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

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