Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jewelry Craft

 So I'm taking a break from posting my paintings to publish a little of the other crafts I dabble in. These first few items are wire-wrapped pendants that I make. I'll have to dig through these to find out which ones I still have available, but these make great Christmas, birthday, or anniversary gifts (hint hint :).

They run anywhere from $30 and up, depending on the stone used. I tend to buy specific cuts, mostly freeform cab, though this can be done with much smaller tear drop stones (see one of the Prehnite pieces below). Anyway, the stones I do get tend to be somewhere in the $10 to $75 range. Average is roughly $15 to $20 for a good piece.

They are generally semi-precious gemstones that I order online from a couple of reliable resources that I've found. I hear people say how hard it is to order stones online. Sure, some stones look a lot better on the internet than when you get them, and sure you can't check out the 'feel' of the stone before you purchase it, but if you follow a few easy steps, you can easily make money doing these.

First, don't order the materials other than the stones from ebay. The materials on ebay are impossible to judge for quality, so I always buy my silver wire, bails, and tools from Rio Grande

Yes, they are pricey, but if you stick to simple bails and silver wire and don't try to buy stones here, you'll be alright. With this part of the project, you get what you pay for, so remember that.

(I tend to stick to square wire that is pure silver, not the coated. Not because the coated or the round wire is bad, but with coated you have to hide the center where you trim the wire ends, and the round is a little harder to keep looking good as it tends to want to smash when you wrap it, so I'd rather not deal with that. Plus I feel the square wire grabs the stones better. Just personal preference)

Second, look at a LOT of stones. I do buy most from Ebay, but you can get better stuff at gem shows or if you're willing to make a trek out to the desert. Quartzite is a great place to find top end cabochons, as is Tucson, both sites of well-known annual gem shows (January through May I believe is the southwest region)

On Ebay, find a couple of specialty shops and lapidaries that you trust and follow their stores. Sometimes the best places are mom and pop ebay stores that only sell cabochons. Pay very close attention to the country the stone is shipping from, and sometimes even the state. There is a lot of super low-end stuff on Ebay, generally from China, Thailand, some states like Kentucky. That's not to say you can't buy from here...just be careful. Also, some of the stuff from China may seem inexpensive, but look at shipping costs too, because those can be astronomical. Plus most of the fakes that I've found are from China, so beware! As long as you pay close attention, you should be fine.

Some places that are well known for their bounty of great gemstones would be
Russia: Seraphinite, Moldavite, Charoite, Amber, etc.). Russia has a lot of fakes in precious gemstones, but with semi-precious they're pretty good (though, again, watch out for that moldavite...the most likely semiprecious to be fake).
Finland: Finland has the finest spectrolite in the world...and its not even close!
Afghanistan: Lapis Lazuli, Kunzite, Tourmaline, Turquoise
Brazil: All types of quartz, onyx, tourmaline, jasper, agates...way too many to list.

There are also a lot of great stones found right here in california (tourmaline, benitoite, joaquinite, neptunite), Arizona (red cloud wulfenite) and on and on. Now, in a lot of those places mentioned, they know that their areas are known for these stones, so look out for fakes, but you have the best chance of finding quality from merchants in those areas.

Third, know exactly what the stone you are looking to buy looks like, and avoid the super high end stuff. The higher end something is, unless you've established a good rapport with a particular seller, the higher the odds it will be a fake. Many of these stones can be lab grown, like tanzanite, etc, some are acrylic molds masquerading as semi precious...especially in the metoers like moldavite. Also, the more expensive a stone is, the harder it will be for you to sell and still make money.

On the low end of the spectrum, the biggest issue here is quartz that is dyed to look like something else. That will be your most common fake. These are the easiest to spot. With the others, I generally avoid buying those specimens online at all. I'd give you my ebay sources...but that would be stupid considering I'd have to now compete with all 5 of you guys that read this blog! Haha. If you really want a good source, hit me up and I may be persuaded.

But enough rambling, here are some of the pieces I've done in the past

Russian Seraphinite in silver

This first one is one of my simpler designs. The stone is Russian Seraphinite. I love this stone as it is readily available, looks great, and isn't expensive enough for people to want to fake. You can easily see the quality of the craftsmanship and the grade of the stone online, so you have less chance of getting ripped off. Other materials are the aforementioned rio grande silver bail and wire. (just assume all of these are from there so I don't have to repeat myself) Anyway, I don't have this exact pendant anymore, though I did buy this stone as a twin, so I have the other one, not yet wrapped.

Prehnite teardrop faceted stone in silver

The above one I included on here to show you how much more effort is needed to wire wrap faceted stones. They are much smaller, have no edges for the wire to bite on to, and require a significant amount of planning to safely secure the stone. The is an old photo, but this pendant was one of my higher end ones. This would have been priced at around $100, but it was a gift for someone.

Really bad picture of one of my first projects. I can't even remember what stone this is and the photo is so low quality I can't tell from that.

Marra Mamba Tigers Iron

This one is a rare marra mamba tiger iron specimen. The quality of this gemstone is in roughly the $40  range (cabs of this type go upwards of $150, so this is A grade, but not AAA) This exact piece is available.

Koroit Boulder Opal

This piece is one of those ones that is hard to photograph and also hard to find good specimens of. The tiny bits of green and blue in this are the 'flashy' parts of the opal, but anything that has either labradorescence or any opals that have 'fire' will be tough to judge online. Basically, be careful when shopping for this stone. Also, pay attention to size with opals, as many are very, very small.

This is another A grade, but not AAA. I tend to stay away from the absolutely highest end, because what ends up happening is you are already at $80 to $150 cost after just purchasing the stone. That makes it really hard to market. Most people want something pretty, and unless you are talking diamonds and rubies, they generally won't care that this stone cost you $150 and came from the other side of the world in a village in Finland, see what I mean. People won't care about that unless they are rock hounds or are looking for something specific.

So always keep your base cost in mind. You don't want to buy a bunch of cheap crap, because that will kill your reputation. You don't want to buy the most expensive precious emeralds either...leave that to casting jewelers. Stick with interesting cuts that have a good look to them, have a shape that will make your wrapping job easier, and will not break the bank and make you upside-down on your project.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some stones are transparent or translucent. The more transparent and clearer the stone, the harder it will be to do a wrap job that looks good. This is because the wire in the back will show through and the stone will start to lose its character. Leave those stones for the guys who do bezels and that type of thing.

 Now if a stone is translucent (lets some light through, but retains some opacity) such as a prehnite, those will be ok as the stone will block enough of the back wiring to still look good. The ones you want to avoid are the totally transparent ones, such as a clear quartz, tourmilated quartz, rutillated quarts, and some of the moss agates and other types of agate.

Use your eyeballs to judge what you think you can do with a piece. Who knows, you may be able to come up with a wrap method that allows you to secure the stone without killing its appearance. For me, I'd rather not bother...there's plenty of other stones to work with.

The other thing to watch out for in this area is some stones have a specific feature in them. This is probably what drew your eye to the cabochon in the first place. Before you buy it, take a mental note of its shape and consider if you will be able to keep that space open. A lot of the time, this area ends up in a spot that you have to cover with wire to secure properly, and you will have covered up the stones best feature! Just another thing to keep in mind.

Now let's look at some specimens I have yet to work on and some mistakes I made

This first photo is of some samples of spectrolite I have. The three to the right are perfectly useable (see photos below for the pics I got when I purchased from ebay). However, the two on the left, though absolute top-grade spectrolite, were WAY too big for pendants. The Far left on is roughly 3", cost me $100, and is almost unuseable. Oops!!!

I wanted you to see some of the problems you can have, even when sticking to your best dealers (as these were all purchased from one of my top guys.)

This next photo is of that largest piece. I wanted to add this picture to demonstrate what I mentioned before...labradorescence is extremely hard to photograph! Spectrolite is somewhat like granite in its makeup, and you can see how those imperfections catch the light and make the stone look terrible. Keep in mind, this is a AAA-grade spectrolite.

These below shots are of the same stones in the pictures above. (A couple aren't shown, and the very last I made a damned good pendant from that has already sold.) This is what these same stones will look like if you have access to a professional lighting tech. Now all of these stones are absolutely brilliant.

Some trickster dealers will wet their stones before photographing so their brilliance is deceptively amplified, but with these spectrolites, they actually do look this brilliant once they are in the sunlight and hit that reflective sweet spot. So take a look at what a difference good photography and lighting can make!!! (these range from A-grade to AAA grade. You be the judge!)

So if you have any jewelry needs, hit me up! I have dozens of specimens ready for wrapping! Again, prices range depending on the stone quality and the difficulty, but usually end up between $35 and $75. I have the Spectrolites above, more seraphinites, Stephanite Jaspers, Lapis, Covellites, Malazurites, Chrysocollas, and more. I even have some very rare Maw Sit-Sit, Atlantisites, etc. I also work with a lot of Larimar, when I can get my hands on it. Actually, those last stones sell almost immediately after finishing, so you're probably better off asking for them by name.

If you want a stone for a special purpose, like a talisman or amulet, I'm your guy. I have the stone properties bible, and know right off hand which stones have special properties for psychics, attracting love, repelling negativity, insight, mental issues, various physical issues, you name it. If I don't know off hand, I have research materials galore. Don't be afraid to ask, as I totally geek out on this stuff.

I will start to post photos of my newer jewelry craft as I get back into making these lovelies. Christmas is coming up, so get in those special orders. I can also wrap almost anything, but my only condition is that I rarely work in gold. It is way too expensive for this application, so I stick to silver. If you do want something in gold, you'll have to provide the materials (and I'm pretty sure once you see the price difference, you'll understand why I use silver!)

Thanks for looking!

(Note: In the future once I get my supplies back up, I will show you how to make these. I don't mind a little competition!)


  1. very nice craftsmanship! can't wait to see what else you've dabbled in!

    1. thanks JJ! I'll get more up here soon =)