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Unusual Projects

I recently had a unique and very unusual request from a client which
was a very meaningful jewelry project.

Sadly, the client’s beloved husband had passed away and she wished
to have some remembrance of him that she could wear herself. He had
two identical carved silver wedding bands, one he wore for work and
one he wore for dress. A colleague of mine designed the new piece
for her; a bracelet which she could wear all the time. Following her
design, I dissected the rings into four equal quarters each and
linked seven of them together for the body of the bracelet,
reserving the eighth for the toggle bar of the clasp.

The client was able to receive the finished bracelet in time for the
first anniversary of the date of her husband’s diagnosis, and, as the
illness was very unexpected and left them with very little time
together, it was a great comfort for her to have this cherished
momento to wear in his absence.

Michael David Sturlin, jewelry artist @Michael_David_Sturl1
Michael Sturlin Studio, Scottsdale Arizona USA

I got a job envelope one time that asked for an 18K dog tag with
"Bianca" spelled out in diamonds. I noticed a cirsle drawn on the
envelope and decided to check on the meaning of this. Did they want a
military style dog tag or a disk?

“Do you want a disk or a dog tag? I’m confused because there is a
cirle drawn and it asks for a dog tag.”

“A dog tag,” I was told. “It’s for a dog.”

I was floored. I considered taking up more useful employment.

The client appeared to the salesperson to be a sort of
happy-go-lucky Italian guy. He never picked up the job. He did call
to tell us that he was in rehab and was happy to be there. He wasn’t
sure that he could that he could fully comply with the program that
they had laid out for him, however, as he was a Rastafarian and was
required to smoke pot as a religious duty. I wonder if he is still

Several years ago I was asked on two separate occasions to work on 2
different “locket brooches”: memento mori, literally “reminders of
mortality”. These particular keepsakes hailed from the Civil War
and were meant to keep lockets or braids of hair from a soldier
killed in action. They were worn by fiances, widowed wives, etc. The
hair was crammed into a relatively small recess and then covered w/
glass or watch type chrystal through which the item could be seen.

In any case, both clients’ partners had been killed and each came to
me w/ a different set of tiny, but significant items that each wanted
placed in the reliquaries. I can’t remember all of the elements, but
one, I recall, included a small photo of the deceased, a gold ball
earring, a flat plait of hair, etc.

Both clients also came to me w/ small containers of their departed’s

In the one case, I had to squash the hollow earring, carefully layer
it along with the photo and hair in a very specific arrangement and
finally include the ashes, which were quite chunky. In order to get
a significant amount of remains into the small recess along with the
other items I had to pour a bit of the sandy ash onto my anvil and
pulverize the chunks w/ a ball peen hammer. (I had to do this for
both clients.)

It struck me that here I was, a stranger to the families and the
decedants, engaged in an incredibly intimate act, both physically and

I finished the project by gluing in the chrystal window and
returning the bulk of the remains.

To have this happen once was amazing. To have it happen twice…

Andy Cooperman

This finally came back to me and is certainly the most unusual
request for a jewelry item. An elderly lady from England presented
me with a small satin schoolgirl change purse, much used and loved,
upon which was her own very laborious and young child-like embroidery
of the school emblem. It was her wish that I duplicate it in silver
so that it would appear just like the fabric version. I do love a
challenge and do love to carve wax so, with the provision that there
not be a deadline, took on the project. I duplicated the large
circle, surrounding a pear tree and the Latin motto in as stitch-like
texture as possible, and cast it. When she came to pick it up, I
gathered she was happy with it. There were tears in her eyes.


finally include the ashes, which were quite chunky.  In order to get
a significant amount of remains into the small recess

Hello everyone, I’ve actually been wondering about this…is there
any legal regulation that prevents ashes from being incorporated into
and worn as jewelry?

-Jessica, in grey San Francisco.

Dear Andy & Fellow Orchidians

Several years back while still working within the retail sector of
our trade, I was also called upon to assist in a very personal
project that I’ll never forget.

A co-worker took a phone call and told me about a lady who was on
her way to our store. She asked me to help this customer because the
situation was more than she felt she could bear and my boss felt the
same way. I knew the person who would assist this woman had to be me

  • you’ll understand why by the end of this story.

The lady and her husband were avid skydivers, had been married just
about a year and were wildly in love with each other - still well in
their honeymoon phase. They only skydived together but she couldn’t
go along on the trip he had made four days before she phoned us. His
parachute didn’t open.

Unable to handle the loss of her husband (quite understandably), she
wanted to seal some of her husband’s ashes inside a gold locket, so
she could keep him “close to her heart.” It sounds morbid to some
but for her, it was the only means of having her beloved with her in
a physical sense. Appreciating her pain, I understood the psychology
behind her idea. And I didn’t think it was morbid at all, it was a
desperate attempt to cope with the un-cope-able.

She arrived looking exactly as a woman who’d lost the love of her
just life days before, would. She trembled from head to toe and her
timid, whisper-like voice cracked as she strained over every spoken
word. She struggled with all her might to maintain composure but
several times she broke down in tears.

Standing behind the counter that day was one of the most difficult
situations I’ve ever faced - her image is as clear in my memory as
if this happened only yesterday. It was impossible to keep myself
from choking up and I came close to flat out crying a few times too.

I showed her a locket that I thought met all the various needs at
hand quite perfectly. We had some three dozen lockets in stock but
this was the last one we had of this calibre - the others were
generic, mass produced models. This was a truly beautiful locket of
18k gold, hand made by a very prestigious 300 year old English
company. She thought the diamond at the center with the simple
radiating star pattern emanating outward from it was the ideal
symbol to represent the spirit of her husband and all they shared

We had to be sure she’d never lose her locket or the precious
contents inside while wearing it. I worked with one of our bench
jewelers in filling the locket, soldering it completely to create a
permanent, watertight seal, and on removing the clasp from a 24"
chain this woman and I chose together for length and durability.

When we had finished everything, this dear, devastated lady hugged
me and cried - I mean really cried - and she didn’t let go or stop
for quite a long time.

At the exact moment she finally did, I confided something equally
personal to her - that very day - March 26, 1998 - was the tenth
anniversary of the day my only sibling, my younger sister, died.

To serve someone in such absolute pain - to humbly give even the
slightest comfort to them - is an unparalleled privilege.

Thanks for reminding me how special our work is.

Peace & Fulfillment to All, Jeanette Kekahbah

I did a set of male genitalia with wings attached made into a

I did a sketch in my booth at the art fair…this female customer
approved it on the spot and then offered to tell me the story behind
it. I looked up at my booth of wide eyed customers listening to every
word and politely said “some other time eh?”. What an interesting
conversation starter.


It seems there have been quite a few in the Orchid community who
have been asked to help bereaved folks memorialize their loved ones
in a locket or reliquary of some sort. I’m wondering if you have had
any call yet to work with the cremation diamonds that have recently
gotten publicity, or if you have had customers ask for them … at
the time, I thought it was kind of an odd idea, but the more I hear
about them, the more I think it might fit an emotional need for some
folks. Any experience out there?

Karen Goeller

I make fused glass cabochons with ashes fused between the layers of
glass…which I call “Memory Stones” The idea started with my
mothers ashes…the pieces are very comforting and I can’t tell you
how good it feels to give someone else that same feeling.

Patricia L Johnson
PLJ Glass Art

Jessica, This week the Los Angeles Times had an extensive article
about the variety of ways to preserve memories of the deceased. I
believe if you check the web site you may be able to access the

Specifically a New Zealand Jeweler has designed a pendant within
which to contain ashes of a loved one. Where there are several family
members, she makes pendants for each of them and encloses some of the

The consensus is the old style Urn is no longer “IN”.

The legality and health questions appear nowhere in the article.

Hello All - Michael’s project reminded me of a project I did a few
years ago. I was asked to take a divorced couple’s freeform, cast
14k wedding bands and join them to make a bracelet for their only
daughter. Both of them had loved their wedding bands - so, it was a
good way to give them a new life and not throw them in the recycle
bin. I added a couple of sections of gold to make the bangle
bracelet fit properly. They had thought to engrave the daughter’s
name on one of the inserted sections - but, decided to wait and let
the daughter make that decision if she chooses. It was a somewhat
unusual, but, meaningful finale for many years together coming to a


Here’s a story for you…it wasn’t one I did but rather one of my
silver instructors.

Back in the Vietnam war era, young Americans were leaving for the
war by the plane load. One young lady wanted to preserve herself for
her young man so, shortly after he shipped out, she contacted my
instructor to have a permanent chastity belt attached. At the
appointed time, she arrived at his house, took off her clothes and
laid down on the kitchen table. He cut the chain she wanted to the
appropriate lengths, covered her bare skin with wet asbestos paper
and soldered on the belt. He never did say if she ever came back to
have it cut off!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1

Karen, The article about the cremation diamonds is a hoax. There is
no lab in Wisconsin working on this, but if it were true, we could
trade up our dairy-state motto to the diamond-state. Don’t size up
Uncle Bob for a carat diamond just yet. If anyone anywhere in the
world could make a gem quality diamond, it would be more than an
interesting story. The diamond cartel would be the first to buy out
the inventors. Maybe some day! It certainly is an interesting
idea. Nancy Madison, Wisconsin

One of the most unusual projects I’ve done so far was to modify a
saxoph one for a friend who is a sculptor. He had had a work
accident and lost part of a finger. I made Sterling Silver extension
key tabs and soldered them to some of the harder to reach keys. I was
glad to do it for him as it allow ed him to play again…I never did
take him up on music lessons… I have a vintage “C” Melody sax I
picked up at a tag sale years ago… I had it completely restored, so
it does work. One of these days I’ll learn to pl ay it!

Jesse Kaufman
JDK Designs
CAD/CAM Technology
Handcrafted Originality
West Hartford, CT

Since cremated remains contain only very tiny amounts of carbon I
don’t see how it’s possible to make diamonds from them.

Peanut butter, old car tires, newspaper etc - yes. Its been done.
General Electric has made gem quality synthetic diamonds. Some are
in the Smithsonian.

Here’s the quote from "Webster (5th Edition)

There seems to be some evidence that synthetic diamonds of gem
quality were produced in Russia during 1967. A Russian delegation led
by a Professor Bakul, Director of the Kief Synthetic Diamond Research
Institute, approached a M. Bonroy, a Belgian diamond cutter, to cut
some pale yellow diamond crystals of extraordinary shape and perfect
purity. He was asked to keep their existence secret. M. Bonroy found
that the queerly-shaped crystals could not be sawn straight and that
during the other processes they were found to be harder than natural
diamonds. In 1971, M. Bonroy was invited to go to a symposium on
synthetic diamonds in Kief where he was asked to address the meeting
on what he had done. This was the first public announcement of the
Russian achievement.

On May 28, 1970, The General Electric Company of the United States
of America released the that they had produced gem
diamonds of a carat or more in size (Figure 17.2). The report was
careful to state, however, that the cost of producing such synthetic
diamonds was greater than the cost of similar sized mined diamonds.
One cannot be complacent, for with the advances of science today
there must surely come a time when synthetic diamonds become a
commercial reality. The new synthetic diamonds can be produced in
various colors. Some of these synthetically produced crystals, and
cut stones now in the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, were
examined by the workers of the Gemological Institute of America who
found that the colorless and blue stones were semi- conductive
electrically, but that the yellow stone did not seem to be so. No
absorption spectrum was observed in any of the colorless or colored
stones examined. No luminescence was seen with any of these synthetic
diamonds when they were viewed under long-wave ultra-violet light,
but under short-wave ultra-violet rays the yellow stones were inert
while the colorless and blue colored stones showed, usually, a strong
yellow or green fluorescence with a persistent phosphorescence. Under
x-rays the tendency is for the synthetic diamonds to give a strong
yellow glow with a persistent phosphorescence. Some of the diamonds
showed black metallic platelets and dust-like clouds as inclusions,
these being attributed to the nickel-iron catalyst in which the
crystals grew."

I’ve posted the picture at…

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

Nancy, Re: cremation diamonds. Having read the article myself I can’t
say whether or not it is a hoax, but if you are basing the statement
that is a hoax on your belief that there are no synthetic man made
diamonds out there then you are flat out wrong. Synthetic fem
quality diamonds have been produced for years and continue to be
produced. The diamond cartel is well aware of them and have spent
significant sums of money on designing equipment to positively
identify them.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Nancy, The lab in question is in Chicago. I think the jury is still
out on whether it is a hoax or not. An excellent site to check up on
such things is It is a site devoted to exposing
hoaxes and frauds. Follow this link to see what their research

Shane Morris
Druids Grove Unique Gifts

Nancy, I don’t know about any mythical lab in Wisconsin, but the
company Lifegems announced their launch of a "Cremation Diamond"
product line a while back. They got a decent amount of publicity and
I heard an extensive interview with one of their founders on NPR
about a month ago. Their website is and they offer a
range of created diamonds in blue, red, and yellow. Based on the
interview, it sounded intriguing, but I’ve not seen any of these gems
in person. I was wondering if any of you had seen them and/or worked
with them, and if any of your customers had mentioned or requested

It’s an intriguing idea, especially given the apparent popularity of
reliquaries for ashes as jewelry reported on these lists.

Usual disclaimer applies – I have no connection with the company,
just heard the reports and the interview and did a little reading up.

Karen Goeller

Karen, The article about the cremation diamonds is a hoax. There is
Hmm. I think this came up before, didn’t it? See They do pets too. I don’t think it’s located
in Wisconsin, though.

Meanwhile I’m still trying to decide whether being able to wear the
carbon remains of a beloved relative or pet by turning them into gems
is a really lovely and more permanent sentiment…or vaguely icky.
Matter of personal taste, I suppose.

– M. Osedo

    Nancy, I don't know about any mythical lab in Wisconsin, but
the company Lifegems announced their launch of a "Cremation
Diamond" product line a while back. Their website is and they offer a range of created diamonds in blue,
red, and yellow.  

Yikes! I had no idea gem quality diamonds had been created. I saw a
film on the Russian diamonds several years back. That expensive
process produced a yellow diamond that was not exactly gem quality.
I checked out the web site you mentioned, and there it is, cremation
diamonds! Thanks to you and others who responded for setting me
straight. I sent Uncle Bob a box of chocolates. Nancy