Friday, 13 October 2017

Book Review - Start Making Jewellery by Nicola Hurst

Start Making Jewellery
by Nicola Hurst
Published by Apple Press 2008
128 pages

Book Review of Start Making Jewellery Workshop by Nicola Hurst

One Line Review

An excellent silver jewellery book, suited for those starting out and those looking to develop their techniques and skills.

First Impressions

In common with a lot of jewellery making books, the title is a little vague about the particular type of jewellery it means, but the cover photographs make it clear that it involves metal, heat, and tools. A brief look through the book shows a lot of photos and a lot of instructions, broken down into convenient steps.

At The Start

The Contents page is followed by a Foreword by the author, and then a couple of pages about the book itself, explaining its layout and commenting on health and safety issues.

Chapter 1 is called Getting Started and has details on Tools, covering pliers, hammers and files, and a small section on Materials, detailing that those used on projects in the book are brass, copper, and silver. It then includes information about creating an ideal work space.

The chapter also includes a very useful section on Inspiration and Design, as well as one on Planning and Design. This topics of ideas and how to develop them is often touched upon far too briefly in jewellery books, so it's good to see them covered in a little more detail here over 8 pages. This section also details methods of copying designs onto the metal itself, which is a very handy skill to have.

(Just as a side note; in the Contents page of the edition of the book I was reading, these two latter sections are both shown as being part of Chapter 2. In fact, they are here included in Chapter 1. This causes no problem at all in terms of using the book and I may not have even noticed if I hadn't been looking closely to write this review.)


In the Middle

Chapter 2 deals with Techniques and Projects and takes up much of the book, at 90 pages. It includes eighteen techniques, ranging from piercing, filing, and soldering, to texturing, doming, and riveting, as well as thirteen projects. The projects are mainly focussed on using metal, with a couple of beadwork ones included near the end.

The techniques are dealt with one at a time and are covered in detail, with handy hints included. They are clear and well illustrated with quality photographs and text instructions.

The projects are interspersed throughout the techniques, and include a list of tools and materials needed for each one, as well as an easy to follow sequence of steps to make each piece and excellent photos that also include extra close-up images to increase clarity at certain crucial points. These close-up photos also appear within the techniques as well and are a really helpful way to ensure particular details are well understood.

At the End

The last chapter deals with Resources. It includes a section on ideas for shapes for ring, earrings, necklaces and pendants, as well as brooches, bangles and bracelets, and cufflinks. A section on the most commonly used gemstones follows, along with some guidance on buying them. Next comes a few charts on topics such as ring sizes and melting temperatures of metals, and some notes on metal properties.

After this is a Glossary, then a page on further reading, detailing magazines and books, and only a few websites (this edition of the book was published in 2008). The book finishes with an Index and some photo credits.


In Summary

This is a very useful book, both for beginners to the topic and anyone with more experience who wishes to refine their skills and perhaps learn a few things via the hints and knowledge of an excellent jeweller. The photographs are excellent, both in clarity and composition, and the close-up photos are particularly valuable. A very good resource book that is worth having on your shelf if you work with metal and solder, or wish to do so.


If you'd like to read another of my book reviews, then check out this one of Stephen O'Keeffe's Practical Jewellery Making Techniques.

Please  note, this post contains affiliate links, which cost you  nothing if you  click through but may make me a few coppers if the stars  are right   that day... For more info check out my about page.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Green Marble Gems from Scotland

Even when you're buying gemstones for other people it still feels like a treat for yourself. Perhaps that's just me. But I always feel a thrill of excitement when a package arrives in the post and I get to unwrap it and see the gems for the first time... Oddly enough, it's not quite as exciting in a shop - maybe because it isn't until you get them home that you can really indulge in really looking at and feeling the texture (so important - or again, perhaps that's just me...) of your new gems.

Green Marble Gemstones

The new gems in question here are rather special as they're from the UK. The UK doesn't seem to have masses of gemstones, perhaps partly due to the relatively small size of the country. And the colours of those we most often see from here tend to be more muted rather than some of the brighter hues gathered from overseas. I know part of the glory of gems is that they can be from anywhere all around the world, and that in itself can feel special, to be able to hold a tiny piece of rock from thousands of miles away. But it's also nice, when you're from a small place, to feel that connection to something a little closer.

Sourced from the Highlands of Scotland the islands on the west coast, the stones I bought were a small collection of green marble. The greens are subtle and hint at their origins, from the plants they once were. The veining is as beautiful as you would expect from marble, and the marble itself is in gentle off-white shades, nothing stark at all.

The smallest stone is around 17 mm and the largest 40 mm and I've not yet decided what to do with any of them, although I have started working on settings for a couple of the gems. But they're so wonderful to look at that I want to try and do my best by them, to make sure the silver around them doesn't detract from the stones, and only enhances them.

Green Marble Gemstones

I found the stones on Etsy, from a shop called Two Skies Rocks. They collect and shape stone from around the world but with an emphasis on that which comes from Scotland, which is where they're based. Their shop is well worth a look and, if you do buy from them, you'll find your parcel carefully packaged (with a lot of tartan!) and the gems thoughtfully chosen.

Now I'm away to ponder over the stones some more and figure out which one I can find a good enough reason for to keep for myself...

Friday, 29 September 2017

Jewelled Web - October 2017 - Link Love

Boats in the Bay - Jewelled Web October 2017 by SilverMoss Jewellery

It does seem as though Autumn is here now. The air is crisper, as are the falling leaves, and the days are noticeably shorter, and cooler. The seasons have shrugged although, to be honest, they're moving all the time, just so slowly that we don't notice so much unless we're really looking.

The last month has been windy and a little rainy, interspersed with glorious sunshine that makes the growing autumnal colours glow. It may not be summer but it's not all bad...

Hope your new season is mellow and beautiful - enjoy the links.

~jewellery links~

Wonder Woman jewellery - what more do I need to say?

Tutorial on making an adjustable bangle, via Cooksongold.

Gorgeous images in this post about jeweller Lies Wambacq.

If, like me, you love watching film and TV to see the jewellery, especially in period pieces, then you might like this post on a jeweller who made jewellery for films.

This site isn't in English but scroll down for a series of photos (with English captions!) explaining how some extraordinary wooden rings were created.

Excellent article and inspiring photographs on enamelling.

I've been looking for information like this for ages - a detailed article on polishing metals with a Dremel (although I would say the tips will work on any Dremel-like tool).

~non-jewellery links~

I love that phone camera photography is taken so seriously now that the Saatchi gallery has run a competition and the winner is beautiful.

Ever been frustrated by a modern-day Victorian who thinks only men invent things? Memorise this list of women who've come up with ideas ranging from windscreen wipers to bullet-proof vests.

If you've ever felt you'd like to sit on a laptop in a coffee shop and be extraordinarily productive then try this web site for authentic ambient background noise...

Or if you fancy working a more natural environment then try a birdsong soundtrack - here, here, here, or here.

Amazing photos from the old Wild West in the USA...

~latest reads~

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, a wonderful autobiography about one woman's love affair with life, science, and plants.

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler - if you've not read anything by Anne Tyler yet then please, please do so soon. She is always utterly wonderful, creating real characters with flaws who move through seemingly normal lives - a little like all of us. Ladder of Years is both honest, beautiful and sad.


Hope you have a wonderful October.


For more links then do visit my Jewelled Web for October 2014.

(this post includes a few affiliate links (in the 'latest reads' section)  - please check details here for more info.)

Friday, 22 September 2017

Rose-Cut Cabochon Gemstones - a discovery

Confession time - I'm not a person who has their finger on the pulse. Films, TV series, books, music and, jewellery as well, I tend to come to things late. Which I don't mind as such, apart from the feeling that I've been missing something that everyone else knew about...

Rose Cut Cabochon Gemstones of Lapis lazuli, Labradorite, Iolite and Sky Blue Topaz in a circle

So it's fitting that only very recently have I discovered rose cut gemstones. Perhaps I didn't notice them whenever they arrived on the online retail scene, as keen as I've been to only deal with flat-backed cabochons. Or perhaps I missed them when I assumed that if I wanted a faceted gemstone then I had to have a pointed back to it to contend with (and it has always felt like those angled backs are something to contend with, never something to get along with).

Given a little research has shown that rose cut stones have been around for at least 500 years it's obvious I'm later than normal, even for me, on this scene. I do know that they weren't available where I was looking when I first started working with gems and was hunting for just such a thing, and can only assume they've become more accessible in the intervening years.

But recently, spending a while perusing gemstones on line and searching, searching, searching, I was rather excited to discover rose cut gems, which, to my mind at least, are the best of both worlds - the beautiful facets that catch the light with the more practical (for me, anyway) flat back.

Rose Cut Cabochon Gemstones of Lapis lazuli, Labradorite, Iolite and Sky Blue Topaz in a line

I've indulged in some recently, and have started finding ways to use them in my jewellery making (photos to follow!). I also hope to buy some more, in different stone types, and find uses for them too.

The stones in the picture are labradorite, lapis lazuli, sky blue topaz and iolite. The largest is 5mm, the smallest 3mm, so they're all rather neat and delicate-looking, but all utterly beautiful, although I do have a personal soft spot for iolite... what's your favourite gemstone and how do you use it? Do share in the comments below.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Jeweller Interview with Sasha Garrett

Sasha Garrett's jewellery is incredibly striking. When you see it, first it catches your eye. Then you notice how beautiful and professional it looks. And then you wonder just what gem those amazingly coloured stones actually are made from...

Fordite Pendants set in Silver by Sasha Garrett, against a fordite backdrop

The bold and beguiling colours are set into artfully simple silver settings and are dazzling examples of bold jewellery. But, still, just what are those gemstones?

If you're similarly intrigued then do read on as in this interview, Sasha will explain everything including just who Jacques and Gibby are...

How long ago did you begin making jewellery and what prompted you to start? Are you self-taught or have you attended classes?

I've made jewellery since I was young (I love sparkly things and my personality type is very much a doer) but got into it properly in 2005ish when I did several terms of evening classes in silversmithing at a local college. That covered the basics and had much more of a club feel to it rather than taught course with objectives - we could turn up, use the equipment and bounce ideas (and problems) off each other, if we got stuck the tutor was there to help. Since then I've used blogs and youtube videos to fill in the knowledge gaps as required.

Where do find ideas for your designs and how do you develop them into the finished piece of jewellery?

I tend to be lead by the colours and patterns of the stones I use so there is normally lots of laying combinations out together to see if they work and shuffling them about until I get it right. At the moment my computer desk has disappeared under beads whilst I work out which murano beads from the stash go better with tanzanite and which with apatite. When I've made my mind up it will get moved round to the work bench for construction.

I love to travel and my boyfriend has many stories of me pouring over trays of gems and haggling in markets for cabochons and beads (he prefers it when I buy the already cut and polished stuff rather than the heavier rough slices as he has to carry it!). So I tend to buy when I find something interesting and figure out what to use them in later rather than designing first. This does mean I have quite a stash but I have sold pieces 'off plan' when people have chosen their stone and asked me to set it like something I've already got made up.

Fordite Cufflinks, finished and a work in progress, set in Silver by Sasha Garrett

What is your workspace like? Is it set up exactly the way you want, a work in progress or a kitchen table?

I share my workspace with Jacques the faux taxidermy cow head and Gibby the zombie gibbon (aka 'the artistic directors') and other mementos so its very much a reflection of me and if I'm being honest its a bit of mess (an organised mess with not an inch to spare but a mess none the less) so I'll go with a work in progress. I have a dedicated work room but would love some more space to have a photography area with proper lighting and a lapidary zone (screened off to keep the muck under control).

Where did you discover fordite and why did you decide to incorporate it into your jewellery?

For those who have never come across fordite it is layers of cured car paint that built up as a by-product of old spray painting processes which are no longer used.

I fell in love with it about a decade ago when I read an article in The Times. Its not just the colours and patterns but also how it reflects the changing fashions of when it was made, it's a little bit of social history. Back then the jewellery making was just a hobby but I knew I wanted some for me so made a chunky ring and some cufflinks for the other half and then thought nothing more of it.

When the jewellery became a business I went back through the stash and found the few cabs I had left from doing that and made another pair of cufflinks, they were much admired (and sold pretty quickly) and I started getting questions about whether I could do rings or pendants. I realised that I wasn't the only one who appreciated its uniqueness and set about finding more so that I could produce a whole range of pieces.

Fordite is quite rare here in the UK (we stopped producing the rough material by the mid 80's but I have a dwindling stash of what is known as Dagenham agate) so I buy the rough from the USA and cut and polish it myself. I'm stockpiling at the moment as supplies will run out at some point (it's already been described as rarer than diamonds) and prices are creeping up.

Fordite set on a Sterling Silver Hollow Ring Pendants by Sasha Garrett

How does working with fordite differ from working with traditional gemstones? And which is your favourite to work with?

I do love some of the more traditional stones, I have a soft spot for malachite and opals but fordite is definitely my favourite. In terms of handling it is similar to softer stones like opals but it comes with a couple of drawbacks; with traditional stones you can normally be certain of getting a standard range of shapes and sizes whereas with fordite the cabochons are free-form and you have to buy what you can get rather than being able to shop around for what you want. If you go wrong you can't phone up a supplier and get a replacement! Every setting has to be made to fit the piece's unique undulations and getting pairs for things like earrings and cufflinks is unusual and one of the reasons I learnt how to cut it myself.

The other drawback compared to the traditional stones is that not many people know about fordite - I'm working on changing that - I sound like a broken record at craft fairs explaining about it but it pays off and I have converted many people to its charms. That is much harder to do online which is reflected in the rate of sales.

What jewellery making tools could you just not do without, and what is still on your wish list?

I wouldn't be without my P1000 autobody wet and dry paper; I shape the fordite by hand with saws and files but its not until I get to this stuff, used wet, that the colours and patterns really start to appear and I know if it has been worth the effort.

My wish list consists of buying the end of my neighbour's garden and putting a work-shed on it (shed is a bit of a misnomer I have visions of solar panels, lots of insulation, storage shelves, veranda for sitting out on, a hedgehog box, tea on tap). And more fordite, always more fordite.

Fordite Earrings set in Sterling Silver by Sasha Garrett, against a fordite backdrop

What is your favourite part of making jewellery?

I still get a kick out of seeing people wearing my work and was recently told a story of someone showing off a 'specially commissioned ring by a local jeweller' at a party and someone else looked at it and asked it if was 'a Sasha Garrett?' (it was). I don't like to think of my work languishing in jewellery boxes.

What is the best tip or advice you've been given, in jewellery making or life in general?

I'm always worried that I'll sound like a fortune cookie if I go giving advice. Life has thrown me rather a lot of curve balls over the years and I've always landed on my feet so I work on the principle of 'never be afraid to try something new'. It's working well for me with both the jewellery and life.

All photographs in this post ©Sasha Garrett

Thanks so much for answering those questions, Sasha; I really enjoyed reading your replies and I hope other people did too.

Do check out more of Sasha's jewellery at the links below:

Shop - Folksy
Facebook - Sasha Garrett
Pinterest - Sasha Garrett


Click here for other jeweller interviews.