At art shows, I often get asked, “Did you make all of this?” and “How long does it take to make a piece of jewelry?” The answer to the first question is a simple yes; I make each and every piece of jewelry by hand. The answer to the second question is a little more complicated.
I want to take you behind the scenes to discover what goes into making a piece of jewelry, from idea to design, to finished product.
This is the very beginning and the most exciting part of the process for me (the second best is seeing it all come together in the end!). I draw inspiration from a lot of places—nature, my past experiences, and what I want to show of myself to the world.
I’m someone who loves symbols, and I’m always reading into things, rather there is a deeper meaning or not. In high school, I interpreted my band lyrics to revolve around my own life—even if the songs were as far from it as you could get. In college, I loved coming up with my own interpretations of literature, even if they didn’t match the “agreed upon interpretation.”
Now, I interpret shapes, images, and textures to add a layer of meaning to my jewelry designs. And just as I deeply understand how I interpret things different than others, I’m open to the fact that you will see my jewelry and feel something different. I hope you do for that is the magic of it.
Using my copper moon necklace as an example, I started with the image of the moon. To me at the time, it was a symbol of how shiny and bright something so far away could be. I knew my dreams were inspired but it would take a long time to get there. But “shoot for the moon” as they say, “and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” That simple idea was the start of this piece.
Here’s an inside secret: the initial design is hardly ever the final design. Just like writing, I must go through different drafts to find what works, to see the entire piece come together.
My challenge with this piece is that I knew I wanted to have what’s called a telescoping rivet. This involves a wire that fits snuggly inside a metal tube. The wire is riveted (hammered on either side of the piece to hold it in place) while the larger tube holds two pieces of metal away from each other. Basically, this helps give it dimension.
Here are some drawings of how I had planned to originally set a piece of sea glass in the rivet to hang from the bottom.
I realized I wouldn’t be able to make a big enough hole in the sea glass for the tubes, so I had to come up with a better idea.
That’s when I decided to try a new skill: tension setting. The tension between the two pieces of metal would hold a raw stone in place.
The rest of the design transformed and developed the more I worked on it.
The Process of Making
Here’s a brief overview of the steps involved in this piece:
- Cut two circles with a punch set.
- Using a jeweler’s saw, cut a piece out of one circle to make the crescent moon.
- File and sand the pieces smooth.
- Drill holes through both pieces at the size of the smaller tube.
- Drill holes and use a jeweler’s saw to cut out pieces for the stone to set in.
- Using the stone as a guide, measure and cut the lengths of tubes needed.
- Use stamps and punches to texture the moon and stars.
- Patina the back sheet for a different color.
- Polish the front, crescent moon.
- Rivet the entire thing together, setting the stone.
- Measure chain and assemble to piece with clasp.
- Marvel in its beauty!
Notice that I left out all of the steps where I may have messed up, cut something the wrong size, or had to take a different route ;)
The Finished Piece
Whew. Tired yet? That was a lot! Not every piece of jewelry has this many steps, but each piece has it’s own extensive process that it goes through. Care is put in each and every step of the way.
So….How long DOES it take to make a piece of jewelry?
Remember when I said it depends? This particular piece literally took me weeks, probably totaling about 6 or 7 hours. If I made another one just the same, it would take me only a couple hours because I would already have the piece designed.
I’ve made some pieces of jewelry so many times (such as the bird nest necklaces I have been making for years), that I have it down to a science. I can make a complete piece in about 20 minutes, but it, too, took me hours to make the very first one.
The design process and trial and error process can take a while, but in the end it’s worth every minute. I love being able to share my dreams and ideas through this medium with you.
With this copper moon necklace, I am inspired by the moon and stars, and I’m reminded to reach far toward even what seems unattainable. Does it invoke a different feeling for you? I’d love to hear! Take a closer look at the piece here.
I’m currently working on a whole new collection inspired by real women’s stories of perseverance, strength, and transformation. I’m not quite ready to divulge all the details, but my insiders group will be the first to hear about it.