5 Favorite Jewelry-Making Projects That Surprise Us

The Little Something That Makes a Jewelry Design Special

Hearts and . . . bats? Absolutely. And leaves, grapes, abstracts, and yes, flowers, too. It’s not about the motif but how you spin it that makes the difference between okay and special. Here are five jewelry-making projects demonstrated in recent issues of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist that I think are really something else.

ABOVE RIGHT: Roger Halas’s bat pendant and subtle bone-motif necklace aren’t what you usually think of as bridge or day-to-night jewelry, but you could easily wear the piece with a T-shirt and jeans or a long black dress. Photo: Roger Halas

Heart to Heart Silver and Agate Pendant by Jeff Fulkerson

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Jeff Fulkerson, heart to heart necklace

Two pieces become halves of a whole. Photo: Jeff Fulkerson

Not everyone would look at these two agate cabochons and think “heart.” As soon as you see how Jeff puts them together, though, it’s obvious.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Fulkerson heart-to-heart necklace

Heart to heart . . . to heart . . . and then some. Photo: Jim Lawson

Rather than plopping the teardrop and near-teardrop stones onto a perfectly symmetric heart-shaped back plate, he’s used the departures in shape to create an offset heart. Now the stones fit together to form a heart, and more significantly, the result is a much more interesting pendant. As with the shape, so with the coloration: the reddish patterns in the cabs suggest the traditional hue, and then celebrate a variation on it.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Jeff Fulkerson, heart to heart pendant

Carrying through the offbeat heart motif onto the back of the pendant. Photo: Jeff Fulkerson

Flip the pendant over and you’ll discover hearts galore in different sizes and scattered at odd angles, all but one filled with a lush texture produced by fusing filings. The one left smooth is the perfect spot to put your maker’s mark, an inscription to a loved one, or just leave plain for contrast.

Hang the finished pendant on the chain of your choice. Jeff’s choice (not demonstrated in this project) carries the theme through beautifully, with a heart-accented chain and arrow-piercing-heart toggle for a clasp. Sweet!

Vampire Bat Linked Necklace by Roger Halas

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Halas bat necklace

I think it’s what’s left out in this jewelry design that makes it work so well. We get the bat idea, and that’s all we need. Photo: Jim Lawson

Roger Halas loves to create elaborate and really out-there creatures in his jewelry, but sometimes even he believes that less is more. “The bat silhouette is an icon made to look cool, not like some cutesy holiday decoration (as a Batman fan I had to restrain my impulse to turn this into a Batarang). I wanted to create a sense of the macabre with a touch of elegance and a little bit of naughty in a piece for anyone who loves Halloween, which should be everyone!”

The simply drawn bat pendant hung on a necklace made with understated bone–like links and toggle bar gives this design a wider appeal, as well as making it very cool. Even the choice of a Madeira garnet has a subtlety to it: there’s orange and black, but they’re separated with a bit of silver.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Halas bat necklace

To create the bone-like elements in the necklace, Roger cut 2“ lengths of 8 ga. half round sterling wire, then filed in the grooves. Photo: Roger Halas

And for those of you who’d like to pay tribute to the recently late Adam West: Holy Sawing and Filing, Batman, instructions for the necklace are included!

Techniques for Graphite & Enamel by JoAnn Wadler

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, wadler's liquid enamel tools

Add pencil and eraser to your enameling tools and supplies and you, too, can draw and rework designs before firing. Photo: JoAnn Wadler

“Pencil isn’t just for paper anymore!” declares JoAnn in her intro to demonstrating how literally to draw on enamel with a pencil.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Wadler, liquid enamel

JoAnn Wadler’s demo is all about the enameling technique, but I find her designs lovely, too. Her use of a white ground gives her images of flowers and leaves the look of botanical drawings. Photo: Jim Lawson

“It’s easy to create beautiful works of art on your enamels, and if you don’t draw, that’s ok. You can doodle, even zentangle. And the best part is if you don’t like it, you can wash it off and start again — before you put your enamel piece back in the kiln to make it permanent, of course.” If you’ve been putting off your dive into enameling, this is a great demo to get you launched.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, wadler, liquid enamel

For a different look, JoAnn’s enameled drawing of an eye. Photo: JoAnn Wadler

Fluting a Pure Silver Cuff by Bill Fretz

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Fluted cuff, Bill Fretz

Bill Fretz’s fluted silver cuff. Photo: Jim Lawson

Think fluted object, and you’re likely to envision a crystal vase with perfectly even, symmetrically ridged sides. Stunning in its way — but as usual, I prefer something more fluid.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Bill Fretz fluting

One reason you love metalsmithing is probably that you love pounding on metal. Bill has designed an extensive line of hammers and stakes so you can do just that, and he shows you how to use them so you get something beautiful out of your banging as well as stress relief. Photo: Bill Fretz

In this cuff-making project, Bill demonstrates using some of his specialized hammers and stakes to produce flutes of uneven spacing and depth for a surface that is both familiar and unexpected. His choice of pure silver means the piece won’t tarnish the way traditional sterling would, while the hammering required to flute the silver work-hardens it so it will wear well.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Bill Fretz

Keeping your tools in pristine condition is mandatory, says Bill, but he also knows that things happen. Before starting the cuff, he demos how to repair a damaged hammer. Photo: Bill Fretz

Grape Cluster Pendant by Lexi Erickson

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Lexi Erickson, grape cluster pendant

Grape Cluster Pendant by Lexi Erickson will stay forever fresh. Photo: Jim Lawson

If you just described this jewelry design in words, it would seem completely predictable.

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us. Lexi Erickson, grape cluster

Botryoidal purple chalcedony, aka grape agate. Photo: Jim Lawson

The main stone is purple. Its surface, a naturally bubbly, bumpy one, is called botryoidal in the mineral world because that term means “like a cluster of grapes.”

5 Favorite Jewelry Making Projects That Surprise Us, Lexi Erickson Pendant

Surprise! Beneath the hidden bail is another grape leaf, just for the wearer to know about. Photo: Jim Lawson

The aptly named grape agate is featured in a grapevine-themed pendant, complete with copper and silver leaves and copper tendrils. How much more literal could you get?

Literal, yes, but idealized or cookie-cutter, not a bit. Every leaf is different, the tendrils are unruly, the agate irregular — making the piece lifelike and just so juicy! Or, as Lexi puts it with a more sophisticated palette, “While I usually don’t like jewelry that represents a specific thing, well, I do like wine, and this cab just screams ‘wine’ to me.”

I’ll drink to that — or any of these great jewelry making projects!

Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and Editorial Director for the Interweave Jewelry Group.

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Find Them All in the New 2016 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Digital Compilation!