Archive for 2010

multi-stone cuff bracelet

Monday, November 29th, 2010

lapis, turquoise, diamond, ss cuff bracelet

These stones started as a few rather, ahem, “dated” rings and pendants. The lapis was an individual stone that had been in the family for a long time. I picked all the stones out, recycled the metal, and we tossed around ideas for a bracelet, then a pendant, then a ring, then finally just decided “use up all those random stones and make one big SOMETHING!” So, here’s my something: a cuff bracelet with etched and engraved floral motif set with lapis (from Afghanistan), Persian turquoise, and a smattering of diamonds ranging in size from 3.5mm diameter to 1.6mm.

lapis, turquoise, diamond, ss cuff bracelet

lapis, turquoise, diamond, ss cuff bracelet

As usual, I stressed unduly over my design since it had been about a zillion years since I had etched anything (did I still even have the stuff?) and also my engraving skills revolve around guesswork since I’ve never been formally trained in any of this. I relied on the etching of course for the main design and then neatened it up where I needed to with the engraver. I should do more engraving—it’s kind of fun!

sketch for bracelet

Here’s my sketched design. Originally, I had planned to make the bracelet straight-sided but during the process of soldering on the largest bezel (each bezel had to be carved on the bottom to fit the contour of the bracelet exactly so they could be soldered down), I got a little close to the edge with the pointy end of my torch and melted it all up. I totally freaked out, paced about a bit, took some deep breaths and surveyed my screw-up. I hammered it back as smooth as I could but couldn’t really get the metal to smoosh back out to form a nice clean edge like before. But then it occurred to me that I kind of liked the way the edge swooped in; I added more swoops and I think it improved the overall look and design. I re-engraved the part of the design I had obliterated with my torch and hammering and in the end, it is all but invisible unless you know where to look. I felt very lucky and the rest of the bezels, including all diamond bezels, went on with no trouble at all.

lapis, turquoise, diamond, ss cuff bracelet

lapis, turquoise, diamond, ss cuff bracelet

I put a deep french-gray patina in the design grooves and around the edges of bezels to give it more depth and polished the rest of the bracelet to a bright satin finish.

faceted cigar band

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Oxidized straight faceted cigar band - sterling silver

[Faceted Cigar Band, sterling silver, carved/cast, and oxidized a nice French gray.]

Faceted cigar band, tapered design - sterling silver

[Tapered Faceted Cigar Band, sterling silver.]

Hi there all! Sorry it’s been a while since my last post.. I’ve been busy.. And lazy. And we got the fourth season DVD of Mad Men. Yep, that pretty much sums it all up right there.

But of course I’ve still been working and making some new things.. I’m going to list these rings on the Etsy shop here soon.. I will offer a straight version and a tapered version, and each will be hand-carved from scratch, custom to fit each order. Here is a photo of the rings I have been wearing together lately…

18K and black rose-cut diamond solitaire and faceted silver cigar band

Yes, I only own one shirt. The gold ring is of course is the black rose-cut diamond in 18K (Victorian Solitaire) and the silver is a sterling silver carved faceted cigar band. It’s domed and tapered and surprisingly comfortable. I think the two look really great together.

18K Victorian Solitaire with rose-cut diamond and silver faceted cigar band

I know. Isn’t that festive? It’s not even December yet and we have a tree already. Until last year actually, we had never gotten a tree, or decorated in any way for Christmas (or any other holiday for that matter), but you know? My two-year-old LOVES the tree. She spends just about all her time underneath it (we even have it bolted down to a big heavy box so she has lots of space to hang out under it) re-arranging all the lower ornaments, wedging her stuffed animals in the branches. She’s been busy. Originally we had no ornaments to speak of so I went crazy and made a bunch out of fabric and felt; so far this year, I’ve made three new ones.

Here’s the typical scene:

She is in the process of shoving all the bird ornaments deep into the heart of the tree where they will be lost forever if I don’t remember to retrieve and count them all nightly before I go to bed. You can see various debris all over the floor: less tenacious ornaments and a host of stuffed friends waiting their turn.

(She has no idea that the plastic comes off those candy canes.)

new turquoise cocktail rings!

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

turquoise, diamond, sterling silver and 18K cocktail ring

Chinese turquoise, diamond, sterling silver, and 18K gold. The silver has been patinaed a deep gray and then brushed bright silver on the outsides of the ring. The band is rounded on the inside and has an adorable little ginkgo leaf stamp that I had made a million years ago but haven’t used too much. I need to use it more because it is pretty cool.

turquoise, diamond, sterling silver and 18K cocktail ring

turquoise, diamond, sterling silver and 18K cocktail ring

Japanese lilypond cocktail ring (turquoise and sterling silver)

Finally, I’ve finished the ring using this awesome turquoise. I think it looks like a Japanese lily pond, maybe photographed using an infrared filter. Anyway, I just love this piece and hope I’ve done it justice with the ring mounting.

Japanese lilypond cocktail ring (turquoise and sterling silver)

The bottom is pierced with a floral pattern so you catch a glimpse of the lilypads on the bottom of the stone and the whole thing floats off the three-cornered band by a couple of millimeters.

Japanese lilypond cocktail ring (turquoise and sterling silver)

Japanese lilypond cocktail ring (turquoise and sterling silver)

A thought regarding the ring shot being worn. So far, I have been just taking a photo of my hand against the same linen backdrop I use for the rest of the shots. I was taking outdoor photos of necklaces the other day and took a few worn ring shots while I was at it and am liking the results. Any thoughts? Do you think the ring being worn taken against the body vs. against a backdrop is better?

Here’s what I mean:

turquoise, diamond, sterling silver and 18K cocktail ring
turquoise and diamond cocktail ring

Or the rose ring I finished recently..

rose cocktail ring; sterling silver, 18K, and diamond

rose cocktail ring; sterling silver, 18K, and diamond

custom order deadline!!

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Hi all – Just a quick reminder if you are interested in having a custom piece made: Please get your order in by the end of this week (November 5th) if you want me to be able to ship before Christmas. I’ll be going on vacation starting mid-December (back the end of January). Thank you!!

Also, I will have some more ready-to-wear pieces up here on the Etsy site soon… Necklaces, more cocktail rings, etc.

victorian solitaire

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

18K and black diamond Victorian inspired solitaire

I finally got my rose-cut black diamond set in my new ring. Setting a rose-cut stone was harder than I thought. I think I was thinking it would be like a faceted diamond, only easier—more like a cabachon. But no, it was all wobbly and kept flipping around and popping out of the bezel as I tried to set it. I got it in eventually, but it took some figuring out. I’m happy with the look. The black faceted diamond makes me think of Victorian jet. Cool!

18K and black rose-cut diamond Victorian-inspired solitaire

18K and black rose-cut diamond Victorian-inspired solitaire

18K and black rose-cut diamond Victorian-inspired solitaire

This ring would look great with another band of just the tiny leaves.

(Edited to add:) ABOUT THE BLACK DIAMOND: Black diamonds are real diamonds that are mined out of the ground, etc. However, they are treated with radiation to make the color black, which is in fact a super dark green but so dark that it appears totally black. (If you shined a really intense light at the edge of the diamond where it is thinner, you could probably see that it is in fact green in color.) Diamonds do occur naturally with a black color but that color is because of numerous carbon inclusions, which make the stone mostly black and opaque (well, they are more like deep gray with flecks; they do not look perfectly jet black like this stone). Unfortunately, so many inclusions make the stone prone to fracture, and affects the stone’s surface quality (because inclusions usually reach the surface, creating blemishes and affecting the sparkle).

I think that usually, they start with a diamond that is included but not overly so that it would affect it structurally, and maybe it’s also kind of an ugly color–yellowish brown or greenish brown, say. So, they irradiate it and turn it this intense black. I’m not a purist when it comes to cool, so as long as such treatments are plainly disclosed I’m happy to use treated gems. They are usually way cheaper than their naturally occurring counterpart and look just as good (if not better).

rose and diamond hand band

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

sterling silver, 18K gold and diamond rose cocktail ring

It’s been forever since I got to play around in the studio and make cocktail rings! This one has been percolating for a while and since I’ve been working on another rosy ring for a customer, I slipped this one in too. I’m pretty happy with it; I’m especially liking the patina. I don’t even know what it is (I’m assuming it is liver of sulphur though); it has a very subtle french gray color. The back/bottom is deeper gray and the top is a bright brushed silver. Edges are burnished bright and shiny. I set a 1.6mm diamond in 18K gold in the center of one of my roses. The band is forged a little to mediate the clunky factor and give it some interest. I’m digging it!

sterling silver, 18K gold and diamond rose cocktail ring

sterling silver, 18K gold and diamond rose cocktail ring

My camera batteries ran out last night while I was trying to take photos of it for Etsy and this is only as far as I got. I should get the rest of the photos today and hopefully have it listed in the shop tomorrow. It fits size 7-8 easily (this ring is very generous with sizing because of the shape).

i’ve been busy

Friday, October 15th, 2010

First there was this:

[Nine wonderful pounds of cleaned chanterelles. Hello delicious!]

Then a week later, this:

chanterelles and lobster mushrooms

That right there is just under twenty pounds of chanterelles and a tad over nine pounds of lobster mushrooms. We also got a few hedgehogs and some bleeding milk caps (lactarius rubrilacteus, also sometimes called lactarius sanguiferous, “rovellons” in Spain; turns out that this is one of the favorite mushrooms of the Catalan). I was bouncing all over the place with excitement over this haul. The forest is freaking oozing with mushrooms right now!

chanterelles in forest

OOZING! I tell ya. Do you see them all? I about died when I did.

And in between it all, there was this:

gold and silver ring stack

Rings! Rings! Rings! I got all these rings out in the mail within two days. It feels so great to get a big batch of orders out the door all at once.

how I price my work

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I’ve been doing a major overhaul of my pricing scheme this past week or so here at Gin & Butterflies headquarters (ha! “Headquarters”—makes me sound like a secret agent or something). It’s been long in the coming but basically, about two weeks ago I idly looked up the gold market price and about died because holy shit if it wasn’t upwards of $1320/ounce*. Which is SO not cool. I have to raise my prices.

My pricing scheme thus far was based on some sort of a weight/gold content/time carving/finishing scheme that I devised like a million years ago and have been estimating and adding on to ever since. At this point, pricing had become essentially arbitrary. Every time I had to come up with a price for a new piece, I sort of eyeballed it with what I hoped was a studious expression (actually, it was mostly just squinty; never check one’s studious expression in the mirror), hefted it against one of my “known” weighted pieces, measured the width and tried to remember how many hours I had spent carving it, pulled a number out of my ass and called it done. Then I realized I forgot to add in the diamonds. Then I had to go get a calculator because I forgot how much I paid for said diamonds. This is why it’s always like 10pm by the time I manage to get something listed on Etsy and I’m needing another bourbon.

In fact, I’m ready for another bourbon now.

Then, I read this post by another Etsy blogger and decided I really needed to get my act together. Come up with a cohesive and sensical pricing formula that is fair and actually compensates me for the immense amount of time I spend creating these rings (radical idea, I know).

I brought all my pieces to the studio, weighed them (most are 18K gold), figured out the formula to get weights in 14K, worked out how much I paid for 18K and 14K alloys exactly (hint: significantly more than simply 75% and 58% gold market, respectively), worked up this incredibly vague figure that tried to encompass tool wear, polishing compounds, acids & chemicals, torch fuel, wax, sandpaper, gingersnaps, polishing and grinding compounds, packaging materials, studio rent, bandaids, etc. Then I incorporated a “Pain in the Ass” factor, which is to say that though I love each and every piece I make dearly, I have to admit that some of them are a whole lot fatter of a hassle to make than others (I’m looking at you, Art Nouveau Band). Those rings with all those little holes in the carvings? I have to thread grit-impregnated strings through all those holes and saw it back and forth to sand/polish smooth. Then I do it again with finer grit/polish. I like to think it is a meditative process.

So yeah. All that plus the fact that each piece I designed, sketched, and carved from scratch. Some of the carvings took me a really long time to do originally.

In addition to all the touchy-feely stuff, there are Etsy fees, Paypal fees, shipping fees, blahblahdeblah. I whined a bit at how coooommplicated it was all getting but then Joshua introduced me to the wonders of the modern spreadsheet. Which was SO COOL because you can like make all these formulas and stuff to calculate each cell based upon what is in other ce.. You already know this, don’t you. Anyway, to make a long story short, once I figured out what I was doing I was able to build a very complicated spreadsheet of every single piece I’ve ever made that spit out a very precise cost in like 13 minutes.

I updated my Etsy prices accordingly. Surprisingly, I would say that I came really close. Some things were way underpriced (FIXED! ahem!) and others were a bit over, but for the most part, I was within usually $50 of where I needed to be (for now: see * below).

My formula is still not perfect and is missing bits and will need to be further tweaked. Plus there are things I feel like you just can’t adequately (or fairly) charge for. I spend an amazing amount of time answering convos and emails to people who are interested in a custom piece; 2/3 of these I would say that after 2-10 rounds of question/answer, I never hear from again. The process of making a custom piece for someone can become very complicated, requiring much back-and-forthing of emails, photos, sketches, weighty decision-making, etc. Then there is the design time. Some designs sort of flow out very freely but others I grapple heavily with, stress about, and stay up late procrastinating over. I don’t mind it—and I feel like it is good exercise actually, but it does take a bit out of me.

How can you possibly charge for these things? It’s easy enough to figure out how much gold is in a piece, but all that other stuff? And I haven’t even broached the subject of research and design sophistication. Do I charge more for what may technically be a better design? Maybe when I’m rich and famous I can but I only have a handful of designs. Well, a couple of handfuls.

I think Rosy puts it well: We have to love what we do or else we would explode in a flaming ball of frustration, handily taking out your average city block (I paraphrase..). I’ll say it this way: I DON’T sit at a desk fidgeting in my business casual while tweaking someone else’s Powerpoint presentations for a living; I make my own jewelry! Out of gold and diamonds! And more amazingly: people want it!! It’s really gratifying and exciting, and it makes me very happy.

Anyway hopefully this was worth reading because it was way longer than I though it would be. Yeesh. Just be happy I don’t price in the amount of time it takes me to figure out how much I should charge for my work..

* Okay so today it’s at $1350/ounce. CUT IT OUT YOU CRAZY RICH GOLD-BAR-BUYING HOARDERS!! I HATE YOU!

black diamond

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

1 carat black rose-cut diamond

I bought a (just under) one-carat black rose-cut diamond when I was at the Tucson gem show and I still haven’t gotten it into a ring. But I’m about to. I should have photos of this next week.

matching wedding band

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

14K white gold poppy wedding band

[14K white gold carved poppies]

This was a piece that was made to fit up against an engagement ring that I never saw in person. It was a large square citrine center stone surrounded by a bunch of tiny diamonds, with diamond pave running down the sides of the band. I didn’t want to deprive my client of her engagement ring so I had her send detailed measurements of the ring. And then I had her buy some Fimo modeling clay, press her ring into the clay from a couple of angles, and send it to me. When I got it, I poured hot wax into the mold and recreated a passable model of her ring, using her measurements to be sure I had the shape and size more or less correct.

wax model of poppy ring

I know. BEE-autiful, isn’t it. Nothing says “I love you” like red and purple wax.

14K white gold poppy wedding band

14K white gold poppy wedding band

Looks MUCH better in gold. And it fit! I was so relieved.