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.

Friday 8 September 2017

Book Review - How to Make Jewellery by Mary Helt

How to Make Jewellery - Easy Techniques and over 25 Great Projects
by Mary Helt
published by Pavillion Books, 2017
160 pages

Book Review - How to Make Jewellery by Mary Helt - SilverMoss Jewellery Blog

One Line Review

A wide-ranging introduction to making jewellery with beads of various materials is a little let down by a lack of photographed instructions.

First Impressions

The cover of this book is rather excellent and easily persuaded me to pick it up. It's bright and fresh with muted colours of turquoise, terracotta, and white and a well-designed title graphic that is nicely integrated with the photo used. This led me to feel the book was modern and vibrant and the layout and designs within would, hopefully, be the same. On picking the book up and flicking through its pages the layout looked pretty traditional for this kind of project book but the vibrancy seemed carried through into the photography and the designs themselves.

At The Start

The Contents page is simple and text-based, and shows that the book contains designs based around sections on Stringing, Wire Wrapping, Polymer Clay, Textiles and Advanced Techniques. Each section contains five different designs.

Following this is a brief Introduction from the author and then a section on Tools and Materials, which covers Basic Equipment and includes information on and photos of the tools needed for each section of jewellery making covered in the book. The photos are a nice touch but would be more helpful if the individual tools pictured were numbered and related more clearly to the text.

In the Middle

Each section has a few pages of techniques at the start of it. For example, the section on Wire Wrapping has photos and instructions on making different types of loops, and the section on Textiles goes into detail on needle felting, embellishing, and making crocheted-covered beads.

The projects that follow are labelled as easy, intermediate or advanced and a mixture of all are included in each section.

A list of materials required is clear and simple to follow. The instructions for each project are in the text and, whilst these are detailed, they are hampered by having no photos displaying what is being described for each stage. Instead the only photograph for each project is one or two showing the finished piece. This is a little unfortunate especially if the book is being used by a beginner, but I always find photos or images of the 'making of' stages of individual projects are exceedingly useful.

It's worth saying that this lack of images isn't carried through into either the techniques pages near the start of each section, or into the section on Advanced Techniques, where photos accompany the instructions for each of the projects - this seems to me to be the most successful section by reason of these extra images; although the projects are more advanced the photographed steps are also easier to follow and understand.

At the End

The book finishes with a glossary and index and a very nice page or two on resources, with details of mainly UK suppliers, and also some web site addresses for learning resources.

In Summary

Covering a wide range of different techniques and styles of jewellery making this book is a good introduction and I particularly enjoyed learning more about fabric jewellery, as well as the advanced techniques section. The techniques displayed at the start of each section were helpful and often included handy hints, which are often a good source of more specific information.

However the lack of photographs to go with the instructions for each project left me feeling that the book could have been far better than it was, just by their inclusion. This absence of photos would dissuade me from recommending the book to a beginner beader jeweller. If you're a little more experienced then you might gain a lot more from its pages.

How to Make Jewellery - Easy Techniques and over 25 Great Projects by Mary Helt


For another jewellery book review, check out my thoughts and feelings on Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques: Problem Solving by Stephen O'Keeffe


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 1 September 2017

Jewelled Web - September 2017 - Link Love

September is still summer. No, really, it is. It is summer until October. That's how it works with me. And if you say 'Well, the weather's not so good now, so summer is over...' then my reply is 'Well, the weather hasn't been good for much of summer anyway. What's the difference? None.' Sorted.

But I can't deny that the seasons do seem to be shifting a little around the edges - a few leaves have fallen already (mostly green, but falling all the same), the flowers are showing up less, and spiders are (nearly) everywhere!

Links below are guaranteed spider-free...

~jewellery links~

I love this challenge! Jeweller Kim Thomson is recycling one piece of silver for 100 days and making it into something new every single day... see the items she's making on Instagram.

Speaking of recycling silver, here's some handy hints on what to do with your offcuts.

Being a professional jewellery designer - an interview with Josephine Tournebize.

A couple of years back I followed this tutorial to make a wire prong setting for a faceted gemstone. My own attempt involved an unfortunate incidence of silver melting where it shouldn't, but this is still a detailed guide for an effective setting. I shall return one day...

I've been watching some You Tube jewellery videos lately - I've come to these quite late as I've always preferred being able to see all the steps, and images of each step, before I decide to commit the time to following something through. And, as you probably know, some You Tube videos are very long because much of the information you want is hidden away after a long and frustrating preamble. But this three minute clip is extremely useful and to the point and if you want to know how to set corners on a gemstone bezel - as I did - then I highly recommend it.

A handy page of downloadable conversion charts covering such topics as saw blade sizes and cleaning gemstones to the ever-useful wire gauge sizes chart...

I adore looking at other jeweller's workspaces. Mine is, at present, an old kitchen table that is too small and in a very awkward position. It's also often shared, which isn't ideal. But when I see other workspaces then I get to dreaming of what might be some day... so here is Tracy from Cinnamon Jewellery's wonderful workspace.

~non-jewellery links~

An excellent Etsy interview with Carol from Kabinshop who makes beautiful ceramics (and a little jewellery too).

A whale playing with dolphins, video taken by a drone.

Different photo file formats and when you should use them.

You may have seen Jodi from One Million Lovely Letters in the media recently, if you're in the UK. Her project, which basically is sending love and support by way of hand-written letters (remember those?) is really quite wonderful.

Flying in the high winds - no wings required.

We may not have had the kind of total solar eclipse experience the USA has had last month but these space travel posters are still quite wonderful wherever you are.

The robots that are changing the world - or may do, anyway (video).

A binman in Bogota collects books thrown out as rubbish, has set up a library in his own home, and loans the books to children.

~latest reads~

Moving on from binge-watching box sets, I've discovered binge-reading and have just finished the second book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, Hollow City. The first, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, was great fun. Library of Souls (book three) is next... If you know nothing about them, the books are full of (genuinely) old photographs of slightly peculiar people and are as fascinating as the text.

The Rings Book by Jinks McGrath has proved very useful to me of late and is an excellent resource.


Here's hoping that September really is still summer...but have a good one whatever the clouds are doing.


Sand dunes, grass and sea photo taken by me - it was warmer than it looks!


If you're looking for more links, jewellery or otherwise, then take a look at my Jewelled Web from October 2015.

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