A to Z 2023, Blog

My Jewelry Journey – An A to Z Prequel

If you read my theme reveal for the Blogging A to Z challenge, you will see I intend to write about some of the tools and processes used in fabricating jewelry. I thought some history surrounding my foray into jewelry making might be helpful.

White Clover

The first jewelry I ever made was a necklace made of clover flowers. As children we would pick clover flowers maintaining a long stem. Carefully, we tied the stems together, securing the knot of one pressed up against the flower of another.

Sunday mornings were always a rush for our family as everyone hurried to get ready for church. I can still see my grandmother in her housecoat with a white cream above her lip to either disguise or remove the dark hair that grew there. As she got ready, I would pore over the jewelry she stored in an old Whitman’s chocolate box. There I would find several strands of pop beads – every child’s delight! My grandmother often wore the pearl colored beads as a choker. I would unpop and pop them into longer necklaces I was allowed to wear to church. Those beads often got me into trouble though as I popped and unpopped them during preaching!

When I was in the Air Force I went through a phase of making rings using telephone wire. The only evidence I have of this is a portrait I had taken when I was stationed at Lockbourne AFB in Columbus, Ohio. You can see one of those rings on the ring finger of my left hand.(click if you want to enlarge the photo.)

The next time I would embark on making jewelry was long after I had married, divorced, and remarried and had grown children. A woman I worked with was making beaded jewelry by placing drilled beads on coiled memory wire. This wire is made of hard stainless steel and nearly impossible to bend. I can remember making bracelets and coiling them around a large can of some canned vegetable hoping to ease the tension. I even broke the tip of a pair of pliers trying to bend the wire. (Now most people glue a bead to the end of the wire to finish the bracelet.)

I finally took a class to learn how to make beaded jewelry. I went with a friend to a local bead shop where we paid a nominal fee for the proprietor to teach us how to make a finished bracelet. Weekends often found me scouring all the local bead stores for unique beads to add to my creations. I fell in love with Swarovski crystals. The bracelets and necklaces I made from those crystals were the first pieces I began to sell. Later I made (and still do) survivor bracelets. I never sold these. They were always given to survivors of sexual abuse or survivors of illness. I always combined them with a poem that tied the types and colors of beads to their survival story.

Eventually I enrolled in my first jewelry fabrication class where I learned how to fabricate jewelry from sterling silver sheet and wire. I was hooked. I took class after class and eventually gained the skills necessary to make the engagement rings for my daughter and her wife. My first time using gold. Talk about stressful!

After retiring I took a few lapidary classes – a lifelong dream of mine. I have incorporated a few of those pieces into jewelry. I hope to do more of that in the future, but I no longer have access to lapidary equipment.

It was synchronicity that I met my friend Molly when my husband and I decided to go on an artist studio tour. Molly is an amazing silversmith and jewelry fabricator. Since that time I have taken several classes from her and she has become a tremendous mentor and an even better friend.

Now I feel I have come full circle. I have a small workspace in my home and soon hope to enhance it with some better soldering tools in order to make some larger pieces.

I look forward to this upcoming A to Z challenge and hope you will join me along the way.