldered it closed, and oxidized/buffed it to bring out the contrast of the texture. You can certainly use a thicker gauge! This is as thin as I would go, though. It's a nice lightweight band but is not flimsy or cheap. 

I actually got some of the channel wire I use to inlay the opal cabochons casted, because that is the most time-consuming part of making these spinner rings. So I use a casting and my round ring-shank pliers to start bending it into a circle.

I'd recommend making the outer ring quite tight to the inner ring. You still want it to be able to spin around, but it should be no more than 1/2 mm or so airspace between the 2 rings. This insures you don't have to flare the inner ring too much to achieve a lock-down on the outer ring. It could take some time to achieve this- be patient, do lots of measuring, and don't be afraid to take a smidgen more out and re-solder!

Test it to be sure it spins around smoothly...

Next I darken the interior of the channel because opals look best on a dark background. I use a fine black Sharpie!

Ready for opals!

I use the inner ring to hold the channel ring while I epoxy in the stones. I mix the epoxy and do half the circumference of the ring at a time. I use a toothpick to apply the epoxy- too much looks messy. Then I let it cure overnight.

Finally, I flare one end with my dapping punch, put on the outer ring, and flare the other end to match. Voila- all done!!

Want one? Here's a link: