Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Making a Jewelry Clasp Using a Mercury Dime

In designing jewelry using "found" objects, an interesting way of creating a clasp is with a rare Mercury dime, button & loop combination. 

Mercury dimes were minted between 1916 and 1946, so they are hard to find. You can usually find them at coin collector shops.   Ask for imperfect, dinged-up rejects.  Mercury dimes are very expensive  if you buy them in perfect condition, as one would expect for a coin collection. If you buy them with nicks and scrapes, the price is more reasonable.

I hammer them into a dome shape, then solder a sterling silver jump ring inside, like a button. They polish up nicely because of the high silver content.

The Mercury dime profile resembles the Roman god Mercury who flew via wings on his golden helmet and wings on his feet.  But, in reality, the Mercury dime profile is a Winged Liberty Head design.

The winged cap on Miss Liberty, symbolizes "Freedom" since her wings let her fly wherever she wants to go. However, because the image closely resembles the Roman god Mercury, the coin is commonly referred to as the "Mercury" dime.

I like to incorporate the symbolism of Miss Liberty, representing "Freedom," in my beaded jewelry.  The mythical god Mercury, on the other hand, probably wasn't quite what our US Mint Designers had in mind as a meaningful design.

According to Google resources, "In Roman mythology, Mercury was the Roman god of mischief. He was also the god of eloquence and wit. He was a messenger of other gods. He liked to play mischief on others. Mercury was very clever. He could work wonders because he had a magic wand and a bag full of tricks. He wore wings on his golden hat. He had winged sandals on his feet.  So, he could move from one place to another in a splash.

Because of his quick wit and eloquence, he always knew what to say and when. He wrote speeches for other gods and worked as a messenger, conveying messages to other gods at various places.

He was also the god of thieves. But he did not steal anything for himself. If at all he did steal, it was only for fun and he would usually return it to the owner.

Mercury was a funny god . Even when he was a tiny baby, he played tricks on other gods. Though he was mischievous, he was liked by all gods and men alike."   (To me, this sounds like a description of some of our current Politicians.)

Most folks may not be aware that dimes, nickels and quarters (minted after 1965) no longer contain silver. They are now made of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel.  Conversely, a Mercury dime is 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper since it was minted before 1946, when they still used silver.  Perfect for jewelry.

The Mercury dime works well as a jewelry button clasp because of its smaller diameter. I solder the jump ring on the inside of the domed coin so the outside displays the Winged Liberty symbol.

Sometimes I use Indian Head nickels in my Southwestern turquoise jewelry because of the reference to Indians, but only for chunkier necklaces.  Indian Head nickels are made of 75% copper and 25% nickel, rather than silver, like the Mercury dime.  Some folks have allergies to the metal nickel, so you have to be careful where you use it.
It is fun to turn the humble dime into something more significant than just 10 cents.  Now it can be "useful, as well as, ornamental."

Please share your thoughts, designs and ideas on how to use coins in jewelry.  It is a fun way to recycle and increase their value.

Virginia Vivier
Esprit Mystique Artisan Jewelry
Tucson, Arizona

Friday, February 26, 2010

Design Your Own Stamps for Precious Metal Clay Jewelry

Would you like to create your own original textures and design stamps for silver clay, copper clay, bronze clay, ceramic clay or polymer clay?  Here's a really quick way to make your very own original design stamps that no one else has --- without all the fuss of buying and making them using Photopolymer Kits.

Sure, there are Photopolymer kits that you can buy to make your own stamps.   But, I found them time-consuming, messy, expensive, and not always 100% foolproof.  You can also buy stamps and texture sheets from Rio Grande, Michaels, and a variety of other suppliers, but so can everyone else.  Do you want to see other Artists using the same designs as yours?  No?  OK then, if you want custom design stamps, all your own, quickly and economically, read on.

I found a custom stamp service that has proven to be more economical than making them myself.  Check out Ready Stamps.  This wonderful group of folks makes stamps for polymer clay, precious metal clay and scrap booking. 

The folks at Ready Stamps are a non-profit group who "go-the-extra-mile" to give you the best product for a very reasonable price.   Plus, you are helping a very worthy cause.  In addition to getting a superior package of custom stamps and molds, your purchase is supporting the United Cerebal Palsy Foundation.  They do a WONDERFUL job.  I guarantee it, as I have used their service for years.  (Usual disclaimers, I have no professional ties with them, just love what they do!)

Visit their website (Ready Stamps) - For $32 you get as many designs as you can fit on a 9 inch x 7 inch page.  They are located in San Diego and I usually get my stamps in 3-4 days!  I have sent as many as 8 sheets of designs in a single order and received them all very quickly.  ($32 per each 9 inch x 7 inch sheet.)From personal experience, the cost breakdown, works out to be approximately $1.50 per stamp.
They do not provide wooden handles for rubber stamps, just the rubber sheet, plus everything else that is used to make the stamps!

That is the best part!  For each sheet of designs you get 4 sheets of materials you can use for texture, stamps and molds, both positive and negative!  Not just a single sheet of rubber stamps!

a.) Brown Matrix Hard Board - positively wonderful to use as mold impressions for clay. ("Outies")

You can use the brown Matrix board to impress designs on silver and bronze clay.  For easy release, spray the board with Silicone spray or rub with olive oil spray before impressing the silver or bronze clay.  Remember that the brown Matrix board is a "negative" and any lettering or numbers will be reversed.  Lettering or numbers will turn out backwards, but that can also be quite interesting!

b.) Yellow Plate - This is a yellow acrylic replica of the 9 inch by 7 inch black and white artwork, with a heavy raised surface like the rubber stamp, but hard. Also great to use for molds.

Use the Yellow plate for positive lettering and numbers.  It has hard-edged raised designs so your clay designs will be "Inies."

c.) Positive Rubber Stamp sheet that you can cut to whatever size you need for each stamp. ("Inies")  The rubber stamp sheet can be cut up and attached to individual wooden stamp holders if you wish, but I found it easier to use the flexible sheet when rolling out silver or bronze clay, then cutting out the border around the clay.  It is also fun to use the flexible sheet on curved surfaces.

d.) Negative transparency of your designs. Great for acid etched design transfers.

Read the instructions carefully on their webpage before you submit your artwork. Here's how you can create your own stamp designs and have them ready to use in 3-5 days!

1.) Draw designs (or make copyright free copies) in black and white. Scan them into your computer. You can download "Paint.net," (a free application) and "gang" your designs together on a 9 inch x 7 inch sheet.

Or, you can cut each design and paste them onto a sheet of paper. Then, make a new copy of the finished group of designs (9 inch x 7 inch), and mail it to them.

NOTE: It is really important to provide the highest possible resolution of black and white designs. No gray areas, just sharp, clean lines and darkest black possible. I usually submit my design sheet in a minimum of 600 pixel resolution, .gif or .tif files, as attachments in an email.

You don't have to do anything out of the ordinary with lettering or numbers. Your impressions will come out just fine in normal read-right format.

NOTE: Prepare your design sheet for the "actual size" of your finished artwork. Take into account the material you will be stamping. If you are stamping paper, then submit designs in a size related to the finished size of your artwork.

If you are stamping on PMC clay, then size your designs larger to account for shrinkage. For PMC, bronze clay and copper clay, the shrinkage can be as little as 1% or, as much as 20%, depending on the thickness, size, and brand of clay you are using.

2.) Email your design file as an attachment to readystamps at ucpsd.org, (or send via snail mail) along with check or credit card info (or, you can call them with cc info) and, in a very short time you will receive your new stamps!

Please feel free to comment with questions and to share your happy results.  We love to hear your successes and are always here to help with any questions.

Do what you enjoy!

Virgina Vivier
Esprit Mystique Artisan Jewelry
Tucson, Arizona

Friday, October 9, 2009

Modern Superstitions - Rapha Nadal's Water Bottle Arrangement

As a modern society, we tend to deny it, but many of us practice superstitions and carry lucky charms, even in these contemporary times. Think about it, weddings, births, graduations, turning 21, and deaths.....ALL involve ritualistic ceremonies, even in this high-tech modern world.

Both of us are avid tennis players and get a kick out of watching Wimbledon winner, Raphael Nadal, arrange his water bottles in a VERY ritualistic pattern each time he takes a drink. He's not alone. Other sports legends have quirky superstitious rituals specific to competitive events, too.

Superstitions and rituals are everywhere. Gang Members paint secret graffiti symbols on walls, to claim their territory -
Young adults (and old folks) tattoo secret designs on their body parts - Astrological readings are very popular - Fraternal societies STILL conduct secret initiations.

Esprit Mystique jewelry evolved after years of traveling, studying Pre-Columbian art, African textiles, Mayan art history, and finally writing a thesis (The Symbolic Significance of Leather Amulet Messages Hidden on the Bambara Hunters Shirt - try saying that 3 times in a row!). And because of all that, a passion for creating contemporary personal fetishes was born.

We are very interested in learning if YOU have a special ritual or secret superstition? Please share your thoughts with us! We'd love to hear more about your private superstitions, astrological experiences, and view photos of your lucky charms. Your secret is safe with us!

Mystical Spirt

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jewelry Made from Recycled Brass Bullet Shells

It's our neighbor's fault! He gave us some boxes of "spent" brass bullet-shell cartridges and said, "You guys are creative, why don't you make something with these?" It seemed like fun challenge. Little did we know, that it would be the beginning of a full-time venture in making bullet jewelry.

We put photos on our website and sold all the earrings, necklaces, key rings and pendants that were made from our neighbor's used bullet shells. And soon, (Yippee) orders for more bullet jewelry started coming in...but now we were out of bullets shells! We drove into town to see if we could buy some shells simiar to the ones our neighbor had given us and Boy, were we in for a shock! They were expensive! The shells came in all sizes, shapes and forms, but none were what we needed for our bullet jewelry designs. (Obviously, we had never owned, or shot a gun, of any kind.)

When the store clerk saw our disappointment, he told told us about an off-road spot in the desert where gun lovers go to practice target shooting. He said the Rancher that lives near the open-range property was mad about the mess left behind and that he would be grateful if we picked up some of the shotgun litter.

So we packed up our dogs and trucked out to find this off-road, make-shift, shooting range in the desert. (It was Noon on a weekday and, luckily for us, no one was around!) We were amazed at the variety of bullet shells scattered over almost 10 acres. There were plastic shotgun shells and lead buckshot, too. This poses a serious problem for birds and wildlife that might ingest the lead shot. And, it could contaminate ground water and take years for the shells to recycle back into the earth.

We grabbed our shovels and went to work. Soon, the Rancher spotted our truck and stopped by to thank us for helping to clean up the mess! We told him that if this worked out, we would be back for more.

We got home with a load of mucky, dirt-filled shells that took 3 days to clean, but with some serious elbow grease they reverted back to the shiny brass shells we needed. We melted down some of shells that were badly bent and recast those into new shapes for pendants.

If you are curious, here are some photos of the jewelry we made from these used shells! If you have any spent bullet shells you want to trade for jewelry, contact us! We would be happy to recycle old shells and keep our deserts beautiful!

Tucson Desert Dwellers

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jewelry with a Secret Message

As a modern society, we tend to deny it, but many of us still practice superstitions and carry lucky charms, even in these contemporary times. Think about it - weddings, births, graduations, turning 21, and deaths - most involve personal rituals, even in this high-tech modern world.

For example, Texters use a myriad of private cell-phone abbreviations. Gang Members leave secret symbols as graffiti, claiming their territory. Tattoo artists are more popular than ever. Sports legends have quirky habits specifically for competitive events. Horoscope predictions are still widely read. Fraternal societies have secret initiations. Ancient Mayan hieroglyphics convey symbolic meanings that we are just now beginning to understand.

For us, Esprit Mystique evolved after years of traveling through Africa, Europe, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica & The British Virgin Islands, along with extensive research focused on ancient rituals and folklore.

After studying Pre-Columbian Art, African Textiles, Mayan Art History, and finally writing a thesis ("The Symbolic Significance of Leather Amulet Messages Hidden on the Bambara Hunter's Shirt" - try saying that 3 times in a row!), a passion for creating contemporary "personal" fetishes was born.

Please share your secret rituals with us! We'd love to hear more about your private superstitions, astrological experiences, and to view photos of your lucky charms. Your secret is safe with us!

Mystical Spirit