A Charming Story — January 2011
In my last newsletter, the customer was me. This time it's my friend Audrey, who I met when we were 14 years old. I was looking online for some vintage travel shield charms for a bracelet, when I came across one that I knew I had to get for my friend.
Travel shield charms were popular back in the 60s and 70s, most are made from sterling silver and are a fun collectible. I discovered them on a recent trip to the UK, and I decided to make a bracelet with charms from various places in the UK. Below left is a charm from London, and below right is Audrey's charm. Click each image for a closer view.
Now back to Audrey's story. She and her parents had a country house in a little town called Dingman's Ferry, PA. We sometimes spent weekends there when we were in high school, and seeing the charm brought back lots of memories. I had found a charm that depicted Dingman's Falls in a lovely little enamel and silver miniature work of art!
One charm is a bit small to wear as a necklace, but this was too special to pass up. I decided to hang the little beauty on creamy white satin cord, to set off the colors in the charm.
And here's Audrey wearing her necklace; click the image to see the closeup.
A Customer By Any Other Name — September 2010
This time, the customer is me. I was invited to a black-tie-optional wedding earlier this month. I already had the outfit: navy gown, shoes, etc. so I decided to go formal. But I wanted some new earrings to wear with the dress to make it feel new.
I played with different designs, but kept coming back to the deep blue Swarovski crystals sitting on my desk. They matched the dress well, but were so dark they needed something to brighten them up.
After several pairings with pearls and other crystals, I decided to keep the design simple with just one color, and to add some sparkle with sterling chain and hoops. Click on the photo to see a close-up of the earrings.
And this borosilicate glass pendant with Swarovski crystals is an offshoot of the earring design. Although I didn't make it to match the earrings, the two designs are complementary. You might say I was in the mood . . .
Red Hot Pearls In July — July 2010
Christine saw these red coin pearl earrings in a recent newsletter, and wrote me about how she loved that color, and asked if I had enough to make her a matching necklace. As it turns out, I didn't, but I found 2 beautiful strands the next time I went to the gem show in Chantilly.
When she and I met to discuss the design, we decided to match the red pearls with tiny garnet spacers, and a sterling silver clasp with 3 garnets.The deep red of the garnets blended effortlessly with the red pearls.
The necklace turned out beautifully, and was ready just in time for Christine's birthday. Click on the image below for a close-up:
And here are some images of Christine wearing her new jewelry that she shared with friends. In the first, she's wearing the necklace and matching earrings. In the second, she's wearing a pair of her own earrings that look great with the necklace. And don't miss that fabulous clasp she's wearing in the front! Click images to see close-ups.
Hmm, Scrabble Words with H and W — March 2010
My answer might be different than yours, because in this case the words are "Hazel" and "Wendy." On one of my gem-shopping excursions, I found these delightful clasps made from Scrabble tiles:
I chose these letters so I could make "matching" necklaces for my friend Wendy and I. The fact that both letters have a point value of 4 just added to the fun.
My idea was to use stones that would complement the wooden tiles, so I chose black lava, red coral, picture jasper, and sterling silver. This gave the necklaces an earthy feel, and the lava reminded us of time we each spent in Hawaii.
The necklaces aren't an exact match, but we sure did have fun designing them. Click on the photo for a larger view.
Click on each necklace photo below for a close-up:
A Necklace Makeover — February 2010
Several months ago, I was asked to do a repair on a vintage, signed, Miriam Haskell necklace.It had 2 strands of deep coral beads in various shapes; tubes, large and small rounds. It had brass and pearl accent beads, as well as a truly stunning focal clasp.
The Story: The customer bought the necklace online, and was proud of her vintage "find," but it was very tight; only 15 inches long. Here's the original necklace. Click on the image at right for a larger view.
The Challenge: Increase the length of the necklace by about 2 inches. Because this is a vintage necklace, I couldn't just shop for more of those beautiful orange beads, or so I thought. I tried various combinations of other vintage orange spacers, brass beads, tubes, the list went on. Nothing was quite right. As it grew closer to the holidays, I became busy with some custom orders, and so I had to put the necklace aside temporarily.
The Discovery: Then imagine my surprise when the customer emailed me with a link to some beads she found on eBay; the beads looked remarkably similar to the ones in the necklace, and they were advertised as "Miriam Haskell vintage beads." I told her I couldn't be certain they would match, but she authorized me to purchase them for her. When they arrived, I was amazed to find they were the same color and style as the beads in the necklace. Here's the necklace with the "new" vintage beads. Click on the image at left for a larger view.
I congratulated her on her find, and got to work. I told her there were 2 ways to increase the length. One was to add beads to the design in a subtle way, and the other would be to add the beads near the clasp. She chose the former.
The Solution: As you might imagine, I took my time deciding where to place the new beads, since this was such a statement piece! Here's a photo of the finished necklace. If you can't pick out the spots where I added the beads, read on for the description. Click on the image for a larger view.
I placed all the new beads on either side of the pearls, with the exception of the 2 center units on both strands. If you look closely, you'll see that the beads I added are the only ones that don't have spacers on both sides. I also added 1 bead on either side of the clasp.
The Wedding Shower Gift — August 2009
In June, I was invited to attend the wedding shower of Customer MJ -- one whose wedding jewelry I made earlier this year.
MJ explained to me that she wasn't interested in traditional wedding shower gifts. Instead, she wanted her friends to contribute money towards a custom design I would make for her. This was a novel idea to me, but it took on more meaning for me when I attended the shower and met her friends.
Her birthstone is topaz, so we settled on a blue topaz and white pearl design. She wanted a short, double-strand necklace with matching earrings. At the shower, I brought the stones I'd be using, plus a few different design ideas, and some clasps for her to look over.
She made her selections, her friends got a peek at the gift they were buying for her, and I had what I needed to make this very special gift.
Sew Whats New? — August 2009
Of the various repairs I did last month, one of the more unusual pieces was a woven necklace adorned with carved mother-of-pearl leaves in graduated sizes. The clasp needed to be reattached, but in this case, with a needle and thread rather than the usual metal components. Click on the closeup for a look. The customer explained to me that the necklace was her mother's, and although she doesn't know where her mother bought it, she says it's the only necklace she remembers her mother wearing. Intriguing.
A Bad Break — May 2009
When Customer C brought in her broken jewelry to repair, she had a multi-strand necklace, from which 1 strand had come loose. Rather than restring it, we came up with the idea to create a bracelet and earrings to match the necklace. This made the most of the broken strand, while keeping within her budget.
I attached the earring dangles to textured jump rings that were a good match with the gold-tone bead caps in the necklace. I strung the bracelet on a very sturdy stretch cord called Elastoma. More on that in a future newsletter. Click on the photo for a close-up:
What Else Ya Got? — May 2009
A Mammoth Problem — April 2009
When Customer M pick up some repairs I had just completed, she brought another set with her. Among the items was a small pair of earrings which she held up to show me, adding that these were her favorites. She showed me the spot on one of the earrings where a bead was missing. This, she explained, was a woolly mammoth fossil bead, and although it was tiny, she loved it. She bought them at a museum while on vacation in Alaska.
We had a good laugh as I told her I was pretty sure I didn't have any woolly mammoth fossils in my bead stash. The fossil bead is at the top of the earring; can you pick out the original from my glass bead look-alike?
(Highlight box for answer)
A Valentine's Day Wedding Story — April 2009
Three days before her wedding, Customer MJ came over because she still hadn't found the right jewelry to wear with her dress. She loved one of my necklaces, but the length was wrong for the neckline of her dress, and she wanted the earrings a bit longer too. I made her the set and since her wedding was on Valentine's Day, I added this neat clasp:
Read her comments and see her wedding photo.
Grandma Was So Petite — March 2009
Customer S gave me her grandmother's beautiful faceted blue glass necklace and told me it was too short for her to wear. She loved it, and asked if I could find a way to make it about 2 inches longer, and with earrings to match.
I borrowed the necklace and took it with me on various trips, whenever I visited antique shops, bead shows, and bead shops in other cities. Because this was a vintage necklace, I had to find just the right color blue (or clear) to match. It took more than 4 months to find the right beads and work them up into a new design to make them fit. Now Customer S has the necklace and earrings, and thinks fondly of her grandmother whenever she wears them.
I Could Have Danced All Night — March 2009
Customer M told me, as I examined a necklace that needed to be restrung, that it originally belonged to her mother, but was now in her daughter's possession. Grandma Lucy, she told me, was a very special grandma who once danced with the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) when her father was the mayor of San Diego in the 1920s. How awesome!
Titanium To The Rescue — January 2009
A customer with metal allergies came to me and I had her test two nonallergenic metals. When we found one she could wear, she brought 5 pairs of earrings for me to change the ear wires. She handed me one pair and said, "These earrings were the first gift my husband ever gave me, and I'm sorry I could never wear them. That was 28 years ago. He'll be so happy to see me wear them." It was an absolute thrill for me to swap out the ear wires and give her back this gift.
As a result of doing metal allergy research for this and other customers, I have discovered clasps made from stone, plastic buttons, and more. Metal allergies don't mean you can't wear jewelry. You just have to be a bit more creative in order to make it work for you.
Magnetic Clasps Help Arthritic Hands — January 2009
One customer had difficulty putting on and taking off her jewelry. Since most of the pieces I make for her are custom-made, I always use magnetic clasps, which she loves. She can take off and put on her jewelry with ease. As a result of this, I've gathered a good collection of magnetic clasps for various sizes (and weights) of necklaces. Even if you don't have trouble undoing clasps, magnetic clasps are beautiful and functional too.
Anatomy Of A Custom Order — December 2008
This is the story of a most unusual necklace, a triple strand of striking reds and blacks, and how this very customized order developed. A customer saw this bracelet on my website and asked if I could make a necklace like it using red and black stones:
We discussed various options for red and black stones, including coral, onyx, and jasper. When we met, Jen looked through my boxes of red and black, and fell in love with a black lava rock bead, and she wanted an asymmetric design. From that, I worked up a draft design, took photos, and sent them to her:
Once she saw my draft, the image in her mind began to take shape. Instead of a single strand, it was to be three. And she wanted more lava, plus some of her own beads from a discarded necklace. Jen wanted the beads to be placed randomly, or at least to look that way.
It turned out to be difficult to make something random! While the necklace does follow a pattern, the beads placed on each chain do not. It was both challenging and rewarding to make this necklace, modeled here by the owner. Click the photo below to view a close-up.
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