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Staff picks

Jewelry Design Ideas for Endless Hoop Style Ear Wires

March 22, 2019

This new product is a bit curious; though named “endless” hoop earring findings, these clearly have two ends (they are really more of a C-shape). One end of the ear wire inserts into your ear piercing, and the other is a decorative stopping point for whatever adornment you add. This raised a few design questions — What is the best way to use these? And how do you keep the added adornment from just sliding off? Read on for our solutions to these important design questions.

Continue Reading…

Spring 2013 Pantone Color Trends Giveaway

April 29, 2013
Pantone Spring 2013 Giveaway

Enter to win our Resin Flower Gluing Kit. Just comment at the end of this post  — by May 6, 2013 — with your favorite Pantone Spring 2013 Color Trend to be entered into our drawing.

win a resin flower gluing kit

In celebration of Spring, here are the Spring 2013 Pantone Color Trends. Just click on any of the color swatches below and find the treasures available in our online store. Also visit our Design Gallery  for all the designs you see here and many more. All designs are FREE – no login required!

banner-spring13_emerald banner-spring13_grayedjade

banner-spring13_tendershoots  banner-spring13_lemonzest

banner-spring13_nectarine banner-spring13_poppyred

banner-spring13_linen banner-spring13_africanviolet

banner-spring13_duskblue banner-spring13_monacoblue

Comment now with your favorite Pantone Spring 2013 Color Trend to win. Contest ends May 6, 2013.

~Jan

I Love Copper Solder!

February 20, 2013

I recently got a chance to play with copper solder, and I LOVE it! This awesome copper solder is 7% phosporous (and 93% copper), which makes it self-fluxing. It flows and melts around the same temperature as hard-grade silver solder, so you can easily solder links, small bezels, and other basic joins with a butane micro torch.

16-gauge copper wire link with 18-gauge copper solder.

16-gauge copper wire link with 18-gauge copper solder.

Why do I love copper solder?

#1: It’s easy!

Jewelers have traditionally used silver solder to solder copper, but when using silver on copper, you have to be very careful so the silver seam doesn’t show. Since the copper solder is 93% copper (making it copper colored, even after you solder with it), I can enjoy the freedom of having my small mistakes invisible to the untrained eye. And it’s nice that the 7% phosphorous portion makes it self-fluxing, so I don’t have to use flux.

#2: It’s inexpensive.

Copper solder is about 1/10 the price of silver solder: silver solder is around $40 per ounce, but you can get 4 entire ounces of copper solder for around $14. I can experiment and practice all day and it only costs me a few dollars worth of materials. I can make affordable copper jewelry, and/or I can decide to upgrade to sterling silver, after practicing new techniques with copper.

#3: I have everything I need.

I finally bought my own torch last year, but haven’t used it a lot yet. I got the Blazer torch kit, so I’d have everything I need — 2 types of tweezers, a solder pick, and a few different soldering surfaces.

Butane micro torch kit

Blazer micro torch kit.

How do you use copper solder?

If you already know how to solder sterling or fine silver, then you already know how to solder copper. If you have no soldering experience, or have only used “soft” solder and soldering irons before, then copper solder is an EXCELLENT material to begin with.

So, where do you begin? At the very minimum, you need:

  1. Raw (bare, unplated) copper
  2. Copper solder
  3. A torch that gets hot enough for the job (all of Rings & Things’ torches work fine for this — but a soldering iron does not get hot enough).
  4. A firing surface — I use a magnesia soldering block on top of a ceramic fire block on top of an old cookie sheet.
  5. Something to grab melty-hot metal items. Check out the tweezers listed & linked in this kit.

Generally, you’ll drop your freshly-soldered item in a pickle pot or a metal can full of cool water. And there are safety considerations … you don’t really want to catch your clothing or kitchen/craft table on fire, or breathe or splash unknown chemicals, so if you’re completely new to soldering, pick up a book like Simple Soldering, by Kate Ferrant Richbourg, or Soldering Made Simple, by Joe Silvera.

Here is my project: Simple soldered links, for a bracelet or necklace.

2 links soldered, the next 3 ready to go.

2 links soldered, the next 3 ready to go.

3rd link being soldered

3rd link being soldered.

To make my loops, I used ring-bending pliers and the large side of Wubbers Extra-Large bail-making pliers to shape some quick links out of 16-gauge raw copper wire, and hammered them a bit on my metal block. Then I cut the ends nice and straight with flush cutters (You know solder doesn’t fill gaps, right? So your spots to be joined need to line up very cleanly … or your solder join is doomed or ugly), laid out a few links, and started soldering.

I soldered the quick way — torch in one hand, and spool of solder in the other hand. Heat up a link, then touch the solder to the joint, and fwoosh, it flowed. Sometimes a little too well, so my solder spots are a little globbier than they technically should be. So now I’m actually reading my copy of Kate Ferrant Richbourg’s Simple Soldering rather than just just flipping through and looking at the diagrams. Soon, I hope to pop in the DVD (included with the Simple Soldering book)!
The tips and techniques in Simple Soldering are all about silver soldering, but apply just as well to copper soldering.

One last tip based on questions I received last weekend: Do you know which part of the flame is hottest? You might think it is inside the brightest blue part of the flame, but it actually the darker space just past the tip of that bright blue inner cone.

Coming soon…. (now finished)
Next blog, I’ll share a technique to add beads (even fragile beads!) directly to links before soldering them!

~~Polly

Little House on the Pendant

May 8, 2012
house-shape-pendant-necklaces

Pendant frames for all styles and tastes.

Hi bloglandia! Today’s design question: What memories or images do you have that are worth framing?

I just stumbled across this photo of some little house hinged pendants our design team made awhile back. It always amazes me how you can give people, in this case 9, the same jewelry component and end up with such completely different results! Our hinged glass frame pendants are reversible, so you can have two images inside if you’d like! (Also check out the memory boxes, which aren’t two sided but are deep enough to hold all sorts of treasures.)

From the bottom right going clockwise, you see the following jewelry designs:

Selina made the Dia de los Muertos paper collage, another jewelry designer used fabric and a peace sign, Mollie has a spritely fairy with star charms, Lindsey made a ginormous, interactive wooden pendant, Amy captured summer childhood memories, Sondra soldered up some enlightenment, I used one of my favorite vacation photos, a bulldog earned a crown and wings, and Rita created a wee house inside her frame. Hopefully one or more of these designs will inspire you to frame some mementos of your own! ~ Cindy

Vintaj BigKick by Sizzix

April 16, 2012
favorite-bigkick-vintaj

Our precious…

Do you ever feel possessive of your favorite belongings? I moved our jewelry team’s Vintaj BigKick closer to the windows – a distance of maybe 15 feet – to get pictures and no fewer than three people stopped me!

decoemboss-necklace

Mollie made this sweet necklace during a demo in our Spokane showroom.

“What are you doing?!?”

“Where are you going with that?!?!”

sizzix-vintaj-jewelry-tools

Kickin’ it Vintaj style!

Really guys, the BigKick belongs to *all* of us – but I understand wanting to keep tabs on it: it is a super fun tool! Despite the name, the BigKick is actually a very small rolling mill. It is designed specifically to texture Vintaj Natural Brass blanks with their DecoEmboss folders and DecoEtch design plates.

bigkick-decoemboss-vintaj

Birds, trees, leaves, keys, clocks – embossing/etching folders are available in a ton of cute designs.

Simply choose a blank, lay it on the design, sandwich it between the plexi-glass plates and run it through the BigKick. The metal comes out with a reversible design, and since Vintaj brass has a natural patina, just few swipes with the metal reliefing block to polish the high points really brings out the details. (We’ve linked Vintaj’s YouTube demo videos right from the product listings in our online store if you’d like to see it in action!)

bigkick-vintaj-turn-handle

Simply turn the handle – it really is that easy to add beautiful texture to your jewelry!

We recommend using only Vintaj Natural Brass blanks with the BigKick machine as they are the right gauge and softness. If you use other items, you may be risking this precious machine! [ Update April 2016: These new 30-gauge aluminum blanks also work great! ]

One roll and you’ll be in love…

vintaj-embossed-heart-earrings

The Vintaj art heart blanks are sold in pairs – perfect for earrings!

If you’re buying a BigKick, you need three other things:

Embossing folders or etching plates

Flat Vintaj brass shapes/blanks

Metal reliefing block (sand paper or steel wool also work, but are not as easy to use)

And that’s it – instant gratification! Have fun kicking your style up a notch! ~ Cindy

Twelve Days of Christmas Jewelry Designs: 12 – Fairy Doors

December 12, 2011
A super easy way to create some holiday magic is with our exclusive brass fairy doors. These precut metal shapes with cutouts can be stamped, hammered, riveted, painted, patinaed, layered…so, so many options! Mollie used one to make her sister a sweet keepsake necklace (Day 6). Sondra added a stamped tag to one of her designs on Day 11. Earlier this year, Polly made several sweet pins and pendants by sandwiching pieces of recycled tins between the riveted layers. Basically, the designers here are in love with them – and it isn’t just us! Sondra’s Victorian Christmas fairy door design just won Vintaj’s blog contest!

sondra barrington christmas vintaj winning design

Also, jewelry designer extraordinaire Molly Alexander shared with us the design below that she created with our heart fairy doors for Art Bead Scene’s November Challenge. It is just too lovely not to share. Merry Christmas! ~ Cindy

Molly Alexander design

Twelve Days of Christmas Jewelry Designs: 9 – Hinged Picture Frames

December 1, 2011
Family photos. Collages. Upcycled Christmas cards. Meaningful quotes. There are many keepsakes and bits of nostalgia that are worth framing for the holidays. It is really fun to solder your own pendants and ornaments, but if that’s not your thing – or you want unique shapes without having to cut glass – or time is of the essence – Rings & Things has a pretty amazing selection of hinged memory picture frames to choose from. Just insert two images and you have a reversible pendant or piece of art!

champion-girl-framed-ornamentI made this ornament for my friend to commemorate her first 1/2 marathon in 2011. (She’s doing another next week!) On the other side is a photo of her son playing football. He’s going to be a heartbreaker, don’t you think?

foot-ball-star-ornament

The frame is called a faceted diamond in our online store, but all I see is the Superman logo. Pretty appropriate for this dynamic duo! I used the Simply Swank soldering kit to add a jump ring at the bottom so I could dangle the
sparkly glass beads and 2011 charm from the bottom.

holiday-ornaments

Recycled Christmas cards and other holiday snippets make adorable ornaments. These little house, triangle and rectangle shapes are in the 1.5-2.5″ range – perfect for both ornaments and long chain necklaces that fall to the wearer’s midsection.

crow-flies-necklace

This last piece isn’t a holiday design – but it is the type of thing I would love to unwrap on Christmas morning! Mollie’s “As the Crow Flies” necklaces combines a framed image, handmade wire components, little oxidized charms and beautiful gemstones (aqua fired agate and prehnite, to be specific).

As you can see, there are endless options for customizing memory frames. but there are more holiday picture frame designs in our design gallery too! ~ Cindy

Copper and brass bracelet design challenge results

August 8, 2011

So simple, yet so fun! 6″ long, 1/4 and 1/2″ wide strips to make all kinds of jewelry with.

In July, we sent ten of our blog partners sample packs of our new 24-gauge metal bracelet strips. With summer in full swing, it isn’t surprising that not everyone completed projects (at least not yet) … but the WOW, those who did really brought their A-game!

Textured, layered and beaded cuff bracelets by Helena.

Helena Fritz hammered, riveted and even bead-weaved her way to an armful of gorgeous bangle bracelets – her lovely blog has more photos. Helena specializes in beadwork, which makes her first attempt at metalwork even more impressive.

Carole shows her polymer prowess.

Carole Carlson stepped out of her comfort zone and into the world of polymer clay with these fun bracelets. She found that the copper was easier to work with than the brass, which makes sense since it is a softer metal. Check out her blog for more info.

Just one of the bright and bold bracelets Carolyn created.

Carolyn Fiene also used polymer clay, but she preferred the brass as a base. Even though it is harder to form, she felt is held its shape better. Link to her blog showing other designs that combine chain and bezel cups with polymer coming soon.

Layers of “ruffled” metal dress up Jan’s brass cuff.

Jan O’Banion made several great designs by layering different elements onto the bracelets. She used recycled tins to make flowers on the “Trashy Tinsel” bracelet above. Visit her blog to get a peek inside her creative world.

1/2″ wide copper forms the base of this lampwork glass ring by Lubica.

Lubica Vinicenko used the strips as the base of some truly elaborate rings. You can see more pictures at her blog.

As you can see, these metal “bracelet” strips are extremely versatile and fun to experiment with. Am I the only one surprised to see polymer clay and seed beads combined with sheet metal?

The back of my layered stamped bracelet. I curved short strips with my wood dapping set to make the matching earrings.

I’ve been having a blast stamping and texturing them. You can see the front of – and how I made – the “Earth Laughs in Flowers” bracelet in our design gallery. Texturing metal with
brass texture sheets is great stress relief, I must say!

Although July is already behind us, we’re always happy to see and share what you create. Be sure to send us some photos of what you make with these metal strips! ~ Cindy

PS – Molly Alexander posted her etching and mixed metal results to a photostream on Flickr – be sure to check them out!