Wednesday, December 4, 2013

apologies for the long hiatus

my apologies for the  long break....

my father was dealing with preparing for heart surgery  when they found a tumor
the tumor is indeed malignant.
based on his existing health, and in consultation with his doctors, it has been agreed that he would not benefit from surgery, chemotherapy   or radiation.

he is going home to home hospice care.

mother has asked that the family be kept in people's thoughts and prayers, and i second that.

obviously family has taken priority  over any other activities.  i will try too update my  blogs (i know i am behind) as i can, but thank you for your patience and understanding.

thank you

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A New Capsule Wardrobe: Choosing Patterns and Adding Ready-To Wear

Vogue Pattern 1132
First of all, any time you  see a pattern that has  multiple pieces, often shown combined in different ways  (like Vogue 1132 shown above) that is a capsule wardrobe ready to go.  No additional thought required, really. You just have to make up the patterns in a choice of colors that  look good together, and perhaps make up one pattern (like a dress, or the skirt) twice.

In the images shown above you have a vest and pants made in solid grey, a jacket made in white, and a skirted suit (skirt and jacket) in a grey plaid.  The jacket is made twice with minor variations.  pair this with  different shirts and you can create a large number of looks  with that one pattern envelope.

It happens to be a style I am very fond of: I love the riding jacket look of this set, and I prefer my skirts to be full and rather long.

That set is rather  formal; here is one that is more casual (but can still be worn in an office):

Simplicity wardrobe 2539

 This pattern includes a long or short  jumper/dress, a vest, a jacket and a pair of pants. In one look (all in beige) the jumper is being used to create the look of a skirted suit, in the other its shown in a print over a turtleneck.  This set would change character rather drastically depending on your choice of material.  As shown it is a  rather casual, but still office acceptable, look... Sew this same outfit in hand painted batiks,  pieced silks, and  the look changes.

So, to get back to a more classically styled set, we have Simplicity 1784 (I already told you I like my skirts long):

Take a good look at the suggestions shown in the line art (on the right side)... a textured grey skirted suit, a white  blouse, a pink blouse, a patterned pink/white/black skirt, and a pair of black pants.  With just the items as shown you could combine  this into a variety of looks.

Most of the time, you will not be so lucky as to have an entirely self contained "wardrobe in a single pattern set".  Perhaps  the entire  planned wardrobe will not  be to your taste, or it could just be you need some more options to  fill the set out...

As mentioned, most of the time you will either use  items you already own, or buy items that are  outside your interest or skill level to make (For instance: I have NO interest in sewing a turtleneck sweater, but I do like to wear them).

Most  people, even experienced seamstresses,  find certain items to be easily available  for purchase, and  annoyingly difficult to sew.  (I did mention the turtleneck, didn't I?)  For this wardrobe items like a black  cardigan sweater and a few  other  tops  would fill out the Simplicity wardrobe  quite a bit, and you would easily expand the number of  looks.  I would be far more likely to buy a cardigan than try to sew one, and  blouses and  knit tops are easily available at most stores.

Or you can sew...

You can obviously mix and match from different  pattern sets...perhaps you like the blouse from the 1784 set shown , the jumper from 2539 and the skirt and jacket from Vogue 11322.  You can also  look for patterns  for a dress, or a knit blouse or a different skirt" to add to your these:

McCall's 6841 knits only
McCall's 6604 pullover top in a woven material
See and Sew  B5938
Adding a dress (with a different looking skirt) to one of the  packages that  has a skirt and jacket, increases the number of  options, and even if you wear the jacket over it creates a different skirt silhouette.  Seen under a jacket this dress would create the  impression of a pencil skirt, but could be worn  alone.

Always try to aim for different  styles and shapes in your "new" pieces to increase variety when you can.

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 Now as I am sure you have guessed, these were my top contenders  for my initial  wardrobe collection.


A slight emergency has forced my hand a bit on the choices, namely the fact that this Thursday is Thanksgiving, and I have nothing suitable to wear.  So sometime after I finish my homework (due Monday, it is currently Sunday) I will be sewing like a mad woman and trying to  come up with  at least something suitable to wear to a big family dinner.

True to the idea that  you should sew items that  make use of  what you already have that works for you, I will probably be making a skirt and jacket to go with a blouse I already own. (besides, I hate sewing buttonholes)

Wish me luck!

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Links Post 1 in the series, explaining the capsule or cluster concept. Post 3 in the series.

and My Pinterest board, with all sorts of useful links and concepts.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A New Capsule Wardrobe: Choosing a Second Cluster of Fabrics

To recap my last post:
My first cluster of fabrics (or my first capsule wardrobe selection) was chosen in very neutral and subdued tones shown here:

The idea being that I could take it more into the  blues, easily, but also in to  the berries and purples when I expanded the set.

this print  has small patches of precisely the same shade as the tan.
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Last minute  changes:

I added  some heavier  (and dressier) fabrics because I suddenly realized I had nothing to wear to Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday! 

No pictures yet, but I found a micro suede  that was VERY close in color to  my darker brown  fabric (the color is called potting soil ), and a pretty exact match for my cornstalk (I found out it is cornstalk, it just looks different because of the different fabric.)

So I will be making something out of that to wear  for this Thanksgiving.... pray for me.

(Note:micro suede or ultra suede is a polyester fake suede, real suede is leather.... which may or may not be cool with you, but real suede doesn't come in  standard widths and  multi yard lengths.  )

  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So, given the  berries and purples I will be adding into that first cluster to expand it.... where could I take that to create a second cluster that would  use some of these pieces?

Well, what about white?

The purple will obviously go with that....

but interestingly so will this print which has both white and black in it....

and even this print which has no black at all, but a surprising amount of white:

Of course white naturally goes with black....

 Add in a black and white print and you  have an obvious second  cluster

I happen to have a fair bit of black already in my wardrobe, so adding more white would perk that up a bit and brighten it. If you are wearing  just plain black and white then of course you can add any color at all, since there is nothing to clash with it, which will let me  wear not only the berry and pink tones already discussed, but the bright red, bright blues, and almost any other color that doesn't  pair better with brown.

So there you have it, fabrics for cluster 2,  which take some of my secondary fabrics from cluster 1 and move in an entirely different direction.  The overlapping  fabrics can be worn with either  set as long as I am careful about any trims or  embellishments.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  The previous post, in which I choose the first cluster (group) of fabrics. The first post in the series, where i try to define a capsule wardrobe and  what I am doing....

Friday, November 22, 2013

A New Capsule Wardrobe: Choosing Fabrics

Following the advice of Judith Rasband (Conselle Institute of Image Management) one of the easiest ways to begin building a capsule  (or cluster) wardrobe is to start with a print.

Once you choose a print that looks good on you, you can be confident that any of the colors IN that print will work reasonably well, and you can  simply choose colors from the print in solids to expand your wardrobe.  This concept works well in both  ready to wear and sew your own clothing.

This print is one I chose to begin with for my  new wardrobe cluster. (I had a tough time choosing where to start, I own enough fabric to start my own store!)  I plan on making a skirt, and a blouse or two out of this fabric.

Here is a larger section of the  fabric:
The blue is a bit more muted than I usually wear, but is in the same family as my typically brighter  blue, so this print will work with many items I already own.  That is important since  I didn't want to have to start completely from scratch!

I then needed to select  a neutral color  to  go with  this, and I luckily already owned one!  A nice rich brown linen:

Awesome!  This would make a great casual Jacket and full Skirt, maybe a straight (pencil) skirt and possibly a Dress.
I am not too sure if I would want a pair of Pants in this, since it would wrinkle badly when I sat down.

I want another neutral so I can  mix and match a bit more... and  sure enough I found just the thing:
pardon the shadows, its the lighter color toward the bottom

This is a  moderately heavy cotton in a color called "cornstalk".  It matches the pale cream/tan in my print exactly, and works well with the brown linen too!

This is a heavier and less  draped fabric, so I plan to make a heavier  A-line skirt, perhaps  a straight skirt, a heavier Dress perhaps, Pants could be made in this, and so could a casual Jacket.  I can then mix and match the  two  neutrals with or without the print... and with a lot of other items in my closet already.

I do want  to add one more thing to start with; I want to add a knit.  So far everything has been a woven, if I add a knit  I can make some different styles... but  I do want this to stay "neutral".  Just adding another brown or beige would be boring as all get out though...


The solution is a "fashion neutral" aka leopard print

There you have it, the  4 fabrics I will be using to START my new wardrobe cluster.

I have plenty of room to expand out, based on either the print I started with, or the solids!

Just to give you a few ideas of where you can take  this collection....
obviously you can add blue. 

Believe it or not these two blue fabrics are NOT the same. One of the fabrics is a slightly shiny knit, and the other is a moderately stiff woven.  They are just a tiny bit brighter than my  print, but  they do work well together.

But where else can I take that basic cluster?

Here is a fabric with that same cornstalk color, plus a vibrant pink, and a berry purple!
Cornstalk fabric shown with  light cotton print

 I just happen to have a purple textured fabric to make  something to go with that....
(Trust me they match, cameras do odd things to color, so do  artificial lights)

Now that purple will NOT go with my original print ... but obviously it goes with the cornstalk, and lets me take a  new direction with PART of my  capsule wardrobe.

Or how about this?

This goes with the brown linen, and JUST might let me wear that purple with the brown as well...


This fabric goes with either of my neutrals (and my blues)

in a totally different way than my original print...AND there is my  berry purple again! Awesome!
So far the only thing I cannot mix into this  is white, or black... and there is a bit of white in that  last there is one thing I could wear white with... no way to bring any of my existing black clothes into it though...

And then I found this:

As you can see, by building off one or more of the  4 fabrics in my first capsule collection, I can go in quite a few different directions, and still be sure MOST of it will work together.

I was originally not too thrilled by how "boring" it looked, but it obviously has some potential!

This  therefore will be  the first cluster collection.

I will be  either continuing on to show you the second cluster collection (taking a few of these fabrics in a different direction) or  a few pattern choices, depending on what I finish writing next....
Links:  My previous post explaining the principles of a capsule or cluster wardrobe.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A New Capsule Wardrobe: what is a capsule wardrobe?

What is a capsule wardrobe (or cluster)?

A Capsule, or Cluster Collection, is a set of clothes that can be intermixed to create a large number of  outfits from a few pieces.

The goal is to have every top in the collection go with every bottom, and every jacket or third piece go with everything else. In practice it doesn't always work so  neatly... but in order to make a group work well, every item should go with as many other items in the cluster as possible.

If you had an "ideal" cluster, 5 to 8 items of clothing  could carry you through  two weeks of work without repeating an outfit exactly.  A typical cluster  has more like 10-12 items (weighted toward more  blouses or tops), and can therefore make far more outfits.

In order to make the MOST of your capsule wardrobe, each item in a color should be very very different, so if you wanted to have two skirts, they should be two different colors or styles (or both).  You will get the most  different looks if  you don't repeat a shape or style  within a small cluster.

To give a very simplified  example:
Black Pants, Skirt, and Jacket (3 items)
with a white blouse (4)
and a print cowl neck top (5)
and a black top (6)

can obviously make a number of slightly different outfits (the black top creates the appearance of a dress when worn with the skirt)

If you then add in a  white skirt in a different style (say the black skirt was a pencil skirt, and the white skirt is a full skirt) you multiply your options...
add a white  sweater? again...

Since so far the only color has been in that print top ( item 5) you can also  add  items in that COLOR... and increase your options again!  If that print top had a green color in it, and you start adding in green options.....

A capsule wardrobe obviously lets you  pack a lot of days  worth of clothes into  a suitcase, but it also make getting dressed a lot easier, since you already know EVERYTHING you can put together in that set works!

If you are choosy about  picking only colors that really suit you, then you will be able to  dress well without having to put much thought into it in the morning.

Having just come back from Judith Rasband's Fabulous Fit seminar with my brand new custom for me patterns ....I am re doing  my wardrobe, starting with a simple cluster.

In my case I will be sewing a cluster of at least 5 items, and then filling it in with a lot of store purchased  items I already own!

In my next post I select my fabrics....

LINKS: My Pinterest board about Capsule Wardrobes. Wikipedia , of course Judith Rasband, CEO of Conselle Institute of Image Management has some really wonderful resources and classes.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Clothing: wardrobe management

Many of you (i do hope there are "many of you" reading this) know me for my jewelry.

That said? I also design clothes.  I am, after all, in school as an adult for Fashion Design!
(which is why i have my rarely updated blog about going to college as an adult).

Now i hope to have a book of my own published some day... but that day is not yet I collect good references to building a wardrobe and managing closets...
i also collect books on making a wardrobe from a few patterns!

(fair warning, i can sew, obviously, so its no big deal for me to lengthen a hem in a pattern book that has good lines, but is too short or make other adjustments.)

these are books that have had useful advice, but PLEASE read with discernment. i like my skirts long, so i ignore their hemline advice, your needs may be different.

THIS IS NOT a complete list.  not even close. Its not even a complete list of what i have on the closest shelf to me, right now!

Closet management and shopping for a "wardrobe" books:
The Wardrobe Wakeup: Your Guide to Looking Fabulous at Any Age  

  my only beef is its poorly organized.  good advice, especially for older women (its aimed at the over 40)... where to shop guides, and nice pictures...  written by a design and fashion writer, who now works from home.
but.. honestly? get it at the library or on sale, its a good book but not worth the cover price unless you can cope with the lack of index, and "speak the lingo" of fashion design and magazine editors. i do.. it was worth it TO ME.

In Style: Instant Style (Your Season-By-Season Guide for Work and Weekend)
good advice and when to buy tips...some  surprisingly modest options... but yes its aimed at the career and party world.  ALL advice becomes dated quickly... always keep to the fashion classics when reading older advice.

Instyle the New Secrets of Style: Your Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day
 again, surprising good, and as long as you "fix" their suggestions about hemlines for your own needs... VERY workable. aimed at the working woman, but .. adaptable for the SAHM too.
I suggest you get it from the library  unless you work in an office...

Organizing from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life

 this is incredible....i admit i am a BIG fan of her work, but this book is invaluable both for closets and for houses.  and its NOT one size fits all, although she does kind of assume you work at home and have kids... so oddly? best suited for the work from home mom!
however it works for everyone.

Nothing to Wear?

Again, good for both the working woman and the SAHM on getting a closet system so you can wear everything in it, and find stuff. This book is VERY simple.  It was one of the pioneering books in "find your style" and then simplify your wardrobe.
There are many books like this out now, but this one is... pretty easy to read.
Note: they throw around designer names to discuss style "if you fit in this style type, you want clothes like Oscar dela Renta" so you may need to look up a few designers if its unclear.

sewing/pattern etc BOOKS.. often a complete wardrobe:

Dressmaking: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Making your Own Clothes

 Buy this one. Even if you don't buy anything else.

This would be valuable enough as a fully photographed guide to sewing and choosing fabrics, but it ALSO has a complete wardrobe of patterns in sizes 2-20.  i mean complete: multiple skirts, dresses, pants, blouses and jackets.  with the information in the first half of the book, and the part in the back about how to embellish existing clothes, you can make  all of the clothes over in multiple ways.

Skirt-a-Day Sewing: Create 28 Skirts for a Unique Look Every Day
     REALLY good. most of the skirts can be easily adjusted in length...
(WARNING! "dress a day" is not the same.. found out the hard way. not even the same topic)

Singer Perfect Plus: Sew a Mix-and-Match Wardrobe for Plus and Petite-Plus Sizes

Finding a resource for the plus sized petite, priceless!
a resource for the beginner sewing person. nothing fancy, but nice basics... VERY simple sewing....   (i am not petite, but could use this if i followed the directions on how to lengthen)

ONLY a blouse/jacket pattern, a skirt pattern, and a pants pattern (and all elastic waist bands)

this book has some very good, and very bad points.

my main complaints are:
Its best suited for the  "H" figure, or the pear shape ("A" type) unless you make it of very drapey fabric. If you have a defined waist this will not flatter you.....seriously.
Its for petite plus, not "plus or petite plus"  most patterns assume you are 5'6, this one assumes you are 5'2.   (they do give directions to lengthen the patterns)
the clothes shown are too often dowdy and look poorly sewn  (not all of them)

The fabrics and  collections shown are all in one color family, for the author.  it would have been nice to see a different  color look

on the good side:
good advice on color matching and a mix and match wardrobe, though. that would be useful to have for anyone.

The Essential A-line: Make 17 Flirty Skirts from 1 Basic Pattern
  Ignore the word "flirty"  its a good book. admittedly i like "skirt a day"  better, but if you mostly like simple A lines? go for it.

The Colette Sewing Handbook: Inspired Styles and Classic Techniques for the New Seamstress

   FABULOUS, includes three dress patterns in up to size 20! yes you need to adjust the hem to suit yourself but it includes good sewing instructions!

Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing: A Modern Guide to Couture-Style Sewing Using Basic Vintage Techniques

 Wonderful, again adjust the hems to suit yourself, but HOW TO SEW VINTAGE DRESSES.. the way they used to.. that last!

and yes, i finally broke down and joined the affiliate program, so if you buy through one of my links i get a few pennies.....

Sunday, June 30, 2013

hard, half hard, and soft... Its about metal

fine and sterling silver pendant by Fabric Dragon
A lot of people are getting involved in wire wrapping and metal work. Its great!  Its fun, can be done in a small space if you take care, and  some of the results are spectacular...
like any new art , it pays to learn the language.

This post is more for the jewelry maker and crafter, but even if you only buy jewelry, it may be nice to know.

Wire, and sometimes other metal (like sheet metal) is listed according to how flexible and pliable it is.

Soft ( often called dead soft) wire feels soft, bends in curves, and doesn't hold a shape well .
Half Hard is still easy to work with, bends in fairly tight angles, and holds its shape .
Hard is, well, hard to work with. It makes a crisp corner turn, and holds its shape very well, if you can shape it.

Everyone has their own preference on what to work with. i like soft wire myself, but most wire is sold as half hard.  The thing to remember is that wire gets harder as you work it! going from soft, to half hard, to hard,  sometimes very fast.

As you work with  it  (bend it, move it, etc) metal becomes harder and stiffer.  Eventually, it becomes BRITTLE and will snap. Most people find this out with florist wire... the cheap green stuff at the craft stores? bend it back and forth and at first it  bends easily, with a soft curve... then it gets harder, and stiffer.. and eventually it snaps.
This is called  work hardening

so if you start with soft wire, and you whip those ends around a lot working on a stone... the last bits of wire will be stiffer  and harder to work than when you started!

The way to make wire softer is to add heat... but you cannot always heat wire up to red hot once you start wrapping it around things!

so, the more you work your wire, the harder it becomes, until it finally breaks.

This can be used to your advantage as well!  by twisting or hammering wire , even a little, you can make parts of the wire harder. this is often used to make a hard pin point.  Soft wire makes lousy pins.

Different metals harden at different rates!
this confuses people, because you get used to working with one metal and when you switch the metal acts "funny". Here is my personal, totally unscientific, analysis of how each metal handles:

Gold takes the longest to work harden. it also gets stiffer very gradually and smoothly.

Silver  hardens faster than gold. At first its a gradual change but then it gets a lot harder very fast toward the end. 

Copper is tricky.  It seems very soft for a bit, as though it isnt getting harder at all, and then suddenly it gets VERY hard... and not much after that it snaps.

This is why i actually do not like to tell beginners to practice on copper.  It can be very frustrating.  Given today's metal prices, i understand that practicing with silver may not be possible.  Just keep in mind that when copper suddenly snaps on you, its NOT your fault...
and remember that when moving from copper to silver (or gold) it will not be as abrupt a change.

(i hope to add more photos when i get back from my jewelry show)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gold, Gold-filled, Gold plate, Vermeil... what does it all mean?

When a jeweler works with metal for a while, it can be easy to forget that when you first started, you didn't know what all those words meant.
so I was posting about Jewelry and a friend of mine asked "can you explain what 'gold-filled' means?"
yes i can... and since one person asked i tend to assume there are more people who do not know... therefore i wrote a blog post about it.

Gold is an element.  It is , in jewelry, defined by its "karat" with 24 k being pure gold (and far too soft to use in jewelry usually) and 12k being half gold and half something else.
A mixture of several metals is called an "Alloy" so anything that isnt 24k gold is an Alloy of gold and .. something.

the most typical gold jewelry in the United States is 14k, or just over half Gold ...

In other countries the usual karat may be higher, most Indian jewelry is 18k, for example.
Each country has a minimum karat to be labeled as "gold" .

By itself Gold is yellow, but it can be made white by adding nickle or palladium... rose by adding more copper and less white metal,   green by adding pure silver.... (with the exception of  the white gold, the colors are subtle)

Because so many people are allergic to Nickel, if you are considering white gold for jewelry, verify what metal is being used!

Gold Plate and Gold Filled

Gold plated means that a base metal (usually brass) has been lightly coated (usually by electroplating) with gold.  The thickness of the gold can vary  between .5 microns and 2.5 microns for heavy plating, but averages somewhere around  1 micron in thickness.
for comparison purposes.... a human hair is 100 microns, and a dollar bill is about 200 microns thick

so Gold plate is really very thin.
it scratches easily, exposing the metal underneath, but this is often not immediately obvious because brass is gold colored too...
until it tarnishes.

Gold-filled does NOT mean it is "filled with gold" but instead means it is  gold... filled with base metal... usually brass.

I usually work with wire, and gold PLATED wire would be easily scratched just by handling and using metal tools and pliers...
Gold-FILLED wire, on the other hand, is at least ten times more gold... often a hundred times thicker gold!

so my Gold Filled Wire is in fact a hollow gold tube with a brass core...
(see chart )

 In addition, quite often there is an additional layer of  alloyed gold gold and brass between the brass layer and the gold top layer...

But the main thing you need to bear in mind is that Gold Filled jewelry has been around in a few cases since the early 1900s.. still in great shape!  Unlike gold plate it doesn't easily chip, flake or scratch,  and will retain its appearance indefinitely.

I, personally, am hard on my jewelry.  I have never had any plated jewelry last longer than a season... i have items of gold-filled jewelry that are now over 20 years old and look great.

The main advantage of Gold-filled jewelry is simply cost.  While it is a lot more gold than gold plate, and therefore more costly than gold plate; its a lot less gold than solid gold, and therefore much less expensive than that.

So what the heck is Vermeil?

Vermeil is gold plate.... but instead of gold plate on top of brass or some other base metal, Vermeil is gold plate on top of Sterling Silver!  This can be a nice option when you want the look of gold, but can only pay silver prices....
with silver prices going up as high as they have, its not usually much savings over gold-filled jewelry. (it used to be)

Speaking of Silver...

With the cost of silver being as high as it has been, and people being on tight budgets due to the recession, it has finally been economical to create "silver-filled" wire and jewelry.  Previously it just wasn't worth it.

Silver-filled is lovely to work with, thicker than silver plate, and less expensive than solid (see Gold Filled, above)
If  it is used with a silver colored core /base metal....(instead of brass) then you have to wonder what metal is white/silver colored, and cheap... and the usual answer is Nickel.  I always advise asking what the base /core metal is if you have Nickel allergies.

(and remember, Sterling Silver is .925 silver. It is an alloy of silver and copper.  Pure Silver is often called "fine silver" and i love working with it. )

I hope that answers your questions! Please feel free to comment on my blog, or my Facebook page, with any other jewelry related questions you may have...

Links, and more

artisan plating company the source of the chart on gold filled  (single, double, etc) and a LOT of charts and information on comparing plated with gold filled, etc

source of header photo plus more information on periodic table and elements

Wikipedia on colored gold

Rio Grande on Silver Filled also a nice chart on thickness comparisons.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Precious Metal and the Law

Now most people have noticed that the market price of metal (how much money is it worth just as metal) can affect jewelry prices, but there is another thing about precious metals that is very important to a Jeweler:
the law.

As a jeweler, or a jewelry buyer or seller, one of the things you have to understand is how the law affects the metal your jewelry is made from. 

If I sell you jewelry that is supposed to be solid 14k Gold, and it is not (lets say i got something mixed up and i sold you  gold plate instead) then i am guilty of...


yes, counterfeiting.  Gold, especially, is governed by some very very strict labeling rules because of its use in currency. it is protected in the USA by the treasury department!

This is why, on one memorable occasion that i spilled a container of Gold-filled beads, into a container of 14k solid gold beads, that i had to list them ALL as Gold filled! (ouch)

if I sold you gold filled and you found out it was solid gold? no problem
if , however, I sold you "gold" and it was only gold filled?  big problem.

If you ever see a small independent jeweler selling  something that says "a mixture of  14k gold, gold plate, and base metal" or something like that, it probably means they forgot to label their supplies...

This is why some of us (cough cough) have chosen to only  use one thing (in my case gold filled) unless we have a special request. We cannot get it mixed up if we only have one thing!

The bigger jewelry stores and even some of the smaller jewelers now have testing equipment that makes this a lot less of a problem, but when a single mistake can mean multi thousand dollar fines, you tend to be a bit paranoid.

Sadly this primarily affects the honest jewelers. The fly by night folks who set up at a show, knowing they will never be able to be found again? They are not going to be concerned about the fines, because you have to track them down first.

This can also affect the individual selling   or re selling jewelry at things like flea markets. Yes, even if you just set up a table to sell a few old pieces you do not want anymore! If you label something as "gold" you become completely liable for that!

Advice :

* I have seen some individuals who have sold what was actually White Gold, at Sterling Silver prices... and likewise seen people selling "German Silver" (Nickle) as Sterling.  The issue of labeling is not limited to yellow metal... as a seller, its worth having it tested to be sure, as a buyer it pays to be cautious.

*Many antique and older items of jewelry have FAR more value as an antique than they are worth in material!  As an example: vintage Bakelite (a type of plastic) is worth a small fortune to a collector, but its "just plastic".
It is often worth getting it officially appraised and tested by a reputable jeweler (preferably one who handles estate sales and antiques if it is an older piece)  before making any decisions.

* Its easy to take advantage of a customer, if they are trying to cheat you.
sounds weird, doesn't it?

If the customer is trying to take advantage of the "poor merchant" because "they don't know how valuable this is" then they are easy targets for a merchant who has something that looks valuable, and really  is not.

so if you think you are cheating the merchant? ... you may be getting cheated...
ah Karma....

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I got a rock... (part 1)


For those of you who are younger than i am (that would be most of you) the headline is from a Charlie Brown (tm) Halloween special, where everyone else gets candy and Charlie Brown looks in his bag and says: "i got a rock.." Poor Charlie Brown.

For many of us, though, we would be delighted to get a rock. rocks are wonderful!  Rocks of some kind are important in jewelry.  Yes there are technical differences between rocks, and stones, but lets cut to the important stuff:

what the heck is it?  (part 1) and how do i take care of it? (part 2)

the two questions are related. some stones used in jewelry are very delicate, some are "hard as rocks" and if you do not know what it is you have, you have to assume its delicate.

The questions that tell you "what the heck is it?" are:

What kind of rock is it?
What was done to your rock?

What kind of Rock is it?

You would think this would be an easy question to answer, wouldn't you?  If it says a single word , like "Amethyst" or "Topaz" then it generally is exactly that (but not always).  The problem comes up when the name is descriptivce and has places or other words attached to it.
"Picture Jasper"
"London Blue Topaz"
"Korean Jade"
"Mystic Topaz"

so what are they?  Are they Jasper, Topaz, and Jade? or something else entirely?  Whenever you see a compound word used to describe a stone, you need to do a bit of research to figure it out.

Picture Jasper is a type of Jasper (ok, its Jasper) that has natural markings (ok, its not created) that make "pictures" or look like images or landscapes. (ok.. this is a straight forward desciption of what THIS kind of Jasper happens to look like)

London Blue Topaz is a Topaz (ok, it is a topaz) that has been irradiated (we will cover that later) to create a specific shade of deep blue (color ). This name is a "trade name" (oh, its a marketing name, and probably trade marked).

Korean Jade is a type of Serpentine (woah! its not Jade) with a specific coloring, found in many places worldwide... (not Jade, but Serpentine, and should be cared for as "Serpentine")

Mystic Topaz is really Topaz, (the stone is Topaz) but has a treatment (see next section) that is very delicate.

Get the idea?  A compound name may simply be descriptive, or tell you why this type of Jasper (for instance) is different that the other kind, but it could mean that it needs different care or that it is, in fact, NOT the stone you think it is!

Obviously if you want to take care of your jewelry properly you need to know what kind of rock it is first!

Some types of stone are very sensitive to light, some to heat, some to chemicals (like swimming pools and cleaning products) and a few , a VERY few, can go from a lying out in the sun at a swimming pool to cleaning the floors and come out just dandy.

Knowing what your stone actually IS is important to caring for it (and cleaning it) properly!

What was done to your rock?

 Now it gets complicated.  Gemstones, and other pretty rocks, are subjected to all sorts of treatments to make them "prettier" to get rid of flaws, or to let them survive encounters with things like chlorinated water.
What treatments are "acceptable" and which ones are fraud, can be a very tough argument.

Heat Treatment: this is one of the oldest ways of improving or altering a stone.  We have documentation of this being done back to the earliest written records, and we have evidence of it from before written history.  There is nothing wrong with this, although of course it should be disclosed to the buyer.
Almost all Citrine, Carnelian, and Amber on the market today has been heat treated. This is usually permanent, and stable.

Dyeing: is a treatment that is considered usual and normal in some stones, and i dislike intensely. 
Real stones can be dyed to enhance their color or to make them look totally different.  Often this means "make them look like a more valuable stone". Turquoise, as an example, is often imitated by dyeing  various stones that are worth far less money, but real (if poor grade) Turquoise is often dyed to give it a better color!  Dyed stones can lose their color if exposed to the wrong chemicals or cleaners.

For myself, personally, i only use dyed stones that CANNOT be mistaken for something else.

dyed Magnesite
The above picture is dyed Magnesite.  This stone (and it is a real stone) is naturally sort of putty colored, with inclusions in a kind of crackle pattern.  It is often used to make imitation (fake) Turquoise or Lapis, because the pattern on the stone (which doesn't take dye) mimics the look of a real Turquoise.  I will not buy it in colors that mimic natural stone, because i don't want anyone mistaking it for something it is not.  It makes a very pretty piece of jewelry, though...
Magnesite, dyed blue, wrapped in three metals

Irradiation, something that can happen naturally deep in the earth, is often artificially used to create or change a color in a stone. Topaz is the best example of that.  ALL blue Topaz is irradiated.  A very very few pieces were naturally created by radiation in the earth, but unless you curate a museum, or dig your own, assume all blue topazes are real Topaz that has had their color altered.  This treatment is permanent and the colors *usually* do not fade.
London Blue Topaz. The color is created by radiation

Filling, Oiling, and Stabilizing:  Here is where it gets increasingly complicated.  Each of these types of treatment can be good, or bad.  It can mean something very simple, or a complete change in the stone.

To start with the simplest one, Stabilizing, this means a resin has been forced into the stone at high pressure.  it changes the characteristics of the stone, a lot.  On the plus side it can take a fragile stone like Turquoise, and make it more resistant to chlorine, and other hazards, but it can also be used to take "waste" Turquoise and pass it off as good Turquoise. A lot of whether this is acceptable or not depends on if it is properly labeled, and whether any color was added.

Emeralds (and every member of the Beryl Family) naturally have very small cracks in the stone.  In Emeralds these cracks are filled by "oiling" which makes these natural cracks less visible. This is an accepted and usual practice...UNLESS they also use color (dye) to change the apparent color of the stone... and you wont be able to tell. This is one reason why buying a GOOD Emerald is a tricky purchase

Assembled or Reconstituted:  This means that bits of a real stone have been fused in some fashion, often with resin.  This is sort of like a fish stick, or a chicken nugget, compared to a real fish fillet or chicken breast..  I wouldn't mind this, except that all to often the stones end up being sold, and re sold, and gifted, and somewhere along the way the fact that this is NOT the real deal gets lost.  This is most commonly seen in Opals, Amber and Turquoise.

Coated:  Applying a coating to the surface of a stone can make some incredible effects.  It is, however, able to fade, or be scratched off, and is usually sensitive to chemicals. "Mystic Topaz" is coated... and really quite lovely, but too delicate for me.

a very well cut and treated Mystic Topaz, from Gemselect

Obviously you also need to be aware of outright fakes.  If you think something is a pearl, and its actually glass, plastic, or resin, then that is a fake not a "treatment".  That more or less falls under "what kind of rock is it".

Knowing what kinds of fakes are commonly available for different stones will help you identify potential problems.

Links and Sources:

Jade earrings and the trade routes

My Etsy shop

Gemstones, By Cally Hall (book): an easy to read book, with color pictures, that is fairly accurate.

Gemstones of the World: by Walter Schumann (book): intended for someone with more background in geology or gemology, it is one of the best for identifying possible fakes, and which stones can be confused.

"I got a rock... (part 2)" blog post.