Category Archives: FREE Projects and Information

Making a Sterling Silver Ring with Vintage Jade Stone

Sometimes, handmade jewelry names itself. This is one of those instances. The gemstone is a vintage piece of jade that I took out of an old setting. I wanted to fabricate a ring that was bold and had a vintage quality with a modern edge.
First came the setting (not pictured), then the triple ring shank. This shank is a bit tricky to solder. First, you make three rings, each the same size. Then you solder the three rings together on one side. A sturdy soldering setup is key. Here I used broken pieces of ceramic flameproof block pinned to a soft soldering block to keep them from moving. The rings are wedged in place and soldered. Mine still slipped a bit when heated, but I was able to gently move them back into place with my soldering pick.

Triple ring shank for Cake ring
The completed ring shank, pickled and cleaned up.

After the ring was soldered, pickled and cleaned up (above) it was time to level the top of the ring a bit in order to create a flat place for the setting. This would facilitate a good seat for soldering the two pieces together.

Cake ring, after soldering the shank to the setting

It’s important to check the setting from all angles, to assure that the shank and the setting are centered properly before soldering. The above photo shows the ring after soldering and before pickling.

Cake ring, after applying the blackening patina

After all soldering and finishing work are completed, I applied Silver Black to darken the entire ring. Then I set the stone. At this point, the ring got it’s name: Cake! It looked like a fancy, decorated cake to me. No matter that it was green.

Cake ring, after setting the gemstone

After setting the stone, I polished back some of the patina to let a bit of the silver shine through.

Jade Cake Ring, on hand


Completed Jade Cake Ring

Metalsmithing in the Digital Age – Part One

Competition in today’s web-world can be a beautiful thing. Print media has taken a hit the past few years, with periodicals and newspapers put into the position of either radically changing offerings to the public, incorporating new media to retain and attract new subscribers – or being left behind.
As a longtime subscriber to jewelry making periodicals, I’ve been faced with trying to decide which magazines are worthy of my continued support. Obviously I’m not the only one, for some of the major players are really going to town to offer new things to readers, web-users, and old-school die-hard fans (like me).

Some offer free videos online, and I’ve watched my fair share of video tutorials over the years. Most of them feature fairly stiff-acting metalsmiths who leave out more than they provide. Or teach something counter to my own methods. Or just plain wrong or dangerous! So it was a nice surprise to find a simple, straightforward, FREE video from Interweave, publisher of the mighty fine Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. Taught by my metalsmithing hero, Helen Driggs.
Simple, basic, and to the point. You won’t learn any bad habits here. Click on the link below. It will take you to the website where you can view the video. Enjoy!
Free Metalsmithing Video Tutorial: Basic Metal Jewelry-Making Techniques – Jewelry Making Daily.

Pearls – Did You Know?

Lavanessence Silver Pendant with Freshwater Pearl on Gold Wire
Lavanessence Silver Pendant with Freshwater Pearl on Gold Wire by nDesigns Metal and Jewelry

In honor of Elizabeth Taylor, I’m repeating an article that contains a tidbit about her “La Peregrina” pearl necklace. She was a woman with enduring style, grace and beauty. May she rest in peace.

Here are ten (or more) things about pearls:

10. Pearls are said to be ruled by the moon, are symbols of purity and femininity, were once adornment for nobility alone, were consumed as medicines, worn as protection for knights doing battle, have influenced Steinbeck and financed wars.

9. The Persian Gulf was once the richest source of saltwater and freshwater pearls in the world. The discovery of oil in the 1930’s spoiled all that.

8. Cleopatra dropped a pearl earring in her wine cup and drank it, proving to Marc Antony that Egypt’s richness was unequaled in the world. That act would cost about $13.5 million today.

7. Pearls are mentioned in the Bible nine times, and the kingdom of heaven is often described as being protected by “pearly gates”.

6. Fine freshwater pearls have been found in the United States since the early 1800’s, including the “dogtooth” pearls in the Chrysanthemum brooch, created by Tiffany & Co and presented in 1904 to Hollywood star Lillian Russell.

A chrysanthemum brooch made of gold, platinum, and diamonds demonstrates a creative use of freshwater Mississippi River pearls in a design by Paulding Farnham for Tiffany & Co. (1904). Collection of R. Weatherly © Wartski, London Image Courtesy: American Museum of Natural History and Royal Ontario Museum
A chrysanthemum brooch made of gold, platinum, and diamonds demonstrates a creative use of freshwater Mississippi River pearls in a design by Paulding Farnham for Tiffany & Co. (1904). Collection of R. Weatherly © Wartski, London Image Courtesy: American Museum of Natural History and Royal Ontario Museum

5. The “Queen Pearl” was found by a carpenter in a stream in New Jersey and sold to Charles Tiffany, who sold it to Princess Eugenie of France, who used it to buy her freedom when fleeing that country in 1870.

4. Kokichi Mikimoto and his wife, Ume, looked upon the world’s first cultured pearls on July 11, 1893, spent decades perfecting the art, nearly creating the capability “… to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls.”

3. “La Peregrina”, a large pear-shaped white pearl discovered in 1513, became part of the Spanish Crown Jewels. In 1554 the pearl was given to Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”), the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, by her future husband Philip II, Crown Prince of Spain. Fast-forward 415 years, at which time the pearl was purchased at Sotheby’s by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor, who still owns it. She almost lost it to her Pekingese the very day she received it in 1969 – she had to pry it from her dog’s mouth. Dumb mutt! (Dog story from My Love Affair with Jewelry, by Elizabeth Taylor.

Elizabeth Taylor Wearing La Peregrina
Elizabeth Taylor Wearing La Peregrina

2. Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding dress, designed by Emanuel, featured 10,000 pearls and sequins. She later commissioned Catherine Walker to design a stunning pearl-studded white gown and jacket for her visit to Hong Kong in 1989. The Princess seemed to glow in pearls, and wore simple, single-strand chokers to pearl ropes to the exquisite “Swan Lake Suite” of South Sea cultured pearls and diamonds, so named after her tragic death in 1997.

1. And finally, Pearl is the symbol for the 30th wedding anniversary and birthstone for the month of June. And it’s my birth month, too!

Perlmutt Australian pearls
Perlmutt Australian pearls


Today, freshwater and cultured pearls have virtually replaced natural pearls. China, Japan, and Australia are the largest exporters of pearls. There is little availability of natural pearls on the market today – they are extremely rare and prohibitively expensive! Fortunately, most can still enjoy the beautiful simplicity of pearls at a reasonable price.


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