Monday, May 24, 2010

Granulation is a jewelry making technique used for decorating surfaces of gold and silver jewelry. Granules are small spheres of the same metal as the pieces of jewelry, and they are attached to (preferably) pure gold or silver.

The process of attaching granules is so old that different sources ascribe it to different civilizations, such as Etruscan, Sumerian and Egyptian. It is believed that the first samples were found in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC, and work of later dates has been found in Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, Cyprus, and Mycenaean Greece.

Sumerians were improving the technique in 2500 BC. Although granulation might have first been used by the Sumerians, it was the Etruscan who truly developed the technique' possibilities. The Etruscans really excelled in granulation. Not only was it used in the formation of patterns, but also to illustrate entire scenes.

Nevertheless, when we mention granulation we think of Egypt. Why does this happen? There is no mystery in it. Egypt produced 80% of the world gold output in ancient times. They colonized Nubia for its gold and invented mining. By the 2nd half of the 3rd millennium BC Egypt was circulating gold rings of standard weights as money. The Middle Kingdom, 2040-1730BC, marks a high point in the art of the Egyptian jeweler. Chasing, repousse, inlaying in cloisonne and granulation were used.

This is one of the most ancient techniques in jewelery history, but it has been considered modern at different times. It is modern again. These days when hand made accessories are thought after granulated jewelery is considered the top of the line. It cannot be faked. It is always one-of-a-kind. It is contemporary in design and historical in technique, making it timeless and forever fashionable.

Natalia Khon

Faberge and Reticlation

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reticulation is a three-dimensional texture on metal that can be described as dendritic or tree bark looking surface. It can be produced by heating up silver, gold or brass. The patterns can be somewhat controlled, though the technique itself is difficult to master. There are very few pieces of metal art that can be considered “fine”.

Different sources ascribe the technique to either Faberge or Scandinavian jewelers. Whether he invented or just developed it, he gave recognition to the reticulation starting from 1860. Most well known metal art pieces made in this technique are of Russian origin, mostly from the Faberge company.

Reticulation is known as “samorodok” which is a Russian name for it. You can find a translation to the word as “born by itself” (and that is true), but it is important to mention that the word refers to “nugget”. The wrinkled surface of metal looks like a nugget and this is why it has got that name.

A jeweler needs to have lots of experience to become very good at controlling the patterns. This is why it can be seen mostly in silver than gold. Though experienced jewelers can find a way to transfer a pretty pattern from silver to gold if they need to do so. Also, a special reticulation silver alloy gives better pronounced patterns than sterling silver.

Reticulation comes back in fashion from time to time. Nowadays, when organic shapes and forms are thought of, reticulation seems to be one of those surface embellishments that can give a modern look to a piece of jewelery.

Only a few years after school I tried this technique the first time, as it got me interested finally. I like the texture a lot as it really can change the look of an object and give it a visual dimension. A piece of jewelry made with it is truly eye-catching, especially if there are further embellishments taking place, such as stone setting and granulation. A course where I teach all the above has become one of my most favorite.

Natalia Khon

"Cut", "fire" and "luster" of a gem. What is it? (Part 2 of 5)

Beauty is another characteristic that affects a gem's price. You can see, that your favourite gem is beautiful. How can you describe it to others?

Beauty is a color, whether it is invigorating and warm color of a ruby or mysterious color of an emerald. A shape and a cut matters a lot too. They can show the beauty of a stone or kill it.

Only a professional gemologist can see if there is an interesting optical effect in the rough gem and choose the cut, that should be individual. Transparent stones mostly have faceted cuts, but if there is a "star" or a "cat's eye" effect then the stone must be cut as a cabochon.

How really beautiful is your stone? You need to know what to look at, so look at its lustre, brilliance and "fire".

Lustre is an optical effect produced by the light reflected from the surface of a mineral. Rays of light partially pass through a stone and they are partially reflected too. So, the brilliance depends on the internal nature of the stone on one hand and on the surface and the quality of its polish on another hand.

Look closely at your stone. How well is it polished? The surface should be smooth and shiny. If it is, you will be able to see the most brilliance and lustre that your stone can show.

Most transparent and translucent gems have brilliant (adamantine) and glass (vitreous) lustre. What lustre does your stone have? Does it have the same lustre as glass or is it much brighter, like a diamond?

Vitreous lustre is a characteristic of a quartz, sapphire or topaz.
Adamantine lustre is a characteristic of a diamond, zircon and demantoid (green garnet).
Resinous lustre is a lustre like that of a resin (examples: some garnets and amber).
Pearls and moonstone has pearly lustre.
Satin-spar has silky lustre.

If there is "fire" in a stone then it adds more beauty to it. Move your stone under the light. Do you see the sparkles of rainbow? Fire is especially important for the colourless stones. Usually the gems judged by the combination of lustre and "fire". A cut is chosen individually for each gem in order to enhance it. The most brilliant stones that have the best combination of both: diamonds, zircons, garnets almandine, rubies, sapphires, spinels and topazes.

Maria Roudakova
A jeweller from Switzerland

Art Nouveau Jewelry

Monday, May 17, 2010

Art Nouveau is a style for jewellery, interior designs, visual art and architecture. It was in fashion for a short period of time from 1895 to 1905. It is a very feminine and sensuous style that features women with long hair, flowers, dragonflies, swans and other attractive creatures.

The style was triggered by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha who was a visual artist. The most known jewelry artist of the Art Nouveau style was Rene J. Lalique.

When we studied Art History at our Jewelry Design course, the period of Art Nouveau was skipped by our teachers. I think they did it deliberately trying to save time and give us as much as possible. Art Nouveau style could not escape our attention... It never can :) Any art student who studies arts will come across this style… temporary fall in love with it and learn about it on their own.

That happened to us, of course…

We had a fun project called “A gift for a friend”. We wrote our names on pieces of paper. Whoever name you get then you make that person a gift. You need to interview them, but make somewhat a surprise.

Unbelievably enough I got my real friend’s name at that time. She told me that she loved Art Nouveau style and women with long hair in it especially. She thought about it for a few seconds… and told me I did not have to do that, as I was her friend and the project would be too complicated, and she did not want me to have any troubles. She will like anything I make, she has assured.

“No, no!” – I told her, - “If you like long haired women in Art Nouveau style, then this is what you will get!”

I took the challenge and really enjoyed making this piece for her. I could not wait to give it to her. When I did, I heard comments that other people wished I had their name on that piece of paper... It was one of those moments when you are happy giving something away. The emotions of that are unforgettable…

How really precious is your stone? (Part 1 of 5)

Friday, May 14, 2010

These articles are written by a friend of mine for my web-site. I think that this blog is a better place for for them.

Maria Roudakova is a Swiss jeweler working with the finest gems. She shared her professional knowledge in a way that people can understand and use them it even if they knew nothing about the gems before. 

How does colour and defects of a stone influence its price?

There are many classifications of gem stones and minerals, because there too many different opinions on what is what. The definition of a "precious stone" is not objective. It often depends on fashion, demand and portability (note, that demand could depend on anything including the metaphysical qualities of a gem). After reading this article you will be able to get your own opinion on the subject.

English mineralogist of the beginning of the 20th century G.Smith stated, that there were 3 the most important qualities of a gem stone: beauty, durability and rarity. Only diamond, ruby, emerald, blue sapphire, pearl, opal and alexandrite could be called precious stones in that case. Some countries classify some other transparent gems that usually have facet cuts as semi-precious as they do not have all 3 qualities at the same time. Other countries use the term "gem" regardless, because stones that have been called "semi- precious" before are sold for more than a fine diamond now.

You probably have your favourite piece of jewellery with a gem. Take a look at it. Let's see together what makes this gem so attractive.

First of all we notice its color. The magic powers were thought to depend on the gems' colors. The color makes a gem attractive, but... is it what we really see? All people have their own color perception. It is not easy to describe the exact tint. The light can change our color perception too.

What time of a day do you wear your gem? Most people prefer wearing them in the evening. Do you know how electric light affects your perception of the gems? Dark red, blue and purple stones loose their beauty. Orange, yellow and yellow-green stones look better. Day light is the best when you need to see the real colors and gem's qualities.

Now, we are moving to the "qualities". Many stones have flaws and defects either natural or manufacturing. Natural flaws are cracks and inclusions that often are other crystals, minerals, gases or liquids.

They do reduce the price of a gem, but do not devalue them. It is extremely difficult to find a coloured precious gem stone with no flaws (if your last name is not Rockefeller ;). The flaws can add an interesting look to a gem and tell of its place of origin. There is a very good chance that a gem with no flaws is an imitation.

Manufacturing flaws are different. It could be wrong proportions of a cut, external fractures, poor polishing. All these flaws devalue the gems. Be picky when you are choosing your gem, do not let the stones that have any of this flaws into your collection.

Maria Roudakova
A jeweller from Switzerland

Art Deco Jewelry

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Art Deco movement was popular from about 1920 till about 1935. It was inspired by Cubism, Ancient Egypt, Modernism and a few other movements. Strong geometrical shapes, lots of diamonds and bold colors are the main characteristics of the style. Art Deco designs were applied to jewelry, fashion, visual arts, interior designs and even architecture.

Being design students we did not just study the jewelry aspects of the history of art. We were making jewelry for the studied periods! It was a fun time! I wish, my learning was longer than just two years. Though, I continue studying different styles on my own and make pieces for the sake of fun.

Nevertheless, my Art Deco pin has been made at school, when we studied pave setting. I still remember sitting by my teacher at a desk and him coming up with a dozen ways how my project can be done in the most complicated way. I have failed to follow all his suggestions. I used a piece of maple and oak wood instead of black onyx and a green glass cabochon instead of a chrysoprase.

It took me about three month to complete the project (while new projects kept coming), but I’ve done it! It is still one of my jewelry objects that I am proud of.

June classes at the Mountain Gems

Monday, May 10, 2010

This is an update for the classes that I teach at the MG.

Unfortunately, I have not dared to schedule the clasp class as it is
very new still and very few people know about it, so we are skipping it
for now... It is going to be in August or September, I think...

Classes that have been scheduled:

Beginner Silversmithing course 8-week course. 8-week course, starting
date is the 16th of June, 2010. Price $185.00

Advanced Silversmithing course 8-week course, starting date is the 8th
of June, 2010. Price $195.00

3D Surface Embellishments: Reticulation and Granulation 2-Saturdays
class, June the 12th and 19th. Price $150.00

The last one is very new class also, though I hope it will get enough
interested people to run it. No previous experience is needed to learn
the techniques. Though people who have some experience might find these
techniques are very handy for decorating all kinds of jewellery: rings,
pendants, earrings, bracelets, lockets and other types of jewellery.

To get some ideas, visit this page where I've uploaded a few samples:

The descriptions of the classes are here:

Mountain Gems phone number: (604)298-5883 or Toll-free (Canada/USA)

Wish you all a great week!

In memory of my old hobby

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Many-many-many years ago... Well... Not that MANY... I started as a seed bead jewellery artist. I am looking at my bead works and thinking... How... How did I get enough patience to do THAT???

All that intriquet work... hours and hours of craft.... People are fascinated with my patince to my metal work, though I think that seed beads require much, much more patience.

Flickr (Victorian necklace)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Exploring FLICKR !

Flickr, Youtube, Twitter and others... I am on board again! Back to life in Internet!

Jewellery Catalog

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New catalog is uploaded on youtube!
Jewelry Designer Blog. Jewelry by Natalia Khon. Design by Pocket