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Hello All,

The discussion re: testing gravers on one’s fingernail/thumbnail
reminded me of my experience writing my first book, a project based
book on metal clay.

My editor suggested that, before beginning to shoot the project
steps, I should get a manicure. I’ve always been sorta proud of the
way my jewelry maker’s hands look. In that case I thought, OK, I’ll
go along with it, even though it seemed a bit deceptive. jewelry
maker’s hands, I thought, look like they should look, rough around
the edges, nails definitely filed, sanded and discolored, etc. But,
I had a manicure.

I began to work on the projects and the photographer shot the steps,
and then we sent them off to the art editor. She wrote back asap and
asked me, “Did you have a manicure?” I had to laugh, because I
really got into the work and my hands looked it! The photographer
had even cleaned up the images of my hands, removing, along with the
’dirt’, some of my age spots and wrinkles. Eventually we were able
to satisfy the art editor.

So, what do you in Orchidland think about showing only perfectly
manicured hands in a book that teaches jewelry making skills and
techniques? Do we want to give our students the impression that
making jewelry is a clean exercise. you come into the studio with
hands that look perfect and after working for hours, you leave the
studio with the same perfection? Alternatively, do we want students
to understand the nature of what we do in the studio, work that may
require giving up our unblemished hands with damaged fingernails?
Your thoughts, please…

Linda Kaye-Moses

Interesting topic here; taking photos of my own step-by-step
processes, I’m often shooting the photos, of course, after I
complete each step… and my hands and nails tend to show it and it
always makes me wince a bit when I’m reviewing those photos for a
tutorial. Sometimes I’ll crop or photoshop my slightly messed up
fingers/hands but in all honesty, it never really bothers me to see
roughed up or messy hands/fingers in books or others
tutorials… exactly because the mess is a real part of the
process… your point is well taken

Lisa Van Herik

I would venture that if the hands in the photos had clearly been
those of a man the editor would not have suggested cleaning them up
to that extent, assuming they looked healthy and not diseased.

Just more evidence of the cultural double standard under which women
still labor.

Elliot Nesterman

When I first started learning jewelry making skills, a young lady in
my class, who had flown across the country to take the class,
actually quit becauseit was ruining her manicure. Priorities, I


I find that nail polish lasts about 10 minutes in the studio.

I met an elderly goldsmith at a show once, and the first thing he
did was ask to see my hands. When I showed him my rough hands with
the “jewelers tattoos,” the silver dust spots under the skin, he
laughed and said, “Yes, you’re a real jeweler.”

To me these are badges of honor.

Janet Kofoed

Gee, I’ve been in the jewelry industry all of my life and never had
a manicure. My hands are very strong and large, perfect for
hammering metal, filing gold, setting stones, polishing, carving
wax, or changing a flat tire on my car. My hands are always clean
and my nails are short because I cannot work with long fingernails,
especially while carving wax.

Last week someone saw a photograph of a piece of jewelry with
multiple stones set and they asked if I knew if the designer set all
of the stones. My response was: “I know her and have seen her hands,
there’s no way sheset those stones!” Shall we all have a “jewelers
hands” page somewhere on Orchid?

Laffin, - Margie Mersky

I know another writer of jewelry articles/books who had pretty much
the same experience…

Frankly, when I’m looking at the books (and I have some of hers) I’m
NOT looking at her fingers lol! I’m looking at the metal and what to
do with it.

I don’t think it is “false”; just a bit silly… ')

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

Alternatively, do we want students to understand the nature of what
we do in the studio, work that may require giving up our
unblemished hands with damaged fingernails? Your thoughts,

It’s about having pleasant, clear pictures to look at, where you can
tell what the hands are doing, without being distracted by them.

I see your point about deception and I can also see the editor’s
point of view that anything that’s a distraction from the message of
the book isn’t good.


Do we want to give our students the impression that making jewelry
is a clean exercise. 

I am going to reveal the greatest secret of jewellery making.

It has never been published or even mentioned anywhere.

Are you ready ?. The secret is clean hands all the time.

When I started, I was total and complete disaster. I had no
discipline and no patience. If something took longer than an hour, I
would screw it up for sure. Than I met old jeweler who told me every
two hours to stop and clean up my bench, arrange tools in proper
order, and go wash my hands and face.

Jewellery making is mental exercise. One cannot do good work if one
does not feel good about oneself and his/her surroundings.

Paying attention to maintaining clean environment allows goldsmith to
think through next step. Very often we so involved in the process
that we take wrong path in fabricating. It could be soldering out of
order, or skipping on pre-polishing, and etc. The problem manifest
itself later when not much can be done about it.

Forced interruptions to clean one’s bench and hands takes one out of
fabrication stupor and allows to re-focus on correct sequencing.

Leonid Surpin

Hello Linda,

I don’t look at the artist’s hands in such photos. My attention is
on the process or tool or finished product. Now, if there was
dripping blood from open wounds. that’s different.

Judy in Kansas, where the morning temps were 60s and soooo pleasant.
More yellow squash harvested and observing little butternuts
beginning to grow.

I encourage my students to apply for jobs with some buffing compound
grit under their nails. I think it helps make them look like they are
not afraid to get dirty and work hard.

That said. I’ve played guitar longer than I’ve made jewelry. As a
finger style picker I have to keep my right hand nails long and the
left one’s short. I manicure my nails at least once a week and have a
pro do them every two weeks.

Since I keep nail polish on my nails I use a ten power loupe or just
dig into some scrap metal to check that my gravers are sharp instead
of the traditional nail test.

The nice polish doesn’t hide all of the gnarls, bumps, and scars I’ve
acquired over the years. I’m rather proud of those. For my 60th
birthday I had portrait photos taken. I insisted that he get a good
close up shot of my hands. They are what really tells my life story.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

Having seen books wherein the goldsmith’s hands are pictured it is
quite noticeable when the cuticles look just plain bad. Granted the
natural hand is my preference. I would NEVER concede to putting even
a coating of a clear nail enamel on* for anyone* if it isn’t your
norm, I would clean them well, not have any dirt under the nail and
have the cuticles looking as healthy as possible. If you think your
hands are a ‘strong point’, then they probably are. But readers do
look for things in pictures with a critical eye-particularly those
things that look out of place. A good wash, application of
moisturising balm around cleaned nail beds (silk or bag balm should
do the trick!) and done! Polish is flammable and if you don’t use it
or recommend it for torch firing metal clays, then tell them " you
are illustrating correct hygiene and hand safety " or something like
that! A good nail product is (no affiliation) tropic Wonder 4 part
files, they have 2 sides with 4 functions, one removes ridges, one
smooths the nail, one buffs to a high shine. that looks natural.
Don’t let them compromise your aesthetic. If it doesn’t feel natural
to you don’t give in to some editor’s whims. If you had a manicure
and that wasn’t good enough I have to wonder what wasn’t right -ask
for the art editor’s comments, then pose your position. rer

The secret is clean hands all the time. 

I have often wondered if one of the reasons I seldom get sick with a
cold is because I work at the bench? I have to wash my hands
frequently during the day. Much more frequently than the rest of the


I have seen demo pictures with fabulously manicured hands, which is
fine. On the other hand (no pun intended!) I feel that colourfully
painted nails are not in the least suitable for photo shoots,
because the bright spots of colour in the photos attract one’s
attention away from the whole point of the pix, which is the work in
progress. A clear or skin toned nail polish is by far the best option
if you feel undressed without it.

The demonstrator’s hands should be clean and tidy, and a gentle
manicure (for either sex!) might not be a bad idea before shooting
the pictures: scabby hands with grubby or ragged nails and ratty
cuticles would do the same job of detracting from the work as
brightly painted nails do!

Janet Barkwith

So, what do you in Orchidland think about showing only perfectly
manicured hands in a book that teaches jewelry making skills and

In my heart, I think it’s irrelevant if the hands are shown clean or
dirty. But if perfectly-formed and polished fingernails are shown, I
am questions). OTOH, the really dirty hands and notched fingernails
sometimes distract me from concentrating on the work being shown.
Somewhere in between is best, I think. If they were my hands, I’d
love to have all those brown spots and gnarly veins “cleaned up.” Judy

colourfully painted nails are not in the least suitable for photo
shoots. bright spots of colour in the photos attract one's
attention away. hands should be clean 

Yes, yes, yes. Take a tip from the high-end jewelry ads one sees:
seldom are ANY human body parts in the pic, unless one is David
Yerman or Tag Heuer and thus can afford to hire very expensive
famous models. And when they do, not just hands appear. :wink:

In photos and online demos, I’m mildly put off by hands that are
missing parts of fingers, dirt under the nails. I really dislike
seeing presumably female hands with those humpy, squared-off fake
nails, always with a “French manicure”. When I see those, I think

  • Lorraine

Personally, I don’t like seeing a manicured hand. I feel like I must
be doing something wrong if my hands don’t look the same. Makes the
work look easier than it is which, again, makes me feel like I am
incompetent. I prefer to see what is really going on and then learn
some on how to better care for your hands.


It's about the pleasant, clear pictures to look at, where you can
tell what the hands are doing, without being distracted by them. 

I have to say I agree. I’ve watched home made videos on youtube, and
commercially available DVDs on various jewelry arts, and the ones
where the artists’ fingernails, whether male or female, are dirty
and cracked seem to always draw my attention away from the task at
hand. On the flip side, a woman with a FANCY manicure - french tips
or painted nails - is equally distracting, in my eyes. A simple
manicure, regardless of gender, displaying clean, well-trimmed nails
allows the viewer to see the process without hindrance, and appears
far more professional, even if it’s not strictly accurate.

Linda in central FL

Thank you for that insight, Leonid. I believe your advice on taking
timeto stop and clean your work area and allow time to think through
the steps is exactly what I need. I find that when I am most
unpleased with my finished pieces, it was after I tried to work all
the way through and my workshoplooks like a disaster. It is said
that completions of things give you mental energy and incompletions
drain your energy. (like a student who feels more energetic after
they complete a large essay) So perhaps the littlecompletions of
these steps is why the goldsmith completes better pieces.

I appreciate your shared knowledge.

Rick Powell

I like to clean my bench before any new project and will often stop
part way to organize my bench as well as my thoughts. It kind of
reminds me of back in the old days when everybody smoked at the
bench. We’d work on a piece for a little while and then pause, smoke
a cigarette and ponder what we had just done and were about to do. It
was a great little ritual except for that dying of lung cancer part.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer