Tin Cup and Tea

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

At the close of 2010 I enjoyed making tin cup necklaces. Not too difficult, they are enjoyable to make in the morning over coffee or over tea in the evening. Even nicer…spending time with my husband or one of our kids while I make them.

For my mother, I’d created a tiger’s eye tin cup with plated gold chain. While I’m not a big fan of plating, there are places where it has merit. The tiger’s eye tin cup necklace (posting a pic tomorrow if possible) used nice sized beads. Too heavy for karat gold chain, not too heavy for 14k gold plated.

With a nod to financial recovery and tightened purse strings, we’ve decided to offer plated gold as a metal option for our customers.

Tin Cup necklaces are called that for a reason. It was a necklace form worn in the movie “Tin Cup”. I make them 18 and 20 inches roughly. Some are several strands, or single strands that can be worn together. Pearls are beautiful with the right chain, but I favor a wide variety of stones and beads. Even Swarovsky beads work well. I like gold chain for this, and I am learning to appreciate argentium sterling…it doesn’t tarnish the way typical sterling silver. Especially in our humid climate.

Let me know how you like your tin cup necklace.

And before the next semester begins I’ll be spending more time on a project or two. One is a labor of love (dino bone cab set for our 8 year old), and the other is more labor intensive…including moving parts. Here’s hoping for success!


The Truth About Tarnish

July 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

Understanding tarnish means knowing the causes of tarnish as well as knowing how those causes are related to your jewelry. Knowing more about sterling silver is important to make sense of the tarnishing that occurs.

Several things cause tarnish on sterling silver: oxygen and sulfur are the two most obvious (and common) agents, though perfumes, make-up, and a host of other products may also cause tarnish or another unwanted patina.

Sterling silver is referred to and stamped as .925. This signifies that the makeup of the metal is .925 (or 92.5%) pure, or “fine” silver. Fine silver doesn’t tarnish, but it is also not strong enough for most uses in jewelry; a different metal is necessary to add strength. The other 7.5% in sterling silver is mostly comprised of copper. Copper adds strength, but is highly reactive. The presence of oxygen or sulfur leads to tarnish. Intentional oxidation adds interest to a piece of jewelry. Unintentional oxidation detracts from the beauty and interest of that piece of jewelry.

Preventing tarnish can be done in several ways.

  • Storing jewelry in sealable bags or containers is the easiest method of slowing down the tarnishing process.
  • Storing your jewelry with chalk will also slow the tarnishing process.
  • Anti-tarnish cloth or anti-tarnish paper or strips can be purchased. You can line your jewelry box with it, or place it in the bag or container you store your jewelry in. (my inexpensive personal jewelry is kept in sealed plastic bags in my jewelry box with strips of anti-tarnish of paper.)
  • Cleaning jewelry gently, rinsing well and drying, can rid your jewelry from the accumulating dirt, dust, makeup etc.
  • Occasional polishing with a polishing cloth can keep your jewelry shining. Polishing clothes can be purchased already charged with polishing compound.

Recently, another variety of sterling silver has come into favor: Argentium sterling silver. In contrast, the 7.5% of Argentium sterling silver is largely made up of germanium. The germanium in Argentium sterling causes this form of sterling to tarnish much more slowly. While it won’t become the new (and only) sterling silver in use, it is becoming more popular. Argentium isn’t tarnish free, but tarnish resistant, meaning it will eventually tarnish, but not so easily or quickly.

Technical Difficulties

December 18, 2008 § 6 Comments

As a matter of course, computer problems have plagued our website…just as we posted some changes and introduced several new pieces available for sale as well as similar hand-crafted pieces. In lieu of our re-ordering I decided to share our news here (and hope we’re up and running again soon.

"Of the Earth"

"Of the Earth"

I have two new pieces available, nature themes abounding. In our Nature series we have “Of the Earth”, a cut and pierced piece in sterling silver. This piece is really from my heart an expression of our business and our role in the community.

I have learned to enjoy the simple process of creating…the act of sawing each piece with great care…it is more peaceful than I would have imagined.

There will be more pieces like this…a return to more basic pieces, solid and simple. There is more, though. I’ve been playing with dimensions as well as filligree. The filligree pieces are not available for the website or here, but one of our dimensional pieces is available and for sale. And, of course, we can design similar pieces for you.

Flower and Vine

Flower and Vine

Working in dimension is fun! I enjoyed exploring where this piece was heading. It’s fun and beautiful and I’m already working on another pendant.

I have noticed our work is heading in a particular direction. Capturing the warmth, the stability and capricious nature of the world we live in isn’t always easy. It is always rewarding.

As always, you can contact us via email. We’re  at      kim@of-the-earth.org.


Your Jewelry’s Finish

September 26, 2008 § 4 Comments

Your jewelry’s finish is probably not something you’ve spent time thinking about, though it was likely a factor in choosing the piece you did. And the more you know about the finish on your jewelry, the better you will be able to care for it.

There are several common forms of metal finishing: polishing, buffing and burnishing. Among these mechanical  finishes, there are similarities. They are applied by physical abrasion of the metal surface using a secondary media. The media may include cloth, stone, metal and plastics combined with finishing compounds to aid the process. Methods of application include wheel abrasion, hand abrasion, blasting, tumbling barrels and vibratory finishers.

Mechanical finishes can be categorized by the way the parts to be finished are handled:

  • Individually handled and finished using wheel abrasion or hand abrasion
  • Mass finishing using tumbling barrels or vibratory finishers

The highest quality mechanical metal finishes are usually obtained by individually handling the parts and using some type of wheel abrasion. Fine hardware, furniture, and motorcycle parts are typically finished using this method. These finishes include:

  • Grinding – Used to remove large amounts of metal, grinding can be used to remove large burrs (deburring), heavy scale, rust, and major metal imperfections. The resulting finish has significant grit lines and needs additional mechanical finishing prior to electroplating.
  • Polishing – Very often mistaken as a mirror bright finish, polishing is similar to grinding but uses finer grits and compounds to remove significant metal imperfections and small metal burrs. It is usually used prior to buffing in order to obtain a mirror bright finish. In some cases multiple polishing steps using progressively finer grits are needed to obtain the desired finish.
  • Buffing – Using cloth wheels combined with compounds, buffing is a final mechanical finish that results in a mirror bright to near mirror bright finish, depending upon the base metal and/or prior mechanical finishing steps. Buffing does not remove a large amount of metal.
  • Satin – Also a final mechanical finish, a satin finish is an even, fine-grain, brush-type finish. A fine grit polishing finish produces a finish similar to a satin, which can be achieved using emery paper 350 grit.

Mass mechanical finishing is usually referred to as burnishing. It is a cost effective way to remove burrs and brighten metal where a perfect mirror finish is not required. A wide variety of methods exist using different types of machinery, media, and compounds depending upon the base metal and the desired results. Burnishing is also often used for brightening parts after the plating process.

Cleaning your jewelry can affect the finish on the metal. This is particularly true if you have jewelry that is plated (this includes vermeil). Ask your jeweler how to best take care of your jewelry. Metals and gemstones each have special care requirements. Know these before you clean and you’ll be more likely to keep your jewelry looking good for years to come.

Buyer Be Aware: Cultured Gems

September 16, 2008 § 2 Comments

If you’ve heard the phrase “cultured” gemstone or “cultured diamond”, chances are you’re one of the first. The Federal Trade Commission has made sure you won’t be the last, however.

Despite a petition submitted to the FTC by Jewelers Vigilance Committee and jewelry trade associations, the FTC has decided that use of the word ‘cultured’ is acceptable when referring to a laboratory-created gemstone. One caveat, the marketers must include one of four terms meant to clarify the origin of the stone: (laboratory created, laboratory-grown, manufacturer-created, synthetic)

Most consumers these days are at least somewhat familiar with the word “cultured” when related to pearls. It’s a term used to describe pearls that are implanted with a piece of shell, returned to salt water, and then taken when there is enough nacre built up to satisfy the ‘grower’. Laboratory grown diamonds and colored gemstones are, scientifically speaking, as real as the diamonds mined from the earth. Lab-grown stones are generally less expensive, are more clear (have less inclusions), and are much more ecologically sound for our environment. Still, people are more inclined to want the ‘real’ stone.

It’s important to remember that the term ‘cultured’ still refers to lab-grown or synthetic stones, and these stones are as real and genuine as the gem mined straight from rock. Its simply grown under more ideal conditions in a much shorter span of time.

Cultured gems are not fakes, and are often more technically ‘perfect’ versions of gemstones. A diamond is still a diamond at a molecular level, regardless of whether it is mined or laboratory-grown, and synthetic does not mean your stone is fake.

Of the Earth Artisans often recommends laboratory grown stones for customers who can’t afford the more expensive, mined versions. We also sell these gems to die-hard environmentalists, as the stone is frequently more ethically sourced.

My advice: think about what is important to you with regards to your jewelry, then talk to your jeweler about what options you are most comfortable with. Or email my husband or myself, and we’ll be glad to discuss these (and many other) issues.

Trust: The Customer’s Dilemma

September 3, 2008 § 1 Comment

Most people are a little timid when talking jewelry with a jeweler. The language may seem the same, but there are subtle definition differences that can be confusing. And there are so many aspects of stones, gems and metals that most customers are left to trust the jeweler they’re working with to tell them what they’re looking for.

As a jewelry designer and fabricator, I want my customers (and potential customers) to be well educated. That way they know what they are looking for and because of that, they know they can trust me.

The internet has led people into the jewelery buying arena without the information they need to make good decisions. And it isn’t their fault. Jewelers, gem cutters and the like have studied the various attributes of a large variety of precious and semi-precious stones, gems and metals; they have tested samples, handled, set, or otherwise worked with samples, good and bad examples of the very pieces the customer will one day purchase.

Why am I saying this? Several reasons, really. First, I know that people can learn what they need to in order to select and purchase their jewelry. I want them to know what I’m talking about and not wonder if what I’m saying is a lot of nonsense. And as a jewelry designer I work with people to build pieces of jewelry that speak to them, that are precisely what they want. It’s much easier to do that when they ask me to purchase a stone for them. Without adequate knowledge of gems, it’s far too easy to pick up a good deal that isn’t what they thought. As a jeweler, I need to know what I’m working with in order to create the jewelry my customers want.

Periodically I will be writing up information on a precious or semi-precious stone or gem, or offering information on gemstone qualities and how to interpret them for your own knowledge and use. Previously I had written about Agate, and while that post will remain here, the longer articles will also be published at our business website, http://of-the-earth.org , where information about our jewelry and our company can be found. Look for the announcement when we get it put together.


Tidbits and a moral…

August 26, 2008 § 5 Comments

I’ve returned to the world of school, to the tech college. After spending time with Don Norris, who taught me quite a bit about silversmithing and jewelry work, I decided to head back. And, as luck would have it, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College happens to have a good, solid program for jewelry design, fabrication and repair.

Not only will I improve my knowledge and skill, I will have more tools to explore. I look forward to working with the instructors I have…they have a good reputation and are good people to work with. My husband and I are hoping to find, through this time in school, to set up a public access/club access for a local art studio we’re planning.

We’re also taking time to focus on our customers and what they need. Each customer has an entry in our Special Dates and Days database. We include personal information, dates to remember, names aand addresses of anyone they might like to have reminded of said dates (some have listed themselves to be reminded of anniversary, etc.). In it we include information on what their gift recipient has had his/her eye on, what gifts are connected to certain dates, etc. Putting this together has been a large undertaking. And while I had hopes of the information being entered from several websites, it is only available to those who purchase or work with our company.

And the moral I’m sharing is to not put off for tomorrow what can be done today. I have not spent as much time drawing as I should have. And drawing is not something to be rushed. So I’m off…and those of you working with me on custom jewelry will probably notice a big difference in my sketches as well as the software I use to scan it and then send it out.

Enjoy the day!

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