The value of charm?


I’ve been thrown off my stride by having to be hospitalized in early
February for a week, due to clinical depression.

I’ve now just gotten back into silversmithing again.

By my wife’s request, I had created a pair of fine silver wedding
bands for an unemployed couple in their 30’s who wanted to marry, but
who could not afford to buy them from a jewelery store. I was their
only hope.

Since this was my first attempt, I created fair results by charcoal
casting, then hand forging on round shapers from my dapping set, and
then some manual filing, dremel sanding, and dremel polishing.

When I say fair result, I mean that these are not perfectly round,
symmetrical, or evenly textured bands. In fact, while they serve the
purpose they would be laughable by the standards of a master
silversmith, and I am only am amateur.

Still, I have shown these rings to several people, and they told me
they look very nice anyway. They say the fact that they were
personally made, by hand, says more about it, and therefore the set
would be perfectly appropriate for the couple.

Even the couple likes them. I had sanded them and polished them to
100 grit for test fitting, the couple finds the size comfortable, and
I will now polish them to 1200 grit in time for their wedding.

So my question to you is this: why would ordinary people say that
imperfect rings such as these are beautiful when they clearly do not
meet the standards of a professional jeweler? Can “civilians” really
not tell the difference between amateur and professional efforts? Are
actually trained professionals simply over-engineering for their
actual audience?

I’m curious what you all think.

Andrew Jonathan Fine

These folks may be looking at the rings through what I call friend
goggles. It’s the general tendency to judge less harshly things that
one’s friends do than the same things done by strangers. It’s why so
many people who audition for American Idol say their friends tell
them they’re great singers.

To get a more objective appraisal don’t tell the people you show
them to that you made them.

Elliot Nesterman

Hi Andrew,

Having not seen your jewellery I can only speculate. You may have a
certain style that appeals, and you may not be giving yourself
enough credit.

Anyway, in general, if something is shiny then people will think
it’s pretty. The more experienced customer may appreciate the work,
but if it shiny that holds a lot of weight.

Regards Charles A.

Hello Andrew,

Sorry to hear of your hospitalization and you have my sincere hopes
that your battle with depression becomes easier with time.

Regarding your question about the ‘imperfections’ on your completely
hand-made rings. There is something about jewelry which exhibits
evidence of being hand-crafted, ie. less than perfect shape or
finish. It speaks loudly that the item was not made by machine; that
an actual person manipulated the metal. That is the ‘charm’ to which
you refer. In an interesting turn-about, commercial jewelry is being
produced that has the look of being hand-crafted in its

The important thing is that your clients are pleased with the
results and that YOU are proud to claim the work as your own.

Judy in Kansas, who spent yesterday laying limestone terrace walls
and then shoveling compost to prepare the beds for planting. maybe
butternut squash?

Hello Andrew;

I am an accomplished goldsmith, decades of experience and 2 fine
arts metalsmithing degrees under my belt. So what? I can tell you,
after 42 years of working in almost every metal known to man, with
countless techniques both modern and ancient, having set diamonds
with 6 figure price tags, having made custom jewelry for TV and
sports celebrities, and having pieces in the personal collections of
people whose own work sits in the Smithsonian, what is all that is
really of value in anything we do is this:

It is the connection between individuals, the human communication of
and idea in a beautiful form, no matter how humble. Please continue
on, leave this line of self-doubt behind for now, but expect it to
visit you again in the future, as it is the price of entry to the
world of the artist.

David L. Huffman

p. s., I am not just being expansive and blowing smoke, this is what
I really believe, and I paid for that knowlege too. Best of luck,

Hi Andrew I am a new to the forum and orchid in general so I hope
that I am using the correct method to reply. I found that when I
left University 20 years ago, I started making perfect items which
took me hours, at the time, as I was so new to it all. It quickly
became apparent that people actually liked the handmade appearance,
after my third or fourth customer asked me to ding it about a bit,
this wasn’t a technical term, but a term that I quickly picked up on
and used. The hammered textures and finishes that I still use now are
actually just a guarantee that the item has been hand made and
finished, why would we try and copy a machine manufactured piece?
Think about it a bit like art. would you rather have a perfect
photographic image of something or a Vincent Van Gogh impression of
something? I think the personality of the individual designer/creator
is what appeals to people. Perfection is sometimes not a measurement
in millimetres, but a beautiful object created with all its nicks and
dents exposed to show the process gone in to making it. The raw
qualities of several artist like Breon o Casey, and Disa Allsopp will
show this. Don’t strive to be too perfect.

Regards and welcome back to creative life after your break.

Claire Allain

They appreciate all the work and care that went into them I’m sure.
Its good to see you back Andrew. Hang in there. Sheri


First, to hand make wedding rings for an unemployed couple is a
beautiful thing. Second, to forge, file, sand and dremel polish are
the correct actions to make a set of rings. And, there are different
styles in jewelry; some individuals prefer highly polished and
perfect pieces from a machine. Other individuals prefer a primitive
style that shows the hand of the artist.

Beauty is not always in the perfect shape and polish of metal but in
the message of kindness, care and concern for a fellow human being.
If you look in newspaper or magazine articles, you can see the the
perfect pieces from a machine, the lovely pieces that were hand made
by a skilled craft person, and lovely pieces that were hand crafted
by a kind hearted friend. The last category is also precious to many.

Keep making jewelry. Best regards, MA

why would ordinary people say that imperfect rings such as these
are beautiful when they clearly do not meet the standards of a
professional jeweler? 

Politeness. To encourage you, perhaps.


Andrew- It depends on your audience. Figure out who you want your
audience to be and cater to their needs.

I have friends who make inexpensive “Hipster Etsy” jewelry and are
doing great. Making money, making their audience/clients happy. We
have friends who make very very expensive jewelry and they are doing
great as well. Our clients prefer hand made to high standards and
that’s what we do. We have more work than we can do.

There is no right or wrong here. Just what makes YOUR clients happy
to give you money and talk about what a wonderful jeweler you are.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

ars longa vita brevis…

the work these people knows is going into their symbolically charged
rings they will exchange and cherish means more than some cookie
cutter band sold everywhere on the planet in every retail jewellery
venue offering precious metals. to them its an enduring work of art
made with love and offered as a gift. what is there not to love about
the pieces and the artisan that is customising it for them.

Oh, and fingers aren’t round either - that’s how the evolution of the
trade name "comfort fit’ came to be…

One thing I highly recommend you do- for your own though
is to account for the ring: add up the time it has taken, the time in
consultations with the couple, the labour in refining the design
after they approved it, the consumables you used- from charcoal to
metals, any special tools or equipment you made for the job from
mandrels to…, a record of labour hours and thought about it as
well, and then the overhead for your studio: electricity (if you make
it or buy it it has a value) utilities, other business related costs
and then total it all and don’t forget the commission fee! You may be
surprised at least, at the time energy and ultimate fair and
reasonable price for what you deem “imperfect”…

I can’t answer your specific question at the end of your post but I
can provide some advice. You say you made rings by charcoal block
casting and then using dapping block tooling and had trouble with
making them look professional and perfectly round. I think for your
situation the following method would yield better results. (besides
using a ring mandrel at least atsome point).

Buy the inexpensive delft clay system. (check out Andrew Berry’s
jewelry tutorials to see how awesome it is). Then make a flat ring
blank in wax and cast it with the delft clay system. (you are
casting a flat rectangularwire, not a ring). Use a nice piece of
flat polished granite to sand yourring blank on when cleaning it up
after casting. When it’s flat and nearpolished then bend it up into
a ring, solder it, then true it up on a ring mandrel. Then once
again sand it true on both ends of ring to make it even at edges.
(you may not have to do this).

Then just polish inside and out. This is the best method I have used
thatcan be done without expensive equipment. No rolling mill and no
expensivecasting equipment. The only downside is you might have a
little porosity in your blank when delft clay casting with a open
crucible and torch. If you have learned to control the amount of
oxygen in your flame yet, then thatwill help a lot. Also, you can
make your wax model of ring blank thicker than desired so you can
sand away the porosity.

Why didn’t you use a ring mandrel for the rings you tried making?

(I apologize in advance for the spacing and letter issues that will
magically appear due to some glitch when I type on my iPad and this
forum messes itup. Why does it do this?

Rick Powell

Hi Andrew,

Sorry to hear about the hospital stay. Glad you’re back.

I won’t say it’s part-and-parcel of art, but it certainly does seem
to run in the arts family.

Hang in there. You’re not alone.

(I typo’d on that the first time, and it read ‘hand in there’.
Perhaps particularly appropriate, in context.)


One technical note: fine silver’s incredibly soft. Perhaps sterling
would have been a better choice? It’ll certainly wear better.

As to why people like (X) as opposed to (Y), sometimes the answer is
simply ‘god knows’. There isn’t any formula for it.

What I can tell you is that for jewelry has been 4/5 symbol for as
long as there’s been jewelry.

Jewelry frequently isn’t just the hunk of rock and metal in front
of you, it’s also the associations, memories and experiences that it
has been invested with. It is the physical symbol of those
intangible things. At least the best of the art is. Sometimes it’s
just the physical manifestation of $3000 from the mall store, and
that’s all it is. But nobody here’s playing that game. So, sometimes
people respond to the intangible aspects of a piece far more
strongly than they do to the physical object in their hands. That’s
especially true as the physical object becomes simpler. Your simple
silver rings, no matter how perfect or imperfect, are physical
symbols to your friends that ‘somebody cared enough–about you–to
make these things for you’, and that’s what they’re responding
to. Not the rings themselves. (Besides, in fine silver, even if
they’d been perfect when you made them, after 20 minutes on the
hand, they won’t be. So why sweat it?)

This isn’t engineering, and to mangle a quote, none of us here is an
engineer of human souls. (Thank Ghu.) Accept their gratitude and
delight, and use it as a candle in the dark times. Don’t ask why the
fire burns, just let it keep you warm. (Later, in the daylight, you
can ponder the thermodynamics of the whole thing, but not at 3 AM.)


It is the connection between individuals, the human communication
of and idea in a beautiful form, no matter how humble. Please
continue on, leave this line of self-doubt behind for now, but
expect it to visit you again in the future, as it is the price of
entry to the world of the artist. 

Thank you, David, this comment is a “keeper” in my book! I often pay
this price, and am willing to do so.

And thank you, Andrew, for beginning this thread. The search for
meaning in life leads us down many interesting and fruitful paths.
Your generosity towards this couple must surely feel right, and
shows us that we all are capable of creating significant work with
our hands, as long as our hearts and minds are fully involved, too.

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA


I’m sorry to hear you had to wrestle with the demon. I hope your
feeling better now.

There’s all kinds of reasons why the couple liked your rings so
much. It could be the gesture was what was important to them- they
could now get married thanks to your generosity. It could be that
they love the look of handcrafted rings over jewelry store work. Some
people really don’t like having everything covered in diamonds-- I
certainly don’t. It’s too bling-y & overdone. I prefer to see some
metal & an interesting design.

Personally, when my ex & I got married, I designed our rings- a band
with a vine around it- & we took my sketches to a jeweler I knew & he
had them cast. We had ours done in silver- for one, because I prefer
silver to gold & for another, we were in college & working at crappy
retail jobs so we didn’t have much by way of money. I refused to have
a diamond in my engagement ring because I’m not fond of clear stones
& didn’t like the political issues surrounding the diamond trade at
the time (early 90’s). I didn’t know about colored diamonds back
then. We figured we could get them redone in white gold for our tenth
anniversary or something, when we had more money. (As it happened, we
didn’t make it that long). I’ve made wedding rings for friends in
similar circumstances & they’ve all loved them.

It could also be that you’re being too hard on yourself as to the
finish of the rings. We are frequently our own worst critics- largely
because we know where all the mistakes are. They don’t-- & don’t even
see them.

Don’t be so hard on yourself & don’t second-guess yourself too much.
Just be happy that they love what you made for them & accept the
compliments. :smiley:

Artist, Metalsmith, Chaos Magnet

I remember when I was being trained as a silversmith back in
college, wewere encouraged to finish the work all the way, so that
the planishing marks were gone. After years of doing technically
correct work with high polish, I found that my customers preferred
the hammered look. Aftergetting orders that requested a hammered
finish, I stopped doing the high polished look, and now leave the
planish marks on all of my flatware. On my jewelry, I have old
hammers with beat-up heads that leaves a wonderful texture, to the
point my students will ask for my magic hammers. However, no matter
how much I forge, sink, raise, form or planish my work, I always
make sure my planished marks are even, overlapping and theway it
should be. I know my customers don’t care, but the silversmithin me
cares. I also try to have the back of my work just as nice as the

Don’t let the big, nasty world dictate what you make for them - make
what is your style, show your spirit, show who you are. Joy

Rick - I have no ring mandrel, and I can’t buy anything significant
anymore due to the cost of health insurance and recent medical

I have to jury rig where I can, with as a starting point have to use
the gifts everyone from this group gave me in 2010 - the dapping rods
were the closest thing that worked.

Alberic - I had been an engineer once upon a time, my dad was a
doctor, my mother was a socialite. Both my brothers became

I chose silversmithing as a way of utilitizing transferrable
engineering skills once I became unemployable.

I admired jewelry store windows as a child and wanted to make those,
but my mother did not consider it a “respectable” profession worth
her Jewish son to indulge in. My sister was an awesome singer and
wanted to be an actress, but my mother’s pressure against that drove
her to suicide in the belief that being an actress was a polite name
for. something else.

I was barely allowed to avoid having to become a doctor - I convinced
my dad I was not meant for the field simply by pointing out that
while I had no trouble knowing how to reboot a computer after I
crashed it, there’d be no such guarantees involving a human being -)
Upon hearing that, he let me be an engineer instead.

As for fine silver, yes, it is soft - that said, someone told me
that properly work hardened fine silver is about as hard as aluminum,
and that someone was absolutely right. It’s “good enough” for any
small work with sufficient thickness such as these rings - the
square-cube law seems to be working on my wide. These rings may
scratch during wear, but they will not bend.

I’ve instructed the couple that these rings are NOT meant for
everyday wear and will not stand up to chores. They are meant for
semi-formal events, such as dating or church or going to a cocktail

I chose fine silver because it was the easiest metal for me to work
with on short notice. I’m still learning how to deal with sterling.

M’lou, David - Thank you both.

Charles - I thought I’d put pictures up so you could see.

Others - Yes, I agree, it seems that just being myself as an amateur
and giving this away may have be the way to go. I will never earn a
living at this, and I wouldn’t want to try, because the pressure of
either working for myself or others would only send me back to the
hospital again. The most I can ever hope for might be to earn enough
to make this a self-sustaining hobby.

Andrew Jonathan Fine

I found that my customers preferred the hammered look. 

I find this when I’m making historical replicas, in the past work
was very fine, and a lot of the pieces are flawless.

However I’m often asked to make something look rustic :smiley:

Regards Charles A.

Hello Andrew,

I nominate you for the lemonade chef. you know, when life hands you
lemons… Enjoy your work and the products of your labor.

Judy in Kansas, who has potted up about 50 cuttings for her garden
club plant sale next month. Oh yes, the tulip-loving deer do NOT like
whiffing the ground chili pepper I sprinkled on the tulips. I may
have tulips after all.

Judy - as an aside from jewelry, I used product called "Panther Pee"
to discourage deer. Nothing to do with panthers of course but it was
wolf urine. How it is captured is anyone’s guess. Enjoy your garden.

Barbara on an island where we had a few snowflakes today - still!