Note: This post was originally published on February 16, 2009

I don’t normally do much in the way of sketching when it comes to designing my jewelry.  And when I say “normally,” I actually mean never.  This year, however, I have a very special project in mind and whilst looking for design ideas, I realized that some sketching was definitely in order.


What is this special project you ask?  It is a companion piece for the novel I’m writing.  I want to make a ring that is given to my main character, Isabel Wilde, by her brother, who is a goldsmith.

I have my hear set on using a ruby for this ring, set in 18k yellow gold and flanked with diamonds and possibly pearls.  In the sketch to the left, the center stone would be a faceted oval ruby and the four smaller circles would be pearls.  The little dots would be pave-set diamonds.

Such a piece will challenge my jewelry making skills but with the exception of the pave, it is all well within my abilities.  I will send it out to have the diamonds set, however.


I find the design to the right much less appealing.  It is more a case of just exploring shapes and sizes than it is a design I would use.  I don’t remember if the smaller circles were diamonds or pearls in this design.




In this design I experimented with an emerald cut stone as well as a couple of pearr shaped stones on the sides.  I’m not sure what the side gemstones would be–although I have always been partial to the combination of red (ruby) and gold (citrine).  The small circles around the perimeter would be pave set diamonds.


Finally, I tried a pear-shaped ruby in the design.  The bottom circle would be a pearl and the smaller circles diamonds, as in the other designs.  I have not been a fan of pear-shaped stones until the last few years.  Now I really like them.

In anticipation of using this design or perhaps something similar, I bought a cheap ruby on eBay:


I do not know yet whether I’ll use it since I need to see it in person.  If I can’t find a ruby I can afford I’ll use a red garnet.  For some reason I visualize this ring as having a red stone and a garnet will work almost as well as a ruby.

Note: This post was originally published on May 19, 2009

UCLA Extension did a profile of my jewelry teacher a few months ago and they finally finished the video:

Ralph is teaching us handmade jewelry making techniques that are dying out. Most jewelry these days is carved in wax then cast. We make jewelry entirely by hand, even down to melting pure silver and gold with alloys. I absolutely love it.

Note: This post was originally published on July 25, 2009

My husband and I just watched a program on PBS called Secrets of the Samarai Sword. It’s available to watch on the internet, and I recommend it.


There are several reasons why this program was interesting to me personally. First, my husband picked up a book at a library book sale awhile back about Japanese swords and was immediately taken with them. That year for his birthday, I embarked on my own research and bought one for him. Much like making a sword, it was a painstaking process; there are lots of “fakes” out there, particularly, swords made by machine during WWII, and an authentic, handmade sword is expensive. I’m not sure I’d have the confidence even now to buy one again, although I’m certain that the one I bought him is authentic. We both love that sword–it is almost as important to me as my wedding ring, if you want the truth.


The second reason I found this program engaging is because I’m a goldsmith. I make jewelry out of gold and silver and some of the processes used are similar, if not the same. I use ancient techniques to make my jewelry, and this type of craftsmanship appeals to me. I’m definitely not comparing my level of expertise to the level presented by the master swords-maker profiled, but my experience with making jewelry makes me extremely interested in the techniques used in Japanese sword-making.


The level of expertise required to make a sword can be applied to any field, whether it be sword making, jewelry making, or in my case now, writing. Young people apprentice in this work at an early age and through the years become experts themselves, thus preserving a tradition that is hundreds of years old. It is a reminder that to be good at anything, even if one possesses natural talent, takes years of practice. It is affirming and daunting at the same time–I am a novice at writing, at least as it pertains to novels, and I have a lot of work in front of me to become an “expert.”

Having been to Japan and having even visited the sword museum in Tokyo shown in the program, I was also interested in the cultural aspects of Samarais, sword fighting, and sword making. But for me, the really compelling part is the fabrication of the sword. It is fascinating, and an important reminder that hard work and persistence is an important key to success.


I made this ring in the jewelry studio on Tuesday as a birthday gift for my friend Ruth. It is sterling silver and rose quartz set in a bezel with the typical “Holly West” ball ornamentation on the sides. It’s the most complicated project I’ve done in awhile, and I was pleased with the result.

Don’t ask me why, but I suddenly had the urge to make an ID bracelet for myself.  This was my project for Tuesday’s jewelry studio time:


It’s a very delicate bracelet, with not much in the way of bells and whistles.  As you can see, in addition to the name plate, I included two small circle charms with an M (for Mick) and an S (for Stuart).


It’s sterling silver, and I gave it a satin finish and a handmade clasp.  Originally I was thinking I might make the chain by hand, but admittedly, that’s a pretty long process and it seemed more practical to use pre-made chain.  In retrospect, I think that was the right choice because I could have never made chain this delicate anyway.

As I mentioned yesterday, Mick had his naturalization oath and is now an American citizen.  You can read about his experience here.

I love those days when I’m not feeling at all creative and I end up making something fantastic.  It was raining hard this morning, and all I wanted to do was curl up with a novel instead of going out to jewelry class.  I had canceled last week though and I really didn’t want to do it two days in a row.  What’s a lazy girl to do?

I did end up going and told myself I’d just look at my materials and work, it didn’t matter what I made.  The first thing I saw when I opened up my tool box was a lovely London Blue Topaz that I’ve had for years.  Originally it was in another ring that I didn’t like and months ago I took it out of the original setting.

This is the new ring:


This ring actually matches a pendant I made a couple of months ago but haven’t blogged about yet.  I didn’t intentionally set out to do this design but I quickly realized that worked for the pendant would work for the ring.  Hence the addition of the three balls of silver on either side of the stone.


The metal, of course, is sterling silver and the ring is a size 6.  I haven’t decided whether or not to list it in my Etsy store.  I’d kind of like to keep it for myself!


I guess this proves that sometimes it pays to do something even when you don’t feel like it!

I made this in my jewelry studio yesterday:


It is 18k gold and tourmaline.  I’d bought the stone quite awhile (two of them) intending to make a pair of stud earrings.  Unfortunately, both stones got nicked somehow (this is a problem I’ve had with tourmaline as it is kind of soft), which means I really can’t sell anything I make with them.

Still, the stones are beautiful and I chose the least damaged one to make this ring.  The bezel setting hides the flaw well.

My original design for this ring was to have two small hammer set diamonds where the gold balls are.  Alas, the hammer setting is one of those that I get wrong almost as often as I get it right and the band was too narrow for me to do it correctly.  A better goldsmith could’ve done it, I’m sure.

I ended up reverting to my signature style, which is a bezel set ring with a substantial sized stone and two metal balls on each side.  I gave it a satin finish to make it a bit more unique compared to my usual shiny finish.


Overall, I am very pleased with this ring.  It felt great to use some 18k gold again since I’ve been working with so much silver lately.  The price of gold has gone down slightly, so perhaps there is more in my future?

A few months ago, my friend Julie gave me a pair of clip on earrings that had belonged to her grandmother.  They were unusual, but so tarnished it was hard to see what they were.  After cleaning them up a little, it appeared that they were some kind of Buddhas or genies–at any rate, a very interesting design.

I held on to them for quite awhile but knowing Julie’s birthday was coming up I thought they would make a great 40th birthday present.  I set to work trying to think of a good design for them.

After cutting off the clips from the back and asking my jewelry teacher to look at them, I realized that they had some kind of enamel on them that might not stand up to heat.  My original idea was to do some soldering on them, so this meant that I probably wouldn’t want to do that.  Instead, I drilled holes at the top and attached jump rings that way.

I knew I wanted to add some gemstones and since the earrings themselves were already in a tear drop shape, I decided to let them hang at the bottom of the design.  I hammered circles and soldered jump rings to them.  Then I added golden tourmaline briolettes to echo the tear drop shape of the earring bottoms.

The end result is gorgeous, though I’m sorry to say that this photo does not do them justice.  They are very shiny and totally striking.  Best of all, they’re one-of-a-kind and a great re-use of sentimental, but old-fashioned, jewelry.


I love them!

Happy Birthday, Julie!