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Bargain hunting with gold and gemstones

Last week I took a grouping of my Facets collection to the shop downtown, and in looking back over the pictures a few thoughts occurred to me.  High-karat gold and rich, faceted gemstones are really popular right now, even in the tough economic times and sky-high metals market.  But I’m too much of a bargain hunter to settle for jewelry designs that cost “a million dollars.” (That’s my phrase for when something is ridiculously expensive.)  Last year I introduced gold-filled (a heavy layer of gold over base metal) components as a price-savvy alternative to solid karat gold, and this past year with the gold market even higher I have found even more economical-yet-fashionable solutions. 

I buy stones according to color because my customers are more concerned with the look (Will this match my sweater?) than the pedigree (Is this garnet A-grade?).  For this necklace I could pay top dollar for flawless, earthy green briolettes (A-grade peridot, for example) but I chose cubic zirconia to go with the fall mix of citrine, rhodolite garnet, and smoky quartz.  And if a stone has a small inclusion it’s not like the Gem Police are going to be up in your grill examining as one might, say, an engagement solitaire.  So while this may not be a necklace passed down for generations, it does have the color and wear of real gold and the weight of real stones.  (Ever have the full-on Monet experience at big retailers?  It looks beautiful until you hold it and realize the beads are plastic.)
I have previously drawn the line at gold-plated components because they’re generally cheap looking anyway, and because of the thin layer of gold they’ll tarnish much sooner.  But lately I’ve put a lot of work sourcing components to get the look of high-karat gold without the pedigree, as with this laurel wreath.  It is matte 16K gold-plated brass and, while I know it’s not going to wear as tough as gold-fill, it’s in a low-traffic setting (pendant) and a heckuva lot less expensive than solid 18K gold.  And that sweet little bee in the necklace above is vermeil — 18K over sterling silver — so it also has intrinsic value without the price tag of solid gold.  Again, these may not become estate pieces, but that also means you don’t have to love them forever.  (I love yummy soft leather handbags but I never buy them because then I’d feel obligated to carry/repair/love the same bag until I’m 60, and I’m too fickle for that.)  So for $39 you get the actual color of high-karat gold along with real citrine and garnet in rich tones for fall on a gold-filled chain.

These pieces (N791, N806) are used for illustrative purposes, but may still be available at Simply Charming Boutique.

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Art Studio Tour

Loudon County, Virginia has an amazing group of artists who open their studio doors to the public each June.  This weekend is the sixth annual Western Loudon Art Studio Tour with over fifty different studio artists who do all sorts of things like ceramics, photography, jewelry, painting, and the coolest embroidery I’ve ever seen, by Kara Laughlin of Crewel Whorled.  If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, and Great Country Farms is overrun by strawberry pickers, check out this Studio Tour!

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State of the Studio

I never quite know what to tell people who ask how my jewelry business is going.  Actually, more frequently it’s something like, “Are you still doing that beading thing?”  I usually end up saying something like, “It’s going really well, thanks!” and leave out the fact that I managed to nap every afternoon during my first trimester and still managed to crank out a successful spring line (which is now mostly gone, sorry!).  I am so thankful for the gals at Simply Charming Boutique in downtown Winchester for doing such a great job of selling my pieces. 
You may remember in the fall I switched gears to focus on two new lines, Facets and Elements.  They both did really well over Christmas.  I expected there to be the typical lull during the winter before working on spring, and considering the crazy metals market (silver doubled in the past year) I figured sales would taper off.  But every month (instead of every quarter) I’ve had to restock my collection and I’m finally starting to realize that I don’t get to be the Lazy Jewelry Gal any more.  I still get to dabble a little in new techniques (like resin and polymer clay) but gone are the days when I get to chronicle every activity on my blog or upload pictures of my inventory.  To my out-of-town readers, I apologize for keeping all my jewelry captive in the Shenandoah Valley, but I guarantee if you come visit you will have a beautiful trip.  This summer I am going to try to work ahead a little and build a collection for fall & Christmas, and once that’s underway I will try to post some pictures, but come October I may be off the grid for a while because we’re expecting another baby.  !!! 

So…  I may not get around to posting anything new from my studio, but AnneMade Jewelry doing well and I’m still having fun! 

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Helping Haitian Angels

I like to share when I have a project that touches my heart.  This time it was for a woman named Debbie who, with her husband, started an orphanage in Haiti that has helped save the lives of countless children since it opened in 2008. Watching this informational video absolutely brought me to tears, and I am so proud of the work they are doing.

Debbie commissioned me to make special thank-you gifts for the volunteers who have traveled multiple times to Haiti to help out with the orphanage.  Together we designed these pendants (with angel wing charms) for the ladies and keychains for the guys that read the name of the orphanage, Helping Hatian Angels.

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Auntie’s Beads recently contacted me to try some of their products in exchange for telling all of you wonderful people about them.  Lately I’ve been yearning to try some more resin projects, so I chose several of their glue-in-and-glaze charms on this page.  They are plated instead of solid precious metal, which means they are a bargain and yet have a nice weight to them.


One of the other resin blanks I used during this round of resin is one I made from scraps of PMC.  It has French script on the back and I traced around it on rice paper to get the right size of insert.  Another option is to use a paper punch if you’re using calibrated bezel cups.  Or, Auntie’s Beads offers a template card for sale so you don’t have to guess while cutting a paper for, say, the oval glue-in-and-glaze charms. 
I was more interested in getting the project finished than I was in the aesthetics of each piece, but I did try including some seed beads and a sprinkling of fine glitter.  On our trip to Savannah I found an awesome art supply store and picked up some Japanese decorative paper, so I inculded some of that as well. 
The charms from Auntie’s Beads are pretty shallow, so there’s not a lot of room in the well to hold 3-dimensional found objects, but it also means it won’t use up a lot of resin volume like the die-cut bezel cup pictured here.  If you’re just using decorative paper or photographs, they would work great.  Another benefit of the glue-in-and-glaze charms is that they come as links, ready to make into jewelry when the resin dries.  For these sterling bezel cups I have to solder on rings, and that’s just a pain.
I use Colores doming resin from Rio Grande, which is a two-part non-yellowing epoxy with a long open time so you can mess around with your design before it cures. Resin is all the rage in Jewelry World right now and next I think I want to try UV resin.  No careful mixing, no waiting all night for it to cure.  It costs more, but considering I’ve used about half an ounce of the huge bottles I have, that shouldn’t be a big deal.
I liked how the charms from Auntie’s Beads turned out.  Like I said, they are inexpensive and have a nice weight to them, and they have rings attached so these are all ready to link into a design.


Steampunk is another trend right now in Jewelry World, and in some of these pieces I included some watch gears I found on eBay years ago. 
I also have some decorative brads from the scrapbook aisle that are in the shape of keyholes, but they are hollow and lightweight so I thought they would be good candidates for resin. 
I snipped off the brad parts and, since they have holes already, stuck them to a piece of packing tape so the resin wouldn’t leak out.  And because their holes are now closed I drilled through the resin with my Dremel in order to link these components to other things.  I could have placed brass tubing for the holes and “resin’ed” around it, but it seemed like a hassle to keep things from moving around with wet epoxy in the equation.  My only complaint about the tape-back method is that it gave sort of a matte finish on the back instead of the shiny clear on the top side.
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I love my job

I just want to say THANK YOU to my customers, friends, and family who have helped make 2010 another great year for AnneMade Jewelry.  It never ceases to amaze, tickle, and humble me that something so fun can also be successful.  
I give a huge amount of credit to Simply Charming Boutique, the only place you can see and hold and try on my creations in person.  Brenda Adams and her team have created a fabulous place for women in Winchester to shop for all kinds of jewelry and fun gifts like monogrammed umbrellas, cowboy rain boots, and Vera Bradley. 
Happy new year!
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Sugarloaf Craft Festival December 10-12

If you’re like me, the term “handmade” or “craft show” can conjure up images of NFL quillows and needlepoint Kleenex covers…

Birdseye cherry Shaker sewing box by Suffolk Shaker Shop

However, Steve and I love going to *juried* festivals where the artisans produce all sorts of beautiful and high-quality wares.  The Sugarloaf Craft Festival is coming to Chantilly, Virginia December 10-12 and boasts 250 craftspeople exihibiting everything from handweaving to metal forging, soup mixes to wheel-thrown pottery. If you’re looking for something more creative than a gift card for a loved one on your Christmas list, this is the place to be.  Or, if you’re like me you’ll be shopping for yourself because these handworks are so cool.  In addition to being able to buy directly from the artisans, the show also features live demonstrations, music, and theatre performances for the kids.  To preview the work of the more than 250 artists participating in the show and see the full schedule of entertainment, visit or

Email me if you’re interested in FREE TICKETS!

Mark your calendars because there’s another Sugarloaf Chantilly right around the corner, January 28-30, 2011!
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Shop Small

This Saturday, November 27, is Small Business Saturday.  Instead of making plans to fight the crowds at the big-box stores at 6am on Black Friday, perhaps you could go hiking or spend time with your family instead.  And on Saturday check out your local art co-op, get your nails done, and eat at an independent restaurant.  Show these small business owners that you support your community. 

Even if you don’t do your Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, I encourage you to buy local and handcrafted as much as you can.  And if hand-knit and wheel-thrown are your thing, make an Etsy wish list so your loved ones can find something more creative than a gift card.

Spread the word!

(Pinked Pins by MollyauContraire on Etsy)

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British dog tags

I get requests for custom orders all the time, but every once in a while I get an assignment that is really neat and I like to share it with you.  This time it was from a fellow named Hereward (Hez) “across the pond.”  He wanted a christening present for his great nephew whose Dad is in the Royal Marines, so he asked me to recreate a set of British military issue ID tags (the round kind with a smaller chain for the second tag), but in sterling silver with the father’s service number and name and the baby’s birthdate and name.  Hez sent me all the measurements right down to the diameter of the ball chain and the size of the hole in the tag through which the chain goes.  I sent him a picture before I set off for the post office and he was very pleased, couldn’t wait to give the guys their gifts.  Isaac is a month older than Olivia, so I bet he’ll be excited for a new shiny object.

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Sugarloaf Craft Festival January 29-31

One of my favorite things to do is walk around a craft fair.  They’re usually outdoors in the summer, and I love to talk to other craftsmen about what they do.  Right now it’s the dead of winter, but I just wanted to put the word out about Sugarloaf Craft Festivals, which are some of the best craft shows I’ve been to AND they’re indoors so there’s no mud.  They have artists demonstrating their trades, activities for children, high-quality artisans selling everything from quilted items to homemade food mixes to really great jewelry.  I’m particularly fond of Eugene B. Smith, a local watercolor artist who paints everything from the Shenandoah Valley to coastal regions to Japanese irises. 

The weekend of January 29-31 the Sugarloaf show will be at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA.  Steve and I went last year and were impressed by the quality and variety of artists, and even met a relative we’d never known.  (I thought, “What are the odds I’m related to a band box maker named Richardson from Suffolk, VA?  So I walked right up and started comparing family trees with him.)  For more info about vendors and hours, you can check out the Sugarloaf Chantilly website.  And if you don’t live in the DC area, check out the schedule for a show closer to you.