Introductory Metal Etching Workshop in Lander, WY!

Want to do something really neat, artsy, personal and a one-of-a-kind creation?

Saturday, September 29, 2011, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., I’ll be teaching a fun workshop in metal etching in Lander, Wyoming.

You don’t have to have any kind of previous experience to take the class. This is a fun class for newbies to get your little pinkie toe wet, nothing serious. You’ll go home with a few completed projects, depending on which metal blank shapes you use for your etching.

We’ll be using non-caustic chemicals for the etching. This doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic, but we follow proper safety procedures, and if you happen to get a little bit on you accidentally, it’s not going to burn holes in you or stunt your growth. In fact, the chemical we’ll be using, ferric chloride, is used for a number of things, including dying wool and staining concrete.

We’ll be using direct resist methods, which means that we’ll be using paint pens and epoxy paint to make designs. You can etch sayings, a name or artwork onto your metal.

Not an artist? Not to worry, because for some reason even the most crude drawings seem to transcend into something special when it’s on metal. It really does look entirely different and special than a line drawing on paper. Trust me on this! I suuuuuck at drawing, but freestyle comes out looking fabulous.

You can get information on the class by going to LAC’s website here:

Sign up as soon as you can so we can be sure to have enough supplies on hand!

That Rockin’ Stone!

The stone in my ring rocks a little bit when I press on it. Do I need to worry about it?

Oh yes! You definitely need to worry about it, because you’re about to lose your stone! Take off your ring immediately and get it to a jeweler.

It could have received a hard knock and the prongs were moved a bit. This is a very easy repair for your jeweler, taking only a few minutes and is very inexpensive.

More probably, it needs the prong(s) retipped. This is where a bit of material is added to the top of the prongs. It’s moderately inexpensive and will save your much costlier stone.

Occasionally, the stone will need to be removed to do this, and a new seat for the stone will be cut. This is more expensive, but you have to take into consideration the loss of the stone otherwise, not to mention the sentimental value.

Things that are worn on an everyday basis, such as a wedding ring, need to be checked at least once a year for loose prongs or settings, and to get a good cleaning.

If you wear your string of pearls several times a week, it will need to be restrung every year. If you wear them only occasionally, they need to be restrung every 2-3 years.

Would you rather wear that special piece of jewelry or prefer to have it sit in a jewelry box?

Do you have a question about jewelry or jewelry care? Drop me a line!

The Winner of the Wyoming Jewelry Show!

Bethel Anthony won the “Beyond Sticks and Stones” jewelry show hosted by Works of Wyoming! She had some great jewelry entered, and she does very lovely beaded work in peyote stitch. This is her winning bracelet.

Winning bracelet in peyote stitch-by Bethel Anthony

Winning bracelet in peyote stitch-by Bethel Anthony

She graciously consented to an interview, so I hope you enjoy getting to know a little more about Bethel.

Had you previously done other art or crafts before you started beading?

Yes, I have always done some kind of craft. I grew up on a ranch and if we wanted something we usually made it. Cardboard boxes became doll houses, wood slats became stilts, etc. I learned to sew before I went to first grade. I have embroidered, done counted cross stitch, dabbled in polymer clay and scrapbooking. I find bead weaving to be the most satisfying of all.

What drew you to try beading?

I ordered a beaded banner kit and did it. You know the kind with the big plastic pony beads. When I did the second one, I thought, “I could do this with smaller beads and make a Christmas tree ornament.” That began my search for smaller beads that would work well. When I found cylinder beads and learned that what I had done on the banner was essentially peyote stitch, I started looking on the internet for peyote stitch designs.

With that my passion blossomed.

More of Bethel's bracelet

This view shows a little more of the pattern-by Bethel Anthony

What do you like about beading the best?

It satisfies my senses and my needs for order, control and color. Weaving the beads together is extremely calming to me. I love to sit down to a pattern and palette of beads and just get lost in the rhythm of picking up a bead and pulling the thread through.

Peyote stitch bead weaving using cylinder beads produces a feel like nothing else I have experienced. The delicate, yet sturdy fabric made of only beads and threads amazes me every time.

Looking at it makes me think of wonderful mosaic tiled artworks. I consider it painting with beads. There are so many beautiful colors and finishes to explore. Each bead makes a difference. Changing just a few colors creates a whole different mood of the piece. The possibilities are endless.

This is the reverse side with the sliding tube catch-by Bethel Anthony

This is the reverse side with the sliding tube catch-by Bethel Anthony

Where do you see yourself going with your beading in the future? What do you want to do?

I am currently creating and selling finished pieces and bead patterns. I want to continue doing both.

I hope to improve my designs and become more artistic with them. I want to design more functional items like boxes and card sleeves and needle cases. I have done a few of these, but I want to move beading to more than just jewelry. I want to make things that people can enjoy on a daily basis.

I really enjoy helping new beaders to learn beading as enjoyment. I hope to be able to continue doing that. I prefer one to one tutoring. There is no feeling like seeing someone suddenly “getting it”. That gives me great joy.

You can see additional work and her patterns at these places:

Congratulations, Bethel!

Making Jewelry Storybook–Orange Citrine Necklace

The gem: a decahedron (12-sided) double star cut orange citrine, 13+ carats.


The setting before soldering, with the seat ring at the top ready to be put in after the setting is soldered.


The setting is soldered and the seat is soldered inside the setting. Now I’m working on the crown with a file. This file is sharp! I have a band-aid on to prevent cutting myself with the file.


I’m refining the crown with a small hand file. Notice I now have 2 band-aids on because I cut my other finger with the sharp file, and I don’t want to keep having bloody fingers. Super glue is great for putting cuts back together, but need to prevent them in the first place.


I’m polishing the crown setting with a pumice wheel.


This shows the completed crown setting. You can see the seat ring soldered inside. This is for the stone to lay on. The crown points have relief cuts to protect the sides of the stone from chipping, and so the points will bend over more easily, since it’s made from heavy gauge sheet. A bail for the chain has been soldered on, and it’s pre-polished before setting.


This is the completed necklace with the stone set.


A little better photo with a close up of the stone.


And the final piece with the neck wire that has a spring compression clasp. The neck wire looks a little odd in the photo because it has a slight curve in it to compensate for laying on the collarbones so that the wire looks circular in appearance.


Hope you enjoyed the photo journey of how a piece is made. If you want to see stories of other pieces, vist the category, “Making Jewelry Storybook.” Thanks for visiting!

On the Bench

I’m not a big fan of citrine, but this one sure caught my eye. Orange, double cut star, decahedron (12 sides), 13+ carats. Ah! Nothing like a setting challenge!

Big orange citrine faceted gemstone

Orange citrine faceted gemstone

I’ll have more about the setting and how it was made in a Storybook Jewelry feature, but I decided to keep the emphasis on the stone itself, the setting had to be minimalist. So here’s a picture of the necklace with the lovely setting on a neck wire.

Big citrine necklace

Big faceted orange citrine necklace

Here’s another view:

Big orange citrine necklace

Big faceted orange citrine necklace

The neck wire looks odd because it’s not sitting on a neck form. It’s shaped to lay on the collar bones so as to not stick straight out. I also found out I need to turn the termination 90 degrees so it’ll flat against the neck. Duh! Obvious things are not always apparent right out of the gate.

And it’s on its way to a gallery exhibition!

On the Bench

Just finished! This is a giant almost orange decahedron (12 sides) double cut buff top citrine in a sterling silver necklace. Oh, this gem is gorgeous! It has sparkle like you cannot believe. I can’t wait until I get some good photos of it! I’ll have a Storybook on this one as soon as I get some nice photos of the completed piece.

Orange citrine pendant

Giant orange citrine pendant

This one is just finished too. OK, I work on a bunch of things consecutively, so it doesn’t seem like I’m doing anything, then all of a sudden there’s a bunch of pieces done. These really pretty pieces have complex executions, so it takes awhile to complete them. This one will have a Storybook on how I made it too.


Drusy and garnet pendant

Handmade drusy and garnet pendant

This particular piece began as just sheet. I hand etched the Celtic pattern into it, cut it out, made the hinges, did the hinge pin catch assembly and set it with amethysts on both the top and the bottom. Everybody who got a sneak peak preview at the opening of the jewelry show was fascinated with the catch. (Thank you Jean Stark for teaching me that catch–elegant.) They were pulling it up, unfastening, putting it on, fastening the thing. Repeat. All the extra tight hinge allowances have now loosened to their proper tension. It didn’t go in that show, but will be going in another, and then off to a gallery.

Handmade Celtic bangle bracelet

Handmade hinged Celtic bracelt with amethysts


OK, things don’t go to plan. The 3rd installment of how to clean jewelry has video problems, as in–it sucks. The plan was to do it over, but the weather wasn’t cooperating so my daughter could get in to do the filming. Believe me, it’ll be worth the wait, okay?

There was the usual Christmas rush and my usual “I don’t want to see a piece of metal or a stone for a month!” I’m over it now.

I do my usual slow period stuff, redo the website (that’s the Metals and Gems one), do the taxes, sketch a lot and do my pretty stuff that makes my heart sing. Like the one above, which is a doublecut decahedron (that’s 12 sides) buff top almost orange yummy citrine. I think it’s about 13 carats. Oh, and it’s what passes as spring here in Wyoming, so I’m busy with planting.

Soon, I’ll be migrating the blog over to WordPress, because it has a lot more options and is easier for people reading it to navigate. Yet another thing I have to learn. Good for the brain cells, right?

I had a big arthritis flare, unable to use my hands much and couldn’t sit because of the hip. The medicine the rheumatologist put me on is pretty rough on the system too. Did you know they use chemotherapy drugs for advanced arthritis? I have a whole new respect for people going through chemotherapy–they take a lot more than I do! I feel like a pathetic wuss.

My husband is working hard on the room that will become my studio. He’s put down a tile floor and painted the walls. There’s much more to be done–wiring, ceiling, finish framing the windows, cabinets–and then the big stuff–moving all the equipment in and finding new places for everything. It’s gonna be a great place!

Most of my new work has already been placed in galleries, but I’ll be showing you some of my upcoming pieces as shot off the bench.

How to Clean Dirty Jewelry–Part II

Or…The Dirty Secret About Jewelry–Part II

In the previous article, we went over how to clean debris from your jewelry that builds up from lotions, soaps, grime and sweat, using an ultrasonic machine. Now we’re going to learn about getting rid of tarnish. It’s the special enemy of silver jewelry.

Tarnish. An ionic machine is the perfect solution for this problem.

Tarnish can be gone forever with one of these little beauties!

Ionic cleaners

Oh happy day! They finally have been able to produce these for consumers and they are a godsend! If you have a lot of jewelry, especially silver, an ionic cleaner is relatively inexpensive way to blast off tarnish. It won’t do a thing to get the debris off, but it will blast away dulling tarnish and make your metal sparkle again.

Ionic cleaners work electrolytically to remove the tarnish.

In other words, they use a small electrical charge from direct current, an alkaline based cleaner and an anode plate in the bottom of the tank. There is a little clip that is the cathode, that you attach to the jewelry to complete the circuit. You’ll know it’s working because it will give off little bubbles, and with heavily tarnished silver jewelry, you’ll notice the smell of hydrogen sulfide, or the rotten egg odor.

A company that I know sells a true consumer level ionic cleaner is Speed Brite. Their smallest one is called a Mini Speed Brite and it uses a 9 volt battery to power it. You won’t have to worry about getting electrocuted with the battery, unlike the ones where you plug in the transformer to regular 110 v AC power. Usual disclaimer that I don’t get paid, just personally satisfied with the product.

This one is a commercial one, but it works similar to the consumer version.

A commercial ionic cleaner in use with the clip on lead attached to the chain laying across the bottom of the tank

Cleaning chains

This machine is great for cleaning chains, because it can remove tarnish from the inside of the chain links, a boon for something that has very fine links, like a French rope chain. However, if it doesn’t remove the tarnish from inside the links, it could mean you have a combination of gunk and tarnish. An ionic cleaner can’t remove debris, so you’ll have to use some hot water, dish soap and a toothbrush to get rid of the debris so the ionic can get to the tarnish itself. Or use a spiffy ultrasonic machine.

If you’re cleaning a chain, you can only clean a long chain a few parts at a time. If the chain crosses over itself, it will deposit the tarnish that it cleaned off the rest of the chain to the part where it crossed itself–and then that part will be really tarnished! So, unclasp the chain, put what you can across the bottom and clean that. Move the clip up to a tarnished area, lay out more of the tarnished part across the bottom and clean a little more.

In this demonstration, I’ll show you how a chain is cleaned. First, let me state that this particular chain had an oxidized patina put on it that used several mordants to make the oxidation really stick. In addition, it has also sat around for awhile, so the oxidation is age hardened to the chain. In other words, this type of tarnish is tough to the extreme.

Extremely tarnished chain
When the machine is turned on, it immediately starts bubbling and lifting the tarnish
Here you can see the part of the chain that is clean, next to the original tarnished area

One thing you need to be aware of, it will also clean off the oxidation that has been deliberately added to enhance details. So if you have something that has a black finish in the recessed areas, clean in stages of 5 seconds at a time. Make sure you’re not cleaning off the detail!

Don’t use an ionic cleaner for anodized aluminum, niobium or titanium. It will ruin the lovely colors!

Likewise, there are certain stones that shouldn’t be used in an ionic cleaner, like some drusy (druzy) crystals that have been anodized. If in doubt, take your piece of jewelry into a professional jeweler’s store and ask.

The chain above was dipped 3 times in the 30 second cleaning cycle, for a total of 90 seconds. Your average tarnished piece with oxidized detail may only take 5-10 seconds.

This machine will also clean gold, platinum, white gold, fine silver, coin silver and a host of just about any metal. It’s superb for copper.

Finishing up

Be sure to rinse thoroughly with clean running water. Dry with a soft tea towel or old T-shirt. Your jewelry is bright and tarnish free.

With the next article in this series, we’ll be going over low tech methods, also known as elbow grease, and a little kitchen chemistry. Not too much elbow grease though, because frankly, I don’t have the time and neither do you!

Copyright 2011 by Katherine Palochak

Handmade Ripple Earrings

The ripples of sand in the ocean waters…

Conjures up an evocative image, doesn’t it?

Think of the ripples on the sandy bottom of the edge of a calm sea. The patterns they make have a calming effect on you too. The day is perfect, sunny with a blue sky and a fresh breeze.

You’re wading in the ocean, and in the perfectly clear water, you can feel these ripples in the sand under your toes.

These earrings have that same feeling of calm. Repetitive lines, smooth but distinct. The undulating shape enhances the ripples calming effect with a continuation of the flowing lines.

The ripples are oxidized to bring out the pattern, and the highlighted lines have a soft satin sheen to them. The design is exclusive to myself, handmade with a technique that makes a dimensional form, but are still lightweight.

They’re entirely handmade from sheet silver and formed into that wonderful shape. Then they are soldered to freeze that shape and make them very strong. They are completed with a handmade earwire that features a ball on the front detail.

This is a great pair of earrings to accessorize jeans for a little more dressed up feel, or for that flirty little dress.


Handmade ripple freeform earrings in sterling silver

If you plan on ordering anything for Christmas from my Etsy shop, do it before 10 p.m. MST, Sunday December 18, 2011.

Those reindeer are slow!

For a limited time, you can purchase these earrings by clicking here.

Copyright 2011 by Katherine Palochak

How to Clean Dirty Jewelry–Part I

Or…The dirty secret about jewelry–part 1

We girls love our pretty sparklies. Even if you don’t wear jewelry much, I’ll just bet you’ll throw on a pair of earrings or a necklace for the office party. Maybe you wear your wedding ring religiously, but would like for it to look as good as it did they day it was first put on your finger.

This is going to be a primer series for what’s available to you as the general public. We’ll be going through the luxe items in jewelry cleaning, right down to the inexpensive, but highly effective methods, that you can do with common household ingredients and an electric toothbrush, dips, polishes and cloths.

First, let’s go over what machines and methods are available for professional jewelers, because the new jewelry cleaners for the general public consumers are spinoffs from these machines. We have ionic cleaners which remove tarnish; ultrasonic cleaners that remove debris, oil and dirt; steam cleaners for likewise removing oil, debris and dirt; and good old-fashioned elbow grease. We also have our bench polishers and flexshafts, with their different buffs and compounds, for actually polishing and removing scratches. There are a few other things that are available for removing caked on debris like lye (definitely not for consumers!) and other caustic methods, but you have to be trained to use them safely and know which stones can handle the different types of acids or bases. Chemistry does play an integral part in cleaning things for us.

Ultrasonic cleaning

Ultrasonic cleaners are ubiquitous in a jeweler’s shop. These produce powerful ultrasonic waves that scrub debris off. They have a transducer in the bottom, and some have them in the sides also. They are not silent. They will remind you of sounds you hear in a dentist’s office. They are one of the new luxe items for cleaning your jewelry at home.

A lot of the machines I’ve been able to find in the consumer area are ones that tout they are “ultrasonic,” but are not true ultrasonics.

Instead, they rely on sonic waves (think vibration) or an electrolytic process with an alkaline based soap. If ever in doubt, if it doesn’t have that high-pitched whine and put holes in aluminum foil, send it back with a big raspberry and get your money back.

A professional ultrasonic with a manual timer and a heater
However, there is one I’ve found that looks like a mini version of my ultrasonic and is made by the same manufacturer. It has the metal bottom with a raised area that typically houses the transducer. It is a GemOro, and no, I don’t get paid or given anything to promote their products. I noticed is selling these mini GemOros on their website for around $100 as of this date of Christmas 2011.
The raised area where the transducer is located beneath the stainless steel tank

If you put a piece of aluminum foil in the tank of a true ultrasonic, it will be full of holes within a few minutes.

If you think sticking your fingers in it to retrieve a piece is okay, prepare to have your fingernails start growing out pitted, or if more than a few times, your fingernails will just fall off. Just because it only seems to “tickle,” don’t be fooled. These are powerful machines!

The aluminum foil folded over a stick that will span the width of the tank
The aluminum foil added to the tank
There are large holes in the aluminum foil now. Particularly notice the ragged edge.
The aluminum foil unfolded. Notice the large missing areas.

Likewise, you have to be careful what kind of stones you put in them. If your stone is fracture filled (some diamonds are) or oiled (like emeralds) it will destroy them.

If they have natural fractures or inclusions in the stones, like tourmalines, rutilated quartz, cape amethyst, opals or diamonds with a lot of carbon deposits, it will likewise shatter or cleave them.

Oops. Check with your jeweler if you can’t bear to take a chance.

Things you should know

When you use an ultrasonic, make sure nothing touches the bottom where the transducer is located. It will cause vibrations that will wear out your transducer prematurely. The exception is soft materials like plastic and silicone. You will see various jigs that suspend jewelry away from the bottom, such as baskets and ring holders.

However, these soft surfaces and metal meshes tend to break up the action of the ultrasonic waves, so it takes longer to clean the jewelry. Jewelers tend to go out of their way to find some way to suspend the jewelry directly into the ultrasonic, using paper clips, bamboo tongs and hand-held glass beakers.

Rinse your jewelry thoroughly in clean water after removing it from the ultrasonic. This helps to remove any remaining debris and cleaning solution. Sometimes a quick scrub with a toothbrush is also needed to get debris out of very small spaces. Wipe the jewelry dry with a soft, clean cloth. Don’t put your jewelry in a sunny window to dry. Certain stones can lose their color or change color! Speaking from personal experience, amethyst is one of those stones.

The vibrations of a true ultrasonic will shake slightly loose stones out of their mountings, so take a needle across the face of the stone, pushing slightly and noticing if there’s any slight rocking. If there is, take it to a jeweler so the setting can be tightened and you won’t lose your stone.

Please check with a reputable jeweler first to make sure your stones will survive ultrasonic treatment.

If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying your own machine, or the vagaries of whether a stone will survive or not, then just take your precious to a real jeweler, where they will clean it for a pittance. Most will educate you about your particular piece of jewelry and how to keep it clean between professional cleanings.

Check back next week for the second part of this series with information on ionic cleaners, another luxe item, and why you want one, especially if you have silver.

Copyright Katherine Palochak 12-17-2011