I Did This, But . . . Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Helps You Do Whatever You Want

There’s a reason why the projects in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist often read more like stories than instructions, and it’s not simply a matter of style. It’s a matter of choice — your choice. Faceting and chain maille designs both depend on mathematically precise patterns, but jewelry making largely involves taking an idea and running with it. What you need for that are skills, experience, and inspiration to help you bring your vision into focus and reality.

ABOVE: “A simple form created with minimal tools, this shape makes not only an interesting pendant but also a good building block for other jewelry designs with perhaps added stones or more detail.” Just Fold It Over pendant by Bill Fretz, in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist July/August 2019; photo: Jim Lawson

Bolo Tie or Earrings: Same Thing
John Heusler’s Red Green Blanket bolo; photo: Jim Lawson

John Heusler’s Red Green Blanket bolo; photo: Jim Lawson

Of course they’re not the same thing, but the design focal could be used in either. “You can build any type of jewelry using these skills,” says John Heusler in “A Lot of Character,” his bolo tie project in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist July/August 2019. He was talking about pendant or earrings versus bolo right there, but the entire project is sprinkled with alternatives, suggestions, and explanations of why he did this in case you’re thinking about doing that instead.

John sketched several designs for showcasing a new gemstone before committing to a bolo, and revised the cord holder along the way; photo: John Heusler

John sketched several designs for showcasing a new gemstone before committing to a bolo, and revised the cord holder along the way; photo: John Heusler

To Cut or Not to Cut

Super excited about a colorful new rhyolite he’d dug out himself, John specifies Red and Green Blanket or RGB stone, as he calls it, because it’s the starting point of this design. He used a template for the gem’s shape, but pick whatever template shape you want, or draw a shape freehand, he suggests. Saw the rock out with a traditional lapidary saw, or you might want to try a ring saw, he advises, mentioning several models and offering a quick tip for comparing blades.

The Challenge of a Heavier Bezel

You don’t cut? Learning how this stone was cabbed might teach you something about setting, anyway. John agrees traditional 26-gauge bezel wire would work, but he prefers 14-gauge sterling for its “total disregard to the value of the noble metals” look. The heavier wire makes setting a challenge, though. “I used the coolest tool here! Few of you, if any, will have it,” he admits, “but I wanted to tell you about it.” When setting the vaguely described “small cab” accent, he lets you know it’s okay to use the same burr for either a cabochon or faceted gem.

Sandpaper or Radials
John using a radial brush for cleanup; photo: John Heusler Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

John using a radial brush for cleanup; photo: John Heusler

He frequently offers low- and high-tech options. “You can use sandpaper for final cleanup, but I really love the 3M radial brushes.” For the bolo tips and matching silver shape above them, he’d wanted to carve a mold from tufa rock, a favorite and simple casting technique. Then he decided it would be nice to give out some pointers on carving wax models for those who know wax casting, so he did.

You can never tell where you’ll find that inspiring design detail, the perfect solution to an operation you’ve been struggling with, or the most amazing tool out there, whether it’s new or just new to you. The gem could be featured in a story, or it could be tucked away in what turns out to be the best part of a project for you.

Also in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist July/August 2019

It’s The Tool Issue! Inside you’ll find 10 of the best tools for jewelry makers recently introduced, an inside peek at how one line of hand tools was developed and brought to market, and new ways of thinking about rock sawing and templates. Plus:

April Bower offers instructions for fabricating a basic shaman pendant, then shows options for personalizing, such as this jewelry tool example; photo: Jim Lawson. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

April Bower offers instructions for fabricating a basic shaman pendant, then shows options for personalizing, such as this jewelry tool example; photo: Jim Lawson

This concept necklace invokes the artist’s home state of Michigan with local trout, evergreens, photo images, and Leland Blue, a byproduct of area mining; photo: Jim Lawson. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

This concept necklace invokes the artist’s home state of Michigan with local trout, evergreens, photo images, and Leland Blue, a byproduct of area mining; photo: Jim Lawson

When she found this coral cab, Peggy Haupt wanted to show it off with just a gallery wire bezel, then decided to add silver flowers across the open “back” of her reversible pendant; photo: Jim Lawson. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

When she found this coral cab, Peggy Haupt wanted to show it off with just a gallery wire bezel, then decided to add silver flowers across the open “back” of her reversible pendant; photo: Jim Lawson

Facet design by Jim Perkins: Lilly’s Trillion, cut in synthetic ruby by the designer’s granddaughter; photo: Jim Lawson. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Facet design by Jim Perkins: Lilly’s Trillion, cut in synthetic ruby by the designer’s granddaughter; photo: Jim Lawson

Project: Denise Peck’s easy Surprise Inside textured earrings; photo: Jim Lawson

Project: Denise Peck’s easy Surprise Inside textured earrings; photo: Jim Lawson

Project: Denise Peck’s easy Surprise Inside textured earrings; photo: Jim Lawson. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Jeff Fulkerson also wanted to work with the colorful RGB rhyolite and put a cab into this handsome pendant; photo: Jim Lawson

Trends: Sally Bass finds her niche with this fossil, Bakelite, and sterling ring; photo courtesy Sally Bass Jewelry

Trends: Sally Bass finds her niche with this fossil, Bakelite, and sterling ring; photo courtesy Sally Bass Jewelry

Helen Driggs is Fabrication Focused in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Cool Tools & Hip Tips; photo: Jim Lawson

Helen Driggs is Fabrication Focused in Cool Tools & Hip Tips; photo: Jim Lawson

P.S. Wait! There are more cool tools to learn about!

Helen Driggs had so much to share about fabrication goodies in the July/August Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, we didn’t have room for them all. So here are the others:

“Bench Essentials: When you are a fabrication junkie like me,” says Helen, “certain tools are on your bench at all times. I really rely on Contenti Tools for my hand tool and supply must-haves, like these Golden Alps Swiss precision saw blades. I love a fine blade, so I got size 4/0, but the entire line ranges from 6/0 up to 1. These are sturdy, well-made precision blades, and I am having a great time sawing with them.

“When you set a lot of stones, another sweet little tool to have at hand is the Grobet bur gauge for precise measurement of bur diameters ranging from 0.5 to 4.5 mm. Finally, I find the toolmaker’s round bench block indispensable for riveting and staking. Those holes range from 1/8 inch to 5/8 inch, and I use them for positioning steel rod or tubing as I cold-connect. The V-groove supports round mill stock, bar, or tubing during drilling or burring. Here’s a sneaky pro tip: if you own one of those round interchangeable bench blocks with the sound deadening rubber base, this block fits right in it. Nice!

“Beyond Basic Bezel Stock: Sometimes I find a tool or supply that is so supremely cool I just have to have it, and these bezel strips really light my fire. I am always on the lookout for nice base metal findings and mill stock for my own demo pieces and maquettes as well for teaching students primary foundation skills. These laser cut 28-gauge yellow brass or copper bezel strips are sold by the foot; come in a variety of edgy designs including serrated, spider web, hot rod flames, and scalloped; and they absolutely fit the bill for anyone wanting not-so-basic bezel strip in base metals. Smokin’!”

Thanks, Helen!

Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. This post is adapted from her column, “I Did This, But . . .” in the the July/August 2019 issue.

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