Tag Archives: precious metals

How to set Beach Glass

Glass is fragile. You drop it and it breaks, you drill it and it breaks, you hammer a metal setting around it and it breaks, you force it in to a bezel and it breaks…   No wonder that some of us would rather not work with glass!  There are however some techniques that are used extensively.  Here is a discussion of these techniques. I am sure the list is not exhaustive.

Wire wrapping techniques

Glue Glass Pendant

Blue Glass Pendant

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

These are really common.  They are easy.  You don’t need to work the glass itself.  Note that wire techniques are not specially good for rings or for jewelry that is likely to get banged around.  Some of these techniques are a bit flimsy and the piece of glass can come out of the setting.  There are numerous different wire wrapping techniques. I refer you to just one website.  There are also YouTube videos.  Just google “wirewrap beach glass”.  The “Blue Glass Pendant” shown here, was wrapped by myself with a homemade technique using fine silver wire, which is nice and soft.  The earrings were wrapped by an unknown artist in Cusco, Peru.

Wire solder technique

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

You can use thick wire that is not easily formed or wrapped.  I like to use gauge 18 Sterling silver. The idea is to create a “basket” with prongs, place the glass in the basket, and bend the prongs around the glass to hold it in place.  I have attached an example.  Here the prongs are the same in the front and the back so that is does not matter if the pendant flips over, as the front and the back look identical.

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

A variation of this technique allows for a smaller stone (blue sapphire in this case) to be set on one of the prongs!

Bezel setting

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

This is more serious.  You will have to cut your silver, solder it together and form a bezel that is shaped after the irregular piece of glass that you want to frame.  It has become my favorite method because the bezel protects the piece of sea glass.  If you shape the base of the bezel, you can accommodate a rounded piece of glass, such as a piece from the neck of a bottle.  Here are a few examples.

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Drilling the Glass

If you really want to make a hole in your sea glass, you can do so.  Drill with a diamond bit, under cool water, carefully and slowly!  I found out the hard way: it is easy to crack your piece of glass.

One can insert a silver grommet in the drilled hole for added stability, as shown in the last picture. But you will have to tap the grommet with a hammer to close it.  That is tricky and can crack your piece of glass too! Best to use very soft and thin metal tubing for this purpose.  Have fun.

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

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WHAT ABOUT COPPER JEWELRY?

Many summers ago I met an interesting looking lady at an art fair. She wore lots of jewelry, I mean a ring on every finger. The thing was, it was all copper jewelry! She bought, guess what, copper rings from me (see picture).

Set of 3 copper bands with Sterling silver nuggets ($30).

Set of 3 copper bands with Sterling silver nuggets.

I asked her whether she ever got green stained fingers and she said “never”! She reminded me of all the healing powers of copper, the supposed anti-inflammatory action for arthritis and much more. Yes, I know, the internet is full of copper talk on subjects like “Copper Energy”.
But is any of this true? And why do some people apparently get green fingers and others do not?

This post reports on some answers.

To my amazement I found that metallic copper (and other metals like nickel and even gold and platinum) are not inert when placed on the skin, as when wearing a ring. Copper corrodes and the result is a film of copper salts such as copper acetate, basic cupric acetate and copper carbonate, also called verdigris (from Vert de Grece) salts. These are what we know as patina on weathered copper pipes and roofs, or statues like Lady Liberty in New York Harbor. This process is accelerated mostly by water, oxygen and salt (NaCl) of which there is plenty in sea water.

So what about a copper ring on your finger? The skin of the hand is covered with acidic secretions from 2 sources: sweat from eccrine sweat glands (clammy hands), and sebum which comes from sebaceous glands and is an oily substance that keeps the skin impermeable and acts as a physical barrier for germs that might otherwise penetrate through the skin. While the pH (a measure of acidity) is neutral inside the body, at around pH 7, the pH on the skin is 4-6, or quite acidic. This kills germs, but also contributes to corrosion of metals! Many normally produced substances are weak acids and are found in sweat and in sebum: amino acids, lactate, pyruvate, butyrate, and acidic lipids such as fatty acids.

In a lab experiment, metallic copper was exposed to sweat for 24 hours: the concentration of copper salts in the sweat increased by 100 fold!

In another experiment researchers measured the loss of copper from bracelets worn by volunteers. The bracelets lost 0.1 to 0.8% of their weight over one month due to copper corrosion. It was interesting that there was variation among the volunteers suggesting that some people corrode copper much faster than others! Finally, a study from Scandinavia looked at people referred to as “rusters”, who were known to corrode copper at a fast rate. These would be people with very green looking fingers after wearing a copper ring! They wanted to find out what was the difference between the sweat of these people and normal controls. It wasn’t the amout of salt (NaCl) or the acidity, but rather the copious amounts of watery sweat they produced…that means they had more water on the skin surface! Sweaty palms I guess.

While the copper from your jewelry can be dissolved on the skin as described above, there is also evidence that it can be absorbed through the skin and enter the body.

Whether copper has beneficial (anti-inflammatory) effects in humans with arthritis is still debated. There is only one study that has shown such effects in rats.

Note that copper can be toxic for cells. The oxidation process apparently results in toxic molecules called free radicals. It is these free radicals that are thought to explain the contraceptive effect of the common copper IUD by killing sperm and inhibiting implantation! Who would have thought?

With all the copper that we are exposed to, as through copper pipes with hot water in them, copper cooking pots, copper coins, and copper in most metal alloys, including those used for dental fillings, I do not think you need to be worried about the small amounts that may come from a copper ring. If you are a “ruster” but insist on wearing copper, you can still treat the copper jewelry with Copper Shield, or a similar acrylic product.  I have also used  clear Lacquer spray #2105 from Nikolas, although it smells terrible when you apply it!  Any of these create a thin film that will insulate the copper from exposure to water, salt and oxygen and thus prevents corrosion, tarnish or verdigris.

My friend and teacher, Honey Jeanne Laber, has taught me how to use a flame (acetylene torch) and ‘color’ copper to get red, brown and even blue tones.  You want to do this on a finished product.   You can no longer buff the metal or shine it in any way or you will lose the tarnish effect.  To preserve this finish use bees wax!  You have to heat it up, for example in a hot water bath.  Then you can use a rag, dip it in the wax and apply generously.  Then you have to rub with your rag.  It takes quite a bit of rubbing.  The final result is a shiny finish with a protected varnish and color. A ring treated in this way does NOT tarnish your fingers!

I would love to hear your thoughts on copper jewelry.

Sources:

M A I D S T O N E J E W E L R Y
David Posnett
2 Maidstone Park Road
East Hampton, NY 11937

631 379 2200
studio@maidstonejewelry.com
www.maidstonejewelry.com

Gold Ring, Diamonds and a Tatoo of a Cherry Blossom

In the summer of last year I met a young couple at an art fair in Montauk.  Anthony was an actor and Laura, an oncology nurse.  They lingered at my booth, then left… and then he returned alone.

Laura's tatoo

Laura’s tatoo

Anthony wanted to set up a meeting to discuss a custom ring and he wanted to surprise his wife!  My kind of man.

She had a full body tattoo of a Japanese cherry blossom tree. He wanted a gold ring representing a cherry blossom.  We met in the city at a coffee shop on the west side.  There were drawings first.

Drawings

Drawings

Then I set to work on a wax model.

wax model in the making

wax model in the making

A 5 karat black diamond in the rough was placed in the center and 5 trillion (triangular) diamonds were placed between the petals of the ‘flower’.

wax model with diamonds

wax model with diamonds

Anthony was involved at every step.  There were more meetings at the coffee shop.  About a half dozen meetings.

The model was approved and a gold ring was cast.

ring cast in gold

ring cast in gold

Then the stone setter went to work.  My Russian friend Oleg did this part.  His work is excellent.  Finally, the “finish”, a polished exterior and a roughed up organic interior representing the cherry blossom.  See the image of “The final product”.

Then came the suspense.  He would surprise her on a special occasion.  Would she like it?  I was nervous….  A week later the report: she was happy! And so were we!

The job took 4 months.  Great customers!  A fun experience.  This is how we do custom work.

The final product

The final product

Memory Lane

A trip down memory lane is mostly a personal thing.  But this one seemed worth sharing.

Bregaglia Valley

Bregaglia Valley

The excuse for the trip was a high school class reunion in Zurich (Switzerland), 45 years after graduation!  But the first leg of the journey was to Soglio, a mountain village in a steep, somewhat claustrophobic valley called Bergell (in German), Bregaglia (in Italian) or Bargaja  (in the local tongue).  It derives from the Latin ‘Prae-galia’ , literally the land ‘before the Gallic provinces’.  It does not take long to understand that this valley served as a passage from Italy to Austria (via the Engadin) or to Germany/France, called Galia in Roman times, via the Julier pass road.  This road was built by Caesar’s armies!  Given the strategic importance of the Bergell, it’s inhabitants charged tolls to those wanting passage.  Generally these ancient border patrol people were heavily armed to control the valley and impose their tolls.

The valley has a mystic scenery and is known for producing some famous artists like the sculptor Alberto Giacometti from Stampa and the painter Giovanni Segantini, who lived in Maloja for a while, where I spent summers as a boy. We stayed in Soglio, a small village perched on the flank of the valley, in the Hotel Palazzo Salis, built 1629, that once housed the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (ca. 1919).  He lived for a while in room 15.  I stayed in room 16 with a view of the garden in the back.  The hotel also exhibits the arms used by the Von Salis family, the local rulers, who inhabited the building for centuries, including wicked looking swords and spears, ‘Hellebarden’ or halberds, and ‘Morgensterne’ or morning starsIMG_2799I took pictures of swords with beautiful inlay work: brass (I think) embedded in the steel blades, see the title picture!  They were displayed just outside my room as if I might need them to defend myself!

Soglio is remarkable for its age-old mountain homes and beautiful views of the steep mountains on the opposite side of the valley.  This includes Piz Badile, a very steep peak with a north-east face thought to be among the most difficult climbs in the Alps.  In case you want some thrills, check this filmed ascent of the Cassin route!

Piz Badile

Piz Badile

After Soglio there followed visits with old Swiss friends from 50 years ago!  And reunions of long-lost family.   There was a new generation of children I had never met!

A visit to the Chagall exposition at the “Zurcher Kunsthaus”, with my childhood friend and current author, Daniel Suter, was well worthwhile.  It features a review of his life’s work.  It is a temporary exhibit, open until May 12, 2013.  And, finally, we met at the Hotel Storchen in Zurich for the ‘Klassenzusammenkunft’ which means ‘class reunion’.  Even the Latin teacher was present!  Sheepishly I raised my wine glass to toast him and uttered the first latin words that came to mind: in vino veritas est.

Diamond Bee Pendant

Diamond Bee Pendant (Tiffany)

Over dinners with friends and family I grew to admire several pieces of jewelry. They are featured here.  Zurich is a place where there are always plenty of nice things!

Aquamarine Gold Ring

Aquamarine Gold Ring (Gabriele Krack)

For example this stunning 20.67ct aquamarine, set in an 18K gold ring crafted by Gabriele Krack.  Or a Bee Pendant, made of diamonds set in platinum (Tiffany).

BACK IN DOHA (QATAR)

In 2009 I wrote about a visit to Doha.  The Museum of Islamic Art had just opened.  It’s a jewel of a museum and they feature a lot of antique jewelry. I am back in Doha for my 6th annual visit.  Some things have changed. The license plates on cars now display Western numerals rather than Arabic numbers.  The finished skyscrapers now outnumber the cranes in some parts of the city, but the building boom is still ongoing.  This is still a place of unbelievable contrasts.

Hodge podge of styles: (from L>R) local traditional, modern (Sheraton pyramid) and base of an ugly tower with a metal laced exterior which we call the ‘corndog’ building because it looks like a corndog!

Hodge podge of styles: (from L>R) local traditional, modern (Sheraton pyramid) and base of an ugly tower with a metal laced exterior (see below; Burj tower), which I call the ‘corndog’ building because it looks like a corndog!

First there is the architecture.  I think this is a city with some of the most unsightly and strangest skyscrapers I have ever seen.  But, also, with one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Museum of Islamic Art designed by IM Pei.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

It is truly mesmerizing.  The Museum was meant to look like a veiled woman who’s ‘eyes’ are keeping watch over the city.

Perhaps the most striking contrast is in the wealth distribution.  Qatar is considered one of the richest countries on the globe. Qatar has a resident population of 1.7 Mio according to the 2010 census.  However only 1/5 are Qatari nationals.  The rest are ‘guest workers’, a euphemistic term.  They get a resident permit when they enter the country, being invited by their sponsor, the business that employs them.  Most have a single exit visa.  Their sponsor (or employer) dictates when they exit the country and often they confiscate the employees passport.  If fired, you are simply brought to the airport by your employer, end of story.  Some guest workers are luckier and have multiple exit visas usually valid for one year.  Some guest workers (but not all) also get a Health card, which gives them access to government subsidized health care.  They may also acquire a liquor license but they have to be non-Muslim, a resident of Doha and earn over QR 4,000 per month.  Most recently, those with liquor licenses can now also purchase pork products!

Guest workers or expats come in different types.   Top echelon expats are technical advisors, engineers, consultants, scientists and doctors.  They are well paid.  Their employer covers the rent and the school tuition for their kids.  These people can make money here and save money, but they can never become citizens or start their own business.  So most of them ultimately plan to move back home. More commonly expats do all the menial jobs.  They come from all the countries around the Indian ocean.  I try to speak to them.  They are maids, hotel employees, cooks, cab drivers or personal drivers, and droves of construction workers.  Their salaries are meager compared with western nations.  My driver from Nepal makes 1,000 rial per month (US$ 275), that is 30 rial per day (US$ 7/day).  Construction workers may make even less (700 rial/month), and a housemaid, depending on her employer, (700-2000 rial/month).  Never the less, these salaries are a step up from what they could earn at home if they found a job.  They are often able to send some money home and even support their families.  One house keeper put her daughter through school, at home in the Philippines, with $250/semester while making about $400/month here in Qatar.

Construction workers or... 'guest workers'

Construction workers or… ‘guest workers’

My driver has lodging provided by his company: 14 men in 7 bunk beds in one room.  Three are from Nepal and the rest are from Sri Lanka and India.  Three are Hindu, the rest are Muslim.  Life is not cheap in Doha and their salary is just sufficient for some food.  He and his co-workers from Nepal are eager to return to their home country even if that means less money and possibly no work at all.  It is interesting to draw this comparison: my driver makes 30 rial per day and my hotel room costs 1,100 rial per night!  Is this human exploitation?  It sounds like a medieval society. But am I not taking part in this?  I come as a teacher and I share my knowledge in the hope that it will better the human condition, but ultimately I also come here because I am paid!

By contrast, the new found oil and gas wealth of Qatar, deemed the richest country in the world for 2012, has also been used to do some amazing things.  Related to my line of work, the Qatar Foundation invited several western universities to establish a campus in Doha.  This started in the 1990s and now there are at least 7 campuses in Doha representing an unrivaled center for education in the Arab world.  They include the campuses of Northwestern University (communications, journalism, liberal arts), Carnegie Mellon (business administration, computer science), Virginia Commenwealth Univ. (design, arts, fashion), Georgetown Univ. (foreign service, politics), Texas A&M (engineering), Weill Cornell Medical College (medicine)  and University College of London (museum curation, archeology).  The vision and origin of the Qatar Foundation comes from the Emir himself and particulary his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.  It’s mission is to further education, science and research, and community development.

So much for contrasts.  Back to jewelry.

Chinese fisherman

Chinese fisherman

I took a long walk just yesterday from the hotel to the museum along the Corniche.   I met a few fishermen.  One man from China had caught 10 fish.  The gulf is actually rich in fish and Doha has a very old history of fishing trade.

Palm tree on the Corniche, Museum in the distant background

Palm tree on the Corniche, Museum in the distant background

From afar you can see the Museum of Islamic Art built on a man made peninsula.  From close up the contrast of old fishing boats (dhow harbor) and the modern art museum are striking!  There is an extensive review of shipping and ship construction in the gulf at catnaps.org – where there is plenty on  Islamic design and traditional boats.

Boats in Dhow harbor, museum in the background

Boats in Dhow harbor, museum in the background

Highly recommended reading!

The entrance to the museum is a long drive way lined with palm trees, with water flowing down a central trough made of black marble. It is a stunning approach.

Here are some pictures I took at the museum.  These are items that belonged to royalty of course.

Necklace make of red spinel, pearls and diamonds set in gold bezels.

Necklace make of red spinel, pearls and diamonds set in gold bezels.

A bazuband to be worn on the front of a princess, made of large diamonds set in gold with a spinel drop in front.

A bazuband to be worn on the front of a princess, made of large diamonds set in gold with a spinel drop in front.

The original owner of much of the jewelry in the museum was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. He is depicted here on a cameo in sardonyx stone on a bloodstone mount (ca. 1630).

The original owner of much of the jewelry in the museum was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. He is depicted here on a cameo in sardonyx stone on a bloodstone mount (ca. 1630).

On my way home, evening views of Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises in the background.

Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises

Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises

And as I approached the north end of the Corniche I walked right past the ‘corndog’ building again, past a black glass building that reflects the neighboring ‘monster’ buildings, and past the Qatar World Trade Center…    Not sure what to think of this city.

Corndog building

Corndog building (lights up at night) also goes by other less flattering names, but is really named Burj tower.

Reflections of neighboring buildings in black glass

Reflections of neighboring buildings in black glass

Qatar World Trade Center

Qatar World Trade Center with crown!

Teen Jewelry

If you are a parent of a teenager, like myself, you must sometimes be wondering about the complete discrepancy in artistic tastes between your teen and yourself. I have tried to understand.  It’s as if they are a different species. They speak differently (no full sentences), they have a different vocabulary (chillaxin) , they use abbreviations that are meant to be obscure to adults (AYSOS = are you stupid or something), they don’t use telephones or even email any more.  They are considered “digital natives” by those who study societal trends and by those that are interested in marketing of on-line businesses.  I find myself asking my teen whether to sign up for Skype versus Oovoo, or whether to buy an I-phone or an Android.  In both cases it’s clearly the latter.  With such strong opinions and with tastes that differ from those that are just 5 years older, it’s clearly important to study teens because they are the customers of tomorrow. The following is a quite unscientific study of teen fashion tastes.

First,  a sense of color coordination is very pronounced it seems to me:

Blue Sweat Shirt and Matching Blue Android

Blue Sweat Shirt and Matching Blue Android

Note the bright colors, the matching blue sweat shirt and cell phone, but the contrasting red nail polish, and purple hair dye.  Note the snake ring (definitely cool) and the LOVE mood ring which changes colors depending on your mood (so they say).   Colors need to be shocking and full of contrast.

Teens sense of shocking color contrasts

Teen’s sense of shocking color contrasts

Second, jewelry accessories for piercings are BIG.IMG_1985

IMG_1992

I was referred to a website called bodycandy.com.  Although body piercing is an ancient practice in different human cultures, there is perhaps a new worldwide trend that is gaining traction. In particular the prevalence of body piercings in young teenage girls has increased and is now often over 25-50% in countries like the USA, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Australia according to numerous publications.  Is this the future?

Third, accessories that have a special or personal meaning are in.  Woven wrist bands as symbols of friendship, often handmade for someone special, are popular.  Plastic bangles reading I LOVE BOOBIES or SAVE BOOBIES are in.  They mean to increase awareness for breast cancer.  Similar bangles for different causes (or just for fun) are popular, in part because of their low cost.  Low cost is really important for teens.  Wearing a large number of bangles on the same wrist is trendy too.  While some of these accessories will no longer be popular when these teens morph in to young adults and have more money to spend, I think the principle of wearing a statement that has a special personal meaning, or a message, may remain important.  In deed, silver and gold jewelry with inscribed comments or insignia, or names of your children are already popular with young women and mothers. IMG_1986 IMG_1987

Never a dull moment with a teen in the house!

Closing Pin for Sky Diving

The sister of my friend recently called and asked for a closing pin pendant for a necklace.  I responded “a closing what?”

It turns out that she and her fiancée are sky divers.   She was getting a gift for him.   Closing pins are about one inch long and shaped like the number 9 (sort of).  They are essential gear for the release of the parachute.  You have to pop the pin to allow the main canopy to escape from a container.  This pin is so essential, that if it gets stuck, you are dead unless you have a backup chute.

Sky divers seem to worship this pin.  And many of them wear the pin as a pendent on a necklace.  There are several places where you can buy them.  Just google “closing pin necklace” or click here.

The pin ordered was going to be special: made in gold with red and yellow diamonds representing the colors of the canopy of the chute.

Image

So now I know a little bit about sky diving.  And if papa Bush can do it, hell, I might try one day.