Sunday, December 29, 2013

Words Fail Me

A new year is about to begin. And there are exciting plans in the works for 2014!

These past several weeks I've been working on a series of necklace and earring sets and eyeglass leashes for shows I'll be doing this coming year and for the launch of my Etsy shop next month.
An Original Art pendant on necklace featuring semi-precious stones and glass beads

 When I laid them out on a table, I noticed they seem to share a certain "look," though I wasn't consciously striving for that effect as I created them. The colors, sizes and shapes of the beads and other elements used vary, but still, there's that indefinable "something" that seems to unite them visually as a group. My style, in other words.

Necklace of painted fabric beads, glass beads and filigree beads

Now I need to define that style with a two- or three-word label or tagline that describes the jewelry. This sounds like it should be easy but it's not. There are millions of words in the English language. Narrowing them down to an accurate and appealing two or three word description is much more difficult than it would seem.

I've been wrestling with this issue for a while now but have yet to resolve it, so I'm appealing to the online community for help. In this post I've included photos of several pieces from this collection. (None of these photos have been improved using PhotoShop to correct lighting, contrast, etc. but I'm sure you'll be willing to overlook their deficiencies.)

What are your thoughts? How would you chatacterize them? Any input you can offer will be so appreciated. If I adopt your suggestion I will send you a complimentary pair of handmade earrings as a thank you gift! To submit your ideas, just scroll down past the photos, below, and click on the "Comments" link.

This set is comprised of hand made paper beads, semi-precious stones and glass beads

A closeup

Hand made paper beads, semi-precious heishi beads, ceramic beads and glass beads were used for this set

This Santa Fe-inspired necklace features hand made paper beads, semi-precious stones, glass beads and wooden beads.
All text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gold Finish, Gold Plated, Gold Filled and Karat Gold: What are the Differences?

The terms used to describe beads and other components used in jewelry can seem very confusing. Take gold for example. There's gold finish, gold plated, gold filled and karat gold. The cost for each varies considerably, with karat gold being the most costly, and "gold finish" being the least costly. Gold plated and gold filled fall between the two. When buying jewelry, whether manufactured or handmade, it pays to know the difference.

Karat Gold

Twenty-four karat gold is pure gold but it's too soft to use for jewelry making, where durability is needed. So jewelry that's made with karat gold commonly uses 14 karat or 18 karat gold. Fourteen karat gold is 14 parts pure gold. Eighteen karat gold is 18 parts pure gold. The rest is alloy, which supplies the necessary hardness for karat gold to be used for making beads and findings (clasps, chains, ear wires, etc.) and to withstand long term use. Karat gold is the most highly prized form of gold there is, and its price reflects that. It's beauty endures forever: lustrous karat gold jewelry has been discovered in tombs that are thousands of years old.

Gold Filled

Gold filled jewelry is less expensive than karat gold jewelry because a lesser amount of karat gold is used in its production. A gold filled clasp, for example, is made of a layer or layers of gold alloy bonded to a base metal, most often brass. Like 14 and 18 karat gold, gold filled pieces are quite durable.

Gold Plate

Gold plate occupies the third rung down on the pricing tier. Industry standards require it to be 0.15 to 0.25 mils thick. It's chemically plated or electroplated onto base metal. Gold plated is is not as durable as gold filled, but it's more durable than gold finish. It's often used in jewelry that's purchased as a fashion accessory rather than as an investment or heirloom.

Gold Finish

Gold finish sometimes goes by other names, including "gold-color" or "gold wash." Jewelry that's designated as gold finish has been electroplated with gold but the gold is of a non-standardized thickness. Of the four categories, gold finish is usually the least durable. Like gold plated, it's commonly found in inexpensive costume jewelry.

The terms "filled," "plated," and "finish" can be applied in similar fashion to other metals including silver, nickel and copper but I've focused solely on gold here for the sake of simplicity.

I hope you find this information helpful when making your next jewelry purchase. There's nothing wrong with buying gold plate or gold finish if your aim is simply to enhance your wardrobe. These pieces are quite affordable and, if cared for properly, can look good for years. (My mother, who used to work in the jewelry business, has costume jewelry that's more than six decades old and it still looks great!) If you like the look of a handmade piece that's made with gold plate or gold finish, the artist who made it may be willing to make a custom piece for you with gold fill or karat gold instead. It all comes down to your needs and what your budget can allow.

©2013 Lynn Edwards


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to Care For Handmade Art Jewelry

Handmade fashion jewelry is a great addition to anyone's wardrobe. Today's jewelry designers are using a wide range of materials in their creations: glass, ceramic, semi-precious stones, fabric, polymer clay, precious metal clay, ribbon, felted wool, paper, leather, acrylic and resin, to name just a few. Metals include 14k gold, gold filled, gold plated, copper, sterling silver, sterling silver filled, silver plated, stainless steel, aluminum...the array of metals available is endless. With such diverse components, how does one properly care for handmade/ mixed media/fashion/art jewelry pieces to preserve their beauty?

Here are a few quick tips:

1. To keep that handmade necklace with its lovely ribbon and fiber strands looking its best, store it in a box with a lid. Avoid storing fiber jewelry where it can collect dust and dirt.

2. Put your jewelry on after you've showered, dressed, and applied makeup, fragrance, lotion and/or hair spray. All jewelry is very susceptible to damage from these products. Hair spray, for example, leaves a sticky residue that can dull and erode the finish on beads and metal findings. Lotions can permanently darken leather and gum up filigreed pieces, so apply that hand cream before putting on your rings and leather cuff bracelet.

3. Check your jewelry regularly for signs of wear. Many handmade necklaces, particularly those which are imported, are strung on nylon fishing line which stretches and eventually breaks. Examine these pieces to see if a noticeable gap has appeared between the beads and the clasp, or if there are other visible signs of wear. If so, have the piece restrung with professional quality beading wire or other material suited to the materials in your jewelry piece. Natural stone beads, for example, call for sturdy, abrasion resistant beading wire. This stringing material resists stretching and can stand up to the beads' weight.

4. Paper beads are popular components in today's mixed media jewelry. They'll perform well if they're properly sealed with a glaze or varnish, preferably one offering protection from ultraviolet rays so the paper is less susceptible to fading. To keep your paper bead jewelry looking its best, avoid storing it in direct sunlight and never wear it in the shower. 

5. Storing your jewelry in the bathroom may be convenient, but it's not a good idea. The steam and temperature swings found in bathroom environments accelerate tarnishing of metal. As if that weren't bad enough, it's all too easy for jewelry pieces to fall down the drain.

6. Go swimming sans jewelry. (Notice I am not suggesting you go skinny dipping!) Chlorinated pool water has been known to harm the surface of gold. Not only that, it can turn silver black. Some precious gems can actually be ruined by it!

As a maker of handmade jewelry, I know how much fun it is to wear as well as design. Hopefully the tips I've shared here will keep your jewelry sparkling and admiring compliments coming your way. When your jewelry looks wonderful, so do you. Give it a bit of care and it will enhance your life for many years to come.

©2013 Lynn Edwards