Jewelry making is so much fun, and many projects are surprisingly easy! I remember the thrill I felt when I made my first bracelet; it was very basic, made with inexpensive materials, but it came out so pretty and took barely any time at all to make.
We have put together a collection of our favorite picks for the aspiring jewelry maker – an assortment of tutorials, books, supplies and kits for a variety of jewelry making techniques, and you’ll be happy to see that it’s very affordable to get started.
Whether you want to create jewelry yourself to give as gifts, make jewelry to sell, or have someone on your gift list who is thinking about trying their hand at jewelry making, these items will get you off to a great start.
It’s a new year and the craziness of the holidays are behind us. Everyone is back at work and school, and frankly, things feel a bit drab after all the glitz and glamour of holiday parties and all that time off. And this really is the dreariest part of winter – cold and dark, and summer is so far away. How about some jewelry to cheer you up! Even though the shopping frenzy of December is behind us, there are still some great deals to be had, and the new spring collections are out. And Valentine’s is just around the corner!
This time of year, I always start longing for a house in the country, or at least a house of my own with a garden where I could grow vegetables and herbs and spend sunny afternoons weeding and pruning and picking homegrown lettuce for a dinner salad. Maybe one day… for now, I’m in an apartment in a large city, and the only green around me are the trees in neighboring yards.
To add a bit more living nature to my life, I have house plants and plans for a windowsill herb garden. But I recently found another awesome way to add more greenery to my everyday life: plant jewelry. Crafty (and green-thumbed) jewelry designers have come up with a variety of styles that admittedly do need a little bit of maintenance (some are to be watered on a regular basis; others should get just the right amount of sun to stay healthy), but that’s a small price to pay to be closer to nature!
Here are some fabulous finds:
1. Self-sustaining terrarium curve necklace from With Roots
Birthstones in general are thought to have begun with the biblical breastplate of Aaron (around 1300 B.C.) – a garment set with 12 precious stones – and it is believed that each stone was associated with a zodiac sign (like in Vedic astrology and Ayurvedic medicine). The tradition of associating specific gemstones with particular months is rumored to have begun in Poland in the 1700s, and the list as we know it today here in the US was adopted as a standard by the National Association of Jewelers in 1912.
The Birthstones For December
While most agree on which stone(s) go with which month, there are some variations. For December, the standardized stones in the modern tradition are Tanzanite, Turquoise and Zircon. Some also include Blue Topaz, but in several ancient traditions (as well as Ayurveda), Ruby is the stone for this month. So the December birthstone color is mainly variations of blue, with the blood red ruby as an exception.
As always with gemstones, each birthstone is said to have certain properties, meanings and powers. Here is a little bit of information on each stone (scroll down to the end of the post to see my selection of a few favorite charms incorporating these stones):
A mineral discovered in Tanzania as late as 1967, Tanzanite (scientifically known as blue Zoisite) didn’t become an official birthstone of December until 2002 (and is the only addition to the original list from 1912). Its natural color is a brownish red, and it takes a good bit of heat to bring out that purple/deep blue color. It was discovered after a wildfire on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro by geologist Manuel D’Souza who brought it to Tiffany & Co’s attention. They re-named the Zoisite “Tanzanite” and brought it to the market with great success. It is a popular, rare and consequently expensive stone – it is only found in Tanzania and once the supply is gone, it’s gone. Tanzanite is also the anniversary gemstone for the 24th year of marriage.
Tanzanite is said to help open the heart and third eye chakras and aid in communication with the spiritual world.
The word Zircon derives from the Arabic and means gold and color, and Zircon (not to be confused with cubic zirconia) does come in a variety of colors. Its natural hues are in the brown, orange and red family, but it also comes in green and yellow and, with the help of heat treatment, clear and blue. The clear variety has long been used as a diamond imitation, but today, the most popular hue is blue (a very pretty light pastel aqua color). Zircon can be found in many places around the world (although most are mined in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam), and it is a relatively inexpensive, and very popular, gemstone.
Zircon is an important stone in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is thought to bring wisdom, a noble heart, good luck, joy and wealth. It also relieves pain, helps with sleep problems, and protects the muscles, bones, nerves and organs. I think we can all use one of these!
Pure Topaz is clear as glass, but thanks to a variety of impurities, it also comes in many colors, including red, pink, brown, yellow (November’s birthstone), orange, purple, green and blue. The blue variety is the most popular one, and while it does sometimes occur naturally, the blue color is most often achieved with the help of irradiation (radiation) and heat treatment. The resulting colors range from a pale baby blue (known as Sky Blue) to the crisp Swiss blue to a nice, rich deep, almost teal, blue (called London or Super Blue). Blue Topaz, which is also the anniversary gemstone for the 4th year of marriage, is available in abundance, and as with all gemstones, the price depends on the purity and size of the stone, but in general, it is quite affordable.
Blue Topaz is said to balance one’s emotions, bring mental clarity, truth, abundance, joy and love, and help the third eye’s ability to see at a higher level. Other topaz healing uses include wounds and eating disorders.
Turquoise is one of the oldest known gemstones, used and appreciated for thousands of years, not only for its beauty, but also because it was believed to be a good luck talisman. Turquoise is of course turquoise, and it gets its blue-green color from copper. There are other, less common, variations on the color such as a deeper blue-green and bright green, and the color depends on the chemical composition of the earth where it is formed. The best quality Turquoise is a solid robin’s egg blue with no discolorations or veins, and most of these can be found in Iran and the southwestern part of the US. Turquoise, which is also the 11th wedding anniversary gemstone, is plentiful and affordable.
An important stone in crystal healing, turquoise is thought to protect the (physical) body, help the chi flow and combat depression. It helps with communication and creativity and strengthens the immune system. It is also believed to bring friendship, courage, a long life, happiness and good luck.
The popular Ruby is the birthstone for December in the Ayurvedic and Traditional system. In the modern, standardized list of birthstones, it is the stone for July, and it is also the 40th wedding anniversary gemstone as well as the zodiac birthstone for Capricorn. It is the red variety of the mineral corundum (a crystalline form of aluminum oxide) – all other corundum colors are called sapphires. The red color is the result of the (natural) addition of chromium, and colors range from light pink to deep red. Most rubies are heat treated to bring out richer color and more clarity, and the darker the color, the more valuable the stone. It is an expensive gemstone (several thousand dollars per carat for top-notch stones) – a ruby bracelet owned by Marlene Dietrich sold at Sotheby’s in 1992 for $990,000 (it was admittedly jawdroppingly stunning, but still!).
Ruby stimulates the heart chakra and is said to protect the heart from emotional suffering, aid in making wise decisions, promote happiness, a positive outlook, and ideal relationships. It is also thought to help with detoxification, eye problems, heart conditions, remove infections in the blood, reduce nightmares and depression and ward off evil spirits.
Whew, that was a lot of information! Let’s move on to the visual part of this post – my handpicked selection of some of my favorite December birthstone jewelry:
Elephants have long been symbols of strength, power, intelligence, wisdom and excellent memory in many cultures across the globe, and in some, they are even deities: India has Ganesh and Airavata, Thailand has Erawan. There are also lots of other beliefs and folklore associated with elephants, and many consider them to be good luck. Some say that is true only if the trunk is up; others claim only white elephants can be considered lucky.
I personally love elephants on everything and think they are all lucky. I never leave the house without my little Ganesh charm – he is said to bring wisdom and remove obstacles, and who can’t use that on a daily basis? I put him on either a necklace, bracelet or just as is in a pocket.
Here is a little roundup of some recent favorite elephant charm finds:
Chocolate Cupcake Charm Necklace from A Fine Distraction
I don’t think the cupcake craze of the last decade has escaped anybody’s attention. Magnolia Bakery in New York City is usually credited with starting it in the mid 90s, and their creations really rose to fame after being featured in Sex and the City. They are still as popular as ever, and have even gone worldwide: last year, they openend a bakery/store in the Dubai Mall. Tourists from all over the world still flock to the original NYC store as well – I went a few years ago with a friend who was visiting from overseas and had to see it (and eat a cupcake). It’s tiny! But the cupcakes are good.
These days, cupcakes are everywhere: now, there are many bakeries and stores solely devoted to making cupcakes, cupcake caterers, cupcake blogs, cupcake food trucks, cupcake books, wedding cakes, apparel, holiday ornaments, home decor, there is “Cupcake Wars” (an entire show about cupcakes) on Food Network; and what might just take the prize as the trippiest take on the sweet treats ever: cupcake cars from Nieman Marcus. These $25,000 customized motor-driven vehicles – which come with matching hats for the drivers – are surprisingly intended for adults!
There is of course also cupcake jewelry in many forms. Naturally, we are focusing on charms here, and I have put together a collection of some recent favorite finds:
The holidays are approaching with the speed of light, and I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking (ok, slightly panicking) about my Christmas shopping. It’s not easy to come up with new, brilliant ideas for what to give year after year, so I thought I’d start a mini-series of posts featuring items that would make perfect gifts. First out are some very unique pendants and charms. Happy shopping!
Baby Teeth Charms
Oregon-based Kim Kovel has designed clothing for many of the most well-known sports brands, and came up with the idea for these charms when her son lost his first baby tooth. She made a gold version of it and wore it on a necklace. People started asking her where she got it, and soon, a new business was born: Le Knockout. The company makes custom charms from baby teeth using the lost wax casting method (i.e. a mold is created from the actual tooth, the tooth is removed and the mold is then filled with precious metal). This creates an exact replica of the tooth, and they are available in 14k gold or sterling silver, either plain, engraved with a letter or set with a small diamond. If you love the idea but don’t have kids, no worries: you can get your own teeth made into a charms too.
It’s People! (and pets)
The colorful diamonds from LifeGem are actually made from either a lock of hair or the cremated ashes of the customers’ human or animal family members. While one’s first reaction may be (and certainly was in my case) Yuck! you can’t deny that they are pretty to look at, and most of us do want to have some sort of keepsake to remember our loved ones by. The stones are created by collecting carbon during the cremation process (you get to keep the ashes) which is then put into the company’s diamond presses. The presses are made to replicate what the earth does naturally (apply heat and pressure) to create the stones. While they are man made diamonds, the final result has the exact same hardness and molecular composition as the real thing. You can get them in ¼ – 1 ½ carats in many different cuts, set in rings and pendants. Strange? Yes. Creepy? A little bit. Pretty? Most definitely.
Pnuts’ creations are (thankfully) not made from the real thing, but unusual nevertheless. The charms and pendants are made from silver, 14k and 18k gold, some have precious stones, and all are handmade by Rusty Pistachio, the man behind the Pnuts brand. He also makes rings, cufflinks, earrings and key chains. When he’s not making jewelry, he tours with H2O, a hardcore/punk band.
San Francisco artist Deana Fukatsu of OctopusMe creates pendants, bracelets, rings, earrings, cuff links and tie tacks from real octopus tentacles, using the lost wax method. The pieces are hand cast in sterling silver or gold, textured and finished by hand. The silver pieces are oxidized, and some have precious stones (diamonds, rubies, sapphires, etc.).
I find Diana’s work intriguing to say the least, and asked her “Why octopuses”? How did you come up with the idea?” She replied: “The octopus is a sensual, cunning genius…. a master of disguise. I think they are one of the most amazing creatures. I like the connection of the octopus as a symbol of transformation and their powers to regenerate limbs. I feel people also have healing powers but often times we forget...”
“I came up with the idea while eating at a Sushi restaurant in San Francisco. I was working with a Master Jeweler at the time doing his casting and wax. I had this Aha moment when I saw the Tako (Octopus). The earrings in the first photo was my flagship piece. I was thinking it was a fun play on the half hoop earring and if you were someone who worked in corporate America who wanted to express your own style, it could be as subtle as an earring. I think the jewelry people wear tells about them. So I made a pair for myself. The amazing energy really came from Etsy though. I posted them up right before I went to Burning Man in 2007. The rest was magic and OctopusME was born. Thank you so much to Etsy and all of the Etsians!”
Since Father’s Day is coming up soon (Sunday, June 19 in the US), I thought I’d do a post all about men’s jewelry. It’s always such a struggle to figure out what to get men – you can only use so many socks, grilling utensils and ties – and I think many forget about jewelry as an option.
Today’s featured artists are all sellers on Etsy, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you must! There is an incredible amount of talent on the site and it is the best place to shop for almost everything. You buy straight from the artist which means that you support a small business, and you get to communicate directly with the person who made whatever it is you’re buying, which makes it such a unique and fun experience. I have bought lots of things there, many of them customized just for me (a camera bag, a fleece wrap cardigan, charms, etc.). I can honestly say that my expectations have been exceeded every time.
But enough of my gushing and on to the featured items, which are obviously great for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions too, not just Father’s Day:
Athens-based (Georgia, not Greece) artist Laurel Hill works manly in sterling silver and copper, and I love her rustic, slightly rough and rugged-looking pieces. This 3/8″ wide sterling silver cuff bracelet can be customized with any text you want.
Photographer and designer Joanne Simmons of SilverSculptor is originally from London but these days, she lives and works in New Jersey. She has been making jewelry since she was a young girl, and her favorite medium is precious metal clay. These adorable cufflinks are made from recycled pure silver (99.9%) and customized with text and your child’s (or children’s) hand and/or footprints.
The personalized key ring from Chicago-based artist Jen of Jeneri Jewelry is not only cute – it is perfect for men who don’t like to wear jewelry. The tiny charm is made from sterling silver with a 14k gold “frame” and can be personalized both on the front and back.
California artist Heather Ellis of sTuck in the Coop started making jewelry in the hopes of being able to be self-employed and stay home with her two children. It turned out to be a great decision – she has been hugely successful (her work has been featured in places like US Magazine) and is living her dream. The gorgeous hammered band is made from sterling silver and can be customized with your children’s names, birth dates, or any message you want.
The triple-wrap bracelet from Toronto artist CM of SPUNKbyCM is made from braided leather with a customizable sterling silver charm. The bracelet comes in black, dark brown or tan, works for both women and men, and is great for layering with other bracelets, which is such a hot trend right now.