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Porcelain Jasper Inlaid Cuff

This is the cuff I made for the Beginning Inlay Video project. I’m very happy with it for a number of reasons. First, it’s always fun to have an idea in your head and when you finish the project, it looks WAY better than you ever could have imagined.
Second, I love the way the colors in the Porcelain Jasper interact with the copper. It really sets both off and makes the cuff oh-so-much more interesting.
Third, I like to add a splash of unexpected color to my pieces, because it is visually interesting and the shear unexpected-ness of it catches your eye and makes you take notice. The first piece next to the silver and copper overlay does that with a splash of pink.
And finally, I think this will really help people who are trying inlay for the first time. The only other thing I would say is have patience and enjoy the process.

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I read a tongue-in-cheek article about someone who wanted to quit her “day job” and make her living with her jewelry designs.  So far so good.  I think that covers a lot of people.  But then she had a list of things she wouldn’t be willing to do.  She was shy, so she didn’t want to try to approach people to get her jewelry into boutiques or galleries.  Craft fairs were out as she didn’t like talking to strangers.  She didn’t understand social media, so that was out and of course she had no money to hire someone to do these things for her.  How successful can she be?

We can laugh at that, except that we all would like people to just call us up and buy our jewelry.  I know I would.  But the real world doesn’t work that way.  So what do you have to do to be successful in the jewelry field?  How can you take your love and turn it into a money-maker?

The simple answer is that most people never will.  But that doesn’t’ have to be a bad thing.  For years, I was happy if I made enough money with my jewelry to buy more supplies so I could make more jewelry.  Then it got to where I could buy more supplies AND take “buying” trips with my wife and charge it to the company.  It was wonderful.

After reading that article, I got to thinking about “success” and how it is achieved.  It got me thinking about my stint as an actor.  After college, I went to Hollywood as a starving actor to “make it” in acting.  (A lot of starving, very little acting.  Here my kids are rolling their eyes…) For what it’s worth, here’s what I discovered.

In Hollywood, it really IS who you know.  The streets are literally filled with gifted, talented people.  If you get your shot, you had better be able to deliver the goods, because you ain’t getting’ another chance.  Let’s analyze this as it applies to jewelry.

Unless you happen to be born with a famous or connected parent, or live next door to one, you have to create who you know.  The good news is with hard work you can do this.  (Dirty word, I know.)  You can network, go to shows and schmooze, and broaden your horizons.  The nice thing about this is, you will meet a lot of creative, artistic people, and most artistic people are very nice and very interesting.

The next step is being able to deliver the goods.  If someone gives you an opportunity, your stuff had better be good, because if it isn’t up to snuff, it makes you look bad, and it makes the person who gave you the opportunity look bad also.  Guess what?  They won’t do THAT again.  And they will also tell all their friends you can’t cut it.

To make sure you CAN cut it, keep improving your craft.  Practice, practice, practice. Take classes, be open to critiques, take risks, and try something new.  Take a sculpting or drawing class.  Keep the creative juices flowing.  Try selling at a craft fair or gem show.  The next thing you know, you WILL be able to deliver the goods.   But most of all, have fun.

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Plating Copper Jewelry

With the increase in popularity of copper in art jewelry making, you come up against the problem of soldering it. If you use silver solder, you have a silver line on your piece. If you use copper solder, you have a dirty silver line on your piece. Also, if you try any forging work on a joint soldered with copper solder, you will soon find out that it is very bridle and just doesn’t hold up. What to do?
When I have a piece I’m making in copper that requires soldering, I use silver solder, just as if I was soldering sterling silver, except that I use Prip’s Flux as it holds up better on copper. After the metal work is finished, any of the exposed solder joints stick out like a sore thumb. There is a very simple solution to remedy this problem. Here’s how:
Remember Silver Soldering 101 where the instructor emphatically told you to NEVER put IRON in your PICKLE!!! The reason for all the commotion is that the iron will cause a reaction with the copper ions in the pickle and plate your silver, which you don’t want. But we want to plate our silver solder, so here’s how.
Before we go into the technique, you may be asking how all of this copper go into your pickle. Good question. When you solder sterling silver, the heat causes the copper in the silver to oxidize, creating fire scale. In other words, fire scale is really just copper oxide. When you put your soldered piece in the pickle, you are removing most of the fire scale. As you use your pickle, you will notice that it starts to turn a pretty turquoise color. That’s because there is copper suspended in the pickle, waiting for you to put a piece of iron in it so it can attach (plate) to a piece of metal.
Back to our piece with silver lines on it. You want to use old, dirty pickle because nice, new, clean pickle won’t work (don’t ask me how I know…). Scoop out some pickle into a Pyrex container that is large enough to hold your piece, and make sure you cover your piece completely. I heat my pickle in the pickle pot first so that it’s hot when I put it into the separate container.
Place your copper piece into the bowl and add a piece of iron. I think it plates faster if you touch the iron to your piece, but you don’t have to. Experiment and see what works best for you. Leave you piece in for about 10 minutes to give you a nice thick plating. Remove the iron and piece and rinse both in clean water.
I usually just pour the pickle back in the pot, as I haven’t found any reason not to. Take your piece and finish it however you want. Brass brushing works well. If you want a high polish on your piece, I recommend you polish your piece first, clean thoroughly, then plate. After plating, you should be able to hit it with a final polish with Zam or Jeweler’s Rouge so that you don’t polish through your plating.
Experiment a little and have fun. Remember, copper is cheap, but you can produce beautiful jewelry with it. Good luck.