Sunday, October 12, 2008

Karen's Ring

Karen wanted a petite ring for her beautiful diamond. Its a new cut from the Diavik mine, its like a princess cut but without the corners. I don't know what to call it but it sure was pretty! Handmade in 18K white gold.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A speck of sand managed to enter an oysters shell ,and to protect itself from the irritant the oyster coated it with nacre. After many years, the heavily coated sand grain has become a rare and precious commodity, a natural salt water pearl.
Then man figured out how to add a round shell bead into the poor mollusk and wait a few years for the oyster to coat it, thus creating cultured salt water pearls, the better the pearl, the longer it was left undisturbed in the oyster.
Remember those little rice grain pearls that everyone was wearing in the 80's? Those are freshwater pearls, started from a grain of sand irritating a different type of mollusk, some sort of lake dwelling critter, and forcing it to create a Natural freshwater pearl.
Now we have figured out how to put a shell bead into fresh water mollusks too and in a few years we have another kind of pearl, Fresh water cultured pearls.
Natural saltwater pearls are rare and expensive, cultured freshwater are cheap and plentiful.
Now's when it gets interesting, you take a big natural freshwater pearl and grind it into a round bead and put it into a saltwater oyster. After a few years you pull it out and what do you have? A gemology problem.
Usually you can tell if pearls are cultured or not by x-raying them because you see a bead inside rather than years of layers of nacre. But when you x-ray a saltwater pearl with a freshwater core it looks like a natural saltwater pearl. Supposedly you can tell the difference if you break the pearl in half...but now it has no value. I can't see any Appraiser smashing a pearl necklace to pieces and then saying "yup they were natural saltwater pearls" and still having a job.
So provenance is important these days. Grandma's pearls, are worth more than a brand new strand...if they were well cared for. So if Granny never sprayed them with perfume, cleaned all her skin oils off them after wearing them and had them restrung regularly they could be worth more than you imagine!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kathy's Ring

I can thing of anything to say except 'Wow, this was fun'. Kathy doesn't live in the Lower Mainland, I have yet to meet her, it made this ring a challenge - couldn't have done it without the Internet! First we talked about what jewellery she already wears and why she likes it. Then about her finger shape and what would work best for her. Then we doodled, and counter doodled and the doodled some more until I felt it was time to go 3-D and I mailed her some wax versions of her ring to her to try. She mailed me back the one she liked and then using it as a guide I handmade her ring in 18k yellow and white gold.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Something that bugs me....

How come we can call 10k metal 10k gold?
I mean its less than 1/2 gold...if I bought peanut butter that had less than 50% peanuts in it I would worry about what that other stuff was.....and should i really be eating it.

Special Commissions

I really enjoy working with someone else, it forces me to stretch my imagination and incorporate someone else's ideas into my plans..... This piece was designed with Robert Chaplin, he carved the black moon and supplied the coin. 18k Yellow gold and tourmalines.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Natural, Synthetic and Imitation

A Natural gemstone was dug out of the earth, panned out of a river or vacuumed from the ocean's floor. They were created by cataclysmic explosions, the perfect combination of heat, time, and chemicals. Orange Sapphires! Green and yellow Garnets! Rhutilated Quartz! Watermelon Tourmaline! Cats Eye Chrysoberyl! They are the coolest! And since we had no control over their creation we have some neato stuff that some people like and others view as flawed - colour banding, misty veils, and inclusions. Its like Grandma's baking, she didn't need a cookie recipe anymore, she just chucks a bunch of Good stuff in a bowl and stirs. Sometimes they turn out sweeter, other times nuttier or crunchier but always great.
A Synthetic Gemstone is man made in a lab. It has exactly the same formula as a Natural stone but it was formed by humans who follow the recipe of heat, time and chemicals and come up with the perfect rough stone each time. Imagine someone wrote down Grandma's recipe when she wasn't looking and sold it to Nabisco. Still nice cookies, but they all taste exactly the same, look exactly the same, the thrill is gone.
An Imitation Stone is a fake something. Like a fake Sapphire or fake diamond. It was created to imitate something - maybe both are blue - but that's where the similarities end. Now a picture of Grandma's cookies has been shipped overseas to a country that has never eaten cookies. So the only thing that matters is replicating the look, so the butter is now axle grease, the flour was replaced with drywall dust, worst of all the chocolate chips are painted on... you get the idea.
Now here is the confusing part, sometimes a stone can be synthetic AND imitation. Before Cubic Zirconias, man made sapphire was being used to imitate diamonds.
On the same principle, a stone can be natural AND imitation - The Prince's Ruby in the British Crown Jewels is actually a natural red Spinel!
Hedda's Natural Emerald and 18k yellow gold ring.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The trouble with Thailand

We have all bought cheap shoes and expensive shoes, while we aren't surprised when the cheap shoes start to fall apart before the end of summer, we do expect the expensive shoes to last for years - same with your jewellery. When you buy a $20.00 turquoise and silver ring from a street vendor don't expect too much, you get what you pay for. I realize you really like that ring, but please understand why your local jeweller isn't thrilled to have to fix it anymore than the cobbler wants to work on your Walmart sneakers, they were not made to be fixed, they were not made to last 50 years.
So imagine you want me to size your new ring up a little...
- The first thing I must do is clean your jewellery before I work on it, that involves getting it wet and now my simple sizing just got harder because to save time the Child Labourer who made the ring put something weird under the stone to raise it to the correct height for setting. The ring on the left was packed with something organic that swelled and pushed the stone right out of the ring! From the smell and texture I am guessing it was a mixture of cow dung and sawdust. The ring on the right was scarier, the stone was already loose so I decided to pull it out before working on the ring, glad i did because it was resting on 2 hunks of what looked like ceiling tile/fiber material, if it didn't have a fire retardant in it, than it probably had some asbestos in it. So after cleaning out the gunk I made a seat in the rings with shellac, at least is wont seep out and smell and then I reset the stone - Wow there is an extra 45 minutes I hadn't budgeted for, so much for any profit margin...
- My silver is different than their silver, my silver is 92.5% Fine Silver and 7.5% copper, theirs is 92.5% silver and 7.5% UNKNOWN stuff. That means that I will probably have compatibility problems - the colour wont match, there will be pitting, and after polishing there may be a noticeable 'step' at my inserted piece because of a hardness difference between the metals. You will be unhappy with the job and blame me.
- To keep the silver shiny, many pieces are now coated with nickel, maybe that's why you are having an allergic reaction to it. I can try to remove it for you, but its hard stuff and is very hard to get out of grooves in the design - if I try your jewellery may have a weird 2-tone look - part grey shine, other parts tarnished white. The nickel also causes problems if I have to solder on the ring, it may be fuzzy and pink before I am finished....really!
- if the Child Labourer soldered a dome onto your ring and there isn't an air hole it may explode when I reheat it. This makes me unhappy. If I predrill holes in your ring so I don't have to worry about flying shards of hot metal you will probably be unhappy too.
- There has been many times when I have gently pulled apart a ring shank to fit in a sizing piece and ripped the darn thing in half. You can tell that the Child labourer didn't quality check his work to make sure that the solder flowed properly. Darn kid, you would think a tired 8 year old would do a better job.
- My repair is going to cost more than the original purchase price of your jewellery. Its amazing how mad people can get - "But its only a $20 ring, why is the repair going to be $35!?" Well I am not a Child living in a sweatshop. I live in North America and have bills the same as yours, my cat's food costs more than what that kid makes daily. Fixing a poorly made silver ring takes more time than fixing a well made gold ring, and time is money.
Support the poor kid and buy his ring, just dont ask me to fix it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Vacation Gemstone purchases

Coloured gemstones, sometimes called semi-precious stones add life to your wardrobe.
Since they are less expensive than diamonds and the big three, sapphire, ruby and emerald, they can come in large but affordable sizes and interesting shapes.
If you shop for stones while on vacation please remember that you are not guaranteed genuine stones when purchasing in a foreign country, especially from a mat in a market - no matter what the nice person selling says! So please ask yourself these simple question:
Do you like it?
Can you afford it?
Is it a great souvenir?
Is it alright if its not genuine?
If you answer yes to all the questions then buy, you will have a great story to tell when you get home. Happy Holidays!
14k yellow gold and sterling silver earrings with Carnelian

Monday, March 24, 2008

Enamelling... a skill separate from making jewellery, it is the colorful result of fusing powdered glass to metal. Its an art I have been interested in but never found my style - but I think I have finally figured out En Grisaille and you can expect more of it in the future!
enamelled brooch 3 x 3.5 cm

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Switched Diamonds.

"When I was in my Teens I took a pendant into the local jeweller to have an extra ring put on the bail. When I got it back I was sure they had switched my stone, but now I realize that I just didn't recognize it clean!"
I have switched stones, but only when asked to by customers, usually we call this 'replacing a chipped stone with a new one'. The term 'switching' is saved for when Jewellers take a good stone and replace it with one of lesser value or in the case of a cubic zirconia, no value at all.
But lets imagine that I am unscrupulous, and look at your risk levels;
- Nobody (smart) steals a 1993 Honda Civic for its resale value, and the same goes for a diamond under 30 pts, its not worth my effort - why risk my business!
- Nobody (smart) steals a neon pink Smart car - too easy to spot. Same for stealing an unusual diamond, I couldn't find a pink princess cut of lesser quality that would fool the customer into thinking it is their original stone.
- A car with a good alarm system is less likely to disappear. Larger diamonds (over 50 pts) these days usually come with a laser engraving on the girdle, the numbers are recorded in your Appraisal. When you get the stone back from me, walk into another jewellery shop and get them to confirm the registration numbers using their microscope.
- Do you let just anybody work on your car?? I recommend that you build a relationship with your Jeweller, one based on trust. And to do that you start by not trusting them and get an Independent Appraisal done on all work. After a few interactions in which the Jeweller's work and the Appraiser's info are copacetic, you can start to trust.
Mona's 18k Palladium gold pendant.

10k, 14k & 18k?

What do those numbers really mean?
Lets start with 24k that's pure gold, 100%.
So 18k is 18/24s pure gold or better put 3/4 or 75% pure gold.
14k is 14/24s pure gold, so just over half gold or 58.5%.
10k is 10/24s pure gold, so less than half gold or 41.7%
A piece of jewellery can also be stamped with just the percentage number, so it may say 750, 585 or 417 instead. All jewellery for sale must be stamped with the metal content and a trademark which shows who made it.
So what is the non gold part? Its usually a mixture of copper and silver in yellow gold and nickel or palladium in white gold.
The K stands for Karat which is a unit of fineness in gold. Don't confuse it with Carat which is a unit of weight for gemstones!
Pendant design and face by Rob Chaplin, 18k yellow and white gold metalwork by me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Jewellery repair

I just want to confirm my humanity here - I'm afraid of car mechanics. When they give the quote are they just pulling numbers out of their heads because they know that I know nothing? Do they really replace the broken part with a new one or is it a rebuilt one? Is anything broken at all??? Every time the old van started acting funny I got all stressed out. And I know many people feel that way about taking their treasures to a jeweller for repair. I sympathise and I got some common sense advice for you;
1. If the job is going to be complicated, get a second opinion. Make sure that both jewellers agree on what the problem really is. If they don't, go get a third opinion.
2. If a job is going to be expensive go get a second opinion. And don't go with the cheap guy, go with the person who can explain the problem to you and why its going to be expensive to fix.
3. The only way to get a truly independent Appraisal is to look up Jewellery Appraisal in the phone book and pay for it yourself. The "Independent Appraisal" that the jeweller gave you probably reflects what the jeweller wanted written.
4. Don't bother asking for your gold back when you have your ring sized. The little piece of metal is our profit margin, we will just charge you extra for the hassle of remembering to put it in a baggy, and what good is it to you stuck in your underwear drawer?
5. If you want me to fix your earring, bring me the unbroken one too. That way I can make sure that they still match after, you look silly if I only polish one.
6. Don't try to fix it yourself. I charge extra to remove pipe solder and plier marks.
7. Every year bring your jewellery in to be looked at. Its much cheaper to re tip claws that replace lost stones. Ask to have stuff polished and checked, yes it will cost money, but so does any tune up.
8. Don't tell the jeweller to 'just make the ring a 1/2 size bigger" invariably that is wrong. Always get your finger measured.
9. If I say I will call you in a couple of days with the estimate, it means that I must figure out the price, maybe I need to calculate the diamond replacement cost or maybe your jewellery is so dirty I need to clean it before I can see the whole problem. If I just tell you a number Right Now I'm going to guess high so I don't put myself out of business.
10. hmmm I'm sure I will think of more...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Unusual metalwork

Requests are an important part of my business, Im willing to make anything! I like new challenges, keeps the world interesting. This coronet is sterling silver, and made up of approximately 50 pieces.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Old is New Again

The original brooch is part of the Fishpool Hoard - I think it was dug up in some Englishman's backyard when he was putting in a pond. The original is missing all its pearls and some of its enamel but I always thought it was a graceful piece. My version is 18k yellow gold with glass enamel and freshwater pearls.
The reason I got into jewellery was my interest in medieval history, and I believe good design does not go out of style.

Unusual stones

There was a time in history when silver was much rarer than gold. The Norse graves have left us many lovely objects including some crystal sphere pendants. Mine is based on a 5cm diameter sphere from a swedish grave, but my sphere is only 2cm so I had to put a lot into this little package. Its a bit of a puzzle to make too!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Diamonds are a hunk of pretty carbon....

This is an excerpt from a private e-mail to a customer who is interested in a trillion (triangle) shaped diamond. But there is some pretty good basic diamond info in there if you want to read it.
So its my response to "Hey I want a big Triangle cut"
"Nothing wrong with them, I like'm, but I want you to be able to make an informed decision. I'm not sure how much you know about diamonds, but some shapes reflect more light/sparkle than others.Best sparklers, are Round and Square, followed by oval and Marquise (football shaped) then Triangle, followed by Emerald cut and last is Baguette.Round diamonds are cut from double pyramid shaped diamond crystals. (as though someone glued a second pyramid to the bottom of the first) Triangles are cut from Macles, that's a crystal that has grown all wonked - a pyramid that has gone wrong, triangle is the only shape that can be cut from macles and still be financially viable, and since most people aren't interested in triangles the price is often better than a round. But not as sparkly, macles usually come with lots of wispy stuff inside, so its a trade off.
There are 4 C's to diamond grading Clarity. Diamonds of course come in super perfect for a stupid price all the way down to ugly frozen spit quality. Personally I try and push people towards the points on the graph where 'best price for you' meets 'still a pretty stone'.
Lowest I will sell is Si clarity because anything lower has inclusions visible to the naked eye, all the higher grades are the same unless viewed through 10 power magnification. (that is overly simplified, as little specks to effect the return of light but this is the best 'bang for buck' grade)
Colour. I prefer to steer people towards G - H in colour. Anything lower starts to look yellow and all the higher stuff looks like G-H once it is set into claws.
Carat size - bigger is not always better. If you have a set budget its best to go a little smaller and keep the other C's at a good level. No use having a big diamond that looks awful. And there is also a status thing that happens, the price per Carat on a .98C stone is less than a 1.02C stone because people want to say they own a One Carat stone. I will try to make sure that we stay below the jump up points because I see no reason to pay the extra price for .2mm more stone.
Cut is the last C, and it is very important, because this C thing is a balance game, a badly cut diamond doesn't sparkle so it doesn't matter how clear or clean it is."
That was the end of our e-mail. At a later date I will probably get into more detail but its time to go to work! Making 18k Palladium white earrings today to fit a cute pair of pink diamonds.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Jewellery photography

Wow is it ever hard! This is a picture of a ring I made for my friend Jenn. 18K White gold and set with the 3 stones from a ring she didn't like and some little diamonds from a broken pendant. So we used the sentimental stones in something she did like. She has long fingers with large knuckles - we made something that would look nice as it spun on her finger , and be wide but not look too heavy.
Anyway, back to photography - its hard! You must show the shine but not hide the detail. Show the smooth surfaces without showing your body reflected there (never photo in the nude). It gets even harder - show a diamond without just seeing sparkles! In this picture I have the ring sitting on a piece of non glare plastic, nice reflection eh! I should only have one light source showing but I have two, and either I have to learn to photo a ring straight or learn how to turn it 5 degrees because right now it lists to the right.....

White Golds and Platinum.

Pure Gold is yellow. Always is, always will be. So where do we get white gold?? Usually when we alloy for yellow gold (which is when we mix other metals into the pure gold) we add a mix of (mostly) silver and copper, this makes it harder, polish better and less expensive. When we want white gold we add either Nickel or Palladium instead. Neither is perfect.
Nickel white gold is actually a very light yellow colour, usually it is rhodium plated for a true white colour. As the rhodium, a member of the platinum family, is just a thin coating on the surface of the gold, eventually it gets worn off in spots leaving your jewellery blotchy looking. Some people are allergic to nickel, and might react immediately to their new jewellery, or in a few weeks/months when the rhodium starts to wear off. Nickel gold is a very hard, very finicky metal, sometimes it cracks.
Palladium is a member of the Platinum group of metals, its expensive. This means palladium white gold costs more than nickel white gold. It is slightly grey in colour and softer than nickel white, so it scratches faster and deeper. It is also a great metal to build jewellery out of - very flexible and malliable. It is unlikely you would be allergic to palladium white gold.
Platinum is a separate family of metals, platinum, iridium, palladium... there are 7 total, I cant remember the others off the top of my head....these are the 3 jewellers use. So when I alloy metal for a piece of gold jewellery, I add inexpensive stuff to the expensive gold, 18k gold is 75% gold 25% cheap other stuff. With platinum usually we use 90% platinum, and 10% Iridium, so Ive added expensive stuff to really expensive stuff - that's one of the reasons platinum is so....expensive. Another is that it is much denser than gold, so an ounce of Platinum is smaller than an ounce of gold, a ring that weighs 6 or 7 grams of gold would weigh 10 grams if I made it in platinum. Platinum jewellery has a nice colour, very white, but the metal is very soft so if you have a big smooth shiny band it will mark up much faster than a gold band. Platinum is best used for claws, whether on a single stone or pave work because unlike gold, Platinum does not work harden quickly. Work hardening makes the metal springy, so when the jeweller pushs the gold claws over a diamond they spring back slightly, and then with the every day wear on a ring - all the little dings and whacks it harden the gold more, eventually the stone comes loose. With platinum the claws stay soft, so all the little dings actually push the claws tighter around the stone. In a nut shell, with time gold claws slowly loosen and platinum claws slowly tighten.
So which metal is best? sorry no easy answer. If I was getting a wide shiny plain band my first choice would be nickel white gold. If I was having a handmade eternity diamond ring made? palladium white gold. Am I having a pave dinner ring put together? definitely platinum!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Finger shapes and how they should effect ring shopping.

We were not all created equal! As there are many body shapes, there are also many finger shapes. You should know what kind of fingers you have and styles of rings that best suite you.
I'm going to list the shapes I know well, sorry but I haven't come up with flattering names for the them!

Skeleton fingers - that's when the knuckle is wider than the area of the finger where the ring sits, this means that the ring will always spin. This can be very irritating in a signet or traditional engagement style ring, because the heavy top slips down and bothers the neighbouring fingers.
Try to pick ring styles that have a continuous pattern, if there is no bottom your ring is never upside down. Try a soft square or stirrup shaped ring, these ring shapes hold onto the finger better and feel less irritating between the fingers. You should wear wide rings, they will look great on you! Do not get a ring that is comfort fit or that tapers from the front to the back.

Sausage fingers - that's when the fingers look tight and tubular, sometimes they bulge out on either side of the knuckles. Its hard to fit rings to these fingers, they always look like they were stuffed on!
Try a narrower band, less than 5mm wide, and thin - 1.5mm thick. Comfort fit bands look less tight, but must be thicker, which may not be comfortable if the fingers have no space between them. If the fingers are close together than get a low dome ring, that way you have no edges to irritate the neighbouring fingers.

Swelling sausages - you do not have ring fingers. I should not wear spandex. We must both deal with these things. IF you feel you must get a ring, or your future spouse insists you have one then buy 3 silver ones first, all within a 1/2 size of what the jeweller says your finger size is. Try them each for a week. Then retry the first one. The correct size will feel too loose on a cold day and not turn your finger blue after exercise. Best bets are soft squares and comfort fit bands, try a tapered band too. Assume that you will wear this ring only for special occasions.

Carrot fingers - that's when the finger tapers towards the knuckle, most people's pinkie fingers are carrots. You can wear any style, but you must wear it tighter then you want because otherwise it may slip off.

Ring fingers - you won the lottery, you have the perfect fingers for wearing rings! Nicely tapered, the knuckles dont stick out, the the skin is firm but not tight so it sticks slightly to the metal, you dont just dont age!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I was planning on being the last person alive without a blog. Once again I am proven wrong!
I have decided to put my Jewellery Ramblings on line, I got this info from working in the business for 12 years. I have listened to Goldsmiths, Stone setters Engravers, Gemologists and Casters ramble on about what they do, and now I am going to try and put it all into basic English and let you read it.