Sunday, February 27, 2011


I sometimes suffer from a version of 'writer's block'. I will have wonderful materials on my workbench but find that I just cannot move forward with a project because the ideas that I have don't yet seem worthy of the material. Pearls, faceted gemstones, hand forged copper problem. I can sit down and immediately get to work. It's when I find something truly unique or something that has sentimental value that I struggle with finding the inspiration that will leave me satisfied.

I recently found this bundle of wonderful utensils. These pieces are smaller that standard utensils, and I believe the metal is brass. The woman who sold them told me that the handles were ivory, but I knew that was not correct. My guess is that the material could be Bakelite. Whatever it is, I think it is lovely. The butterscotch color of the plastic and the warmth of the aged brass is a delicious combination. What am I going to do with these? I have ideas swirling about in my head, but I'm not yet ready to commit to one.

The one piece that really has me stymied is this remnant of a hair comb. This belonged to my mother and I have distinct memories of her wearing this when I was a child. With years of use, parts of the comb broke off making it non-functional but my mother could never bring herself to part with it. I'm so glad that she held onto this for years and eventually gave it to me a few years ago thinking that I might give it new life. The brass samaras are so wonderfully detailed and the amethyst colored pieces of glass are beautifully rich in color. I have tried to think of a project that would keep most of this piece intact but end up just putting it away for lack of ideas. It's too big and too curved to simply become a pendant. The pieces are separately riveted to the Bakelite base, and I can't yet bring myself to dismantle them.

My mother passed away in 2009, making some of her possessions all the more dear. She was quite beautiful and brought elegant style to all aspects of her life.
I want to get this project right.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

And the Winner Is.....

Today was the drawing for my 'Year of Earrings' raffle to raise money for the Steve Stefani Dance Marathon at my son's high school. The marathon raises money for pediatric cancer patients and their families at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

To keep the raffle results beyond reproach, I asked our church's Pastor to draw the winning ticket, and he happily obliged drawing out the above ticket #9480155. The winning ticket belongs to Perry, a college classmate who I recently reconnected with through Facebook.
Congratulations Perry.

Thank you so much to everyone who took part in the raffle. Your generosity is very much appreciated. The raffle raised $700.00, and my son and I are both thrilled.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Instant Aging

Years ago, when I was a teenager and first paid attention to jewelry as self-adornment, I was drawn to pieces that looked like they might have come from an archaeological excavation site. I would always gravitate towards something that looked like a Mayan relic or an ancient Egyptian treasure. That appreciation of the history of a piece remains with me and strongly influences my design sensibility. I often prefer that my pieces have a patina, creating an 'aged' appearance.

When I made necklaces out of my recent cabochon pendants, I used sterling chains with sterling wire-wrapped crystals, gemstones, pearls and textured metal.

The pendants included hand textured or etched layers, capturing that character of a piece unearthed from an earlier time in history. Lovely as it is, the bright and clean sterling chain, wire and clasps did not fit the picture that I was trying to create.
Sterling silver will develop a natural patina as it oxidizes. That oxidized look is what I wanted for these necklaces, but I certainly did not want to wait the months or years that the natural process might take. I wanted instant aging!!
That's what liver of sulfur is for.
Liver of sulfur is a mixture of potassium sulfides, and is used to darken or 'antique' sterling and copper. While this is not actually an oxidizing process (which requires oxygen), the end result is similar. I put a couple of small pieces of liver of sulfur in warm water. When the pieces dissolved, turning the water clear yellow, I added my necklaces. Almost immediately, all of the silver and copper turned black.
The necklaces remained in the liver of sulfur solution for less that 30 seconds. I removed them and used a soft cotton rag to wipe all pieces dry.
This is how the pieces looked after drying. I wanted the necklaces to look aged, but I didn't want them to look this aged.
The next step in the process is a time consuming one- selective removal of the liver of sulfur patina.
I used fine sandpaper on all surfaces of the metal to remove some of the patina. The patina will remain in areas that have been textured and on other surfaces that are inaccessible. The chain on the left side of the above image has been sanded, showing the contrast to the chain as it appeared right out of the liver of sulfur. I like the depth that this patina adds to the necklace.
Here's what the necklaces looked like after the sanding. Finishing the three took a while because each side of the chain needs to be sanded. Each wire wrapped bead and sterling spacer needs to be carefully sanded. I also ended up sanding off the top of my left thumbnail.
While it is time consuming, it is time well spent.

These necklaces now have the look that I was envisioning at the beginning of the process.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Earring Raffle

I like my town- a lot.
We moved here after a house search that lasted almost three years, and it was worth the wait. My one twin attends Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia with the full support of our school district. My other twin is a senior at our local high school. To say that I'm thrilled with our school district is an understatement. The teachers, administration, staff and students are a collection of fabulous people.
One of the wonderful activities that happens at our high school is the Annual Steve Stefani Dance Marathon which raises money for the Hershey Medical Center Four Diamonds Fund. The mission of the Four Diamonds Fund is to 'conquer childhood cancer by assisting children treated at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital and their families through superior care, comprehensive support, and innovative research.'

The students, faculty and staff at our high school do fundraising throughout the year to maximize their impact. My son is on the Technology Committee, and like everyone else involved with the marathon, is working on specific tasks as well as his individual fundraising.

This is where I (and maybe you) come in.

I am raffling off one dozen pairs of earrings, or as I like to call it:

'A Year of Earrings'
One chance to win the entire collection of earrings , valued at $372.00, will cost only $5.00. All of the money raised from the raffle will be given to the Steve Stefani Dance Marathon via my son's fundraising account.

If you like the idea of winning these earrings, and especially if you like the idea of helping pediatric cancer patients and their families, email me ( for my mailing address. I will announce the lucky winner on Sunday, February 20th. In order to be in the pool of potential winners, I will have to receive all contributions by that time. Want to increase your chance to win? Buy as many chances as you want. I will have an impartial person make the random selection of the winning chance and post the information on my blog and Facebook page.

(If I happen to receive any contributions after the drawing, I will contact the sender/s and offer to return the money. The money could of course still go to the marathon, but that decision would not be mine to make.)

The winner will get:

Domed and hand textured silver nickel discs with soldered, etched brass discs; sterling wire wrapped carnelian bead dangles; sterling earwires.
Copper strips with recycled, etched brass (cut from a platter); silver plated shell charms; tiny freshwater pearls wrapped with sterling wire; niobium earwires
Recycled silver plated charms (cut from the rim of a platter); faceted garnet beads wrapped with anodized steel wire; sterling earwires
Value: $26.00
Angled brass form; domed copper disc; golden freshwater pearls; sterling earwires
Hand forged and hammer textured copper rings; copper plated fish dangles; freshwater pearls wrapped with balled copper wire; gold plated fleur charm; niobium earwires
Etched and domed silver nickel discs; faceted aquamarine rondelles wrapped with balled sterling wire; silver plated fleur charms; sterling earwires
Recycled, patinated and domed brass discs (cut from decorative platter) riveted with domed copper disc; faceted garnet beads wrapped with balled sterling wire; niobium earwires
Silver plated toad charms; copper plated leaf charms; freshwater pearls wrapped with sterling wire; niobium earwires
Faceted honey jade briolettes wrapped with sterling wire; Swarovski crystal and freshwater pearl dangles wrapped with balled sterling wire; textured sterling ring; sterling earwire
Value: $42.00
Etched and domed silver nickel discs; milled copper triangles; recycled silver plated rings (disc cut from an embossed platter); faceted rubies wrapped with balled sterling wire; sterling jump rings and earwires
Hand textured and formed copper with sterling ear posts
Sterling rings shaped and hand textured; faceted carnelian and prehnite beads wrapped with sterling wire; sterling spacers; sterling earwires

At the end of the marathon, the kids do a dramatic reveal of the fundraising total. I watched last year's reveal from home and willingly admit that I was brought to tears when I saw that $110,336.85 was raised. They hope to raise even more this year.
The kids in my town are awesome!

Some Soldering Progress

Last night's soldering efforts had some of the usual frustrations, but I also had limited success.

I made a collection of closed sterling jump rings. I also set another cabochon from my bag of stones using fine silver bezel wire soldered onto a piece of copper that had been both milled and stamped. So I've got a small gob of solder at the top that I still have to clean up a bit. I'm just pleased that the solder flowed pretty much where it was supposed to. This will soon become a necklace, and there is a nice detail on the back that I'll capture when I have a completed piece.

The riveted copper ring on my earlier pendant bothered me a bit too much. I'm much happier with this wire wrapped connection that I made with sterling wire, sterling spacers and amazonite rondelles. The ice blue color of the amazonite captures some of the colors in the cabochon and is more graceful than the hand forged copper ring. The in-progress sterling chain is being wire wrapped with pearls, amazonite and aquamarine.