Rummaging through my gemstone beads, I came across some unexpected pebbled garnets that were mixed into a string of garnet chips. They were the size, shape and look of those special garnets that one might discover ‘in the wild’, in rivers, or ground. And so my inspiration was peaked. I snagged these six stones from my chips stock and began working on a new design.
Artist’s go through all sorts of processes once the inspiration spark is lit. Personally, when I am working with gemstones, cut, size, color, wearability, are all important factors, but often take secondary importance to gemstone significance. I want everything I make to have a reason, a purpose, a point to be. Because in my mind, if there is no point or purpose, well then I have no reason to make it.
So in this piece, I went with the protective, grounding energies of garnet, and matched the rest of the stones based on that purpose. The final design I came up with used: 1 black tourmaline at the base, followed by three garnet pebbles, sparkly yet extremely fragile stabilized pyrite and finished with three faceted black spinel stones, per earring post. The choice of stones gave me a fairly long and heavy earring, which is not really what I like to show in something that will be hanging from my dainty ears. I knew i might have to make some modifications with this one from my initial ideal version. because let’s face it, sometimes the greatness of our plans does not align with the practicality of our result, which is being able to wear a fabulous comfortable piece of jewelry.
With the gem design being pretty important, I knew I wanted to keep all or most of the design initially planned. Some modifications that I took in account to keep the weight down , I used a very thin gauge solid sterling silver head pin for the gems to be on. By using a lighter metal, I was not going to get the durability, but because of the weight of the stones, this helped to keep the stones strait and in place. What I mean by durability here, is that sometimes a thinner gauge wire will bend out of shape easily. Since I wanted a nice strait piece, the weight of the stones compensated for what would usually be a deal breaker in design.
Because of the thinner gauge of the choice of headpin, I also lost a bit of length capabilities and had to take out one of the stones. Originally I had planned on two black tourmaline stones for the bottom. not only was this impractical from the view of gauge capabilities, but it didn’t look right when put together. Sometimes a design will look better on the board than it does on the wire (or thread). Another great reason to test before settling.
Keeping in mind the weight of the stones, in my first version I used a heavier gauge ear wire. Notice I said first version, I’ll get back to that in a bit. But here is why I initially chose a heavier gauge earwire, logically to support a heavy material, you would assume using a heavier metal support would be ideal. This is where wear testing a piece is essential. because that perfectly created visual first version which looked spectacular, did not wear that way. If I never had the piece wear tested (by yourself or a trusted friend), I wouldn’t have realized they were uncomfortable and unwearable design.
Wear testing new designs is a great way to work out the ‘bugs’ or problems in a piece before they get associated with your name and reputation as an artist. After wear testing you might find that a piece is too heavy to be worn comfortably, as in this case.
Some other issues wear testing helps us jewelers avoid: too clunky, does not move well, moves to much, snags on something, has a sharp spot, needs more filing, stone not set properly, too small, colors not as imagined, balance is off on a necklace, does not lay right, clasp not workable, ring is too thick, stone used too large or small, etc. Basically all those little ‘details’ that you personally notice when you buy and wear jewelry, others will notice while wearing your jewelry and judge you and your jewelry on.
Be a professional in your workmanship. Whether jewelry design is your hobby, profession or solely artistry, it is always best to test your jewelry designs before selling or giving away as gifts.
So getting back to my story, what did I do in version 2 of the design to make it a success? I changed the ear wire gauge to a lighter gauge. Sometimes reality defies logic. In actuality the lighter gauge in metals matching was more important than the bulkiness of the stones matching the bulkiness of the metal gauge.
Wear testing also helps us more efficiently make our creations. What was a problem in the past, becomes easily avoidable in the future.
I hope this has inspired you to get out there, create, don’t be afraid to get messy and fail, then fix your mistakes. 🙂
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