Monday, January 31, 2011

Special Blog Reader DISCOUNT

I know I love a discount!  Don't you?

Beginning February 1st, now you can use the coupon code "ElementsBlog" for a 10% discount at my Etsy Shop.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

AMETHYST - February's Birthstone

Lucky February babies are bestowed with amethyst as their birthstone.  Traditionally a deep shade of purple, amethyst played an important role in ancient times. Ancient Europeans believed amethyst could defend its wearer in battle and the ancient Greeks believed amethyst would protect against drunkeness.  Until the discovery of vast amethyst deposits in Brazil, the gemstone was considered to be precious, and enjoyed the company of similar precious gemstones such as rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds.

In a way, I am glad amethyst was discovered in Brazil. Now, this gorgeous gemstone is easily affordable to most individuals. Sure, it may not be the status symbol it once was, but one look at a beautiful stone and I know you'll be thinking....."Where can I get one?!"

This will be the first of many musings about the history and folklore surrounding birthstones and other colored gemstones.

What is your favorite gemstone(s)?


Not only am I a tool nerd, but I'm also a paper junkie.  I LOVE paper. I really, really, love paper!

My paper addiction started in late elementary school when I attended  a Girl Scout summer camp.  To keep us girls occupied we did various crafting and athletic activities. One day we would canoe, another day we would do some leather tooling.  It was fun.  But not nearly as exciting as the day I made handmade paper! I can barely remember the specifics of the process we used to create the paper pulp...some water, paper bits, blades of grass, and a few flower petals, all moshed together into a weird soup.  We dumped out the paper soup onto drying racks, squeezed out some water, and waited.  And waited.

But then the magic happened....all that weird soup became beautifully textured paper! It was wonderful to touch!  It was....magical.

Ever since then I have had an addiction to paper. Especially textured papers, Japanese papers, and cotton paper. There is just something special about the feel of these types of papers (oh and I love the look of Japanese papers too). I am definitely a tactile person.

I have been pondering and experimenting with combining paper with my silver jewelry.  I mean, why not combine two of my favorites loves together to create a unique jewelry line? However, I'm a stickler for creating pieces that last, are durable, and wear well.  Paper has been challenging in that it is often quite fragile.  I've looked at various types of sealant for the paper, but haven't quite found one that passes my quality standards.  Yet.

What's your 'junkie' habit?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sterling Silver-filled?

I stumbled upon another "silver" term just today, "Sterling Silver-filled." 

"Fire Mountain Gems and Beads worked for over two years with one of the largest precious metal fabricators in the world to offer customers a tremendous value. Sterling Silver-Filled wire and findings bridge the gap between silver-plated and sterling silver. Both wire and findings have a durable outer layer of sterling silver (.925/20) surrounding a copper-alloy core. The findings have additional silver plating for uniformity. The fabrication of the wire and findings is completed with an anti-tarnish coating to preserve the beauty.

Top jewelry makers and resellers benefit from:
•High perceived value
•A fraction of the cost of sterling silver"

My initial thought was, "Oh no. Another product to confuse consumers!"  I also have a real problem with the benefit "high perceived value!"  To me, that translates to artificial value. 

Granted, there is a place for every type of maker.  Heck, I've seen some really beautiful works of art created from telephone wire and bottle caps!

Back to the issue at hand.....sterling silver-filled metals.  My only real plea is for EVERY maker to fully disclose the materials they are working in.  Do not deceive the public (intentionally or not!), do not misrepresent your craft or yourself! Please.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I thought SILVER was SILVER. Right?

Silver.  One of the Earth's elements.  But what is it? Or more precisely, why does there seem to be so many types of silver?

I'm going to bet, most of you have heard of Sterling Silver.  But do you know what that is?  Sterling silver is an alloy.  A blend of metals, if you will.  I'm not going to detail the entire history of sterling, but in modern times, sterling silver is a term for an alloy of silver (pure) and copper (pure).  The traditional recipe is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper by weight.

Some other "silver" terms include:
Fine Silver
Argentium Silver
German Silver
Thai Silver
Nickel Silver
Alpacca or Alpaca Silver
Tibetan Silver
Hill Tribe Silver or Karen Hill Tribe Silver

These are just a few of the more common "silver" terms!  Are you wondering why I keep putting "silver" in quotes?  Because some of these "silver" terms actually contain 0% elemental silver!  That's right.  They're not silver at all!

Alpaca Silver, Nickel Silver, and German Silver is an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc.
Tibetan silver is an alloy of copper, nickel and/or tin.

Thai Silver is generally silver with a purity between sterling (92.5% pure silver) and fine silver (99.9% pure silver). Thai silver, as the name implies, is handmade in Thailand by small groups of silversmiths and craftsmen and each group may use a different alloy recipe.

Hill Tribe Silver or Karen Hill Tribe Silver is also made in Thailand.  However, these silver pieces are handmade specifically by the Karen Hill Tribe people. Most, if not all, Hill Tribe Silver is 99.9% pure silver.

Fine Silver is 99.9% pure silver.  Be weary of individuals who use the the term "fine silver" to mean attractive or very thin. When in doubt, ask for clarification!

Argentium Silver is a relatively new silver alloy comprised of silver, copper, and germanium.  The exact alloy recipe is a trade secret. However, according to the Argentium silver website, Argentium silver comes in 93.5% pure silver and 96% pure silver alloys. This new silver alloy is highly tarnish resistant.

I hope you have learned a little about the various terms used to describe silver colored metals.  Just keep in mind, just because the word "silver" is used doesn't necessarily mean it contains elemental silver.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Like most artists and crafters, I live in a constant state of creative chaos.  I don't know why my brain loves the messiness, but somehow it's inspiring.  I often find a beautiful gemstone and will leave it on the corner of the workbench, just waiting for it to speak to me.  Waiting for it to tell me how it wants to be presented to the world.  And there it will stay, until I can hear it's request.  I suppose my workbench wouldn't be such a mess if I only had one gemstone just lying about.  But, I must have ten or more gemstones, a dozen or more crystals, bits of silver in every size and shape, just sitting there, silent.  Oh, and let's not forget the five or six works-in-progress. 

However, the chaos need to be calmed.  Just a little.

And, since I have a few new and incredibly awesome tools arriving for the studio tomorrow, I must clean.  All those bits of silver, miscellaneous beads and gemstones will need to be put back in their proper place.  The scattered tools will need to be put back too.  Finally, the workbench will get a good cleaning with a damp cloth.

A clean slate.  Well, a temporarily clean slate anyhow.  It will be just a day or two before the bench will look like it's pre-cleaning self.  Perhaps with a new gemstone waiting on the corner, getting ready to speak.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Splitting my TIME

According to a survey conducted in 2009 by LINC, 66% of artists hold at least one additional job outside of their creative business.  I fit into this statistic.

I typically work at my studio 3 to 4 days a week.  The other days I am a Substitute Teacher.  I spend my non-studio days in elementary schools and high schools, teaching what ever subject is needed for that day.  Some days I am really out of my element, like when I taught a sewing class (I've never sewn anything in my life!). But other days I get to teach children about creative writing, 80s pop culture, or why the movie Titanic isn't exactly 100% historically accurate.

There are also days when the children teach me something.  Often, in the younger grades I am reminded how dreadfully important fairness is or how quickly a friend can become an enemy then a friend again, all within the same hour. In the higher grades I am reminded of how important it is to express yourself and to be heard, understood, accepted or acknowledged. 

These kids inspire me. They bring me back to the innocence and wonderment of childhood. 

While writing this post, I find myself reflecting on the plethora of special moments I've experienced in the classroom.  These moments have sparked me develop a new jewelry line based on the purity and wonderment of childhood.  More to follow......

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm such a TOOL nerd.

I love tools.  The more the merrier!  I'll admit, I can spend hours, no, days in a home improvement store or hardware store.  But, I wasn't always like that.

As a child I loathed hardware stores.  How boring.  Just walking around with Dad, surrounded by things I wasn't allowed to touch.  And that weird smell...somewhere between rubber, dirt, and machinery grease.  Yuck.

That all changed the day I picked up my husband's "good" hammer and struck a piece of sterling silver.  Ooooh, the beautiful and reflective dimple it left behind!

I couldn't get enough!  I bought my first set of metalsmithing tools.  A few hammers, a steel block, various pliers, a wireworking jig, tumbler, disc cutter, files, and more.  I was fairly content with my tool collection, but every once in a while itched for more.  Various jewelry making companies would send their yearly catalog and I would drool over the pages and pages of tools!  It's like when you were a child and the Sears Catalog would arrive in the mail and you and your siblings would flip through the pages circling all your Christmas wishes.  Well, I didn't circle things, but I did have a notepad with the item numbers, page numbers and prices tucked into each catalog. 

At one time, I didn't have a dedicated studio space, so some tools were off limits because of the space needed or the "mess" they created.  Hooray to day I got my own studio space!  On the top of the then-forbidden tool list was a flexshaft, torch and rolling mill.  Big tools. Expensive tools.  Messy tools.  I purchased a flexshaft and torch first.  Oh, what a difference they have made in my designs!  The flexshaft saves so much labor and can create textures on metals that were previously impossible.  And the torch allows me to fuse metals and create rings, bangle bracelets and more.  And the rolling mill??  Well, that is on it's way and should arrive at the studio next week!!

My tool fantasies have been filled....for now.  But, I know I'll feel that itch sooner or later and the hunt for more tools will be on again.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's BEAUTIFUL! But, how do I keep it looking that way?

Jewelry is beautiful!  However, jewelry needs a little proper care to help it stay beautiful.  Here are some simple tips to help your jewelry investment stay looking brand new:

  • Sterling silver, copper, brass, and other metal alloys will tarnish if the metal isn't sealed (lacquer, wax, paint, etc.).  The metal will tarnish (also called oxidizing) when exposed to the air. To reduce tarnish, store your jewelry in an air tight container, like a zip-top bag, or with an anti-tarnish strip in your jewelry box. 3M Tarni-Shield and Hagerty are popular brands.
  • Before storing your jewelry, take a moment to wipe body oils, lotions, make-up, or other chemicals off your jewelry pieces with a clean soft cloth. This is especially important for delicate gemstones like pearls, opals, and turquoise.
  • Not all metals and gemstones are created equal.  Some metals and gemstones are more durable than others.  I highly recommend storing each piece of jewelry in its own place/space/compartment.  This will eliminate scratches and dings.
  • Despite your best effort, tarnish may still develop.  If this is the case, a commercial silver polish can be used.
  • Finally, what if I want or like the oxidized look?  What if my jewelry is suppose to have an oxidized or "antiqued" finish?  Simple.  Just buff your jewelry with a soft cloth from time-to-time.  The oxidation will remain in the recesses of your jewelry, keeping the antiqued look.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking BACK on 2010 and Looking FORWARD to 2011

2010 was a great year for Elements by Dawn!  The new designs were well received and the development of Gift Certificates is proving to be a wonderful addition to the Elements by Dawn Etsy Shop!

My commitment to sourcing eco-friendly precious metals, packaging, and studio materials is growing everyday.  In 2010 I was able to proudly claim all my fine silver pieces were from 100% recycled sources, gift boxes contained 80% recycled paper, and I was able to find more environmentally friendly chemicals for use in the studio.

Be on the lookout for new designs in mixed metals, soft pastels and feminine textures and patterns.  Also, Blogger only Coupon Codes are coming soon!