Student of the Week: Kate Sheehan

Opals and 22k gold

Opal and 22k gold

Congratulations to our latest Student of the Week: Kate Sheehan. I worked with Kate on this piece and we had to overcome her fear of opals. I know so many talented jewelers who won’t touch opals. I think their bad reputation is undeserved. I’ve set tons of opals successfully and I think I have figured out the main problem. Since opals ARE fragile most people have the urge to set them lower in the bezel to “protect” the stone. Then when they try to set, the opal cracks. I find the opal is much more likely to crack during setting than during wear. The key is to set them with only just enough bezel to set with. I use a tiny bit of five minute epoxy and set immediately, not letting the glue dry first. Otherwise, the glue can hold the bezel away from the stone. You still set the stone properly and tightly but the glue means that you can skip that last 20% or so of force at the end of your setting process to make sure your opal isn’t still moving a bit. I use a blue wheel at the end to shine the bezel. [Also controversial } Kate did a beautiful job following these steps. Well Done!

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Student of the Week: Leah Becker

Our latest Student of the Week: Leah Becker.This piece showcases a technique becoming more and more popular with the price of gold being what it is :Marriage of Metals. In this case Leah choose to use a sterling silver shank along with her 22k bezel. I love gold and silver together and often the most effective designs juxtapose their elements. Cool and warm, faceted and cabochon. Well Done!

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Student of the Week: Chaya Feingold

This relatively simple piece illustrates how much goes into something simple.  Chaya had to cut, fit and fuse her bezel, solder it down to a backsheet, then cut ,file and sand. She had to cut, file , bend, saw, and solder her shank closed. She then had to size and true up her shank and prepare a seat for soldering. She then had to align everything perfectly, solder together, clean up any mishaps and make two (hopefully) identical granules. Then came positioning them equally, soldering them down and setting the stone to the stone’s advantage. When you think through all the steps even for something “simple”, it’s a miracle we ever get any jewelry made at all. So congratulations to Chaya for not losing heart along the way.

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Student of the Week: Sandi K. Lehmann

Student of the Week

Student of the Week

Every week I have the pleasure of choosing Student of the Week. It surprises me how many jewelers don’t (or can’t) take pictures of their work. I end up taking most of the Student of the Week photos, which I enjoy immensely. Unless or until we can all afford a professional photographer, we must learn how to do this for ourselves. For just this reason, Jewelry Arts Institute is offering a Jewelry Photography Workshop taught by Dan Lipow on Saturday July 31st from 11-6pm, one hour lunch. You will learn how to use YOUR camera to get great shots. I took the class myself last month and it was amazing. I will be posting the shots we took and comments by the rest of the class.

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Soldering Urban Legends

How many times have you read and heard that for the solder to flow the WHOLE piece must get equally hot? I have read it in every otherwise excellent book on Jewelry-making. The great advantage of teaching at JAI all these 18 years is that I have seen soldering done thousands and thousands of times and here is my conclusion: Don’t believe everything you read. The example that illustrates it best is this: a student will be trying to solder bezels onto a bangle bracelet. They will slowly be heating the whole piece, going around and around. The solder never flows and eventually oxidizes. I will then have them pickle and start over. I go straight in to the joint area, no circling and sure enough the solder flows. The student will invariably say “but I read you have to heat the whole piece!” I think a better way to describe this process is to say the whole soldering area must get equally hot. Particularly in a large piece like a bracelet, you are wasting your time heating the whole thing because by the time you get back around to your soldering area a lot of your heat has dissipated. We all have our ways of doing things and I am just as opinionated about it as anyone (or more). This method never fails me and I use it every time I solder.

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