I have for you today a work in progress at Gary Dawson Jewelry Design…An Aquamarine cabochon set! Since so much of my time is spent on custom work, this project represents a rare opportunity for me to take some time to indulge in making something that will be offered for sale from my accumulation of hand-selected fine gems and my personal perspective on designs to enhance them.
I have always really liked the velvety rich pastel blue of a nice aquamarine, the blue variety of the mineral Beryl from which also is derived Emerald. These have been hiding in my safe since the last Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, just waiting for an opportunity to emerge as the gems they were meant to be. The gem Aquamarine is the modern birthstone for March and is said to have a great deal of metaphysical power and use. I particularly like the following quote from the website linked here! “Aquamarine encourages the ideal of service to the world and to the development of a humanity attuned to healing. It emits a gentle and compassionate energy, promoting moderation and responsibility for ones’ actions. It inspires judgmental people to be more tolerant, and helps those overwhelmed by responsibility to find order.”
With 33.7 Cts. total weight in one oval and two pear shaped cabs, the plan here is to make a set of jewelry to grace the most discriminating wearer with a subtle elegance. Comfort is built into the ring in the form of a lightweight (for its size) structure featuring a modified square shank.
I love this shank shape for its grace, comfort and practicality! If you can turn your hand so you can see a finger end-on, you will see that you finger is really not round, but more a square shape with rounded corners. This ring will fit the contours of a finger perfectly and the shape of the shank will tend to prevent the ring from rolling on the finger, important in a ring with a somewhat heavier top.
Since the two pear shapes are not identical in size, my plan is to make the earrings not perfectly symmetrical, making this set even more unique in both concept and execution. I am designing this in Rhinoceros and I’m test-printing prototypes as I’m writing this with my B9Creator 3DPrinter and expect to have the project finished in the very near future. Stay tuned for pictures of the finished set.
Recent decades have brought much new technology to jewelry technique in both design and manufacturing. Still, it is probably safe to say that one traditional distinction holds on the manufacturing side…that of cast vs. fabricated metal jewelry. Sometimes these techniques are combined in a single piece of jewelry, but let’s examine each separately.
In the simplest terms, fabricated jewelry is formed from sheet and wire by cutting, bending, forging and joining metal into a form that is both pleasing and functional. Jewelry created in this manner may or may not hold gemstones and can take the function of ring, pendant, pin or brooch, bracelet, or any other form at all.
Casting in the simplest terms is pouring liquid metal into a pre-formed space and holding it there until it solidifies in the form of the hollow space into which it was poured. This is very commonly a process of lost-wax casting but can include direct casting into carved spaces in graphite, cuttlefish bone or other heat-resistant, carve-able material such as charcoal.
And while at times it may be difficult to distinguish technique in a finely crafted finished product by a master goldsmith, there are normally some clues. In both cases after the process of forming, whether cast or fabricated, much effort is put into finishing the piece. Even with the currently popular, “rough finish” look found so often in venues such as ETSY, some effort is needed to make the look uniform and comfortable to wear.
Are one of these techniques superior? Of course that depends on criteria, but probably not. A valid argument could be made that fabrication is the foundation of all other techniques, including casting, owing to the previously mentioned clean-up and finishing process. Once cast, an object is rarely “ready-to-go” and the artisan will need to use those basic fabrication skills of cutting (sprue removal), filing (smoothing the surface), sanding (as a pre-finish) and polishing.
Also, a fabricated object created out of milled materials (sheet and wire) will have gone through various stages of compressing the material into higher density than a cast object. Milling the material prior to forming, and sometimes the forming itself will compact the crystalline structure of the metal which may tend to remove or resolve issues of micro-porosity or small voids that can interfere with the final finish. This increased density can, in some cases, even make the metal more durable. But while all of that is true, the finished cast product of an accomplished goldsmith will be minimally effected by these issues, if at all.
At Gary Dawson Jewelry Design, we make use of nearly every available technology to insure your jewelry is created to the highest standards for trouble-free, heirloom quality each time. Choosing the appropriate technology for each process is essential to our process!
Have you ever tried to broach a topic with someone in which they considered themselves “expert”? Probably. And you may have experienced some frustration in that conversation…am I right? And how about the frustration that you sometimes experience with yourself when you try to learn something new, especially if it is not entirely new, but is an extension of something you already know. Is there any connection between these two experiences? Maybe. That thread of connection may lead us into a discussion of the Beginner’s Mind.
In Zen Buddhism, Shoshin is described simply as “The Beginner’s Mind”. Watch any 2 year old and you will see pure Beginner’s Mind in action. At that stage of life, utilizing a beginner’s mind comes pretty easy because that’s nearly all one has to experience the world…no deep experience in anything! The toddler’s approach to learning is not much imposed upon by prior experience. Conversely, later in life, when we have deep experience in something, anything really, we tend to bring expectations of mastery, and a set of paradigms that can constrict our further learning. I know I have experienced this, in fact I am experiencing it now in my attempt to learn a new CAD application and it’s making me a little crazy. So maybe I’m writing this mostly for my own benefit but I think that we can all gain something if we remember to apply a little Shoshin within our routines. An attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions can bring a new level of experience when we remember to use it.
One area of immediate benefit might be in how we approach new (and old) acquaintances. I think I’m pretty good at this because I began working on my own version of presumption quite early in my life thanks to my folks. My Mom was from a large Southern family that mostly seemed to retain throughout their lives a horribly racist attitude. Lucky for me, owing to the way I was brought up, I was quite confused when I encountered this in my aunts and uncles. Neither my Mom nor my Dad ever spoke of anyone in terms of race. And later, in an anthropology class, (my degree) I discovered that there are really only two types of people in the whole world, sitters and squatters. And if arguing about toilet habits is your thing, maybe you are beyond the help of anything I can write!
But if you would like to learn more in your life, and experience more of life to the fullest, try a few simple things to start accessing your beginner’s mind. If you walk on a regular basis, as I do, try begin your next walk by taking a moment to clear your mind any previous memory of your route. Then, use all of your senses as you proceed…What does it sound like and smell like and “feel” like at any point in your route? Is there a place where the wind is stronger, or the air is quieter? And then take this to the next level. If you are an “expert” at anything, the next time someone tries to talk to you about that topic, try to forget everything you know about it and approach the topic from a place of openness and eagerness with no preconceptions about the topic or where the conversation will go. Try listening more than talking! This may not work all the time, and every occasion may not be the best time to try this so you get to choose when to utilize your beginner’s mind.
I find that bringing this attitude into my design studio is particularly helpful. When I take a moment each day, or each week or even each month and try to design something with NO preconceptions, and with an open and eager mind, I am often surprised at the delightfulness of what I discover within myself. Try it and you’ll be saying, “Where the heck did that come from?” as you smile at what you’ve accomplished.
Remember this: The difference between a master and beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has yet tried. Since everything is always in flux, life and it’s circumstances always changing, allowing oneself the opportunity to be a beginner can be an obvious asset. Living life to the fullest, learning as much as possible and being flexible and unique in a design practice can at times be more rewarding than knowing it all.
A wise professor of mine once said to his social science class, “Every dollar you spend is a vote, so watch closely how you spend your money.” I have tried to live this credo throughout my life and thankfully it is getting somewhat easier to do. Not that many big companies are getting more transparent, mind you…there are just more tools available to watch how your money is working. So, how, you may ask, can a responsible consumer purchase precious metal and gemstone jewelry while still adhering to goals of “green sustainable and conflict-free? Despite a plethora of available information, (Kimberley Process, Sustainable Jewellery and American Gem Trade Association, for example) this is not an easy question to answer honestly in a few words. Here’s my rather simple take on it…
We might first look at the cliché, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as it applies to our questions about responsible jewelry. Just how much jewelry do you need, really? But reduce? Well, as your favorite jewelry designer, I’d be remiss for the sake of my family (and my sanity, for I love what I do so much), in telling you not to buy jewelry, right? Also, I once smiled as I read that every known culture has used some form of body adornment, (aka jewelry!) So as humans, we must actually need jewelry in some way! And following our ancestral beginnings, making the things we wear meaningful rather than frivolous might be a start in the right direction.
Recycle and Re-use? Of course! With the concept of recycling (sometimes called repurposing) my business begins to feel warm and fuzzy (socially responsible) as well as bright and shiny! One of the things I specialize in is reusing your precious materials. In resetting your grandmother’s diamonds, for example, I can often directly recycle the gold or platinum they were mounted in. When that is the case, you only end up paying for my time in making your jewelry, not necessarily additional materials. There are sometimes sound reasons not to directly recycle…I can’t re-cast white gold into yellow gold, for example, but I do have refiner partners in the business who will do small-batch refining. That means when we send your old gold to them, they separate the materials and return your actual gold molecules to us to re-alloy to our needs. Not only do we realize the benefit of reduced environmental impact in doing this, we are still wearing Grandma’s jewelry, just in a style that we can now appreciate!
Sustainably produced and conflict-fView this ring now
Finally, when we want to create entirely new works in precious metals and gemstones Gary Dawson Jewelry Design holds our suppliers to high standards . When we buy gold, we only buy it from refineries that recycle, not from suppliers of newly-mined materials. And our gemstones sources are closely vetted for fair-trade and conflict free.
Please call 541-729-2531 for specific requests and we will track it down for you. Your jewelry should not only look good, it should feel good too!