Setting Irregular Stones & Metal Stamping: Make Southwestern-Inspired Jewelry with Lexi Erickson

Lexi has been hard at work creating a series of new metalsmithing project tutorial videos, and the first one is available now! Read on to learn more about it and the interesting story behind it.

Petroglyphs and Zuni Bear
by Lexi Erickson

I was really thrilled when asked by Merle White, the Editor-in-chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, to do a series of metal jewelry with a Southwestern theme. Growing up in the Southwestern part of the US and working there for many years as an archaeologist, I got unique insight into the culture and beauty of the area and developed friendships with many of the Native peoples. Those are valued and cherished friendships, and we visit and talk often. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Arizona for the wedding of a friend who was marrying an archaeologist (!). Traveling back through my old stomping grounds brought back many years of delightful memories.

Lexi Erickson on set
  zuni bear

Even as a beginning jeweler a . . . ahem . . . few years ago, I've always loved the shape of the Zuni bear. I have made a number of pieces with the Zuni bear image through the years, but an opportunity just fell into my lap when Marcia Poirier, the owner of Wildabout Wampum ( in Cocagne, New Brunswick, sent me a couple of pieces of quahog shell to work with.

In the course of conversation, I asked if she could carve a Zuni bear out of the shell, and she sent me two gorgeous pieces carved from the native shell. The large white bear, inlaid with abalone, was in the February 2015 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, and the second piece is featured in my new jewelry-making workshop video, Prong-Set Curved Concho and Stamped Pendant.


One thing I was really excited about was my new idea of using metal stamps to texture behind the piece. These stamps are inspired by the petroglyphs (known as repestrian art) of the American Southwest. Petroglyphs are images that have been carved, chipped or somehow dug into the rock faces of the cliffs and canyons of the Southwest. They dot the archaeological sites and have been adapted into a lot of current Southwestern art.

Lexi's petroglyph sketches

Petroglyphs are very inspirational to me. My personal sketchbook and field journals (which I share with you in the videos) are filled with sketches of these simple yet meaningful designs, some of which date to almost 2000 years old. So by using metal stamps, I created my own petroglyph panel . . . and you can do the same thing. There is no particular rhyme or reason for the position of the glyphs, so you can have fun and create your own personal stories or just randomly stamp onto a back plate. Let them run off the plate or overlap, and even an incomplete stamp will look fine, because that's how the petroglyphs look out "in the wild."


You can also use this same metal stamping technique for bezel sets or even if you set no stone (or bear) at all. The stamps will make an interesting texture, even when used alone. I have started using this technique a lot, and I love the selection of stamps that are available. Even if you don't like petroglyphs, you can use a variety of stamps, such as hearts and flowers or lines and dots–you are the artist.

petroglyph art

I hope you will enjoy this series of Southwestern-inspired projects. I have done six more videos and there should be ten in all. The projects range from a hydraulic stamped Zuni bear bracelet to Southwestern dog tags (my personal favorite project) to much more complicated pieces. It's fun to design these projects for you, and I hope you will be inspired by my life as an archaeologist as I have been. Have fun, take these ideas and make them your own! I'll be having many more things to share with you in the upcoming months. Watch this space!

Creatively yours,


While you learn to create this Southwestern-inspired project with Lexi, you'll also learn about metal stamping, soldering, how to set irregular-shaped stones, and other metalsmithing techniques–from a beloved instructor with over 30 years of experience! Download Prong-Set Curved Concho and Stamped Pendant and get started learning right away!

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