Saturday, January 22, 2011
Phew! January’s Jewel of the Month sneaked in just under the wire. Fine jewelry, like the cheese in Cheez-Its, can’t be rushed into maturity.
A jewelry designer without her own factory must work with other people’s schedules. Last year, I wrote about lost-wax casting, a process in which a design is carved in hard wax. A mold is created from the wax model, and metal is poured into that mold. Then all the work of perfecting the design, setting the stones and polishing the metal starts. An elaborate wax piece must be carved with care. Measurements are crucial. Metal has to be a certain thickness if I’m going to set stones in it. Even if I’m using an existing mold, I can’t always get the metal casting immediately. My jobs get scheduled in at a metal caster along with many other jewelers’ jobs.
There are other complicating factors. For instance, metal casters might only pour white gold twice a week (it was once a week during the worst of the recession). Sometimes I pick up the metal casting and find out the metal is porous — full of tiny holes that weaken the piece. Then that metal needs to be melted down and the process started all over again. Rushing a gem setter can be counterproductive because a bad job shows. I’ve seen plenty of inexpensive (and even expensive) jewelry with uneven or otherwise poorly set gems. That’s something I won’t tolerate.
When Black Swan came out last month and people swooned over Natalie Portman’s performance, I thought, “I MUST do a black-diamond version of my Cleves swan ring!”
I made the first Cleves ring, shown above, to match my onyx Cleves necklace. Both are named after Henry VIII’s fourth and smartest wife, Anne of Cleves. I proved that Anne was a damn genius in this post from 2007. Anne was born in Schwanenburg Castle — translated as Swan Castle.
I like doing variations on existing styles so I have something for a variety of tastes and budgets. I have a silver Cleves ring too.
I made the original Cleves rings in 2008, two years after I first envisioned them.
Since I already had a mold for the ring, the black-diamond version didn’t take me as long. I got the metal for the ring cast in December, as soon as I came up with the concept, but that month was pretty much shot as far as getting any additional work done. In December, everyone is rushing to finish up their holiday orders. It’s not a good time to start something new. Considering the time I lost over the holidays, I got this ring done fairly quickly — just over two weeks. Here is my “Black Swan” version of the Cleves ring in 18K yellow gold and black diamonds.
The perfect gift for the deranged ballerina in your life!
The idea for the Black Swan ring first hit me during a conversation I was having with Laura, the lovely owner of Broken English Jewelry in Santa Monica, Calif. Thanks for the inspiration, Laura! Laura carries the original Cleves ring style. Click here to shop for it at Broken English. I’ve got one more swan-related piece on the way. Stay tuned!