Saturday, July 4, 2015

Whats On My Bench

In today's edition of Whats on My Bench, Carolyn of VenusVelvet shares what she's been making this month...




Lately, I have been creating a lot of custom necklaces for sweet mamas with little ones that need distraction while nursing or baby-wearing. 40 custom orders over the last month and a half!



The solid links provide comfort and distraction for the wee ones. I'm told they love to play with the links, feel to coolness of the metal in their little hands, watch the sparkle created when the light hits the faceted surface of the links, and listen to the soft jingling sound of the links hitting each other!



The mamas get to look smashingly good with a little bling around their neck... and these necklaces are rugged too.



The custom pieces each have a little personal story - some mama's like to choose to add a little 14k gold accent hoop for each child, some choose a mix of silver and gold to represent each family member, and some include charms for little ones lost but never forgotten. I call them Mother's Little Helpers (or MLH for short).


Thank you Carolyn - your MLH designs are beautiful!

On behalf of the JET Team, I would like to wish all our US readers a very Happy Independence Day. Have a great weekend everyone!
Val

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July 4th is Independence Day!

This Saturday is the Fourth of July - Independence Day - an offical holiday which celebrates the day in 1776 when the United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain by signing the Declaration of Independence.

Photo: Wikipedia


Independence Day is the American National Day, and is celebrated with all manner of fun activities - many people plan parties, barbecues or picnics, while towns hold patriotic ticker tape parades and carnivals, and ceremonies and speeches take place marking various American traditions.

Families usually take advantage of the day off work, to attend a baseball game, or to gather with relatives to share lots of wholesome home baked goodies such as apple pie and hamburgers. Throughout the United States you will see patriotic decorations in the red, white, and blue colors of the American flag - on buildings, homes and places of business everywhere.

Why not fly the flag yourself by wearing one or more Independence Day colours? If you're looking for something extra special, here is a small selection of handcrafted and vintage red, white and blue jewelry available from members of the JET Team:




Evening firework displays cap off a day of pride and celebration. This year, Macy’s in New York will be launching over 40,000 fireworks during their 25-minute show - great viewing points for seeing the fireworks over the Manhattan skyline include Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Frank Sinatra Park (Hoboken NJ) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (DUMBO). It is important to note that each state has specific guidelines regarding the use of fireworks, which you can check on this Firework Laws By State site provided by the US government.


Photo: smartdestinations.com

Washington DC hosts a myriad of activities, notably an evening concert with bands, singers and a terrific fireworks show. This is a day to remember those who have fought for our freedom, and to reflect on the liberty which America is blessed with.

The Arlington Cemetery holds an especially emotional tribute on this day as well. Finally there is the 4th July Salute to the Union, an annual tradition whereby at noon on military bases, a one-gun salute is fired for each of the 50 US states.

Whatever you plan to do this Independence Day, we hope you have lots of fun!
Judy
Judy of JemsbyJBandCompany

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wednesday Kitchen - Collard Greens with Blackeye Peas

Welcome to another Wednesday Kitchen with the JET Team! Everyone seems to be on the Kale wagon these days, but we really don't care for Kale here. Instead, we like Collard greens. These are Brassica cultivars, from the same family as Brussels sprouts and cabbages - with health benefits reputed to include lowering cholesterol.

I went to the farm the other day and picked some Collard greens, and I have to go back and get more as this dish was delicious! I like to saute the greens with blackeye peas, but you can substitute white beans or leave them out entirely. Either way, this makes a great side dish!

Photo: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch Collard Greens
  • ½ Pound Blackeye Peas or White Beans
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 3 Small Shallots
  • 1½ Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


To Make

  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil
  2. Roll up the leaves and cut them very thin, up to the stem


  3. Add the greens to boiling water for 3-5 minutes
  4. Drain and rinse the greens quickly with cold water to retain that nice green color


  5. Rinse the blackeye peas


  6. Saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil, with the salt, pepper
  7. Add the greens and blackeye peas, and cook on low light for another 8-10 minutes


  8. Enjoy!

Michele
Michele of malves1009

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Coloured Gemstone Beads

Do you use coloured gemstone beads in your jewellery? Have you ever wondered what the gemstone bead ratings actually mean? Do you know the difference between an A graded gemstone bead and one with a B or C rating? Why are some beads classed as AAA or A+?

Look no further! Over the last four weeks we have been discussing the criteria on which fine high-end coloured gemstones are assessed, and this week we turn our attention to beads and explore the characteristics of the different grades of coloured gemstone beads.


Beads From left: B Grade Natural Peridot, C Grade Dyed & Heated Carnelian, A Grade Natural Lapis Lazuli


The first thing to say is that - as with cut coloured gemstones - there is no universally acknowledged system for grading coloured gemstone beads. Occasionally suppliers will use the same systems as for assessing the cut stones (see last week's article). However most use a scale of grades from A to C, where an A rated bead is the highest quality, and C is lowest.

Some suppliers such as The Curious Gem will generally only sell high quality A rated gemstone beads, so they use codes like AA and AAA to indicate relative quality within a grade. Other suppliers may use + or - to describe the relative superiority of beads within a particular grade. Yet other suppliers, such as Fire Mountain Gems, allocate grades from A through F to their coloured gemstone beads, although E and F are rarely used.


Beads From left: C Grade Heated Citrine, B Grade Natural Aventurine, B Grade Heated Tanzanite

Pricing


Because of the varying standards it can be really difficult to compare like with like, but as always price is a very good indicator of quality. When comparing bead prices between suppliers, the most important things to look for are the same as with cut coloured gemstones - Three Cs - that is the colour, the clarity and the cut of the beads.

Don't forget that the rarity of the gemstones themselves, and the skill of the cutter, both play a significant role in determining the price. High quality, expertly cut beads with good colour and clarity are much more desirable - and will always be more expensive - than lower quality beads. All things being equal, carat weight will play a part in the price, so larger beads with the same rating will cost more than smaller ones.

Beads From left: A Grade Enhanced Turquoise
A Grade Natural Malachite
B Grade Heated Yellow Sapphire


Of course, there is a world of difference between the one-off, painstakingly hand-cut specimen gemstones we looked at last week, and the plethora of strands of coloured gemstone beads we're talking about here. But then, there is a huge difference in price too! Jewellery designers will want to bear in mind that it's extremely unusual for the very best quality gemstones to be cut into beads, because they can fetch much higher prices as faceted gems destined for setting in fine jewellery. Yet while A graded coloured gemstone beads may not be the same fabulous quality as priceless cut gemstones, they can still look gorgeous in your designs!

Machine Cut versus Hand Cut?


Machine cut gemstone beads will have more precise and uniform facets, and should be well polished and well drilled. Because of this they will be more sparkly and brilliant, and their colour will appear to be better. By contrast, many gemstone beads are hand cut, with far fewer facets, and by their very nature they will not be absolutely uniform in shape and size. Their colour is unlikely to be as radiant as machine cut beads, and they will not display as much brilliance. Similarly, the size and position of drill holes may vary.

Beads From left: B Grade Heated Sapphire, B Grade Oiled Emerald, C Grade Dyed Ruby


The following is a very general guideline to the grades applied to coloured gemstone beads:

A Grade

A is usually the highest grade, given to high quality beads that are suitable for use in a wide range of very good quality jewellery designs. Depending on the gemstone, light inclusions may be present, but generally speaking a strand of A rated gemstone beads should display very good colour and clarity, be very well cut and evenly drilled, and be uniform in colour, shape and size. If you see an AA or A+ grade, this may mean that the colour, clarity or cut is even better than usual, while AAA graded coloured gemstone beads should be eye clean and as close to perfect as you can get.

B Grade

B rated gemstone beads should still be of good quality, and suitable for use in many jewellery designs, especially stringing applications. However, their colour, clarity and cut will not be as good as A rated beads, and their lower price will reflect this. All the beads in a strand are likely to vary from one another in colour, shape and size, and internal and external flaws will be visible. It is advisable to factor in a certain amount of wastage, as you may find the quality is such that you cannot use all of the beads, or they make break or ship when you attempt to string them.

C to F Grades

These are the lowest rating coloured gemstone beads, and because they are much less desirable than the higher grades they will have the lowest price tag. They will have very obvious flaws, inclusions and surface imperfections, and are likely to be very variable in shape and size. Beads in this category will probably be poorly drilled, or drilled off centre, and may be brittle. But depending on what you want to use them for, they may still be a good value purchase - just check the beads very carefully before buying and make sure that they are suitable for your intended jewellery project.

Beads From left: B Grade Irradiated Blue Topaz, A Grade Natural Labradorite, A Grade Natural Fluorite

Suppliers


It is important to choose your supplier carefully, and only buy from reputable and, ideally, qualified sources. Beware of internet sellers who describing their gemstone beads as AAA, AAA+, or AAAA as their claims may be subjective and not based on genuine assessment, and certificated gemstone dealers do not as a rule apply grades in this way. If in doubt, before reaching for your wallet, ask the supplier to show you their GIA (or equivalent) certificate of assessment for the beads.

Real or Fake?


If you're buying on the internet, don't be fooled into thinking you are getting a bargain, when you may be being ripped off! There are minimum manufacturing costs associated with the production of all gemstones, and you really do get what you pay for. And beware of fakes: in a random search on Etsy I spotted a strand of "AA grade" aquamarine beads on sale for $10. Think about the Three Cs for a moment - unless someone has made a typo, genuine AA quality natural aquamarines are going to be much more expensive than $10 a strand! Having said that, those $10 beads may be exactly what you're looking for - just don't expect them to be top quality gemstones.

Beads From left: B Grade Oiled Emerald, B Grade Natural Tourmaline, C Grade Heated Aquamarine

Gemstone or Glass?


I quite often see glass beads being misleadingly sold as gemstones, especially quartz. It is difficult to tell the two apart without a microscope, but genuine quartz has a very distinctive crystalline structure which is not present in glass. If you have a loupe, check to see if there are any perfectly round air bubbles. If so, it's glass not quartz. Also, a genuine quartz bead is harder than glass and will scratch glass easily. I was once advised to wear an old watch when buying gemstones, so you can run the quartz gently over the glass watch face. If it leaves a scratch mark, the bead is quartz. If not, it's glass. However, I wouldn't recommend doing this without the consent of the supplier - you might end up with more than a scratched watch face!!!!!

Finally, remember that if the price of a gemstone bead seems to good to be true, then it probably is!

Erika
Handcrafted Vintage Style Jewelry by Blucha

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dots!

I don't know why, but dots just make me happy. I don't wear dots, and don't have any dots in my house decor - at least I don't think so! But when I see dots I just smile! Here are some lovely, handmade designs I found on Etsy that might make you smile too :)

Dots and Dogs





Dots for You





More Dots





Susan
Susan of cserpent

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Kitchen - Chocolate Cake

Welcome to another Wednesday Kitchen, featuring favourite recipes from members of the JET Team! Today our team member Jennifer, of WearableByDesign, takes a break from creating amazing jewelry to share an amazing cake recipe with us!




This is a low carb, gluten free recipe for chocolate cake... a seriously delicious, dense and chocolatey cake that will satisfy any dieter's cravings!




Cake Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Almond Flour
  • ⅔ Cup Dark Cocoa
  • ⅓ Cup Coconut Flour
  • ⅓ Cup Unflavored Whey Protein Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • ½ Cup Butter, Softened
  • ¾ Cup Swerve Sweetener
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 10 Pkts Splenda
  • 1 Shot Espresso plus Heavy Cream to make 3/4 Cup



Frosting Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese Softened
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
  • 1 Cup Powdered Swerve Sweetener
  • ⅔ Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 8 Pkts Splenda
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla

To Make

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Combine your dry ingredients into a bowl


  3. Cream your butter and sweetener


  4. Add eggs


  5. Mix half the dry ingredients into the butter and egg mixture, then add the espresso mixed with cream


  6. Stir in remaining dry ingredients


  7. Spread evenly into a prepared 8 x 8 inch square baking dish



  8. Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out dry when inserted into the center of the cake
  9. Cream together the cream cheese and the butter


  10. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth


  11. Frost the cooled cake

  12. Enjoy!!


Jenn
Jennifer of WearableByDesign

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Assessing Coloured Gemstones, Part 4 - Cut

In this final part of our JET Team discussion about assessing fine coloured gemstones, we look at the importance of cut in grading the stones. All gemstone images are courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Cut refers to the manner in which a stone has been cut - such as emerald-cut, step-cut, brilliant-cut - rather than to its overall shape. The skill of the cutter is demonstrated by the quality of cut, which can have a big impact on the overall colour. Thus the way a stone is cut not only determines the final beauty and brilliance of that gemstone, it also affects its grade and value.


From left: Very good oval pink spinel, 5.97ct
Very good enhanced octagonal emerald, 4ct
Good oval blue zircon, 6.32ct


The most important factors here are the proportions and symmetry of the cut, and the way a stone has been polished. The cut should be neither too shallow nor too deep, and there should be a sharp and well-defined difference between the top part, or crown, of the gemstone and the lower part, or pavillion. For the highest grade the facets should be expertly cut and well-proportioned, and should be polished so that the finished gemstone reflects and transmits light evenly, giving it a bright and glittery brilliance.


From left: Very good oval golden beryl, 60.50ct
Excellent octagonal step-cut natural sapphire, 20.21ct
Excellent oval natural yellow-green tourmaline, 4.89ct


With pearls, lustre is what gives them their pearly quality, and is the way they reflect and diffuse light. Thus more lustrous pearls will be graded higher than less lustrous examples. Unlike other coloured gemstones, pearls are also graded according to their shape and size. So, for example, round pearls should be as close as possible to perfectly round with the naked eye. Natural, saltwater pearls are valued much more highly than cultured pearls, while freshwater pearls are generally less valuable.


From left: Very good enhanced pear-shaped paraiba tourmaline, 1.24 ct
Excellent oval-shaped pink sapphire, 2.54ct
Very good natural saltwater conch pearl, 6.40ct


We hope you've found this discussion helpful! If you're considering purchasing coloured gemstones, Gemfields has a useful online Buyer’s Guide.

Erika
Handcrafted Vintage Style Jewelry by Blucha

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Whats on My Bench

Hello and welcome to another edition of Whats on My Bench with the JET Team. This week Mollie of RoughMagicCreations tells us about the gorgeous necklace she made for a recent jewelry swap...




Several years ago, when I first started thinking about selling my handmade jewelry online, the first thing I did was search for "jewelry making." And the first thing I found was a lovely online forum where jewelry designers were chatting about their projects and plans, asking questions and offering advice, and sharing photos of their work.

After several weeks of lurking, I took my heart in my hand and joined that group. And before I knew it, I found myself a welcome (and contributing) member of a circle of jewelry making friends. These wonderful people soon became "family," and it was through them that I found my way to Etsy - where Rough Magic Creations was born. That lovely online platform has since fallen victim to the ever evolving cybersphere, but the "forum family" has held together through an active social media group, and we have continued our tradition of semi-annual swaps.

This spring a group of jewelry designers, friends who met on a now inactive online forum, organized a themed swap called "Sprummer" - a combination of Spring and Summer, with each participant contributing five pieces to be sent to five other participants. For my part, I decided to create a brand new design - a rustic, primitive copper flower pendant on a leather cord.



First I drew very rough sketches of three flowers in graduated sizes, which my husband Joe used as templates for cutting the components for the pendant from a repurposed sheet of industrial copper. I then made another sketch, again very rough, of the assembled piece as I envisioned it.

After hammering the three pieces for texture and a slightly concave shape, I punched holes in the centers, removed any burrs or rough edges, and tumbled the pieces until they were smooth and shiny.



The next step was treating them to a color enhancing flame bath, after which I stacked them and ran sturdy 12 gauge head pins through the holes to secure the pieces. The ends of the pins, folded upward and brought forward though holes in the larger flowers, formed bails.

For the 18 inch long necklace cords, I chose natural tan leather, wire wrapped at both ends and closing with my own hammered copper hook and eye clasps.



When this new design was finished, I liked it so much I made another one - just for me! And one day soon, I'll be adding these made-to-order necklaces in my Etsy shop.



A few days after putting my 5 pieces in the mail, I received five wonderful items myself, each one a lovely surprise - handmade by a special jewelry making friend.




Thank you very much, Mollie. See you all next week!
Val