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One woman's adventures in the wide, wonderful world of beading.
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I also blog here

posted by Colleen Shirazi, January 21, 2008 at 11:38 AM (Pacific)

Haven't been doing many new projects lately, aside from the aforementioned earrings. Mostly, I've been going back over old projects...the ones I want to keep...and fixing them up. It's a slow but steady process.

Traditionally (if three years' worth of anything can have tradition), I've been taking a month or two off beading every year. Now I don't need to do that. I suppose I've felt a certain amount of stress, in whether I could really make jewelry.

I'm not crafty by nature. My interest in making jewelry derives from my interest in the thing itself. But now I feel I have the capability, and it's simply a matter of keeping at it. So, instead of grinding to a halt, I've decided to do it more slowly, more introspectively, for the given month or two.

goldfilled circle pendant with pink freshwater pearl

goldfilled circle pendant with pink freshwater pearl detail

Here is a redo of a hoop originally designed with thicker wire. I ran out...of course...actually I was short in the neighborhood of a quarter- to half-inch of wire, and my supplier is out of stock of this gauge (and has been for quite some time). I don't want to switch suppliers, so I redid the hoop with the gauge on hand.

The golden circle is nice...I made it like a wedding ring in size. Haven't worked out the top 100% yet, I had to bend the loop over to get the pendant to hang straight. It's balanced, but I'd like to make the loop look more centered.

Wondering if these guys have something in common:

lapis necklace and sapphire earrings

For this necklace, I had made some "moral obligation" earrings, plain hammered silver hoops with lapis dangles. Nice, but, the sapphire earrings are nicer. I haven't worn them together yet though.

blue chalcedony and vermeil necklace

Discovered I'd fluffed one of the Bali vermeil beads in the back. If I'm redoing it though, I'll probably add an extender chain.

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Handmade Jewelry photo gallery . 0 Comment(s)

posted by Colleen Shirazi, September 21, 2007 at 7:55 PM (Pacific)

I realize I haven't been posting as much as before.

I haven't lost my interest in making jewelry, that's for sure. I suppose I've had to accept that for me, it has to be done in phases. I can afford to spend some on tools, but I can't afford to get all the tools I want at once.

For example, I haven't gotten into soldering. It's pretty basic, but it also represents a whole new cost in terms of equipment and materials. So I've had to put it aside and work around it...when possible.

My most recent project was what I call an "engineer's pearl pendant." :D This uses a very large, very nice freshwater pearl in a slight teardrop shape. Now if these pearls were perfect, they would cost a bum; they're not. They all have a distinct "bad side" where the nacre is slightly less than shiny, or else...what's the word for it? A little circle shape is pressed into it. The other side is entirely perfect.

Here's the engineer part:

A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.

The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!"

The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greenskeeper. Let's have a word with him." "Hi George! Say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"

The greenskeeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight." The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them." The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"

Okay...why can't these guys play at night? Why not engineer the design of the pendant so the bad side never shows?

I took some silver wire and made a regular wrapped loop on top of the pearl as you would expect...but brought the wire down some to make a tiny "bead cap" on top of the pearl. The bead cap shape didn't have to be "machine perfect," just nice-looking. The idea was to use just enough silver, and wrap it just firmly enough, so the pearl wouldn't turn easily (it didn't have to be ultra-tight, which might damage the pearl). As long as it didn't turn unless you grabbed it and turned it...that's the idea.

That wasn't the problem...the problem was the bail.

I didn't want to buy a bail...I mean there has to be a way of making your own wire bail. Right? I have seen some rather elaborate wire wrapped bails on the Net, but what I wanted here was something exceedingly simple, like those rabbit ear bails.

I tried a bunch of designs in wire...I have made bails before, in a design that looks like a small tube fashioned out of wire. (Now that I'm thinking about it, couldn't you make your own tube bail that way? Like a little coil of wire, with a coil in the middle sort of pulled down, or stretched out enough for you to attach something to it?) That works well for casual pendants, but didn't work for the pearl.

Finally I got sick of the whole works, grabbed some soldered silver jump rings I had sitting around, and started hammering them. I hammered three of them flat and then squeezed them into oval shapes with pliers, hammered some more, basically came up with three long narrow hammered oval links. And that became the bail.

(Observant folks will have observed I now needed to redo the wrapped loop on the pearl, since I was using closed jump rings for the bail...oh well.)

So that's been the kind of thing I've been doing. I haven't been buying much in the way of new materials. I've been slowly, slowly, producing better pieces. Did I mention I've been doing it slowly? It took me two or three days to come up with the three-smashed-jump-rings-bail, engineered-top pearl, yet it looks perfect.

Along with this I had some old sterling bulk chain...very fine links. Did the Camali Design trick of finishing the chain using wrapped's really a stroke of genius, it works with any chain you can pass a piece of wire through. You can even make the "loop" part of the wrapped loop longer and narrower, if you wanted to be able to pass smaller bails over it. Here I didn't need to, just made a small loop and hammered it out.

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Handmade Jewelry photo gallery . 0 Comment(s)

Various pendants
posted by Colleen Shirazi, August 28, 2007 at 4:55 PM (Pacific)

american turquoise pendant
American turquoise


red glass pendant
Czech glass and a tiny red glass heart

millefiori pendant
Chinese millefiori

The top two are some experiments with handmade bails. The red glass one, I made specifically with red glass, but it hangs really nicely. It could easily be used with three small gemstones instead.

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posted by Colleen Shirazi, August 24, 2007 at 10:44 PM (Pacific)

Hey, I made a bail today. It was surprisingly easy to do. I mean I'd like to play around with it some...I'm waiting on my wire order, so I'm hoarding the small amount of 24 gauge wire I found at the bottom of my box. You could make it as fancy as you like. But all you need to do is make a small rosary loop (or wrapped loop; this would make the bottom loop of the bail closed), add a small bead or beads, then fashion the top like a wrapped loop--only bigger, and more teardrop-shaped.

They now sell "bail pliers" but you can use a dowel, that's what I did. You can make the top with two or more "rabbit ears," like a standard rabbit-ear bail. Just bring the wire around the dowel and down again, wrap it a couple of times (like a regular wrapped loop), bring it back up again around the dowel, bring it down and wrap it a couple of times, bring it back up again if you like, etc.

When you're done, trim the wire, leaving enough tail to tuck into the bail somewhere. I tried tucking it the same way as a wrapped loop, on the side of the wrap, and didn't like it. It struck me it could come loose someday. But this way, you use your chain nose pliers to bend the tail so that it ends up neatly inside the bail.

This solves a problem that's been inside my head for days...bails. I don't like buying them. There are tons of sterling bails around, few gold-filled or vermeil ones... The gold-filled ones I found looked a bit flimsy and not very nice looking. The vermeil ones were more expensive than some 14KT gold ones I found! Ridiculous...

If you wanted to make this a fancy bail, you could wrap the bail part with fine gauge wire.

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