Friday, April 29, 2011

How to Remove Tarnish from Sterling Silver Chains with Baking Soda, Aluminum Foil, and Boiling Water

Chains are some of the most difficult pieces of jewelry to polish. Delicate cable chains like the one pictured have many tiny hard-to-reach surfaces that make it impossible to hand polish them. Chemical dips are expensive and toxic.

This method is easy, inexpensive and non-toxic. In about 1-2 minutes, you can clean all of your jewelry. Boil some water, and line a small dish (just large enough to hold your jewelry) with clean aluminum foil. Put about a tablespoon (it’s not necessary to measure) of baking soda in the dish along with your sterling silver jewelry. The jewelry must be in contact with the foil, and be sure it’s free of dirt and oils by washing it with soap and water first. Pour in the boiling water. You’ll see bubbles right away. They’re carbon dioxide, just like in carbonated water. As the bubbles slow down, you’ll notice that the jewelry is brighter. In less than a minute it should be free of tarnish. If the water becomes cool before all tarnish is removed (this might be the case if your jewelry was completely black) repeat the process with fresh boiling water and baking soda. You can re-use the same piece of aluminum foil over and over for this purpose. It will eventually turn dark. This is the tarnish from your jewelry. It’s been transferred to the foil!

How does it work? It’s an electrochemical reaction. Aluminum has properties that allow it to attract the tarnish from the silver. The hot water and baking soda are an electrolyte- a very weak current runs through it, which lets the reaction to take place. Hydrogen sulfide is released, which would create a slight sulfur smell, except it reacts with the baking soda to form sodium hydrosulfide, water, and carbon dioxide (the bubbles). You shouldn’t notice any smell, or be able to feel the current in the water. The chemical reaction is mild and involves tiny amounts of chemicals, but its effects on tarnished jewelry are dramatic!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Charm Swap 8 (CS8) - week 4

This week I have a progress report from Victoria Takahashi of Exprimetal. She sent this photo below of some dies she has made in the past and says  "I will be making a die for my CS8 charm, I have the shape drawn out and I am eager to cut it, but first I need to make the prototype before any real die making will begin." She has been giving us hints but still has not told us what her charm will look like. Seams like she's trying to keep it a secret for as long as she can!
I, Michele Grady,  also have been thinking a little more about my idea for my charms... but thinking is all I could do this week. I have had family from out of town staying at my house all this week which has left no studio time to work on my prototypes. Hopefully next week I will have some time to work on them in between catching up on all the work I had to put off doing while my family is here! I am leaning towards using some photo etching in my charms. I am not sure of the exact design as of yet or what else I will incorporate into my charms besides the photo etching but I'm sure that will come to me soon enough. Here's a sample of some pieces of copper that I have photo etched in the past. Although you can't see the patterns very well on the dirty copper in the photos, the finished pieces are quite beautiful!

*CS7 update...Shannon Conrad of RubyGirl has received all the CS7 charms and they have been shipped back out to the charm swap participants. I was so excited to get mine in the mail last week! Here's a look at all the charms and who they were made by.
left to right, top row
1. Victoria Takahashi of Experimetal
2. Michele Grady of MicheleGradyDesigns
3. Shae Freeman of CitizenObjects
4. Inbar Bareket of InbarBareket
5. Ann Jenkins of Tuizui
middle row
6. Lynette Andreasen of Assymetry
7. Kira Ferrer of KiraFerrer
8. Reagan Hayhurst of ReganHayhurst
9. Elizabeth Scott of ESdesigns
10. Meg Auth of SimplyMega
11. L. Sue Szabo of LSueSzabo
12.Andrea Ring of AmuckDesign
bottom row
13. Su Trindle of QuercusSilver
14. Maggie Joynt of MaggieJs
15. Nina Gibson of NinaGibsonDesigns
16. Ruby Iacuaniello of Iacua
17. Stacey Hansen of WildFlowerDesigns
18. Shannon Conrad of RubyGirl
19. Kathryn Cole of KathrynCole

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jett Sett review and tutorial

I bought a bag of Jett Sett about a year ago and promptly forgot about it. I struggled with setting every stone, always wishing I had an extra arm. Two nights ago I was cleaning off a shelf and found the bag of Jett Sett and realized I could use it to set a prehinite I was struggling with. I think I never used it because I didn't realize how easy it was! So, here's how Jett Sett works.

First, you will need hot water. The water needs to be between 150 and 160 degrees so a mini crock pot works great. My mini crock pot gets a little too hot so I have to watch the temp with a thermometer to see when I'm at about 155. I'm sure you could heat the water in the microwave or on the stovetop but make sure you don't microwave the Jett Sett. The Jett Sett can't go above 180 so be careful.

Next, dump the amount of granules you think you'll need into the hot water. This is where the crock pot will come in handy because the temp of the water will go down when you add the cold granules. The crock pot will heat everything back up gradually. The granules will clump together when you pour them into the water so take a spoon and help them all form into a ball. Leave everything in the hot water for a minute or two.

So, now you have a hot lump of plastic, which is problematic. I think this was the part that made me the most nervous. "I'm supposed to just pick this hot lump of plastic out of 160 degree water and mush it with my hands?" "Really?" Well, it actually wasn't that big of a deal. I pulled it out with the spoon and then mushed all the water out of it and formed it into the shape I needed. It was hot and a little uncomfortable but not horrible and it definitely didn't burn me. I'd just say to use care with it and use your best judgment at first. So, I formed the hot plastic lump into a vague "T" shaped blob and brought it to my bench vise. I formed it into the vise and tightened it down slightly and then put the bezel I wanted to use into the warm plastic. With my fingers, I pushed the material over the edge of the bezel and then waited for everything to cool, which took about 10 minutes.

So, now that the bezel was held securely in the Jett Sett and the whole thing was firmly in the vise, I could hammer the bezel down with both hands! How great!! It was easily the most stress free stone I have ever set. There are hundreds of uses for Jett Sett and the instructions you get with the media will cover many of them. It's fabulous stuff, I can't wait to explore all the uses for it! The bag you get is actually pretty big, you could easily split it with a metalsmithing friend and still have a ton to work with. If you do get yourself some Jett Sett, do yourself a favor and don't let it sit on a shelf for a year! Put it to use immediately!!!

This tutorial was brought to you by Ann Hartley of Hartleystudio

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quick Tip!

I confess....I ALWAYS have a messy studio. Even when I clean it's still just an organized chaos.
But I do find it helps to have holders & specific places for each tool. Some of those big hammers & things can really get in the way!
my trick is to use plumbers pipe straps (not sure exactly what they're called). They're cheap at home depot & often sold several to a pack. The ones I used here are nice & thin, so I was able to hammer them slightly to make sure they held my ring mandrel just right.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

EtsyMetal Finds - Lights

Lights doing it to me. At nights when I am doing my daily walkings I am fascinated by the lights coming out the windows. I always walk with my eyes up trying to catch what is lightening inside....
No wonder why sometimes I collide with lamppost on the street....
It is so fascinating that I go out at night with my camera and trying to catch the city lights in the middle of the night. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Charm Swap 8- week 3

It's Thursday which means it's time for a CS8 update! I can't believe it is 3 weeks in already and I still have no idea what my charms are going to look like! I am toying with a few ideas but at this stage of the game I really have nothing narrowed down.  I would like to try out something new or something I haven't done a lot of when it comes to designing my charms. It could be a new process that I am not too experienced with like photo etching or maybe even some form folding. What I do know is that some of our other members are way ahead of me when it comes to the design and creation of their charms!

And speaking of form folding....Erin Austin of Erin Austin Design is taking her inspiration for her charms from these fold formed rings that she made for the Ring a Week (RAW) challenge. She says she will make a variety of shapes and maybe change up the settings a bit. I love the warm red color of these rings!

Evelyn Markasky of Evelyn Markasky is really on the ball and has already started making her charms. She's been told that even though they are not complete that they look like "yummy figs". We will have to wait until they are finished to see if they are really figs or not! You can see her progress in the photo below.

And for her charms, Karla Wheeler of Karla Wheeler Design is playing with the idea of making some sort of variation of this ring which incorporates the use of resin. Such a fun design!

Victoria Takahashi of Experimetal says, "I have changed my mind from my original idea. I hope I will not be making a habit of this indecision fo the next 5 months!  So below you see I was going to bind the beachstones down like some stone brooches I used to make.
But now I will doing something completely different, I have made one test sample that failed miserably this week and will try again next week, and if my new idea doesn't work out I have 2 more ideas I will be exploring.  Thanks for joining us on this creative journey!"

I can't wait to see what the others will be creating for their charms....and hopefully I, Michele Grady, will have an idea for mine soon too!

*On another's a CS7 update....Shannon Conrad of RubyGirl has reported that she has received all of the CS7 charms and has been packaging them up so she can start shipping them out! YAY! Here are some photos of all the charms she received and the packaging process....Thank you Shannon and Victoria Takahashi of Experimetal for all of you hard work on CS7!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tutorial: Resins

Hi, I’m Sue from the Etsy Metal team. I’ve been asked to share a little tutorial I wrote on how I work with resins. If you would like to see some of my finished resin pieces, you can find them at my Etsy shop at I use Colores brand resin from Rio Grande, and all resins react uniquely, so please do not universally apply my techniques without understanding the brand of resin you are using.

STEP ONE: Prepping Your Work Area

I assemble everything I need first, because once the resin is mixed you will have limited time before it gets sticky and too hard to pour. You will need a dust free environment in which to work. I cannot stress this enough. It is maddening to find a piece of dirt or a cat hair on the top of your resin that you worked so hard on. Some people use cardboard boxes on their sides to cure resin in. I have a special place designated for resin work in my home. No kitties allowed.

Cover your work area in wax paper. Resin will not stick to wax paper and this will protect your work surface from sticky messes. You will want to have on hand your resins, hardener of choice, stirrers, measuring cups, applicators and tips, tweezers, straight pins, paper towels and isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol is for clean up.

Here's a picture of my work area and prep. OK, now we are ready for

STEP TWO: Mixing the Resins

Before you mix your resins, lay out your pieces to be filled on a flat pan that will go in your oven (a
cookie sheet is ideal). You should use a toaster oven dedicated to this purpose and not your regular oven. I line the pan with parchment paper in case any of the resin overflows. Do whatever is necessary to keep your resins as level as possible. You can see that I use small baking tins filled with beans to keep rings and 3D objects level. Today we are also doing an open 2-sided piece, a pair of earrings. These must be sanded flat before you pour the resin into them or they will leak. Once flat, I will adhere them to a piece of double sided tape. The tape will prevent the resin from leaking out the back of the
open bottom.

All resin must be mixed. There is a resin component and a hardener. The only thing that varies is the hardener. If you are planning on sanding your piece flat during finishing, you MUST use the hardest hardener called Durenamel hardener. If you are not going to sand the piece you will use a thinner hardener or a doming hardener. Today we are using Durenamel because I like the look of flat matte resin.

I choose my colors and pour the resin first into the measuring cups. I let it settle to be sure it’s been measured properly. The ratio is always 2:1, resin to hardener. Accurate measuring is the key to success! Your resin will never harden if it is not properly measured. I try to make several pieces that will use the same colors so that none will go to waste. It does work better if you mix at least 15 cc of product so you will have enough to fill several pieces. You may use resin colors directly from the jar or custom mix them. I am doing both today. You always mix the color using the resin only. Once you are satisfied with the color , then you add the hardener. It is important not to mix a lot of air bubbles into this when you mix your resin and hardener together. Fold them gently, like making meringue. Once you have mixed the 2 parts, you have about 30 minutes of work time. I transfer the mixture from the measuring cup to an applicator bottle- you can attach a needle to this if you need to apply resin to a fine area. Let’s look at some photos before we move on...

STEP 3: Pouring the Resins

I pour one color at a time, then mix the next one together and pour that one, etc. This is why it is
important to have all the pieces ready to be filled. I use the squeeze bottle applicator technique but do whatever works the best for you. I start by outlining the edge of the space to be filled, then filling in the middle. Resin has a nasty tendency not to want to cling to the walls and if you are going to develop air bubbles, they are often around the edge. If you start by filling the outside first, there is a better chance this will not happen. It is better to underfill than overfill. Colors bleeding into unwanted areas is a much bigger problem to deal with than having to sand it a bit more. Now, before your resins get too hard to work, put everything, applicator and all in a freezer bag in your freezer. You’ll find out why soon enough.

Once all your colors are filled it is time to deal with the dreaded air bubble! Everyone seems to have their own little tricks to deal with them but here’s what I do. I first gently breathe/huff on the pieces. Gentle breaths, you’re not the big bad wolf! This will break many of them. The others I break with the straight pins or tweezer tips. There is still no guarantee that you won’t uncover more bubbles you didn’t see as you sand the piece but I’ll tell you how to deal with that later.

STEP 4: Hardening the Resins

If you use durenamel hardener, you MUST bake it to cure it. It goes in a 150 F degree oven for 3-4 hrs. The other hardeners can be either oven cured or air cured. I check the resins about every 5 minutes for the first half hour. You will see air bubbles starting to rise and form during this crucial period. Do not plan on going anywhere at this time. The resin is now getting sticky and popping the bubbles gets a little tricky. Once the resin is too sticky to work, don’t pop any more. You will have to deal with them.

STEP 5: Finishing the Resins

Once they have baked and are cured, I will sand them. I use 220 grit sandpaper to start. They should be sanded wet as resin dust will get everywhere and in your lungs. Wear a respirator or mask. I sand up to 600-800 grit depending on how fine I want the finish. Now inspect your work. You will often find tiny air bubbles and pockets that did not fill. This often happens in very finely detailed areas. If possible, just keep sanding to the bottom of the bubble. Sometimes the bubble is just too deep. It is better to try to fill it. Here is where that extra resin you stored in the freezer comes in. Take out the resins and let them thaw. This will take 20-30 minutes (about). I use a toothpick or a straight pin to take some of it out and fill the bubbles. If you are using resin color straight from the jar, you do not have to do this, you can just mix up a new batch if you like. If you have custom mixed your color, you will need to do this as you will
never get an exact match if you try to mix it again. I now re-bake it for 3 hrs at 150 F degrees and sand again. If you still have air bubbles that are not filling, you need to “un-roof” them. I use ball burrs to grind the resin out a bit and make the hole more shallow and wide. Refill them and repeat the process.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Studio Songs - What we're listening to while we work...

It's been awhile! But here is loads of new music for your listening pleasure! I love hearing all the different tunes my fellow metalsmiths are listening to while they work! (Especially on days when I'm feeling indecisive - it's like peaking in to their studio and hanging out for a bit)

Gaudi (great artistic video above)

Ben l'Oncle


Laura Veirs

TV on the Radio

Real Estate

Mavis Staples


The Black Keys

Arcade Fire


Radio Radio


Nellie McKay

And more on our playlists!!

PJ Harvey
Sufjan Stevens
Pierre Lapointe
Andrew Bird
Gogol Bordello
Kraak and Shobak
Neco Case
Say Hi
The Boxer Rebellion
Franz Ferdinand
Breaking Benjamin
Three Days Grace

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Etsymetal Finds - Thank goodness for spring

Here at Hartleystudio, I thought I was going to go mad if spring didn't arrive pretty soon. Even though in Illinois the weather is giving us one last cold blast...there are buds on the trees and daffodils blooming. It is a relief to my eyes after so many months of gray skies and lifeless flora. With the arrival of spring, I am thinking and searching for handmade items that speak of new life and renewal.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Club Challenge: "Lost" by Gregory Maguire

Victoria with her copy of Lost
As a new member of the Etsy Metal Team I really wanted to dive right in. I knew a few members from Ring A Day and had had a couple of discussions about books with them previously, so when a request was put out for new group challenges I quickly suggested a book club/jewelry challenge. The challenge: read and discuss a book chosen by the group and then create a piece of jewelry inspired by a character or the book as a whole. Several people showed interest and at Victoria's suggestion we quickly settled on our first book: "Lost" by Gregory Maguire.

Copper Cuff by Karla Wheeler
"The image of square inside of square inside of square always makes me cross eyed and gives me a headache.....kind of like the book" - Karla Wheeler

Maquire is most widely known for his re-works of popular fairy tales, most notably Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which is based on L. Frank Baums, The Wizard of Oz. Wicked gained such notoriety that it was adapted for the stage and is now enjoying the 17th longest run in Broadway history. Like Wicked and Maquire's other tales, Lost revolves around a female protagonist, Winifred Rudge. Unlike Maguire's other works, Lost is not based on a classic but originates from Maguire's imagination alone.

"When opening Lost by Gregory Maguire, I was excited and tentative at the same time. I have read most of his previous infamous rewrite stories. My excitement was from reading Wicked and Son of a Witch which I absolutely loved! The tentativeness came from just finishing Lion amongst Men & Confessions of a Ugly Stepsister. I feel like I am finally getting a sense of his style and I am now seeing a pattern that I am left with this feeling of always wishing there was more information, more feeling, more connection, there is a lot of incompleteness with a lot of unanswered questions, and not in a good way. For this particular book it was tenfold. I literally felt Lost and severely disappointed." - Victoria Takahashi

One thing that I greatly admire about Maguire's work is the way he often sets his scenes in historical landscapes with great attention to politics and imagery. In Lost, the majority of the plot takes place in present day London and although Maguire's utilized his talent for painting the scene through his words and building the mood through the settings, the extreme disconnection between the characters and at times outlandish dialogue paired with the very unlikable Winifred Rudge prevented the reader from empathizing with the characters or their stories. To make matters worse, Maguire attempted the almost cliche undertaking of writing a story about a writer writing a story, the result of which was often redundant and confusing.

Copper and Brass Pendant by Erin Austin
"The walls that the main character constructed to distance herself from everyone around her was the inspiration for this piece. Just when one thought there might be a breakthrough for Winnie or the book as a whole, SLAM, another brick wall." -Erin Austin

Oxidized Sterling Silver and rough Diamonds.
Approximate size 5.5-6  USA.
Ring comes with plastic kitty ring holder.
 Victoria Takahashi
"I did not get inspired to really make anything directly from the book. I did however have a strong feeling and memory about this one character named "Chutney", the orange tabby who had a unsavory demise in a oven. So in response to this unfortunate kitty, in him I have found a muse and made him a Diamond necklace that he can proudly wear, look at him smile!" - Victoria Takahashi

Copper Compass by Evelyn Markasky
"I was lost and couldn't find my way." - Evelyn Markasky

Have you read Lost? Let us know what you thought.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Charm Swap 8 - The beginnings...

Hi, Michele Grady here again with the CS8 update for this week.....Well, it's pretty early into Charm Swap 8 and the beginning of a charm swap usually start out pretty slow when it comes to news. I can tell you that the sign up sheet is now full which means we now have our 20 charm swappers ready to go. YAY! We also have a few members on the alternates list in case someone has to drop out unexpectedly. So it looks like so far so good!

Two of our CS8 swappers actually have a starting point for their charms. Betsy Bensen of BetsyBensen sent photos of  these 22 cute little ocean jasper stones that she plans on using in her charms.
And Victoria Takahashi  of Experimetal sent in an action shot of her "picking through some rocks" as her starting point for her charms. Victoria says "this is a small portion of many days on many beaches over the years" about her vast  collection of beach stones. I'm not sure what I am more envious of.... Her collection of rocks or the fact that she must have a beach nearby!

We still do not know what either of these women will be doing with their stones (and not sure if they know yet either!) but at least they both of them have a head start on the rest of us. I can not wait to see what they come up with!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lost wax casting

It's always fun to see video of a process in action! Last night I had my studio assistant take a short video while I poured a silver casting. It makes the process look so smooth & easy.

I've been doing vacuum casting for about a year now & have learned a TON....and I'm only just now starting to feel confident with it. There's always room to learn & I've definitely had my share of mistakes.
In the video, I remove the hot flask (has been cooking for several hours to get the wax removed & the flask up to temperature), while wearing gloves. It is set on the vacuum machine & the suction is turned on. Then I go over to my melting furnace, which has heated my metal to the right temp. I then pull out the removable crucible, and pour it right into the heated flask. Voila!
Lost Wax Casting
Lost Wax Casting

And here's the ring that came out of that flask!

I'm super lucky to have access to an amazing arts center studio and that has been such an awesome experience to be a part of. It's in Lawrence, Kansas & I teach 3 classes there- metalsmithing (monday nights 7-9pm), Open Studio, and Lost wax casting (wednesday nights, 7-9pm).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Craft show kick off- 2011

Hi, Kerry Alice here. Twigs and Heather officially kicked off craft show season this past Sunday. It's that time again to dust off  the craft show boxes in the shed and head out to the show.
We do a lot of craft shows throughout the year and around 5:15AM is about the time the day starts for us.  Cooler needs to be filled, (don't forget the waters), fuel up with breakfast, (which is hard to do so early), check for the little details like business cards, change, calculator, etc... car's packed (it's a minivan) . OK, lets do this!

       This show was Craftopia in Pawtucket RI. I have to admit, I was yawning a little and a little rusty maneuvering the dolly around at first, but after setting up, Heather and I spent the day selling our work, catching up with our craftin' buddies and seeing great art and craft.

Our next show is Andover Crafts in the Park on May 7th. This is our first outdoor show of the season. (Hello, EZ-up tent!) Hope for warm weather for us.  No rain, no rain, no rain...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vintage Modernist Jewelry

Ed Weiner, USA
14k gold and pearl, circa 1957

Much of what is called "art jewelry" today has it's roots in the modernist studio jewelry of the 1930s through the 1970s. Mod jewelry grew out of the Bauhaus Movement - the integration of art and craft with an emphasis on minimalism, abstraction, and accessible materials.

Sigi Pineda, Mexico
sterling silver, circa 1950s

Merle Boyer, USA
sterling silver and pearls, circa 1950

Unknown maker, Sweden
sterling silver and chrysoprase, dated 1954

Alexander Calder and Harry Bertoia were pioneers of modernist jewelry in the 1930s, with Margarette De Patta following in the 40s, and a host of independent artists working in that vein by the early 1950s. Scandinavian modernist jewelry sprang up around the same time, and is mostly characterized by clean, geometric shapes. Taxco, Mexico was also home to many talented modernist jewelers including the renowned Antonio Pineda. Mexican mod jewelry often includes stone inlay.

Sigi Pineda, Mexico
sterling silver and amethyst, circa 1960

Frank Patania, Sr., USA
sterling silver and turquoise, circa 1955

Arthur King, USA
brass, circa 1960

Modernist jewelry has become quite popular and collectible, and several museums have hosted exhibitions in recent years. The Brooklyn museum is still showing a long-term installation of work by Art Smith. Silver Seduction: The Art of Mexican Modernist Antonio Pineda has traveled to several museums, the Fowler website has a nice synopsis and video. The Met has recently shown a selection of Calder's jewelry. The Helen Williams Drutt Collection contains many fine examples of later modernist pieces, this collection often travels from it's home at the MFAH, the catalog is exquisite and includes many styles of jewelry.

Jens Asby, Denmark
14k gold and malachite, circa 1970

Los Castillo, Mexico
sterling silver, circa 1960

Henry Steig, USA
sterling silver and quartz, circa 1955

A little bit of mod jewelry trivia - this famous scene from The Seven Year Itch was shot in front of Henry Steig's workshop in New York.

The best resource on the web for information on modernist jewelry is Marbeth Schon's Modern Silver Magazine, Marbeth wrote two definitive books on the subject and I highly recommend both of them. I keep a small database of modernist maker's marks on my vintage mod website here. Additional marks for just about any style of jewelry can be found at, an incredible resource.
Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin