I have been making a limited amount of custom cut cabochons for my jewelry designs for the last couple of years, but I have been toying with the idea of making custom intarsia cabochons which combine several types of stone material into a single cabochon. After researching the subject, I found that having a Flat Lap machine is key to getting perfect right angles on each piece of stone that is to be joined. Another key element to making this work is applying a proper backing material such as Jet, Onyx or Obsidian. Once again, this requires the use of a Flat Lap machine in order to get a perfectly flat back on both the backing and the joined material. Another issue to consider is the type of bonding agent to use, cure times involved, whether it will stay clear or yellow over time and how hard or flexible the bond will be between materials.
So being a bit adventurous, I decided to set out and give it a try. After using my Inland Craft 6” Swap Top Flat Lap, Loratone 6” lapidary grinding machine and a Gryphette glass grinder, I was able to cut some fairly passable intarsia cabochons. On the first one I used Jet as a backing material while it is easier to work with, it is a very messy material and basically gets on everything creating a black slurry when cut. After having to clean my equipment due to this, I decided to use some Black Obsidian instead, which does not suffer from that same issue. In the future I will use Black Obsidian, Black Onyx or other non-messy materials.
After cutting the various pieces and fitting them together, it was now time to assemble using a bonding agent. I decided to try 330 two part epoxy, which works well if you give it enough time to cure. The only problem I ran across was when I was cutting the surface of the cabochon down, it tended to heat up slightly causing the epoxy to soften and the brass strips I was using in the stone lifted out. I tried reinserting the brass strips using the same epoxy but ran across the same issue several times. So back to the drawing board. Next, I used a Cyanoacrylate to bond the various stone sections together along with the brass strips & backing. The bonds are almost instant, strong and do not require the several hours needed that the 330 Epoxy does for strength. This make this type of bonding agent perfect for stone intarsia and inlay work. It’s fast, strong, inexpensive compared to epoxy and does not yellow with age.
Cyanoacrylates are a family of strong fast-acting adhesives with industrial, medical, and household uses. They are various esters of cyanoacrylic acid. The acryl groups in the resin rapidly polymerise in the presence of water to form long, strong chains. They have some minor toxicity.
Specific cyanoacrylates include methyl 2-cyanoacrylate (MCA), ethyl 2-cyanoacrylate (ECA, commonly sold under trade names such as "Super Glue" and "Krazy Glue", or Toagosei), n-butyl cyanoacrylate (n-BCA), octyl cyanoacrylate and 2-octyl cyanoacrylate (used in medical, veterinary and first aid applications). The abbreviation "CA" is commonly used for industrial grade cyanoacrylate.
After trying a thin cyanoacrylate, I decided that using it for joining the sections together is best and that an industrial medium thickness gel would be great for attaching the backing to the sections as it would fill in any gaps that might be present. I ordered an industrial strength kit especially formulated for intarsia and inlay work, which works well as can be seen from the results shown. I will be offering many of these types of Intarsia and inlay cabochons for sale on the website in the very near future. That it for now and happy cabbing.
So my wife has been canvassing the Internet looking at jewelry websites for design inspiration and happened to run across jewelrymakingjournal.com and was moved to contact the site owner about my jewelry making efforts. The site owner, Rena Klingenberg was most gracious in her assessment of my jewelry and offered to post a short article on how I got started along with a few photos of my work. I don’t really think my work is good enough for such a venue, and I said so to my wife before she and Ms.Klingenberg posted the article that I wrote up. I just don’t feel like I’m on the same level as most other great jewelry artists out there, but I had to defer to her rantings about my talent as I shoved a finger in each ear while shaking my head.
That being said, I want to thank all of those who commented about my jewelry on this website, and as always, I welcome constructive criticism which only helps me to get better.
I, also, want to thank my wife (Michelle Adams) for her tireless efforts in promoting my work, answering emails, responding to Facebook posts and posting on my behalf on other sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter, tracking down cabochons, shipping/tracking sold items and every other small thing she does on a daily basis. I wouldn’t have come so far, so fast without her.
As time goes on, I hope to get better and perhaps turn this into a full time job once I retire from my day job, but for now I will continue to make jewelry as time permits….and of course I won’t quit my day job just yet, as I really don’t want to be a starving artist at this early stage of the game.
For those interested in a quick read, here is the link to the article.
Self-Taught Jewelry Artist Inspired by Deviant Art
If you have some time, check out all this website has to offer, as there are a lot of great articles along with a ton of jewelry making information.
Until next time, Happy weaving!
want to thank everyone over at Facet Magazine for having the courage to choose my design in the January 2019 Challenge. This pendant took me several hours to complete and combines wire weaving with silversmithing. You can take a look at it here:
In January, we asked out readership to take a vacation from the swirl of winter frost and chill and to embrace their tropical side! We were looking for jewelry that was bold with your color palettes, yet soft with your textures. We asked you to be sultry and saucy with your designs, and allow them to come to life. Tropical colors, glossy stones, silky fabric, and textured creations: that was the goal of the Facet Design Challenge THE TROPICS.
Caribbean Queen – No More Love On the Run!’
When you visit the beach, you can feel the sand between your toes. Nobody makes the sand, it occurs naturally in the environment. Some people use the sand to make glass bottles or jars. A glass bottle or jar is man-made.
Have you ever heard of limestone? It is a type of rock that occurs naturally in the environment. We dig limestone from the Earth and cut it into blocks for constructing buildings. We also use limestone to make toothpaste. Limestone blocks and Toothpaste are man-made.
Clay also comes from nature. It comes from finely ground minerals. People mold clay into plates, pots for plants, and floor tiles. Clay pottery is man-made.
Stones come from nature, lapidaries cut, grind and polish these stones changing them into cabochons or faceted gemstones for jewelry. Using the above rationale, are Cabochons and faceted gemstones man made or natural?
All of this leads to my question, that once you take a stone out of it's natural environment and manipulate it into something that does not occur naturally in the world, such as a cabochon or faceted gemstone, then is it effectively man made? If there is no difference between cutting and grinding which changes the shape, polishing the surface which enhances the color, dying or heating which may change the color or composition, or using acrylic, super glue, water glass or opticon to fill cracks, pits, or vugs in order to stabilize or enhance the appearance aren't you still changing the base natural material into something suited for another purpose... i. e. Jewelry making?
Using this same reasoning, you can dig a small hole and stick your piece of lumber in it, cover it up and pretend it's still a natural tree, but would you be correct? Is it a man made piece of lumber, or will it ever grow roots and branches and leaves and go back to being a tree? Could the same logic be applied to cabochons and faceted gemstones. In my mind, if it is cut by Man and Made into a cabochon, then it is Man-made no matter the base material. Something to ponder, but I will let each of you draw your own conclusions.
From earrings and necklaces to rings, bracelets and pendants, each piece of handmade artisan jewelry showcases the skill of an artist while making a unique statement about his/her design style.
Before you can be effective at jewelry design, whether you are going to replicate your designs or are producing one-of-a-kind pieces you need to have a background in the basics of construction and also understand the materials you will be using. Through an understanding of the basic elements of design which include materials, size, color and function you will be able to form a conceptual style of the piece you want to make based on the individual elements i.e. its geometric shape, symmetry/asymmetry and whether it will be more refined or more organic in nature. You will also need to understand how your design will “work” on the wearer. You will need to possess a basic knowledge of the essential tools needed to create each design element along with basic techniques for manipulating the materials used into the design you have envisioned.
That brings me to the point of the article, where to start? My advice, find a class either in person or online, perhaps a tutorial or two, try it out, and learn the basics. The internet is a huge source of such information, or try your local library, bead store or rock shop. Most offer classes by very talented people in the jewelry industry and you can “pick their brains” for information and knowledge related to the projects you create while in class. One on one instruction has its advantages as you can ask questions when you are unsure of what you are doing. See if you have a “knack” for the basics of construction using someone else’s design that teaches the techniques needed to make jewelry.
After you learn the basics, there are a thousand more steps to go through before you can start to design jewelry, For example, you may want to learn more advanced techniques in casting, metal fabrication, wire weaving and soldering. Act like a sponge and soak up every bit of knowledge you can, always push yourself to learn more whether it is new techniques, using different materials or just doing the same thing in a different way. You never know where it will take you. Unfortunately, like anything worthwhile, it does not come easily. You have to do some research and then work hard towards your goals once you figure them out.
Some won’t agree with me and may even argue that this isn’t the case because big brand-named designers didn’t learn this way, they went to design school or are just naturally talented…right? However, I’ll bet you, that those very same big named designers were once young men/women who were sitting on a stool at a jewelers bench next to their teachers who were showing them the basics of construction and materials way before they started designing.
My approach to jewelry design, as I am self-taught, is to draw out my designs on graph paper and use that as a reference for the final piece. After I draw it out, I let it soak for a couple of days to see if I need to make any changes. If with this, many times I have what I think is a good idea, but when I sit down to make the jewelry piece, it very rarely turns out like I want it to.
Initial design didn't work so I ended up with two pendants, some design elements were not used. I separated the bow & arrow from the heart.
Through trial and error and past experience, it becomes easier as I try to learn from both past triumphs and mistakes, but still, I had to learn the basics of working with metal, gemstones, glass, and other materials before I got to this point; and I’m still learning. I may make a prototype of a design with less expensive materials and stones before I finalize a piece using more costly metals/materials such as silver, gold, or precious gemstones especially if I am unsure of how the design will look or wear. While I have sketch pads filled with ideas, these “ideas” require hands-on effort before they become physical pieces of jewelry to be worn and adorned by women and men everywhere.
When you have learned more about the jewelry making universe, more specifically jewelry making basics and techniques such as metalsmithing, lapidary-gemology and soldering, you will have a much better understanding of where your style fits in the jewelry community and how you might become a designer of fine artisan jewelry.
There are many types of wire from Stainless Steel, Copper and Aluminum to Gold Filled and Solid
Silver wire. The most popular is Aluminum craft wire which is available in a variety of colors
usually coated with clear vinyl and comes in different diameters. It is made for durability and flexibility and is used for beading or wire work. It will usually not fade or tarnish and is great for the beginning wire wrap artist due to its wide availability and inexpensive cost. There is also solid or thick single strand stainless steel spring wire used for a lot of popular bracelet and necklace designs. On occasion I use gold filled and solid fine silver wire for some of my work. But my favorite, which happens to be the most popular for a variety of reasons, is Copper wire. Sterling and fine silver are the second most popular wires used for making jewelry.
Wire for Wire Wrap Jewelry is available in many shapes like oval, triangle, square, and half round and round profiles. Each profile has certain uses for the type or style of wire wrapping involved with the design. Wire also comes in different thicknesses or gauges and hardness levels, also known as malleability. For wire wrapping, Wire gauges range from 6 gauge to 30 gauge with 30 being the thinnest, which is about the thickness of human hair. Hardness levels range from Dead Soft (DS) to Half Hard (HH) to Hard. Dead Soft and Half Hard are used more often because it’s easiest to work with. Dead-Soft wire does not hold its shape well when used for wide looping without first hardening it, but works great for elaborate designs right off of the spool.
Fine, Sterling Silver and Copper wire can become tarnished over time due to oxidation. You can keep the wires luster by storing it in plastic zip lock bags before use. This is a nice way to keep your wire shiny or to preserve the luster for a longer period of time. Air and oil on the skin of your hands are the biggest culprits of oxidation causing that brown dull luster on the wire. Have you ever looked at an old penny versus a new one? As people handle the penny, the oil from their hands along with exposure to the air cause the penny to tarnish over time. The same is true of copper and silver jewelry. There are ways to prevent this which I will share in another post.
I use dead soft copper and dead soft fine Silver round wire for 99.00% of my work with the majority falling between 18 and 28 gauge wires. I simply prefer round wire, and it happens to be the easiest to obtain. Half-Hard and Hard wire are difficult to work because it is hard to bend and requires a strong hand and tools. The Half-Hard and Hard wire nicks or damages easily as well because you must firmly clamp down on it to get the wire to bend correctly. However, I still prefer dead soft wire because once it’s bent, it’s done, and will usually not get damaged through normal wear and tear. It is both durable and lasting. These pieces should be around for generations and even become heirlooms.
The wire I use for pendants spans a wide range and is dependent on the size and shape of stone or other material that I am wrapping. But I mostly use 18 and 20 gauge wire as the base and 24-28 gauge for the weaving on the pendants. Although I plan my designs, they very rarely come out the way they are drawn as I usually let the stone or focal point dictate the style and flow of the design as I'm weaving.
So I was thinking poetically recently about what it means to be a wire wrapper and how I get lost in the wonder of the stones, beads and wire. How we as people can create such beautiful and awe inspiring jewelry from what nature and the almighty has provided, which can take us away to far away lands, times or places of fantasy and mirth. So, I came up with a little poetry to express my thoughts.
An Ode to Wire Wrapping
Wire is my only true passion.
Wearing beads and metal with exuberant pride,
it certainly makes me incredibly happy inside,
letting stones and gems become my fashion.
Creations from my heart to my hand,
come forth dreams of green Malachite,
and hidden treasures in my mind of, oh, so sultry Labradorite,
wrap and link, mysterious wire demands.
That handcrafted jewelry unfolds,
those strange weavings through strife,
to adorn that beautiful neck and lobes,
and with great effort comes to life.
For those who so much do agree,
that wire wrapped jewelry holds true,
our wonder of things unknown but new,
like the pattern of a leaf on a newly budded tree.
So with much shouting and wailing,
I do boldly profess my love,
for those shiny sparkly things we find most of,
wire wrapped jewelry with it's ever clever unveiling.
All righty then, that's food for thought, Hey!..that reminds me, it's dinner time and I'm starting to get hungry. Onward to the kitchen and a sandwich. AWAY!!!!
I’m often asked by people who silversmith/metalsmith “C’mon now, is wire wrapped jewelry “real “jewelry. You know you don’t use any metal smith techniques in it.” I always answer with an unequivocal “Yes”. Even though metal smith techniques may not be incorporated into wire wrapped jewelry, it does not diminish its value as an art form nor the effort and time it take to make it. It can take anywhere from a couple of hours to dozens of hours in order to complete one piece depending on the weave and complexity of the design. Plus there is a certain charm and uniqueness to wire wrapped jewelry that just can’t be readily transferred into any other jewelry making medium. I personally make jewelry that is either all 100 percent wire wrapped/weaved or a combination of wire weaving and metal smithing. So to all the Nay Sayers out there who think their way is the only way, I say wire weaving is just one of many art forms in jewelry making and is no less or more valuable than any other. So for those of you who are using wire wrapping/weaving to make jewelry, please don’t under value your skill and time as you master this intricate art form.
For those of you thinking about getting into the craft, If you want to make jewelry and don’t know where to start then wire wrapping/weaving may be for you as it is a fairly inexpensive inroad to making jewelry that you can wear and sell with a minimal starting investment in a few basic hand tools and some wire. While learning your craft you can always add to your collection of tools as you progress, just as I did. It’s one of those mediums you can definitely work your way up through as you add hammering, soldering, torch work, enameling, etc. to your repertoire of skills.
And to all those in doubt, here is a little background on wire wrapped/ weaved jewelry. Examples of wire and beaded jewelry made using wire wrapping techniques date back thousands of years. Museums across the world have samples of jewelry from the Sumerian Dynasty, found in the cemetery of Ur that contain spiraled wire components. This jewelry is dated at approximately 2000 BC. Other samples of jewelry from Ancient Rome show wire wrapping. This Roman jewelry is dated to approximately 2000 years ago. In the manufacture of this early jewelry the techniques for soldering did not exist. Later, as the technique for soldering developed, the wire wrapping approach continued because it was an economical and quick way to make jewelry components out of wire.
The true art of wire-wrapping has been around since the time of the Phoenician Empire, since about 1000 B.C. where Gold or Silver was hammered into thin sheets, cut into narrow strips and the edges filed smooth, making the wire. The wire was then woven into a design and usually set onto a breast plate armor.
The earliest reference to drawn wire versus cut wire is in the 8th century in France and the first commercial wire operation was in 1270 AD in France. During the Medieval period, Knights brought wire back to England to make chain mail for their armor. Gold and silver wire were drawn in France and transported back to England. The earliest mention of wire production in England was 1465. During this time, wire-wrapping was limited to fastening crucifixes and other religious symbols to lanyards and chains.
In the 1800’s the Bohemian culture made wonderful necklaces and bracelets using wire to connect beads and stones. These jewelry items were popular with European aristocracy for over 50 years.
Today, wire wrapping has become popular because of the uniqueness and the individuality of each piece - no two are ever exactly alike! Now you have a little knowledge in defense of your craft the next time someone ask “ C’mon is that wire work “real” jewelry”.