Updates and an Announcement

I feel like it’s been a while since I blogged. And there are a lot of good reasons for that. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

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I recently nabbed a trio of gray spinel asschers. I’m thinking about making a three stone with them, if they match well enough and look good together. I will see once they arrive! If I don’t love them together, they will probably go into the etsy shop.

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I did several earring design sketches for a client, and I’m considering turning some of the unused ones into designs to go into the etsy shop. Especially since I have a ton of green garnets that really should be used for something fabulous.

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Upcoming projects: a necklace for a friend, a Rubellite ring, a smattering of three stone rings, a five stone ring, a couple of fancy halos, and a handful of solitaire rings. Plus who knows what else will pop up in the next few weeks.  I have several ideas for necklaces that I’d like to make, but those may take a while to bring into fruition.

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The biggest announcement is that I have taken an outside opportunity, and as a result, I won’t be able to devote as much time as I have been to my own jewelry design.  There won’t be a ton of changes that stem from this change, my website will stay the same, my stock designs will remain available, the Etsy shop will remain open, and I will still be available to do custom design.

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The big changes are going to be: I won’t be able to devote as much time to hunting down gemstones and I’m going to have to be stricter about custom projects that I take on. I will still have accounts with Gem2000, Mayer & Watt and Pala International/Gems, and their stones will be available for purchase through me. Shipping will only happen once a week, probably Mondays or Tuesdays. Unfortunately, blogging will have to take more of a backseat, and will likely turn into a once a month occurrence. I will still try to respond to emails within 24 hours, but I may not be as swift as I was before.
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Hand Forging vs. CAD and Cast

 I feel like the topic of different ways to manufacture jewelry has been coming up more and more lately in email conversations with clients, so I figured I’d write a little bit about it.
*Please note, I’m not going to discuss die struck jewelry in this post!
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I think it’s Mark Morrell that was a touch snarky about answering the question of “are your items handforged?” I believe his answer is along the lines of “I use the best manufacturing method for the job at hand.” Which, to me, says loads – it says that he thinks the question is hogwash, he uses both “methods”, and isn’t going to waste a lot of time molding metal to make a ring that could be manufactured easier and quicker through other means.
In reality, all jewelry is made by jewelers manipulating a variety of tools through a variety of techniques to get the desired result.
It seems to me that there has been a big fuss about what tools and techniques are used to achieve those results.
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Now, there are obvious differences in production, but there is very little that can be produced “better” via “hand forging” vs CAD and cast. CAD and cast is easier, it’s cheaper, and the time savings is tremendous as far as labor goes. CAD and cast are also typically going to be more precise and symmetric. A computer and a machine just aren’t going to make the mistakes that a human would. The differences boil down to how the parts of the jewelry were created. Otherwise, there is a ton of overlap in the methods. Hand forged items, if you’ve watched videos, have been brought into their shapes with tools and a person guiding those tools. No matter what, the pieces are all soldered on the same way, they are all polished the same way, the seats for the stones are all cut the same way. Engraving is done the same way. You get the idea.
Feel free to mute your sound should you choose to watch the video!
I have a Mark Morrell piece in my personal collection, and what I can tell from it is that his finishing is impeccable. You can tell that he goes over every millimeter until it’s to his standards. The ring is CAD and cast, though I have no doubts that he uses hand forging methods when necessary. I have played with a 100% hand forged piece and I can see solder where the band was put together, the prongs on the center stones are all different lengths and widths, and one doesn’t quite touch the stone correctly, causing it to catch on things and have constant chunks of fuzz under it.
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Mark Morrell set with a colorless spinel
For me, it becomes a question of, “Do I want this cheaper, quicker and easy to replicate? Or do I want this to cost 5x as much, imperfect, longer manufacturing times, and not easily replicated?”
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My Pétiller ring is one that’s good to think about because it’s quite simple in execution, and was cast. The cast pieces were assembled by hand, and then the seats were hand carved out of the solid metal for each diamond. The only difference in making that ring via hand forging vs CAD and cast is that the methods would be different to get the solid shank, and the bezels that make up the support structure between them. Otherwise, the methods to put it together are exactly the same.
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My stance is that I prefer CAD and cast over hand forging. Much of the manufacturing methods are the same, it’s just a question of how the metal came to be the finished shape before things like setting stones and other finishing techniques take place. CAD and cast is much easier, especially when it comes to online orders – the client gets to see what it’s going to look like before it’s produced, rather than just hoping it will come out how it’s been envisioned, and seeing it when it’s finished.
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So much of the jewelry world is incredibly secretive. I don’t think that most jewelry people like to take time out to explain the differences to laypeople, especially when it’s hard to gauge the audience – are they really wanting to know the specifics behind the manufacturing methods or is it just a question being asked to make small talk? And sadly, most sales people in the retail world have no idea about manufacturing methods at all.
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Creating the Ingénue

Ingénue – Innocent young woman

When this idea came to me, I really wanted to create something that was classic, could be worn with anything, and wasn’t overpowering to either the woman or the gems. I wanted simplicity that was more than just a solitaire. The name of this game was subtlety.  Something quiet. Graceful. Sophisticated.

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I started with a two stone idea. A smaller stone “bale” with a larger stone hanging below.

The first version I pulled out for this idea was with an angular stone. I had a small princess lying around, so I thought that would work well and go with the angular shape of the stone I was considering. But the main stone ended up selling out from under me, so I had to change gears.

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I decided that classic rounds would be the way to go – rounds are the most popular shape, they would always be plentiful and I’d have no problems sourcing some when I was ready to make the design.

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So of course, I always jump at any chance to make something with rose cut diamonds, and in this case, anything else would have been too flashy. I love the way the light floats across the facets of a rose cut – it’s reminiscent of the light from the setting sun hitting the soft waves of a lake. For the rose cut, I decided that a simple bezel with milgrain would do nicely.

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The bottom was harder.  I started playing with the idea of another metal halo style, because I didn’t want diamonds. Since I had already decided I wanted a bezel on top, a bezel seemed to make sense for the bottom. But that would be too predictable. Instead I went in another direction: prongs. It became a metal halo with prongs, much like the Aurore. But how do you make a metal halo interesting? Metalwork. Two rows of milgrain combined with some delicate engraving helps add a little extra detail without being too overwhelming.

Note: I never draw engraving. I cannot do justice to a master engraver’s work. Seriously. So I don’t even try.

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Now the question became, what to do with the back? I always try to get something a little unexpected in my jewelry, and the back, or the underside are the perfect playground. For this I went back to where it began – the rose cut. And I used the rose cut facet pattern that I love so much and brought it to life in the metal.

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The hardest part yet was figuring out what stone to be the star of the show. As I mentioned, I originally was planning on making it with a fancy shaped diamond (this design will work for absolutely any shape!) but that fell through. Then I figured I’d make it with a round diamond, but that seemed predictable – there are so many diamond necklaces out there already! And for a person who loves other gemstones I wanted something that was more interesting and rare. Something that fit the classic look and feel but wasn’t a diamond.

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Which is where Geoffrey Watt of Mayer & Watt steps in. I had asked him to find me a white spinel at JCK 2016, since I wasn’t going to make it this year. He obliged, and I found my main stone. Not long after, the sketch was complete.

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It wasn’t until the necklace was out of production that I realized that I wasn’t feeling the high polish. I tend to try to avoid brushed finishes because they can wear away so quickly, but for a necklace that wouldn’t be coming into contact with anything but skin, it made sense.

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I think I accomplished my goal. Classic, versatile, sophisticated with a vintage feel. Something that be dressed up or down. The Ingénue.

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