A beading chuckle

I find a lot of inspiration and design ideas from historic pieces and ancient jewelry. Sometimes it’s the jewelry pieces themselves, it might be interesting color or stone combinations, and often it’s shapes. I’m also interested in history of jewelry in general, particularly how it was made in the past with the technology of the time.

I recently ran across this really good book on ancient Egyptian jewelry (available pretty cheap used on amazon). Well, it has the best of everything–lots of pictures with citations (hate when they don’t say where it’s from if you want research it further), and tons of good detail about all the various aspects of how they think they did things back then. Has details about metal work, making beads, niello, faïence, granulation, and more. Also has neat ideas on alternate constructions (love those giant collar necklaces with the counter-poise weights in the back).


So, on one page, they have an awesome line drawing from a wall that is of goldsmiths at work, then below that are men making and doing beadwork.

However, if you look really close, way down at the bottom, the men lying on the floor…

…I’d like to think it’s some obscure thing they’re doing, lost to the ages.

But no, if you’ve ever done beading, you KNOW what they’re doing.

They’re down on the floor looking for that blasted bead that they’ve dropped AGAIN.

YOJ13wk1: Renewal

It’s time to welcome in a new year!  I was very happy to see that the Year of Jewelry Project had found new digs in a Facebook group.  It’s a creative challenge to make a piece of jewelry every week for a year, using a weekly theme (optional) as a jumping off point.  It’s very inspirational to see what folks come up with. 

The theme for the first week of the new year is Renewal. Very appropriate. I often spend those last few days of the year between Christmas and New Years thinking about the direction I’d like to go for the coming year, a time of of introspection.  I don’t really set official goals as much as do a lot of thinking and course correction. This past year is one that has had some major ups and downs and I’m happy to see it gone.  I’ve had a really really hard time keeping my head in the game business-wise.  The last several years actually, looking back…but things are finally settling out and I’m getting back in the good mental groove I’ve been struggling to recapture.  Finally. 

This first theme, Renewal, is deeply personal to me since I’m going through a major mental and emotional renewal, so I thought it only appropriate to make a personal piece of jewelry.  I got to thinking and realized that in 25 years of making wire jewelry, I have NEVER made ME a piece of jewelry, where that was the intention from the outset.  Oh, sure, I have a few pieces I made to sell and wound up keeping, rocks in the stash that are earmarked but never done, or experiments where I kept the prototype, but nothing at all that I purposely made for myself from the outset.  So here we are, this one is mine.

The stone is a piece of Ocean Jasper that I saw last December and showed my husband, then he got it for me for Christmas.  It really caught my eye.  The image to me looks a bit like a field of flowers with the sun rising behind it.  A new bright future.

Here’s the finished piece (click on it for larger image):

pendant bezel prong gf ss ocean jasper yoj 2013 week 1Even though it’s a fairly basic wrap, there always design decisions to be made, and since I was making it for ME, I stuck to my personal style.

pendant ocean jasper which metal gf ss
(click for larger image)
 The first question is which color metal, gold-filled or sterling silver? After debating, I decided both since I love mixed metals and thought they would complement the warm and cool colors in the stone, providing a nice balance.
pendant ocean jasper prong shape
(click for larger image)

The next question is what style, bezel variant or swirly frame?  Swirls would pick up the round patterns in the stone, but obscure the shape I love.  Plus, while swirly has its place, my personal style leans towards cleaner, simpler.

So a bezel setting it is.  Something that will really draw the eye and follow the shape of the stone.  I decided to do prongs to keep a bunch of wire off of the stone, but made a little curve in them to echo the circular pattern in the stone, and asymetrical shape and placement as well.

pendant ocean jasper side
(click to enlarge image)

The other reason for doing prongs is so I could do this wrap-spiral thing up the sides, which really shows off the mixed metals and has a visual texture I like.  Can’t do that with the bezel style where the outer front and back wire kick out over the stone to hold it in, or swirl over it, or whatever variation.


pendant ocean jasper end
(click image to enlarge)


I did skip the pattern down on the tip so that I could preserve that nice sharp point.  A bunch of wraps going around it would have just rounded it off.



pendant ocean jasper last prong
(click for larger image)

The challenge with this type of side and the prongs is having to shape as you go as opposed to working the entire thing flat (like on a symmetrical oval or round piece) and shape it to the stone afterwards.  With assymetrical pieces, to get the placement of everything right (prongs, curves, point) and really fit the stone closely, it works better to shape as you go.  The downside is that as things start closing up, the long wire I’m wrapping with is harder to get through the narrowing area without distortion.  Plus just dodging that long wire whipping around in my face in the first place (look in the foreground of the picture).  Above, I’m bending the last prong before tying it back down.

pendant ocean jasper fish
(click on image to enlarge)


So when I eventually finish, I realize there might have been another design to have explored.  Add a couple of fins…

Nah, I like it as is, but a fishie woulda been kind of fun though.