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Marking silver jewlery with riticulation


#1

Hello everyone. Please be kind to me :slight_smile: I am a rank amateur and it
appears amateurs get little respect in professional circles in the
art community.

I am winding down a long career in education and trying to move
toward a more professional involvement in the jewelry arts. It is my
passion… everyone says you are supposed to do what you are
passionate about the second time around :slight_smile: As part of the process
of… well… making a radical career switch… I am applying for
membership in the KY Guild of Arts and Crafts. That just scares the
holy crap out of me because… well… I don’t know what to expect and
if I am “good enough”. I have been a metalsmith and lapidist for 40
years… as a hobbyist. You can be slack as a hobbyist… and who
cares. I have to admit that I have produced some of the most god
awful work that any metalsmith could have ever produced… ok… my
solder joins always met and I hate firescale… but some of it was
really ugly. But the worse charge… was most of it was uninteresting.
Over the last 10 years or so I have been trying to refine my skills.
I struggle with design. I still suck. I just want to work on the
technical aspects right now… the whole business aspect scares me
worse (and I have an MBA).

The range of things a professional jewelry artist has to deal with
is daunting… business skills, technical skills, artistic
ability… and the metals market. And the whole jury process scares
me… do I do simple pieces technically well… do I show what
techniques I have mastered? Or … (my inclination)… do I do things
that make me happy. I don’t appearto fit the contemporary mold very
well… I think I may be a minimalist.

I look at the work I see over and over for instance in whatever that
mag= is called (it will always be Lapidary Journal to me) and think…
how the hell is someone going to wear that? Form follows function…
if you can’t wear it… why make it? I struggle with stones too… I
have some real= ly nice old stock andean blue opal… but if it is not
going to last 10 years in a ring with daily wear… why make it? I
have heard that craft guild people are snobs… perhaps from those
who… well… are less than prepared. I love the way the KY Guild
presents it on their web page… they don’t seek to exclude…just
include those whose work is exemplary. I want to be exemplary :slight_smile: I am
less interested in “making the cut” than finding some like minded
people. If any one of you suggest I find a local crafts club I will
personally hunt you down and pull your underwear over the top of
your head. And…I have been so out there and alone with this forever
because I live in the middle of nowhere and no one does this in
rural freaking KY. Have you ever tried to make neilo by yourself…
it would be nice to have a community to belong to where I could call
up a friend and we could do those things together… and people not
think I a crazy.

Who can I talk to about Keum boo… I am playing with that… I ran to
show my wife the first time I tried it… it really works… lol… and
she was mostly uninterested :slight_smile: I thought it was pretty damn neat :slight_smile:
Talking to you guys is NOT the same as having a friend to do it
with. How come no one does things like keum boo ro neilo
professionally… the labor involved… lack of market… what??

Oh… my question. I think I may have went off on the deep end there
for awhile. So… reticulation. If I use an element… say a dome…
that I have reticulated using an 80/20 silver… I can’t mark this as
sterling - right? IF… I can manage to add enough fine silver to
bring it to .925 … is that kosher? By law I can’t mark it as
sterling if the whole piece would not assay out as.925… is that
correct? I can reticulate sterling… and in some cases like the more
subtle effect… but that was not the question. From a business
standpoint… will you produce something you can’t legally mark? At
some point… in the artistic vs business equation… do you say…
who cares if I mark it?


#2
From a business standpoint... will you produce something you can't
legally mark? At some point... in the artistic vs business
equation.. do you say.. who cares if I mark it? 

Business and art rarely mix well. If you target sophisticated
segment, it should not be a problem. Faberge produced many pieces
totally unmarked. If you think about it, by marking you indicate
purity of metal, but if client insist on it, client does not trust
you. If client does not trust you, he/she will not buy from you
anyway.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#3

Brent,

Go to the electronic Code of Federal Regulations
(http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov) and query for Title 16: Commercial
Practices; Part 23 – Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and
Pewter Industries.

Here you will find the precise definitions and regulations as to what
you may call what in the United States. I don’t have time this am to
discuss all the regs regarding silver, but you should be able to
discern them.

What county are you in? I was a youngster in Jefferson County, then
about 30 years ago I taught at EKU in Madison County.

John


#4

Hi Brent.

You’ll find that there are as many different thoughts about making
jewelry as there are jewelers & jewelry artists. :slight_smile:

I can’t answer what that specific guild would be looking for- just
show them your best work & that’s really all you can do when
submitting anything to a jury.

As for making work that can’t actually be worn, that’s part of the
art of being a jewelry artist-- using the form of jewelry to make a
statement of some sort about the world. You don’t sound like a
minimalist so much as a jeweler who wants to make wearable jewelry,
which is cool, too. Keep in mind that even a lot of functional
jewelry isn’t meant to be worn everyday- perhaps you can set that
opal of yours in a brooch or a pendant instead of a ring?

Hopefully someone else can answer your questions about hallmarking.
I tend to mix metals in my pieces so I don’t stamp them- I just
write on the tag what they are. What I would like to do is get a
stamp made of my maker’s mark & stamp that on my work. It’s next on
my list of tools. (I’m a recent graduate of a metals program & only
recently started selling my work.) I know quite a few people who do
Keum-bo but very few people do neilo anymore because of the hazards
of working with lead.

Sharon


#5

Well, you can certainly see examples of arts and crafts, some of
which is crafts having attained the level of arts at various museums
in Kentucky. The artisan museum at Berea is an example. Once in a
while there will be jewelry items. Kentucky has many fine crafts
artists but I cannot tell you how many support their living with
that work.

Marking Jewelry: If you make sterling jewelry, you better mark it to
prevent questioning by customers who may not trust an unmarked item.
The 925 stamp is easier to apply than bulky STERLING marks. If you
make items which are not sterling, you may label (not stamp) as
"reticulated silver", etc., adescription but not a legal quality
mark. Crafts jewelry items certainly do not need to be precious
metals to sell but do need to be well done in method and some will
reach the level of fine crafts and some will be closer to art…an
area where the connection of form and function sometimes becomes
cloudy. Art items can be hard to sell depending on the perceptions
of each possible customer.

You can jump into the crafts of jewelry design and making but if not
practiced already will need much time to truly control the materials
and produce quality work. No one becomes a skilled jeweler overnight,
whether in technical ability or artistry in design. Work on both and
once the technical is somewhat controlled then artistry and personal
creativity will find more freedom. Earning enough from this to pay
for your equipment is another consideration altogether. You could
consider using that blue opal because it is pretty and someone will
buy it.

Tom.


#6
I am winding down a long career in education and trying to move
toward a more professional involvement in the jewelry arts. It is
my passion.. everyone says you are supposed to do what you are
passionate about the second time around :) 

Way to go!

I’m a full time software developer and enjoy it too, plus it pays to
much for me to switch to “struggling artist mode” yet. But I expect
to be in your shoes in 15 years, so feel free to give advice to me at
that time! J

As part of the process of... well.. making a radical career
switch.. I am applying for membership in the KY Guild of Arts and
Crafts. That just scares the holy crap out of me because... well..
I don't know what to expect and if I am "good enough". 

It doesn’t matter if you’re good enough or not! If you aren’t, keep
working at it in your now copious spare time and you will be. J

You have to decide why you are making the items.

If you are making them to make a living, it matters whether people
with the money to buy them at your price point like them or not. Other
than human vanity, it only matters if someone else likes them if
they would be willing to give you free publicity or give you retail
sales space in their establishment.

If you are doing it for your own pleasure, it matters whether you
like them or not.

I just want to work on the technical aspects right now... 

Sounds like a good plan. If you are planning to do this to make a
living, concentrate on aspects that will improve the marketability of
your work and reduce the labor or material cost to make it.

If you are doing this because you just enjoy it, concentrate on
aspects that you want to get better at.

the whole business aspect scares me worse (and I have an MBA). 

If you’re planning to make a living as an artist, it should! Making
a good living as an artist is hard. Otherwise, it’s just business math
and contracts. Sales, cost of goods sold, taxes, etc.

And the whole jury process scares me... do I. 

I suspect the answer to that varies with the jury. Why not ask them?

I don't appear to fit the contemporary mold very well... 

Neither do I. I have an interest in ancient and medieval pieces and
how to re-create them using period-appropriate techniques (modified
as necessary by safety, budget, or time requirements).

Most modern jewelry, other than the Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau or
Art Deco styles, leaves me cold. I respect that many others like it,
and I admire the technical and design quality of it (when present),
but I don’t usually care about it one way or another.

how the hell is someone going to wear that? Form follows
function... if you can't wear it... why make it? 

The Iron Law of Bureaucracy is “Form follows function - and often
obliterates it.”

I have heard that craft guild people are snobs.... perhaps from
those who... well.. are less than prepared. 

Some are, some aren’t. Be nice, be friendly, be honest and do your
best. If that’s not enough for them to be nice to you, stuff their
attitude where the sun doesn’t shine. J

I am less interested in "making the cut" than finding some like
minded people. If any one of you suggest I find a local crafts club
I will personally hunt you down and pull your underwear over the
top of your head. And..I have been so out there and alone with this
forever because I live in the middle of nowhere and no one does
this in rural freaking KY. Have you ever tried to make neilo by
yourself... it would be nice to have a community to belong to where
I could call up a friend and we could do those things together...
and people not think I a crazy. 

Aside from making sure folks know about your interests and desire
for kindred art spirits, you might want to check out the following:

  1. A community college or technical community college for continuing
    education classes. Might be a good way to meet folks if there’s one
    within driving distance.

  2. College art classes, ditto.

  3. Professional groups. SNAG, Enamelist’s Society, and vendors who
    conduct classes or sponsor meetings. (Thompson Enamel is in Newport,
    KY!).

  4. Historical reenactment groups. Some members are goobers, but
    others are surprisingly knowledgeable about things like niello,
    because they want to have a Viking war axe with niello engravings
    just like the real ones. Most of them are composed of pretty nice
    folks. One is called the SCA, www.sca.org is the website. They have
    a number of groups in Kentucky plus the surrounding states. Plus they
    won’t charge you to teach you what they know, which is might darn
    helpful when learning on a tight budget.

Hope that helps!
David Wendelken


#7

Hello Brent,

To set your mind at ease, I have found Orchidians to be very kind.
Those who have answers are willing to share them.

You are not the only one who is working/learning your craft in
isolation -

even though I am in a university town, the only person with whom I
felt comfortable sharing problems, ideas, solutions, etc., died. That
was a blow, especially emotionally. SO, now I am grateful to read and
occasionally contribute to Orchid postings. I have learned SOOooo
much from this group.

Regarding your question about hallmarking - if it ain’t.925 silver,
it ain’t sterling. Your reticulated pieces aren’t.925. Using a
description on the card/tag seems like the most transparent way to
educate the customer.

Hang in there and keep on asking questions, experimenting, reading,
and use the archives. Much good stuff there! Judy in Kansas, who
bought gladiolas and cladiums yesterday - still need to order those
seeds!


#8

Dear Brent,

Congrats on changing your career to one of creating jewelry. It can
be a scary move to some, but one of intense personal satisfaction, to
those who have the courage to “jump in”.

To answer your technical question first, if you make a piece of
jewelry that’s a combo of reticulation silver (80/20) and sterling
silver, the way to mark the piece is just like listing food
ingredients in a box. The largest amount gets marked first, then you
list the second amount. If the jewelry item is mostly reticulation
silver with a little sterling silver, mark it silver 80/20, then 925
or sterling next. I very often make pieces in sterling silver with
18k gold accents- thus I mark it 925 first, then 18k.

Phew! What to answer next… A lot of people don’t work in niello
because of the toxicity involved. Keum bo is beautiful, but
customers are known to be lax in jewelry maintenance- it is easily
rubbed off if not careful.- you can’t even use a polishing cloth too
vigorously. I’d advise doing it on an pre-oxidized or satin finished
piece and WARN YOUR CUSTOMERS about the fragile keum bo.

Speaking of customers, it is your responsibility to warn your
customers if a stone like opal is fragile and shouldn’t be worn in
an everyday ring. Or, don’t use the material in a ring in the first
place because if it breaks, the first thing a customer will do is
blame you. After all, you are responsible for your workmanship.

Lapidary Journal? Yeah, that can be annoying. I have a jewelry &
lapidary school in the Asheville, NC area and have to spend a lot of
time undoing mistakes that my students make because they’ve read
articles on “how to” that leave something important out. Not all the
contributors to the magazine are guilty of this, but some
consistently do that little omission- like someone who shares a
recipe but leaves out an important ingredient. I’m not the only one
with that opinion, many of my fellow jewelers in the area say the
same thing.

What the magazine is good for is watching trends in jewelry making.
PMC silver has been promoted for a while- it enables those who do
not have traditional jewelry skills to make jewelry. My design
thought when I saw it was to take a piece of textured PMC and use it
just as a design element on the piece- not the entire piece of
jewelry. I’ve taught certified PMC instructors how to combine what
they do with more traditional methods. They leave with a lot more
respect for jewelry fabrication…We chuckled when we saw cold
connections being promoted; we just finished a 3 day workshop on the
topic- a workshop that had been scheduled 6 months ago. How timely
we were… (lol)

After 27 yrs of making jewelry, I have seen many “designers”- some
fabulous- some terrible. If your work is cleanly finished, but
simple in design- it will sell. Simplicity is actually harder to
make well than some complicated pieces. I am always being an
educator behind my jewelry cases- I have to inform customers about
stones, metals, “care and feeding” as I call jewelry maintenance.
Part of the job description- that shouldn’t be difficult for a
former educator like yourself. Make a point of visiting juried and
guild craft fairs and talk to all the jewelers. Reassure the
jewelers that you are not there to copy their work, but you are
learning process. Ask questions. The secure jewelers shouldn’t have
a problem answering unless they have a proprietary process that they
need to protect. Do respect that.

Jurying is a necessary evil of the jewelry field. Try not to take it
personally but strive to improve your work for the next time.
Business is business- there’s always details to keep track of.
Metals market- work around it just like Lapidary Journal and other
mags are promoting. Be creative in your choice of metals. I’m not
working in only gold these days. I work in silver with gold accents.
Easier to sell and cheaper to buy raw materials. Get my drift?

Good luck, there are many individuals on Orchid who will answer your
questions. Just keep asking…

Ruthie Cohen
Mountain Metalsmiths School of Jewelry & Lapidary
www.mmsjl.com (if you wish, follow the link to my personal jewelry
website from there)


#9

I believe only 92.5% sterling silver can be stamped “sterling”. So,
since reticulation silver is 20% copper and 80% silver and not 92.5%
silver it can not be stamped. I use reticulation silver a fair
amount in my work (primarily pendants and earrings, because it can
become brittle - although I have done a ring) and I state that the
silver is reticulation silver, not sterling. I love the organic
texture of reticulated silver and so do my customers. No need to
represent it as anything other than what it is.

Kathy Brandon
www.workingsilver.com


#10
i suppose one could get a metal stamp made: "80% silver"...or "80%"
or something to reflect that...although it wouldn't be a normal
"quality" stamp... 

i use some reticulation silver and if i felt that i needed to stamp
it with something other than my makers mark, i would get such a
stamp made. i think the OP inquired about, having retic. silver mixed
with other silver findings, bezels, etc. [sterling?, fine?],and that
he thought that the quality would be improved. overall, i wouldn’t
say that to be accurate.


#11

The short answer on your 80/20 silver, Mr Amateur: no, you cannot
call it Sterling because it isn’t. Best you can do is to leave it
unmarked, find an 800 stamp, or include your ingredients on the
card that accompanies the piece. From my perspective, I
just want to know what it’s made out of, whether or not it can be
called such-and-such.

As to your style - do what moves you. Do what IS you. If you aren’t
genuinely expressing yourself through your work it will sit mute. If
you are a minimalist, pare it down until you release the music in
it. When it sings, people will hear it. I don’t think things like,
“Will this sell?” I ask myself, “Is this love?”

By the way, you’re not rank. I can’t smell you from over here :slight_smile:

Andrea Robinson, GG
MmeMagpie.com


#12

Brent,

I live in the middle of nowhere and no one does this in rural
freaking KY 

Where in KY? My workshop is in the middle of nowhere in rural KY as
well. I’m in Grayson Co. near Nolin Lake.

Gena Wagner


#13

Gena:

I am in Rowan County… eastern KY. I think the best part of the
state is rural and isolated :slight_smile:

Brent