10 Things I Hate About...Being a Jewellery Maker

After a particularly challenging afternoon - having lost a tiny 3mm opal somewhere in my studio, which had pinged off on an adventure of its own - and after searching for the best part of an hour and having friends and family also searching (everyone wanted to be the successful finder of this tiny wandering gemstone) - my husband asked me to name my top ten jewellery maker pet hates. I think he was intrigued as to how many I could name, doing something I love, whilst often being very frustrated about something or other! I admit it is something of a love/hate relationship, now that I have had time to think about it.... 

10. Laughing gemstones

blog pic 2.jpg

Losing tiny gemstones obviously features in my top ten; it having been the prompt to making such a list! Those little gems (anything less than 5mm really) do seem to have a mind of their own. On this occasion, it was a beautiful faceted Ethiopian opal. The funny thing was, after searching for ages on the floor, on the bench, in my apron, in the wicker of the chair - just about everywhere it could have snuck - it turned up underneath my stone tumbler which sits on my work bench! It is raised just a few millimetres off the desk and is the only place I didn't check... If gemstones could laugh, I am sure that little opal would have gaffawed.

9. If you can't take the heat, get out of the studio!

I have a small jeweller's torch (I like the control it gives me and I am not so fond of the bigger torches) but this can prove a tricky obstacle when it comes to heating larger pieces. I often find myself in "two-torch territory" to get that darn piece of metal hot enough to melt the solder between the two joins. The solder joins that just zip are the best ones. They really make my day.

blog pic 4.jpg

8. Cracking up

It happens to the best of us. You will be on the last part of the piece - the setting of a stone - it looks amazing and is zing-zing-zinging and you are revelling in your own skills when - pow! - you hear that tiny sound. A little crack - in that beautiful gemstone where you pressed a little too hard with your bezel pusher trying overzealously to get that stone as tight as possible. Those pesky non-durable stones are to blame. If only all those different colour gems weren't so pretty, we would just use the hardest substance on earth - diamonds!* 

*Having Googled this, apparently diamonds have lost their title of the hardest substance on earth to wurtzite boron nitride and mineral lonsdaleite! Who knew! For all you geeks out there, here's a link to the New Scientist's 2009 article about it.

7. Splitting hairs

I make a lot of spinner rings and those things get through a lot of hammering. If you don't soften the metal enough during this process (called annealing for you non-jewellers), the silver can split under the pressure when you curve it. It has only happened a couple of times - but that is enough. I really hate to re-solder a join. It must be the perfectionist in me....

6. Excitable

I can get quite excitable about various pieces and I tend to have lots on the go at once! This can be a good thing (there are so many processes in jewellery making so having a few pieces in the making means you always have something to do whilst something is either being pickled or cooling), but it can also be quite frustrating having lots of unfinished pieces lying around. I often have a blitz and finish many pieces at the same time! 

5. Running out of gas

The blowtorch really is the jeweller's best friend. But it seems to love timing running out of gas whilst you are mid-piece, and usually a challenging piece! The metal starts to glow and the torch starts to give a different hiss as it slows down. Will it make it, will it make it, will it....nope it didn't. Fill that torch up and start the process again.

4. People asking for the one stone you don't have

blog pic 1.jpg

I sell at craft fairs and although this is one of my favourite non-jewellery elements of jewellery making, it has its frustrations.  Every fair brings different people and it is always tough to judge what gemstones those people may be after. People can be particular about gemstones (me included - I love iolites!), not least because they can have special meanings or sentimentality but also people have colour preferences or colours which work well on their skin tones. And so it follows - I will have every gemstone or colour I could have thought possible, except perhaps that one colour I had sold out of - but that is all that they want! That's why you need to stock up and have lots of pieces in all different gemstones and colours. I have quite a few stones I am desperate to work with which I have had in my gemstone box for a while (see pic!).

3. Ring sizes at fairs

This is a bit like number 4 above - not all rings suit an adjustable band or else a design just doesn't look quite as effective with one. So it is inevitable that having made lots of rings in lots of different sizes when you go to market, on that particular day, no rings fit anyone who comes a-trying. They really want that ring, but you just don't have it available. The beauty of one-offs I guess....

2. Looking for things in the tumbler

I think the tumbler is my favourite piece of equipment (if I think too hard about it, I start to consider other super tools and equipment) and I often leave it to run for a good few hours to get pieces looking beautifully buff and burnished on their final polish. Of course, this means I can forget about it and always seem to remember just before I go to bed. It is at these times that the pieces seem to do their best to hide among the ball bearings. Especially those little pesky handmade ear wires or studs. I had made a silver name bracelet for my son the other day which had stuck to the top of the lid. I didn't find this until I had emptied out the whole tumbler trying to find it!

1. Marketing, marketing, marketing

This is the necessary evil.... I love connecting with customers and other makers on the likes of Instagram and Twitter. The part I dislike the most is all of the taking of the photos and all the putting of each piece into my online shops. It is a very long process, to get all of the detail right and it takes me away from doing what I love - the making and crafting! I have to really focus during this process and not daydream about my studio where my next piece is waiting to be made!


I hope you have enjoyed reading this, whether you are a fellow jeweller, crafter or just happened across my blog! Tell me what you think - tell me what your own pet hates are! Tell me what you love about making. The best part of being a maker has to be sharing things with other people, and talking about what we love to do. I really never get bored of that.

You can find me at my next craft fair - the Local Makers Market in Wanstead on 8 September (see my Events page).

blog pic 3.jpg

Jewellery Making Techniques: Silver Clay Shenanigans

My final delve into learning a new skill last year ended with precious metal clay and a class taken with Emma Mitchell (Silver Pebble) in the glorious surroundings of rural Reach in Cambridge.

Driving to Cambridge, bathed in brilliant sunshine both there and back, I could not have had a better day of crafting; this time using Art Silver Clay and silicon moulds of natural objects  (you can probably tell I still wasn't quite satisfied with nature-inspired jewellery making after my electroforming class earlier last year!).


As I did with the electroforming class, I took along a box of 'beasties' I had collected (thinking something would make the perfect piece of jewellery!) and again, I was overwhelmed by what the instructor, Emma, had prepared for us. She had laid out a mountain of moulds she had already taken of natural objects, herbs and plants for us to have a look at. There was also a plate of silver pendants and charms which had been made using these moulds. Bedazzled by the possibilities, I set about making a mould using a sycamore key. It set very quickly and was ready to be used in a matter of ten minutes or so.

I then chose a couple of moulds I wanted to use to make a few pendants; one of a fennel sprig, an elongated poppy seed pod and a little pine cone (I think). Emma's knowledge of the natural elements she had used was impressive to say the least. One of the other students used Victorian/vintage button moulds and the other had brought a yarrow spray from which she made her own mould. We then proceeded to roll out/press our clay onto/into the moulds.  These were dried (burning off the water element of Art Silver Clay) and then fired (burning off the binding material used in the clay) and -boom- see the photo for the results! Lovely, unique 99% fine silver adornments.

poppy seed.jpg

After my little poppy seed pod didn't quite turn out right at the electroforming class, I was overjoyed by the silver clay version which I gifted to my sister in law who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in November (she had nicknamed her baby Poppy before he was born).

Check out Emma's classes (and other brilliant) nature-inspired things on her website.  I would sincerely recommend a class with her; her enthusiasm on how crafting can help you relax and keep your mind at ease, amongst other things, was truly inspiring. Get crafting people!