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Sawdust and plastic behind stones


#1

Was: Tricks of the trade

Regarding sawdust and plastic and who knows what else that might go
behind stones… This is my own take, not being personally
judgemental, I’ve used that stuff myself back in the day, call this
my own snobby prejudice if you like but…

Jewelry is about metal and stones. Its an exercise in skill. Why not
show some skill and fabricate a proper metal seat for your stones?
Part of the value of jewlery is that it (ideally) endures. And that
its precious. What’s precious or eternal about sawdust? Plastic,
imho, cheapens your product even if no one ever sees it. I like to
make stuff with the thought that some knowledgable jeweler may have
it in his/her hands one day and I won’t embarass myself with
shortcuts. Give your customer what they’re paying for. Hold yourself
to a higher standard. Cuz you know what? Someone else surely will.
Cheap tricks will call your integrity into question.

But like I said I’ve done it too (eons ago). Its OK when you’re
still trying to figure out how things get done. Once you start
getting it together its time to challenge yourself anew. Keep raising
the bar. In the long run it pay$ much better.

I will now stand still so you have a better target with your cabbages
and eggs. Sorry to anyone offended. Wasn’t meant personal.


#2

To Jerry, Jennie and Alma

Most matter radiates, or reflects energy. Some absorb. It does not
matter which. Every form of matter effects the energies of it’s
neighbor. We are gliding through energies. Every thought is an
energy, every prayer and every object. Now as a creator (or vessel of
creative energies) it is my responsibility to attempt, to the best of
my ability, to add to the favorable aspects of this Universe of
Energy. If I am having a bad day and feeling negative, I shouldn’t
make jewelry because those thoughts I am having are entering my work.
Some say this work is actually recording these thoughts. I perceive
only (I say “perceive” because I do not “know” anything,
metaphysically speaking) that my thoughts effect the outcome of the
work.

I hand forge and sell quite a few copper bracelets each year. Most
often they are purchased to aid in the alleviation of arthritis pain.
I do not coat them to keep them from tarnishing. If I did, this would
effect the electromagnetic properties of the copper or the diffusion
of oxides. I’m not sure which effect has a greater role on the pain
thing. But I can tell you this, people can tell. They may not know
the reasons behind their perceptions, but somewhere in their being
some deeper communicating is going on telling them to either stay
away or not.

Yet there are those that have lost all ability to grasp subtle
energies. I sit in front of computers too much and live in a
Microwave Corridor on the West Coast of the USA. Undoubtedly my
bodies ability to perceive has diminished. Maybe not. Maybe that’s
why I all-to-often feel like crap. . Quite simply, plastics have a
dampening effect on electromagnetic energies, and again, they alter
adjacent influences. And even though I applaud the use of recycled
plastic, it is still plastic. And though it is made from Organic
compounds, it is synthetic. Everything about plastics scream DAMAGE
to life on Earth. It is everywhere; in our oceans and buried in our
sands. It is not the work of a higher power, it is the work of Man
and is flawed. Synthetic gems are no better. They are not the work of
a higher power. They are fraudulent by design, meant to deceive
someone, sometime, somewhere. There is no Purity in that!

The alternatives I gave for padding gemstones were entirely Organic.
Better yet, Sage is cleansing and helps to remove unwanted
influences. I understand a lot of people think what I’m saying is a
load of crap. I can’t help that.

So, in closing, I would like to say padding with plastic should be
no different than enhancing transparent and translucent gems with
colored plastic. What would be the difference? Both alter the
spectra. If you find no problem with that either then very well. I
cannot change you.

Personally I like “Natural”, “Organic” and “Real” and would much
rather be influenced by things that fall under those categories. For
those of you who like “irradiated”, “synthetic”, “stabilized”,
“enhanced” and “treated”, please forgive me that I do not embrace
such. You are free to embrace whatever you wish.

Thank You
TL Goodwin
Lapidarian/Metalsmith


#3

I believe nust about anything can be used under a stone. But lets
look at WHY we put things under a stone. 1) To raise it up in the
bezel which is too high (the bezel can always be cut down); 2) to
raise it up in a bezel we WANT to be high; 3) to cushion the stone -
some feel that cushining the stone reduces breakage such as with
turquoise and opal; 4) perhaps to level the stone??; ) to ensure a
tight fit between the stone and the bezel;6) other things I can’t
think of!

Using coiled metal wire adds weight and provides no cushion. Using
credit cards provides good control over height but no cushion. And,
then there are the regular fears about sawdust, etc., deteriorating,
holding moisture, etc.

What I have been using for many years is the Scotch ™ non-scratch
scrubbing pads. They are plastic and will not deteriorate, they
compress nicely and hold the stone tightly against the bottom of the
bezel, etc, etc. Essentially one can achieve all of what they want
and cheaply too! I wouldn’t worry about heating a piece with this
plastic underneath the stone…any piece being repaired must have
the stone removed first anyway except for sizing and a simple wet
paper towel trick keeps the stone (and supporting scratch pad) cool.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!


#4
I do some contract work and they have me use aluminum foil behind
faceted stones in the non-open backed tube settings they use. It
brightens things a lot, and actually seems to hold up fine. I
haven't seen it after thirty years, but so far so good. :-) 

That, actually, is a bit odd. Unless the stones are badly cut,
what’s behind them should make no difference at all! Plus, of
course, you pretty much always want an opening behind faceted stones
so they can be cleaned because dirt will get in there and that WILL
make a difference!

Noel


#5

Celest,

In the early 70’s, one of my first paying jewelry jobs was working
in an “Indian Jewelry Factory” in Phoenix Arizona. There were some
real American Indians making pieces there, but a number of us “white
boys” were working there, too. My job, as I was trained to do, was to
set turquoise stones in the jewelry they created in the shop. I was
paid 25 cents per stone, and the turquoise stones were set in bezels
with fine sawdust beneath them. This has been the traditional way
American Indians have set turquoise stones for over a hundred years,
I believe.

Over the years I have done many soldering repairs to silver work with
set turquoise, requiring the stones to be removed. Sawdust was under
every stone. Often the sawdust was very aged and decaying, but it was
still doing it’s job. The fine sawdust, sifted into the bezel cup,
and the flat-backed stone pushed down into it, provides a cushioning
and leveling effect. This helps push the stone up into the set top of
the bezel, helping create a water-tight fit between stone and bezel.
Pretty darned ingenious, really.

Jay Whaley


#6

Hi Neil,

I don’t disagree with your comments, but for some lapidary materials
that may not be especially strong or subject to percussion damage, I
don’t see anything wrong with a resilient backing. In closed bezels,
I found Permatex liquid gasket material to bind to the stone and
metal. When it cures it acts like the gasket material it is…and
provides a slight amount of cushioning for those materials that might
not survive a standard solid-backed bezel. Turquoise, opal, specular
hematite, sugilite and lapis come to mind.

Wayne


#7

I agree, I use polished metal behind stones and use metal seats,
except for that thing I said about weird shaped pearls on the Tips
thread. I have found all kinds of things behind very expensive stones
set in bezels.

Susan
www.ThorntonStudioJewelry.com


#8
he turquoise stones were set in bezels with fine sawdust beneath
them. This has been the traditional way American Indians have set
turquoise stones for over a hundred years, I believe. 

I do not want to argue with tradition, but If jewellery is
hallmarked, the saw dust is hard to justify.

If I feel that gemstone requires cushioning, the seat can be made by
taking and impression of the back of the gemstone; using impression
as a mold, a positive is cast in tin ( or even lead ); and using
positive as punch, carefully forming the seat out of 22 kt gold, or
fine silver.

This way stone gets the backing it requires and piece can be
hallmarked.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#9
Personally I like "Natural", "Organic" and "Real" and would much
rather be influenced by things that fall under those categories.
For those of you who like "irradiated", "synthetic", "stabilized",
"enhanced" and "treated", please forgive me that I do not embrace
such. You are free to embrace whatever you wish. 

One of the wonderful things about people is that we are all
different. Cliche I know but it’s true. To some, using plastic for
such a purpose is recycling and therefore good, whilst to others,
it’s bad. We all approach a given situation from different
perspectives, none of us necessarily either right or wrong - just
different.

Personally, I see it from the same perspective as Neilthejeweler.
Jewellery is for most people a thing of value, a precious thing and
therefore I would only use precious metal in this situation. If a
cabochon is thinner than others in a piece, then I would not roll
out the sheet for the backplate too thin, but leave it thicker so
that with the shallow bezel, when soldered onto the thick backplate
and stone set, it will look as deep as other stones.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#10

I have to agree with Neil. I was fixing an amethyst/silver bracelet
my mother gave my granddaughter. When I took the stone out, their was
folded paper behind the stone. This bracelet came from a third world
country. I expect better quality here in the states.

Jo T.


#11

I use Lignum Vitae dust behind stones. It resists fungus and molds
and holds up quite well. I get the dust from under my saw…

http://www.lignum-vitae.com/about.htm

Doc


#12
Why not show some skill and fabricate a proper metal seat for your
stones? 

Good advice, Neal, that is until it’s not. I think it was Jay who
talked about Indians traditionally using sawdust, which is also my
experience. Actually, old Navajo jewelry might have TP under it of a
certain color, which I forget now which color. That’s because there
was some event that I also forget (30 years back, now) that caused
them to acquire a huge amount of it. (Aside - it may have been the
same train wreck in the 1920’s or so that caused about a ton of
broken phonograph records to be made into inlaid jewelry - a very
famous rarity) Anyway, Neil’s advice IS good, when it applies. When
you have a bracelet with 25 turquoise stones set in bezels, and the
bezels are the same height (as they should be) and the stones are
all different heights, some solution must be used - plus there are
other times and reasons that don’t bear pounding on - the fragility
of turquoise being one. As I have no fear of invoking the wrath of
the dark forces of nature, I’ve always used sawdust. It works well,
there’s no cutting, no layering and will also account for an uneven
back. If the stone is well set it is watertight, too.

I guess you can buy it somewhere, but it’s easily made. Go to your
local cabinet shop, guitar maker or what have you, if you can or
want to, and get hardwood sawdust. Or get a piece of oak, hickory,
ash, maple - an old furniture leg or broken baseball bat, whatever.
Exotic hardwoods like teak are oily…Just make sure it’s hardwood

  • pine and fir have too much give to them, though I’m sure they’d
    work. Then just saw it with a fine saw or table saw, collect the
    dust, and sift it through your typical sieve - not too big a mesh,
    not too small, like in a kitchen. It should be something like coarse
    sand or table sugar in size…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#13
I do not want to argue with tradition, but If jewelry is
hallmarked, the saw dust is hard to justify. 

Hallmarking identifies the type and quality of the metal. Having
sawdust, plastic, cardboard, or sage backing the stone does not
change the quality of the metal. Hallmarking does not identify the
weight of the metal, it identifies the metal and the purity.
Hallmarking does not identify the gem that will be set in the piece.

I believe that the sawdust was used to cushion turquoise and prote ct
it from shock to prevent a gemstone from getting broken, not to raise
it. Raising was a by product of a practice to try and protect the
gemstone.

Using something to back a stone to protect it from being broken is
not a deceptive practice. Turquoise is vulnerable to breakage because
of how it is formed and the matrix if it has some. When I first
started making jewelry, most all of the turquoise I saw had a black
backing on it just so it could withstand the cutting and polishing
process. This was before stabilization.

So just for logic, if a piece is hallmarked, and a piece of
turquoise is set that has been stabilized, how does the treatment
compromise the hallmark?

Richard Hart


#14

In the be-all-end-all everybody has their own opinion about this. I,
being Native American, and apprenticed under a traditional
silversmith…the thought process behind stones, especially
turquoise and the like…

Use what ever works! This could be sawdust, paper, silver filings,
records, credit cards, plastic…it didnt matter. What mattered was
the finished piece and how it looked. THAT is what is important. In
the this day and age, yes, there are a ton of things that can be
behind a stone.

The sole purpose behind this is to raise the stone to match the
bezel, period. Ive seen a lot of jewelry that was set without
anything under the stone. Even seen stones filed down on the bottom
to fit the bezel.

Another reason sawdust was used, was the roughness of the stones
back then…many had very irregular bottoms to them, sawdust made the
perfect leveling compound for these stones.

Anyhoo, just had to chime in here with my two cents…

P@
www.patpruitt.com


#15

Hi Wayne.

In closed bezels, I found Permatex liquid gasket material to bind
to the stone and metal. When it cures it acts like the gasket
material it is....and provides a slight amount of cushioning for
those materials that might not survive a standard solid-backed
bezel. Turquoise, opal, specular hematite, sugilite and lapis come
to mind. 

Are there any concerns regarding the chemicals in Permatex when
applied to a stone as well as after curing? Is there anything in it
that would hasten tarnishing of sterling silver or affect the stones

  • particularly an opal? Thanks.

Pam Chott
www.songofthephoenix.com


#16

A good base for stones (cabs only) is a mix of sawdust and
water-based (not solvent-based) clear caulking. The caulking gives
durability and a bit of a cushion, helpful, too, with stones that
have an uneven back, and the sawdust gives lift.

For transparent stones, caulking alone will suffice. Just let the
caulking set up before placing the stone in the setting.

Hope this is useful for you,

Linda Kaye-Moses


#17
I don't disagree with your comments, but for some lapidary
materials 

Again, ditto - and there’s a couple of other replies, too. Better
quality is always better, there’s no arguing with that. But much of
the stuff being discussed is more like folk jewelry. Certainly the
turquoise jewelry in question qualifies as that, in terms of
methods. Tell them they should make a metal seat for 250 stones and
they’ll just laugh at you…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#18
I do not want to argue with tradition, but If jewellery is
hallmarked, the saw dust is hard to justify. 

But doesn’t this statement (above) imply that a hallmarked piece has
only the hallmarked metal in it? Surely no one thinks that the
gemstone in or enamel on a piece is a metal?

The aluminum foil solution can be adjusted to using a precious metal
foil that fits with the content of the hallmarked piece. Silver and
gold foils can be purchased or turned out in a rolling mill. But
that doesn’t resolve another issue surrounding such fillers: A big
problem with a lot of quick solutions (like sawdust or cardboard) is
that they hold moisture, grease, dirt, soap, & etc., which might
affect the wearer if s/he has allergies or sensitive skin. Foil
wouldn’t be a great solution for that reason. Also foil made of a
different metal than the rest of the piece might cause electrolysis,
with the softer metal being eaten away over time. At best, this would
leave you with a loose stone.

Mary Ellin D’Agostino, PhD
www.medacreations.com


#19

I also sometimes write little notes behind stones, not unlike what
watchmakers do inside watches, although mine are more readable.

Doc


#20
But much of the stuff being discussed is more like folk jewelry. 

Not mine! It’s fine gold jewelry with gemstones and I do line
bezels (with plastic, usually) when necessary. I see nothing wrong
with this.

If I made rings that were likely to have to be resized, it would be
another matter, since plastic makes a terrible mess when heated. But
I don’t.

Beth