Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beaded Stars or Mandalas

These beaded stars or mandalas are easy to stitch. Make earrings, as shown, or use them as pendants or small ornaments. You can adapt these instructions to make stars of other sizes or with more/fewer points.

Skill Level -- Suitable for beginners, although previous beading experience is helpful.

Time Required -- 15-30 minutes per star.

Beading Thread - e.g., Nymo D or B
3-4 mm Beads
Size 11 Seed Beads
Wire Cutters or Thread Nippers

These instructions will make a 7-point star, but you can easily adapt them to make stars with other numbers of points. The number of beads in your starting row will give you a finished star with the same number of points. You can also work with multiples of this number. For example, I could use 10 smaller beads as a starting row for a 5-point star. For outer rows, which have more seed beads, you could substitute bugle beads. You will still want a seed bead for the point, to protect the thread from cutting, to give sharp points, and as points for adding new rows of beadwork or for attaching your star to jewelry. Have fun and feel free to experiment!

Cut approximately 1 meter or yard of your preferred stringing material. I used white nymo size D, but other threads or fine wire are suitable, too. If you like, wax or condition your thread with Thread Heaven (I left my thread unconditioned). Thread your needle and string on 7 silver size 11 beads. Slide them down to within about 6 inches of the end and run your thread back through the first bead or two, to make a circle. Alternatively, you can tie them into a circle, but if you knot the thread, leave it very loose to make room for more beads. Leave the thread tail - you will weave it into your beadwork later to strengthen it.

String a 3-mm or 4-mm bead (oval crystals work well too). Skip 3 silver beads and run your needle through the 4th silver bead.

Add 1 matte blue bead and run your needle through the next silver bead. Add 1 matte blue bead, run the needle through the next silver bead, etc., until you have completed the circle. (I pushed the 4-mm bead to the side to make it easier to see the beading, but it normally sits in the center of the circle.)

When you reach the last silver bead (added a total of 7 blue beads), run the needle through the silver bead and also up through the next blue bead. You have just completed a 'step-up', which puts you in place to add the next row. You want your thread tension to be loose enough to allow the beads to lie flat. I normally use a very tight tension, so I find I need to periodically loosen up the beadwork while making a star. Add a rainbow blue bead, run the needle through the next matte blue bead, add a rainbow blue bead, run the needle through the next matte blue bead, etc., until you have completed the circle.

As you go through your last matte blue bead, step up through the rainbow blue bead. This time, add 3 silver beads, go through a rainbow blue bead, add 3 silver beads, go through a rainbow blue bead, etc., until the circle is completed. The silver beads should start to form little star points.

When you get to the last rainbow blue bead, pass through it and step up through the next 2 silver beads. (You always want to come out through the point bead - a good thing to keep in mind if you find yourself so excited that you keep making the star bigger and bigger!) Before you go any further, you need to think about the ultimate use for your star. If it is to become an earring, look at your earring finding so that you can see how your star will fit on its loop. For very small earring loops (attachment points), you can string the earring finding onto your needle, just as if it were a bead. Alternatively, you could attach a jump ring onto the star and then attach the jump ring/star to the earring loop. For larger loops, complete the star and then simply open the loop, slip the star in place, and close the loop. For this row, our last, add 5 matte blue beads and pass the needle through the point (second) silver bead. Add 5 matte blue, pass through the 2nd silver beads, etc., until the star is completed. (Note that you always use odd numbers of beads to make points. If you wanted a more rounded shape, as for making a flower, you could use an even number of beads.)

At this point, you could simply tie a knot and trim your threads. My preference is to pass through the outer row (no beads added) a second time to reinforce the stitching and stiffen the star. In fact, I keep stringing through various rows until I either run out of thread or can't stand it any longer, and then I cut the thread. I thread my needle onto the tail thread and run it through a few rows before cutting it, too. I didn't do this for these stars, but if you really want to accentuate the points of the stars, you can skip under the point bead as you go around the star a second time (in other words, pass through all of the beads except the point beads). If you are making earrings, make a second star. Did you know you just successfully used the techniques of peyote (gourd) stitch and netting? You did! Congratulations! If you would like your star to be even more stiff, you can dip it in Future floor polish or a similar acrylate and hang it to dry. This also works well if your beads have the sort of finish that would rub off.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ladder Technique for Beadwork

Single Needle Method

String the first bead, leaving a 4-inch tail. Add a second bead and pass through the first bead, from botton to top. Pass through the second bead now, from top to bottom. String on a third bead (this is bottom-to-top), and pass back through the second bead (top to bottom). Continue this pattern, making certain thread tension is even so the chain doesn't start to bend or twist.

Double Needle Method

Alternatively, you can use two needles to make a beaded ladder. Some people find the double needle method works up more quickly and results in a ladder with more even thread tension. For this method, enter the first bead from the top with one needle and the bottom with the other needle. Leave a 4-inch tail with both threads. Continue the chain by crossing the threads through a new bead, pull the chain snug, and cross through a new bead.

Wire Diameter - Gauge Conversions

The diameter of the wire you buy depends on its country of origin. The two units of measurement in use are the metric system, in which the diameter of the wire is given in millimeters, and the Brown & Sharpe (B&S) gauge number. I live in the United States and the wire I buy is sized according to its gauge. However, many excellent patterns and instructions are available written for wire sized in millimeters. You may live in a country where the wire is in millimeters, yet you want to try a pattern written for gauge wire. What's a jewelry maker to do? Use the size of wire that is closest to the recommended wire. There are no exact conversions, so sometimes you will want to use the slightly finer wire (e.g., when making small jump rings or a delicate design) and sometimes you may choose the closest larger diameter (e.g., when making clasps or components that will be exposed to stress).

Nearest Equivalents - Millimeters and Gauges

Use this table when you simply want the wire that is closest in diameter to the other system of measurement.

Metric Diameter -- Nearest Gauge
2.00 mm -- 12
1.50 mm -- 14
1.25 mm -- 16
1.00 mm -- 18
0.75 mm -- 20
0.64 mm -- 22
0.50 mm -- 24

Metric Diameter of B&S Gauges

Refer to this table when you need to make a judgement call to select the best wire for a purpose. You won't actually get two decimal points of precision in gauge wire, unless you purchased wire conforming to this level of tolerance. You can use vernier calipers if you need to measure the diameter of wire with high precision.

B&S Gauge -- Actual Diameter
12 -- 2.05 mm
14 -- 1.63 mm
16 -- 1.29 mm
18 -- 1.02 mm
20 -- 0.81 mm
22 -- 0.64 mm
24 -- 0.51 mm

Monday, June 16, 2008

Metal Stamps & Quality Marks

What is a Quality Mark? A quality mark is information about metal content that appears on an article. It is usually stamped or inscribed on the piece. There is considerable confusion about the meaning of quality marks that are seen on jewelry and other items. Here is some information that I hope will de-mystify terms such as 'plated', 'filled', 'sterling', and others.

Gold Quality Marks
karat, carat, Karat, Carat, Kt., Ct., K, C

Gold is measured in karats, with 24 karats being 24/24ths gold, or pure gold. A 10 karat gold item contains 10/24ths gold, a 12K item is 12/24ths gold, etc. Karats may be expressed using a decimal figure, such as .416 fine gold (10K). The minimum allowable quality for karat gold is 9 karats.

Karats are not to be confused with carats (ct.), which are a unit of gemstone mass. One carat weighs 0.2 gram (1/5 of a gram or 0.0007 ounce). A hundredth of a carat is called a point.

Gold Filled and Rolled Gold Plate
gold filled, G.F., doublé d'or, rolled gold plate, R.G.P., plaqué d'or laminé

The quality mark for gold filled is used for an article (except optical frames, watch cases, hollow ware, or flatware) consisting of a base metal to which a sheet of at least 10 karat gold has been bonded. Additionally, the weight of the gold sheet must be at least 1/20th the total weight of the item. The quality mark may specify the ratio of the weight of the gold in the article to the total weight of the article as well as a statement of the quality of the gold expressed in karats or decimals. For example, a mark of '1/20 10K G.F.' refers to a gold filled article that consists of 10 karat gold for 1/20th of its total weight.

Rolled gold plate and gold filled may utilize the same manufacturing process, but the gold sheet used in rolled gold usually is less than 1/20th the total weight of the article. The sheet must still be at least 10 karat gold. Like gold filled articles, the quality mark used for rolled gold plate articles may include a weight ratio and a statement of quality (for example, 1/40 10K R.G.P.).

Gold and Silver Plate
gold electroplate, gold plated, G.E.P., electroplaqué d'or or or plaqué, silver electroplate, silver plate, silver plated, electroplaqué d'argent, plaqué d'argent, or the abbreviations of these terms

The quality marks for gold plated indicate that an article has been electroplated with gold of at least 10 karats. The quality marks for silver plated indicate that an article has been electroplated with silver of at least 92.5% purity. There is no minimum thickness required for silver plated or gold plated articles.

Silver Quality Marks
silver, sterling, sterling silver, argent, argent sterling, abbreviations of these terms, 925, 92.5, .925

The quality marks or a decimal figure may be used on articles containing a minimum of 92.5% pure silver. Some metals may be called 'silver' when, in fact, they are not (except in coloration). For example, nickel silver (also know as German silver) is an alloy consisting of about 60% copper, about 20% nickel, about 20% zinc, and sometimes about 5% tin (in which case the alloy is called alpaca). There is no silver at all in German/nickel/alpaca silver.

vermeil or vermil

The quality marks for vermeil are used on articles made of silver of at least 92.5 percent purity and plated with gold of at least 10 karats. No minimum thickness is required for the gold plated portion.

Platinum and Palladium Quality Marks
platinum, plat., platine, palladium, pall.

The quality marks for platinum are applied to articles composed of at least 95 percent platinum, 95 percent platinum and iridium, or 95 percent platinum and ruthenium.

The quality marks for palladium are applied to articles composed of at least 95 percent palladium, or 90 percent palladium and 5 percent platinum, iridium, ruthenium, rhodium, osmium or gold.

Birthstones for Signs of the Zodiac

There are birthstones for the month in which you were born, but an alternative system assigns birthstones to your sign of the zodiac. Astrological birthstones predate monthly birthstones, coming from a time when it was considered wise to consult your astrologer rather than your jeweler before purchasing a gem. Note that some signs have ambiguous beginning/ending dates. People born on these dates are said to be 'on the cusps' or to have 'borderline dates'. If you are born on a cusp date, your sign depends on the time, date, and place of your birth.

Zodiac Sign - Dates - Birthstone

Aquarius - [Jan. 21 - Feb. 19] - Garnet
Pisces - [Feb. 20 - Mar. 20] - Amethyst
Aries - [Mar. 21 - Apr. 20] - Bloodstone
Taurus - [Apr. 21 - May 20/21] - Sapphire
Gemini - [May 21/22 - June 21] - Agate
Cancer - [June 22 - July 22] - Emerald
Leo - [July 23 - Aug. 22/23] - Onyx
Virgo - [Aug. 22/23 - Sep. 22/23] - Carnelian
Libra - [Sep. 22/23 - Oct. 22/23] - Peridot or Chrysolite
Scorpio - [Oct. 22/23 - Nov. 22] - Beryl
Sagittarius - [Nov. 23 - Dec. 21-23] - Topaz
Capricorn - [Dec. 22-24 - Jan. 20] - Ruby

Birthstones by Month

Here is the official list of monthly birthstones approved by the American National Retail Jewelers Association, National Jewelers Association,and the American Gem Society. The birthstone list was established in 1952.

Month - Birthstone
January - Garnet
February - Amethyst
March - Aquamarine or Bloodstone
April - Diamond
May - Emerald
June - Pearl or Moonstone or Alexandrite
July - Ruby
August - Peridot or Sardonyx (Carnelian)
September - Sapphire or Lapis Lazuli
October - Opal or Pink Tourmaline
November - Topaz or Citrine
December - Zircon or Turquoise

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How to String Beads

Here's an essential for you. You probably know how to do it, just maybe not that it is called 'stringing'.

Stringing refers to the technique where a needle and thread, stiff cord, or beading wire is used to gather beads onto a strand.

How to Solder Sterling Silver Jumprings

Soldering is the process of joining solid metal parts (e.g., sides of a jump ring) with a melted metal alloy. Fine (pure) silver will fuse to itself, so no solder is necessary. However, sterling silver is an alloy and solder is needed to form a metal-to-metal bond or weld. While you can melt solder using a soldering iron, you won't melt the ends of your jump ring. The closure that you form using a soldering iron may look solid, but it isn't durable because the metal of the jump rings can't get hot enough to melt and mix with the metal in the solder.

Soldering Materials
You need a torch to apply enough heat to get a solid weld. You don't need a fancy, expensive model - the type of propane or butane torch sold in a hardware store will do the job for you. You can use paste solder or solder sold in sheets, which must be cut into small pieces before use. For jump rings, it's probably easier to use paste solder, since it stays exactly where you put it. Paste solder is a mixture of solder, a flux, and a carrier (makes the mixture flow and stay where you put it). You can buy paste solder in a syringe, which makes it easy to apply with precision. Paste solders are sold with names such as hard, medium, easy, and super easy. The names have nothing to do with how easy it is to use these products. They indicate the temperature at which the solder melts. Hard solder melts at a high temperature and super easy solder melts at a low temperature. If the name of the solder is followed by a number, then that is the temperature at which the solder melts. Personally, I would recommend hard or medium solder for jump rings. You want the ends of the jump rings to melt and the solder to flow at approximately the same time. If the melting point of your solder is too low for your torch, the solder may flow away from the jump rings before the ends can fuse.

Start Soldering
One of the quickest and easiest ways to solder jump rings is to set up an assembly line for yourself:

  • Close all of the jump rings to be soldered so that their edges are flush with each other. Solder can't bridge gaps, but it will flow down the joint between jump ring edges. Place the jump rings in a row close together, but not touching, on a fire brick or soldering block. Line them up with all of their joints facing the same direction.

  • If you have more than one row of jump rings, place additional rows below your first row, with about 1 inch separating each row.

  • After all rings have been placed, apply the paste solder to the joints. Apply the solder to the inside of the rings, so it contacts the joint on both sides of the rings. The amount of solder you use should be about the thickness of the wire. Apply the solder to each ring until all have had solder applied.

  • Turn the soldering block so that all of the joints are facing down or toward you.

  • Light the torch and begin soldering, starting with the upper left ring (upper right if you are lefthanded), proceeding across the row until all of the rings in that row have been soldered. Apply the flame so that both the right and left sides of the joint are heated evenly until the solder flows. You should be able to watch the solder flow through the joint and come out on the front of the ring.

  • After all of the jump rings have been soldered, you may find it convenient to collect them on a wire. Pickle the jump rings to remove any oxidation or flux residue. Neutralize the pickle by rinsing the jump rings in a water with a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Use a similar technique to solder jump rings on chains. In this case, each ring/link is done indivdually. The ring is held apart from the chain with pliers or a hemostat, solder paste is applied, and the link is held over the edge of the solder block (to help protect the rest of the chain from heat) and torched.

How to Tie an Overhand Knot

Yes, it's so basic you're probably wondering why anyone would post instructions. There are lots of different names for knots, so it never hurts to be sure you're tying the correct one...

Cross one strand over the other and bring the free end back through the loop that is formed. You can make this with one strand (shown) or with multiple strands at once. This is the classic knot used between pearls. My beading cord ties this knot all the time on its own.

Book Review - Glamous Beaded Jewelry

Glamorous Beaded Jewelry - Bracelets, Necklaces, Earrings, and Rings
by M.T. Ryan
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Creative Arts & Crafts; 1st edition (June 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN: 1580112951

Use simple techniques to make stunning upscale necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings from pearls, gemstones, crystals, wire, ribbon, and chains.

Twenty five specific projects are detailed, from start to finish. The designs aren't complicated, though the finished jewelry is top-notch, with attention given to every part of the piece. This is jewelry you'll be proud to wear and add to your collection. The materials are high-end, with pearls, gems, precious metals, and crystals, for real designer treasures.

The book is organized with projects first, followed by an overview of tools, descriptions of materials, details and tips for specific techniques, and a list of resources. The projects are grouped according to the type of jewelry: bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings. Each project is accompanied by a large, beautiful color photograph of the finished piece, a detailed materials list including tools, and step-by-step instructions. Each step has written instructions plus a large color photograph.

I think an absolute jewelrymaking novice might be a little daunted by way multiple techniques are used to make each piece of jewelry, but the instructions are clear enough that even a beginner can achieve stunning results. The designs are elegant and sleek. I'd recommend this book for jewelrymakers of all skill levels.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sapphire Facts

  • Sapphire is a member of the corundum family of minerals.

  • Sapphire comes from the Greek word for blue, "sappheiros" or from the Persian word "safir", meaning "beloved of Saturn".

  • Although normally thought of as blue, sapphires come in almost any color including yellow, green, white, colorless, pink, orange, brown, and purple. The don't come in red, because red corundum is called ruby. Sapphires and rubies are different colors of the same gem.

  • Sapphires are 9.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making them the second hardest natural mineral. In addition to being very hard, sapphires are also tough, making them highly durable gemstones.

  • Sapphire is a traditional birthstone for the month of September. It is also one of the birth stones for the Zodiac signs of Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Sagittarius.

  • Sapphires are a traditional gift for the 5th, 23rd and 45th wedding anniversaries. A star sapphire is a traditional 65th wedding anniversary gift.

  • Sapphire is found in Australia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Kampuchea, Kenya, and Tanzania.

  • Colorless and pale blue sapphires may be heated to high temperatures to give them an intense blue color. Heating also removes small inclusions, so it can improve clarity.

  • The first lab-created sapphire was made in 1902. Synthetic sapphires can be difficult to distinguish from natural sapphires, even by gemologists.

  • One of the most expensive of the rare gemstones is the padparadscha sapphire, a pink-orange corundum mainly found in Sri Lanka.

  • Some sapphires have inclusions of tiny rutile needles. Light bouncing off the needles produces a catseye or star effect in some sapphires. Sapphires can have 6 pointed, or less commonly, 12 pointed stars.
Photo: Star Sapphire (Mitchell Gore) Add to Technorati Favorites