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Dragonscale for the 2017 State Jewelry Competition

I have my bracelet ready for the 2017 State jewelry competition, which will be held during the state fair. So far, I’m 2 for 2 with blue ribbons.

This year, I’m submitting a fantastic bracelet featuring the dragonscale/ mermaid weave. This advanced design has larger rings on the outside that face one direction and smaller rings on the INSIDE that face in the opposite direction, creating the appearance of fish (or dragon) scales.

  • For the outside rings, I used sterling silver (18 gauge, 6 mm inner diameter) rings. 
  • For the inside rings, I used 14k gold fill (20 gauge, 4 mm inner diameter) rings.

The final result is absolutely stunning! I’m really pleased with how the gold inside rings complement the brighter silver rings and give the entire piece a deeper, richer appearance.

I will submit the bracelet on August 26th and find out the results a couple of weeks later.

Wish me luck! I feel really good about this bracelet, and it would be nice to pick up another ribbon.

(One thing I want to do before submitting is to get my models back so I can take a few pictures.)

On a side note, I have a little of the gold fill wire left over. I’m thinking about making another lovers’ knots bracelet to use it up. It might make a nice Christmas present for my niece.

Hardening Silver Wire

When we were kids, we would open paper clips, bend them back and forth, and see how long it took for the paper clip to break. We thought that by bending the wire repeatedly, we were making it soft enough to break. Actually, though, the opposite was true. When metal is repeatedly hit, twisted, or bent it becomes harder, which makes it brittle enough to break.

This is important to understand when working with silver wire. Pure silver has all of its atoms in a lattice structure, much like crystals. With all the atoms lined up in straight rows and columns, the silver is very flexible and soft. This is why, for example, fine silver (99.9% silver) is not a good material for chainmaille. The rings won’t hold their shape and will open, causing the chain to fall apart.

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2015 NM State Fair Blue Ribbon Bracelet

Entry in the NM State Fair Jewelry / Chain Maille Competition

In 2014, my girlfriend at the time and I visited the Creative Arts pavilion at the NM State Fair and checked out the bead work and jewelry competition. She is an amazing artist with bead weaving, as good as or better than anything we saw at the competition. I encouraged her to enter in the following year (this year, now).

And then I saw the chainmaille competition pieces. The blue ribbon winner was a pretty and sweet bracelet in the helm maille weave. It’s a nice design, but it’s definitely a beginner’s chain maille weave. I thought I would like to enter the competition, too.

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Using Tool Magic – Video

Before starting work on sterling silver chain mail, I always dip my pliers in Tool Magic. The plastic coating prevents the pliers from marring the silver. It also helps me keep a good grip on the rings so they don’t shoot out from the pliers. The Tool Magic coating gets raggedy after a while and needs to be reapplied-as seen in this video.

Tool Magic only costs a few bucks, and it’s worth it.

Remove Tarnish From Silver Naturally

I am often asked, How do you remove tarnish from silver jewelry? There’s two answers: You can do it the wrong way, or you can use my recipe for a safe and natural tarnish remover.

Tarnex? No Way! Anti-tarnish creams and polishes damage your silver by eating into them with toxic chemicals. Forget them. Forget, also, the scrubbing, wiping, and all other “elbow grease.”

The other problem with creams is that they either do not get into all the holes, edges, and corners, or, if they do, they are nearly impossible to clean out later.

Cleaning flatware or other food serving items? Those nasty creams have chemicals that are not good for you. If they are not completely cleaned out, you will end up eating them.

Finally, if you have multiple pieces, like a handful of jewelry items, you have to do them one at a time. That’s a waste of time.

Here’s what you can do instead.

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Working with Jewelry Models

The problem: People can look at pictures of jewelry online but can’t try them on to see how they look and feel when worn.

The solution: Have pictures of the jewelry being worn.

There’s only one way to do that, and that is to take pictures of models wearing the jewelry. This means I needed

  • good camera,
  • tripod,
  • back drop curtain,
  • good lights,
  • basic (at least) skill with photo editing software, and
  • women to be the models.

I wanted several models, with several outfits each, to provide a variety of “looks” for wearing jewelry. My thinking is that women could look at sample images the various models, think “Oh, that style is most like me,” and then see all the jewelry on that model. I ended up with four different models, and I’ll probably shoot a couple more to complete this round of images. Once I have a handful of new jewelry designs, I plan to repeat the process.

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First Heirloom Bracelet Soldered Chainmaille

Soldering Jump Rings in Chainmaille

For the last few months, I have been working on soldering jump rings for my chainmaille jewelry. I am bringing out a line of “heirloom” jewelry in which all the rings are soldered. In most cases, chainmaille doesn’t require soldered rings: the rings won’t open unless they receive a lot of stress. For example, I have been wearing my Full Persian bracelet nearly every day for almost 2 years, and I have only had to fix one ring near the clasp.

However, with some of the designs that use larger rings in a not-so-dense pattern, the rings may begin to open over time, particularly if they get rough usage. The viperscale bracelet shown below has a big aspect ratio (AR 5.9), so the rings are not strong enough to hold up to long-term tugging or yanking. I had given one of these bracelets to a colleague, who wore it regularly. She is fairly hard on jewelry, and after 8 months, one of the rings opened and fell out. I first started thinking about soldering rings while repairing her bracelet.

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First Place 2016 Jewelry Competition

For the second year now, I entered the NM State Fair Jewelry Competition. And for the second year, I received first place.

Last Year’s Competition

Last year, I submitted a sterling silver Viperscale bracelet. It was the first time I had made that design, and the first time I had seen it in Sterling Silver. Quite honestly, I was a little surprised that I won first place, but I was very pleased, too! It’s a beautiful design.

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Guide for Buying Chainmaille

Chainmaille jewelry comes in a wide variety of quality. Some chainmaille jewelry exhibits high-quality craftsmanship, fine materials, and professional  manufacturing techniques. Some chain jewelry shows sloppy work with little attention to detail and uses low-end materials. Most chainmaille jewelry is somewhere in between.

If you are interested in buying chainmaille jewelry, how do you know what you are looking at? What should you look for in chain jewelry to determine whether the piece is worth the price? Continue reading “Guide for Buying Chainmaille”

Care for Sterling Silver Jewelry

Here are some tips for making sure your sterling silver chainmaille  bracelet stays in top condition for years and years.

1. General cleaning
2. Light polishing – Gentle abrasive methods
3. Removing tarnish – Dipping solution method
4. Tumbling for jewelry store shine
5. Avoiding tarnish
6. Damage from stress
7. Repairs

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How to Darken Silver with Eggs

I have been asked many times about how to remove tarnish from silver, but I was recently asked how to make silver darker. I will show you how to darken silver by using boiled eggs.

Some people like really shiny silver. Some people like silver that is darker, slightly tarnished, and antique-looking. I’m in the first group. I think highly polished silver is beautiful. If you are in the second group, this post is for you.

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