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Volume 8 - The Faceted Stone Issue and A Lot More!

(That's me above, happily typing this newsletter!)
Hello to all the new subscribers!  Thank you all so much and hey, welcome to the Newsletter!

Note on this new layout, I'd read it this way:  Left column first then second.  Sorry. 

IF you are just joining us, skip to the next section.  Remember, I warned you - this has NOTHING to do with jewelry making! Rather, it's an incoherent rant.

Recently,  I realized that, trying to read my newsletter on a cell phone, could be considered one of the most irritating things in existence. 
(Well, maybe the second most irritating thing.  I'd nominate my cats for that first place slot. For some reason, they, herein referred to as: those cats, have decided that my brand new, living room chair has been designed, for them,  as a claw sharpening instrument and a lovely location for the disposal of vomit. These decisions of theirs are VERY irritating to me and I wish they would stop. I have spoken with them, several times on this issue but, my pleas have been completely ignored.)

Evidence, Exhibit A,  against the furred perpetrators!

Sorry, got a bit sidetracked!  Back to my (other) rant.  

At the moment, because of the aforementioned issues,  I'm, what could be considered peevish - perhaps even crotchety
.  Currently, I am thinking of moving to Siberia or the the middle of the Australian Outback and building a small hut.  I will probably bring some matches for a fire and some food.  

 I am currently feeling waspish BECAUSE,  (and for probably the same reasons that my cats have for clawing my furniture) website designers think that I, the end-user,  am an extremely proficient computer programmer.  I would like to officially announce that, no, I am not a computer programmer.

*Note to designers of programs:  please include a lot of pictures with the directions. I also recommend having my 84 year old mother test out your new site/upgrades before they are released to the market.  Perhaps you can find some use for 3 cats, as well?  Thank you.

In summary, I hope this %&#@ newsletter works on your phone.  If not, I'll try again with the next issue:  say, in 8-10 months! Kidding.  I'll probably just give up. (Actually, from the preview, it doesn't look like it worked.)  

Since the last issue, I've put out a few new videos, written a ton of emails and created several new pages (also went to Las Vegas).  I was going to have a new website built, and had been in the process of doing that for at least six months.  Unfortunately, the new site stalled, fell from the sky and crashed.  Now, another one is in the works but, I will not hold my breath and I will wear a parachute at all times! (Flying analogy #1)

*Image of mountains on the drive home from Lost Wages (Las Vegas).

Recent Videos and Webpages

Webpages:   These pages are composed of responses to emails and also provides links that are relevant to the subject. Hopefully, this section of my website will be of help if you are searching for a solution to a problem. Tools that can be used by jewelers and metalsmiths from Harbor Freight.  Of course, this section doesn't cover every tool ever used by a metalsmith.  But, it does highlight quite a few. This section covers tools that I have purchased that either worked for me or didn't, from Micro-Mark.

Added a few new charts - probably some redundancy here but, when I finally get anchored to my desk and write, I'm a bit compulsive. Those new charts are: Wire Gauge B&S, AWG and European Cross Section MM2. Also: A Comparison of Closest Matching Gauges with Standard Drill Bits (there are rumors about, that I may be exhibiting nerd-like behavior). The next scintillating chart is:  Gauges and their Closest Matching Drill Bits with Lengths per Ounce for Silver (actually, I don't think they should be considered just rumors anymore)  and finally, the last of my obsessive, compulsive, self abuse:  Drill Bit Sizes in MM's and Decimals - (Smaller Sizes) with closest Matching B&S and A.W.G. Gauges.  Sorry.

*Image of a friend of mine:  Josie. 
Please check out the Class I'm teaching at Art is You in Petaluma, on September 26, 2014.  Sign up early to ensure a seat in this limited size class! Art is You has great classes, amazing people and the food at lunch is worth the price of admission!  So, check out Art is You and My Class!

This is the cuff we are creating in this class.

If buying a faceted stone and if you want to know whether the stone has been cut at the correct angles or not, lay the stone over some writing and look through the table.  Can you clearly see the writing?  If so, the stone is incorrectly faceted. It could also be glass. The area where you can see the writing through is called a window.  You don't want a big window on your stone - you want to see facets, light and sparkle. Are the facets evenly distributed? (Good). Is it poorly polished? (Bad, obviously!)

Check the girdle:  does it have a knife edge? (Bad) Is it symmetrical? (Good)  Is it very thick? (Bad) Uneven? (Bad)  All these elements will affect the setting of the stone. Usually, making it very difficult to set.  Look at a setting bur.  Will your stone set well within the well that it cuts?  Use a round bur for slightly misshapen stones.  I once bought several tiny rubies (about 1.5mm).  They were all cut so badly, that I couldn't set one of them.  They were also cheap.  

Other issues to address when purchasing a stone are Cosmetic and Structural Flaws.
  • Structural flaws include feathers, cracks, fractures, included crystals and inclusions, all of which may cause serious problems when setting. Fractures are often filled with oils, or polymers.  Cleaning and heat can remove the fillers.
  • Cosmetic Flaws don't affect the setting properties (unless they are flaws from bad craftsmanship! When purchasing stones, you need to determine or guess, if you have to, whether or not the flaw will affect the health and wellbeing of the stone.  If there is a feathering that runs from top to bottom, know that it will probably crack and most likely during the setting process. Those little black bits in a stone probably won't be a problem.

I always bring a loop with me, when I go stone/bead shopping,  to check for cracks, inclusions and to look for sneaky practices like, claiming a stone is natural but is in fact a doublet. Doublets are the addition of another layer of material to either enhance the strength, color or to offer an inexpensive version of a higher priced stone, like opals. There is no problem with purchasing doublets but, there is a problem if the seller is trying to pass one off as a natural, faceted stone.

Quartz and Turquoise doublet from Rio Grande Jewelry. Unfortunately, this item is not longer available on Rio's site.

It is also important, when purchasing faceted gemstone beads, to check for flaws.  If you want matched beads, carefully examine the strand for:
  •  consistently sized beads 
  •  inclusions 
  •  holes that are larger at one end than the other, and are too close to the sides of the bead. There needs to be enough material so that the stresses placed on the bead by the wire or cordage, doesn't break the stone.  This is especially common with briolettes.
  •  chipping
  •  how they lie.  Hold the strand horizontally and vertically to see how they lie.  Pull them into a "U" shaped form to see how they would look as a necklace.
  • wear - look at the facets on the individual stones in a strand.  Often they are doing a lot of rubbing, bouncing and clanking during their long journey to the vendors table and, especially with soft stones, may have worn and scratched facets. You'll find this particularly common with softer stones. This may or may not be an issue, depending on how the stone will be displayed.
  • watch out for new, odd or unusual names for stones.  Check out this list of False or Misleading Gemstone Names by the International Gem Society (IGS). Also, see this article at on Fake Crystals, Minerals, Gemstones, Lapidary and Fossil Guides.
Take your time, don't be intimidated by the seller or believe everything that they tell you! I can't tell you how many strands of beads that I bought (in the past, of course!) that are mostly useless.  Just another way to throw away money.

On a different but similar note:  if buying silver beads, bring a long needle with you (or a fabulous hat pin that you have created) and poke around a bit inside the bead.  I've purchased silver beads that, after heating with a torch, expelled black, smoky goop that I believe was tar.  The tar significantly added to the weight of the silver (purchased by the gram) and, of course, my cost!  Wish I had remembered who I had bought them from!



Natural - a gem that has had no assistance from humans in its creation. (except for the cutting, of course).

Organic - Organic material is a material that comes from a living, or previously living being.  Even though the material may have been altered by time, environment or pressure, if a living creature contributed its tissue, it's organic.  Examples are:

  • pearls (created by a bivalve mollusk - an irritant is placed inside (usually a pearl oyster) the bivalve. The creature builds up layers of nacre to protect itself from the irritant - creating the pearl. The mantle, or the layer that lines the inside of the shell, is made from the same nacre that creates a pearl.)
  • amber (fossilized tree sap) 
  • coral (layer upon layer of the skeletons of filter feeding creatures) 
  • jet (from decaying wood)
  • ivory - Is composed of the tusks or teeth of a once living creature. Ivory is made from dentine - calcified tissue - just like our teeth. When you buy ivory be sure of its source.  Elephants, hippopotamuses, whales and other beautiful animals are being massacred for their teeth or tusks.
  • vegetable ivory (Tagua Palm also called the Ivory Nut Palm)
  • ammolite (sea anemones - fossilized)
 Interestingly, fossilized dinosaur bone and fossilized coral are NOT classified as being organic.  The reasoning is that all the original material has been replaced by other minerals.

The following terms indicate that we humans have assisted in the development of the gemstone (or pearl) in one form or another.  Theses stones are, generally, identical in physical, chemical and visual properties but, their value is less as is their rarity. It is required by law to disclose whether a stone is natural or one of the following:
  • Synthetic - this term isn't often used because many people associate the word with "fake".
  • Laboratory Grown - same as man-made and synthetic.
  • Cultured - Think pearls - 
  • Man-made - same as lab grown and synthetic
Other things to know before purchasing gemstones:
  • Stones can be dyed - Chemicals or heat can change the color of the stone.
  • Heat Treated - Colors may have been obtained by heating the stone.  Additional heat may alter the color.  Heat treated Amethyst or Tanzanite for example. Sometimes, the coloring is not permanent and the stone will revert to its original color.
  • Irradiated - You should read this from The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commision. The visibility of inclusions may be reduced.
  • Have laser altered colors

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission - USA) has guidelines and rules pertaining to these issues as does AGTA (the American Gem Trade Association).
Here is AGTA's page on synthetic stones.


Jim Dailing - Brothers Jim and Tom are an amazing duo of talent. Represented by Studio Jewelers.  Jim Dailing's site.

Tom Dailing - Represented by Studio Jewellers

Annie Fensterstock - Gem Diva Award - AGTA Spectrum Awards, 2013.

Alan Hargrave - Winner: 1st Place, Innovative Faceting - Eveningwear, AGTA Spectrum Awards 2012.

Ion Ionescu - Winner 1st place Evening Wear, AGTA Spectrum Awards 2012.

Eleanor Moty - Represented by Studio Jewelers

Creative Stonesetting by John Cogswell

Gemstones of the World by Walter Schumann

Smithsonian Handbooks: Gemstones by Cally Hall

Gem Identification Made Easy: A Hands-on Guide to More Confident Buying and Selling by Antoinette Leonard Matlins

Gemstone Buying Guide by Renée Newman GG

The Jeweler's Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe

Pearl Buying Guide by Renée Newman GG

Diamond Handbook by Renée Newman GG

ecrets of the Gem Trade by Richard W. Wise
For Further gemology research

*Image above:  Tagua Nuts -  "Vegetable Ivory"
  • AGTA - The place to go for information on gems.  Offers information on synthetics, classes, geology and a lot more.
  • FTC - Laws and Guidelines
  • Ganoksin - Everything jewelry related.  Search for gemstone information on the site.
  • Barbara W. Smigel - Free Gemology Course! An amazing site!!!!!  Thank you Ms. Smigel for providing this great information.
For more information on ethically sourcing your materials see the following sites: Alternative to Ivory:  Vegetable Ivory - see Wayne's World for more information.

Sources of Vegetable Ivory:
*Note:  I have not purchased Taguas from the above vendors.


This email has nothing to do with gemstones!  Rather it is about mistakes, deliberate/non-deliberate practice and having "IT"!

Thank you for such a lovely email!!!  I think I should write a book entitled: Jewelry Creation for the Postmenopausal - A Study of Jewelry Creation and Memory Resuscitation.  I, as you have no doubt seen, have some issues with remembering the names of things.  But, my new attitude is: I have a great memory, it's just a little short.  ("Little", perhaps, being  an understatement in my case). 

Unasked for, possibly unwanted tips:  
1. While you are learning the craft, practice deliberately.  Deliberate Practice usually involves making many mistakes.  The mistakes are analyzed and changes are made. The mistakes become the teachers, the instructors who say, "Ah, that didn't work, did it? But, see that, that's a good thing. It's the mound of molten metal that might have been a pendant, that said to us:  see what happens when too much heat is applied but, wow, isn't that glob of metal pretty. How could this be useful in the future and how can I avoid an unwanted lump the next time?  All these mistakes (which is such a horrible word for something that is so invaluable to our growth) are pages of your own jewelry how-to book.
Non-deliberate practice is repeating the same mistakes over and over again because we aren't learning from the prior error.  This process usually ends with one's dreams never being realized.
2. Multiples. I love the practice of making something 5 times.  It always amazes me how much I learn each time the piece is created.  It's led me to start designing tools to simplify processes and also to discover shortcuts and better ways to create/design/evolve my work.
3. Babbling on "Having it"  "I don't have it in me" you said.  While you may not end up working as a designer for Cartier,  I bet you'd be pretty happy creating for yourself,  friends/family and (as usually happens over time) strangers (meaning: selling your work!). 
Since I love analogies (flying analogy #2), I'll ask you to Imagine the following scenario:   I lead you to a set of steps which, very obviously, lead into the cockpit of a plane.  Next, I point out that, given your understanding of the concept of flying, and that you have been in a plane before,  that you are perfectly capable of flying this plane.
I hand over the keys (do planes even have keys?)  and annonce: "Let's get going!  I expect to arrive in Hawaii in 4.5 hours - with cocktail service on the ready. " You protest:  "I don't know how to fly. I've never flown a plane before."  I am shocked!  "Well, why not?"  You yell back: "because I have never been taught how."  I snap:  "So, I  guess we won't be arriving on time now! "
What's my point, you may ask?  The point Is a pilot doesn't have to have "it" to be able to fly - what she needs are the techniques necessary to fly a plane. She also needs to practice flying - a lot.  It's the same with making jewelry.  You can't be expected to create exactly what you see in your mind without the skills or the practice to translate that vision into a reality.     
 So, get ready for your pilot training, good luck and happy flapping.  I'm thrilled you are pushing past that voice that says "no you can't"!!!!      " Thanks for flying Nancy LT Hamilton Airlines",  Nancy
P.S. - Since Chimera (the makerspace) is a member owned space and there will be a lot of strangers there, Lou Loo Wee Wee will not be attending the class I am teaching there.  She hates to drive, dislikes crowds and visiting new places plus, she can't afford the dues as she refuses to work.  She says to tell you:  "my basket is as far from the food bowl as I'm willing to travel!"  Not a girl who dreams big, obviously.  ( :

"Quotes" and Random Acts of My Mind

From Jean-Luc Godard: "It's not where you take things from - it's where you take them to."

From Calvin and Hobbes by Bill WattersonAs my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance

Sorry this is so blurry - I had to blow up the cartoon so you could read it!

Well, the babble is over. (Who clapped?) Hope you enjoyed this extremely late newsletter.  The next newsletter (The Enameling Issue) should be sent out soon as I've been working on it concurrently with this one.  

Thanks for subscribing and continue to make beautiful mistakes!



Copyright © *|2014* *|Nancy LT Hamilton Jewelry|*, All rights reserved.

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