Half Soldering, Pinolith, Shrink Plastic, Everyday Tiaras and More: 5 Jewelry-Making Tips and Tidbits for Metalheads and Gem Geeks

I love it when the newest issues of our jewelry-making magazines arrive in the mail. I am lucky to be able to see them in digital form much sooner, of course, but I still love looking at the crisp, fresh-off-the-presses print issues. I thought I’d share some of that joy with you by sharing some of my favorite expert tips and pieces of information from this month’s issue of one of my favorite jewelry-making magazines, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.


shrink plastic rings by Kirsten Denbow

1. Two words: shrink plastic. If you grew up making Shrinky Dinks like I did, you’ll love being able to revisit that fun technique in a grown-up version for your jewelry making. Kirsten Denbow has a cold-join riveted ring project (shrink plastic kit) in this issue that has me itching for a new set of colored pencils, which allow you to add any drawing or colorful design you like to your jewelry. She recommends outlining your colorful designs with a black fine-point permanent marker for extra pop.

Also, Kirsten shares, “Remember, the finished plastic will be about half the size of the original drawing, so double your measurements when creating your design. And keep the drawing at least an inch from the edges” so you have room for metalworking and fitting with metal components after it srhinks. Mixed with handcrafted metal jewelry components like Kirsten did, shrink plastic is elevated to artisan jewelry status–and it’s so much fun!

2. I recently went to a small regional gem show with a new purpose: cabochons. At other shows, I pick up a stone if it catches my eye, but I’ve never gone to a gem show with the sole purpose of buying cabochons to make rings, pendants, and bracelets. When I made my way to the motherlode booth with literally hundreds of trays of cabochons, dozens of which even this super-geeky gem geek had never heard of, I sighed in frustration. Even after so many years of shopping Tucson gem shows, it was overwhelming and I wasn’t prepared for the serious shopping that was in front of me.

“Know what you want, but want what you know,” says our gemologist friend John Heusler, G.G. “It is important to be knowledgeable about your pieces and the stones you choose. If you’re not, you can get a spankin’ bad deal when you go to buy them. So always do your research before buying.” This small show will be near me again in October, and you can bet I’ll be better prepared!


pinolith and sterling silver belt buckle by John Heusler, G.G.

3. Call me crazy, but I always like to read the steps in the metalsmithing projects in LJJA, even if I have no intention of making the project, because I pick up so many great jewelry-making tips that way. In reading John’s steps for his pinolith, coral, and sterling silver belt buckle (above), I discovered several nuggets of info. One of them was a solution to a problem I recently had while I was disassembling and reassmbling a cuff bracelet I made. In my haste of re-doing the entire piece because of a last-minute issue, I completely messed up the main bezel in the piece.

I soldered the bezel and reshaped it around my stone, but when I replaced it on the backplate, I had some design elements to work around–and in doing so, I accidentally reshaped the bezel such that my stone no longer fit in it. Gah! I wish I had thought to solder only one side at first, which John does in a part of his belt buckle tutorial, and then “refit the bezel if it relaxed from heating.” It is simple, but it didn’t even occur to me that one side of the bezel could move in the heat while I soldered the other side.



4. As a true gem geek and rock lover, I’m thrilled that new stones are still being discovered all the time. Have you met pinolith yet? This graphic stone debuted earlier this year at a gem and mineral show in Tucson, so it’s still fresh, new, and exciting. Also known as pinolite, pinolith is a combination of dolomite (colored by graphite) grown around magnesite crystals and mined in Styria, Austria. In the best quality, white magnesite crystals are shaped like to pine nuts, which is where pinolith gets its name.

tiaras diadems hair accessories

Everday tiaras? Yes please!

5. There’s a whole article about everyday tiaras and similar hair accessories as a new fashion power accessory in this issue. How can you miss that? Deborah Yonick shares: “Trendy enough for the New York Times Style Section to declare them a new power accessory, tiaras and bejeweled headbands and hair adornment are giving women a great way to style on the run. Not just popular for weddings, embellished headpieces are, according to the article, a chic solution for busy fashionistas with little time for blowouts between appointments. Tuck your hair in a headpiece, and in seconds, you look polished and put together!”

How does this trend apply to us, though? These accessories are created using jewelry-making supplies we know and love, making them accessible for us to make as well. “From flower crowns and leather bindings to gold clips and sculptural metal bands, popular looks mix modern toughness with the best of femininity,” Deborah writes. So if you’re looking for a fresh new, on-trend accessory to enliven your jewelry sales, consider these hair accessories. According to Michael O’Connor, a jewelry stylist and movie style television show host, “Embellished hair adornment draws the eye upward to the face and can especially make a statement when wearing a gown that already has a lot going on . . . It can really balance a look, and for people who don’t like big necklaces or earrings, it can be a powerful accessory.” The next time you start to make a necklace or pendant, think about making a hair band instead–there’s advice in this issue for doing that! And if you’re up for a challenge, try a convertible jewelry piece than can be a necklace or a headband.

fabricated sterling silver flower pendant by Beatriz Fortez

I’m in love with this fabricated sterling silver flower pendant by Beatriz Fortez.

You can learn more about all of these things and many more jewelry-making tips and techniques in the August 2015 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. And don’t forget the two special kits for this issue, the metal forming kit and the shrink plastic kit to make Kirsten Denbow’s whimsical but artful shrink plastic rings–I can’t wait to make them!

P.S. Have you entered to win our new website celebration giveaway of a gemstone-setting bundle of DVDs and eBooks?

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