Danielle Miller Jewelry - BLOG
While silver, gold and platinum will always be the primary metals for jewelry construction, now there are more choices than ever when it comes to metal selection. Many of these have been introduced due to the rising cost of those aforementioned traditional metals, especially gold. Each have their own special attributes so before you jump on the new metal bandwagon; make sure you understand all the pros and cons.
Pure tungsten is very soft but when combined with a carbon alloy, the metal becomes more durable than steel. Generally carbide (also known as carbon) is used, producing a metal much darker in overall color than silver, white gold or platinum but with a gorgeous shiny mirror finish.
Tungsten is extremely scratch resistant and has a much greater overall weight than stainless steel or titanium. While you might assume a metal with this much heft is virtually indestructible unfortunately that isn’t the case. Along with its hardness, tungsten also has a brittleness that can cause it to crack or shatter depending on the impact velocity. Tungsten rings cannot be resized. Since it is not possible to cut and resoldered a tungsten ring, it is vitality important to ensure a correct fit from the beginning. Also it is crucial to note that in case of an accident traditional jewelry cutting tools will not work.
This metal is extremely durable, naturally hypoallergenic and resists tarnishing and discoloration. The one noticeable characteristic of titanium is its subtle medium gray shading without the sheen of traditional metals like gold or platinum. Because titanium doesn’t contain any additional alloys it is both hypoallergenic and bio-compatible. This lightweight metal has surprising strength, so much so that it is often said it has steel like strength with aluminum weight.
One of the oxymorons of titanium is even though it is an industrial grade metal, scratches and daily wear and tear do occur, though most can be removed through regular polishing. Rings constructed from titanium are not able to be resized and if they have to be cut off most can be removed with traditional jewelry removal equipment unless stronger aircraft grade titanium was used.
Just imagine a piece of jewelry created from the same metal used to build jet engines! Cobalt chrome is extremely durable, permanently retains its shape and is scratch resistance. Often compared in hue to white gold or platinum, this is cobalt’s natural color unlike other metals which are plated with rhodium. Frequently cobalt chrome is used when manufacturing surgical tools making it both hypoallergenic and bio-compatible.
This metal is shatterproof, fairly scratch resistant and incorporates a higher degree of ductility allowing for a greater level of design creativity.
Cobalt chrome is shatterproof and cannot be resized, so when this metal is used as a ring metal, a correct fit is imperative.
Ultra grade stainless steel looks exactly like platinum but is a thousand times more durable and much less costly. Stainless will not rust or stain but does need regular cleaning to retain its luster. Stainless steel brings an edgy contemporary look to a traditional piece of jewelry that is often hard to obtain when working with other metals.
Stainless is a strong metal but has very little pliability making it unsuitable when it comes to delicate or intricate designs. While stainless is hypoallergenic it can contain nickel which may cause a skin reaction in some people. Resizing can be done on a stainless ring but it is difficult and many jewelers aren’t comfortable attempting it.
Ceramic jewelry probably isn’t exactly what you think. Made from titanium carbide, it is commonly known as high-tech ceramic. Jewelry constructed from this metal is very long lasting and comes in a plethora of colors. One great advantage with colored ceramic is the pigment is actually in the metal, not coated on, so the color will never wear off or fade. Ceramic jewelry is lightweight, scratch resistant and will always retain its luster and finish.
Ceramic jewelry pieces will break or shatter if dropped and due to the unique properties of the metal cannot be resized or easily repaired.
These contemporary metals have many common characteristics, each with their own special twist. If you are contemplating one of these metals for your wedding band, choose one that is right for you and that will last a lifetime.
Due to the industrial nature of many of these metals I can only work with two out of the five metals reviewed, cobalt chrome and stainless steel. Have a unique and interesting design idea that you think either one of these new metals would be perfect for? Let’s chat!
After many years of making my popular Abacus line, it’s time to bid it adieu and introduce some new exciting designs. Some pieces are still in stock but when they sell out, no more will be available. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a bit of the history behind the abacus.
Depending on your age, you might remember using or at least playing with an abacus in grade school. It was fun to slide the beads up the bar and then bet your classmate that yours would race down faster than theirs. And maybe after playing around you even learned a little something about arithmetic.
Before numbers came into being, counting was done using fingers and toes and if necessary, rocks were added if digits weren’t sufficient. Rudimentary counting boards were then created and used until numbers came into existence. Whether defined as a counting board or an abacus, this device was nothing more than a physical aid to help the person as they figured the calculations in their head.
The first counting boards were thought to be pebbles placed between lines drawn on the ground. Soon after, wooden tables filled with sand were created and then for portability, smaller wooden boards with wooden discs were designed. Then for more lasting durability, these were replaced by marble or bronze frames with metal or polished stone markers. Depending on what century and empire an abacus was made determined how many decks were included, how many markers were used and if the board was designed vertically or horizontally.
During the ages, even though it seems unlikely, the abacus continued to evolve. In fact in 1958 Lee Kai-chen invented a modified abacus complete with instructions for multiplication, division and figuring square and cubic roots.
Presently I have a limited selection of Abacus designs remaining in my collection. If you see something you’re interested in, please order now so you don’t miss out: Monthly Trunk Show.
I would like to send a big THANKS to Tryon Art and Craft School!
Two of my pieces were included in their juried exhibition and one of them won 3rd place! If you are in the Western NC area, stop in and browse this beautiful exhibition. The show runs from April 25th through May 30th. Gallery hours are: M-F 10-4; Sat. 10-1
This brooch is one of the pieces in the exhibition. It is fabricated in sterling silver, 18k gold, peridot, amethyst and blue topaz. It is made from 46 pieces of metal and contains 51 solder joints!
FYI: I teach Intermediate/Advanced Silversmithing at Tryon. If you are interested in classes, please visit their website here.
Last spring I participated in an amazing Indie Wedding and Celebrations Fair in Asheville, NC called The Big Day. I am happy to announce that I will once again be participating in the second annual Big Day event! The fair will take place at the Asheville Art Museum on Sunday, April 13th from 1 - 6pm.
Take a look at this a lovely video of the 2013 The Big Day shot by Grae Skye Studio! *BLUSH* I show up in the video around minute 1:20 and then again around 3:35 in the background waving my arms around while I talk. LOL!
Looking to get hitched and living in the Western NC area? Come out and join the fun this Sunday!
No, your eyes haven’t been deceiving you, there has already been an explosion of lilac in stores and online and for this you can thank Pantone for naming Radiant Orchid their 2014 Color of the Year. Pantone describes it as a “modern and surprisingly versatile shade” and sassy Radiant Orchid inspires one to explore their inner creativity with its warmth and beauty.
While Radiant Orchid is the leader of the Pantone Spring 2014 pack, the remaining hues were all chosen to form a colorful equilibrium either singularly or in pairs. Three calming pastels, all drawn from Mother Nature are included this year. Placid Blue, a tranquil azure sparkles. While Dazzling Blue, vibrant and strong, is reminiscent of the Caribbean. Violet Tulip is the yin to Radiant Orchid’s yang. And Hemlock is a softer, richer green than seen in past spring shadings.
Every seasonal palette scheme must have a complementing neutral and this spring the winner, Sand, was taken right off the beach. In fact, when paired with Dazzling Blue or Placid Blue, you immediately are taken back to those carefree summer days at the shore. Then Paloma, a cool yet sophisticated light gray is more of a primary neutral and can easily transition from spring to summer to fall.
Providing warmth and energy to the overall collection are Cayenne, Freesia and Celosia Orange. These scintillating and vivacious shadings all add a dash of energy and optimism to any wardrobe or room makeover. Bright and bubbly, Cayenne is a fiery red and mixes well with the buttery daffodil inspired Freesia while Celosia Orange brings a softer offering to the table. Its peachy coral hue pairs perfectly with the other two prominent colors without clashing or becoming too overpowering.
Nothing like the introduction of the latest spring Pantone colors to remind us all that warmer weather is right around the corner!
For the past several years, I have participated in jewelry design challenges that were organized by my fellow EtsyMetal members.
- 2010 was the RAD challenge: Ring-A-Day
- A group of international artists accepted the challenge to create, photograph and upload (to a flickr photo group) one ring per day for the entire year. This was a wildly successful challenge which also inspired an exhibition and a book! Sadly I could not finish the entire year, but I made it through 100 days and had several of my rings included in both the exhibition and the book!
- 2011 was the RAW challenge: Ring-A-Week
- A similar challenge to the one above but weekly instead of daily. Once again, I could not finish the entire year and only made it through 18 out of the 52 weeks.
- 2013 was the BAW challenge: Brooch-A-Week
- I don't know why I thought I could manage enough time to make 52 brooches. It sounded like a good idea at the beginning but I only made it through week 5! LOL!
Despite the fact that I have never been able to fully complete any of these challenges, I still feel like they were successful endeavors. They are always a great source of inspiration, rejuvenation and motivation. I believe they help me grow as an artist and a jewelry designer. So-----Despite my lack of follow through in the past, I have decided to participate in yet another jewelry design challenge this year.
- 2014 is the Rx3 challenge: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle from all the stock in the studio.
- I will attempt to create one jewelry piece every week for the entire year using old stones, pieces-parts, half finished projects, old sketches, etc. Below are my first two pieces of this year's challenge:
Stay tuned to see how this challenge continues...
|Turquoise cabochons from SouthSouthWest|
With all the holiday hustle and bustle, you might want to stock up on traditional turquoise. Said to bring a sense of calming serenity to the wearer, lore has it that turquoise can also bring happiness, good fortune and prosperity, properties we can all use more of and wish for this time of year.
While zircon is naturally found in a wide variety of colors, the one associated with December is the starlight blue stone. Regular naturally shaded zircon is heated in an oxygen free environment, turning the drab yellow, green or brown stones into a gorgeous sky blue. Zircons are also good jewels for the holidays since they are said to protect travelers and guarantee a deep sound sleep.
Another gem that is often heat treated to achieve its rich violet blue color is tanzanite. In the past, tanzanite was frequently substituted for sapphire. But since being named a December birthstone alternative, they are now standing on their own as a popular gemstone valued for their beauty and brilliance.
|Tanzanite and diamond ring by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
|14k gold Chiseled ring with Imperial Topaz by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
Blue and light golden are the two most recognized colors, but topaz is also available in red, pink, orange and even black which is really interesting since pure topaz is a colorless stone. Coloring occurs when the stones experience element substitutions, chemical bonding and heat through tiny cracks and defects.
For those wanting the beauty of imperial topaz without the cost consider citrine instead. A yellow variety of quartz, citrine can be a pale lemon to deep orange-gold and is likely named from the French word for lemon "citron" or the Latin word "citrus."
|Citrine Charm necklace by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
Citrine gained popularity during the Art Deco period and became quite popular with many of the Hollywood stars of the day like Greta Garbo. In the late 1980’s the world’s largest citrine was mined in Brazil. Coming in at over 20,000 carats it has exceptional color and clarity and is presently part of the Programa Royal Collections of Spain.
Topaz and citrine both bring so many unique properties to the table with their clarity, fire, durability and plethora of shades. Consider having a brooch, bracelet, ring or necklace designed for yourself or that someone special since the holidays are right around the corner.
|Photo courtesy of Opal Auctions ("How to Buy Opals on the Internet")|
Brought into the birthstone family in 1952 as an October alternative was pink tourmaline; but over the years all the tourmaline colors have become acceptable. Some of the most popular tourmaline gemstones are bi-colored or tri-colored, with clear color distinctions. For example, watermelon tourmaline, when cut, features a pink center, a white ring and a green outside edge. Some of the even more unusual ones include tiny black specks that resemble watermelon seeds.
|14k gold Chiseled Ring with Pink Tourmaline by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
The richness and variety of both stones give those born in October a huge variety of options and look fantastic set in a wide range of metals and designs.
Pantone has introduced their fall 2013 colors and they are spectacular! Now that there is a chill in the air and leaves are started to change, it's time to incorporate these rich hues into your wardrobe and jewelry!
Color of the year, Emerald continues to blend perfectly with their entire fall lineup. Each of these new individual colors complements the other; giving the wearer a license to experiment with texture, form and shading.
Staying in the same earthy neighborhood is Linden Green, a lush pale green with soft gold undertones and Deep Lichen Green, a very brilliant rich green/gray. Dark gray Turbulence and espresso shaded Carafe are exactly the shades that come to mind when you start shopping for those winter wardrobe basics.
Acai, a color that matches its name is going to be huge! So versatile, Acai can easily be your primary color or worn as an elegant accessory.
Every season calls for a new shade of blue and this year Pantone has voted Mykonos Blue as their fall favorite. A color whose description is a jumble of contradictions, Mykonos Blue is bold but soothing, rich but restorative.
Now let’s move into the fun shades that define autumn. Koi is a dazzling orange that has a burnt shimmering hue. Wearing it reminds you of bonfires, hayrides and the changing of fall leaves. Samba is as sassy and spicy as its name. Your dark neutrals will welcome being paired with this intense dramatic red. And a color named Vivacious has to be awesome! Pantone calls it an “unruly and wild deep fuchsia” and once you see it, you’ll definitely agree. It’s the epitome of sophisticated style!
Need a little help getting into the mood for cooler weather? Click here to see these fabulous shades and be prepared to be dazzled!
Oh to have been born during the month of September for no other reason than to be able to claim the brilliant sapphire as a birthstone! These rich stones come in a wide variety of blue/green/violet shadings and look fabulous when surrounded by white gold, platinum, palladium or sterling silver. The most valued stones are those which are a medium to dark indigo or have a slight violet tint. One interesting fact about sapphires is they have the same chemical and structural makeup as the ruby which is July’s birthstone.
Sapphires have a wide and rich history. These gemstones were discovered on the Greek island of Sappherine and also in what is now present day Iran. During the Middle Ages sapphires were believed to help keep the wearer pure and priests wore them as protection against impure thoughts and worldly temptations. Crusaders made their wives wear them while they were away in battle so they would remain faithful. Lore had it that if the stone was worn by an adulteress, the color would darken.
The British Crown Jewels housed in the Tower of London has one of the world’s most famous stones, the St. Edward’s Sapphire. Given to Edward the Confessor back in 1042, he worn it as a ring during his coronation and then in the early 1800’s the stone was set on the Imperial State Crown worn by Queen Victoria during her reign.
Sapphires are mined all across the world, from Sri Lanka, India, China, Brazil and even here in the United States. Montana sapphires, first discovered in the late 1800's by a gold miners, are the most well known US mined sapphires. However, a huge 9,700 carat stone was discovered in the North Carolina mountains in 1989.
Extremely durable, gorgeous in color and sensational in every setting, a sapphire is the perfect stone no matter when you celebrate your birthday!
|Vine Ring with pear-shaped peridot by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
One of the oldest gemstones of record, it is thought that the “topaz” mentioned in the Old Testament was actually peridot. And the ancient Egyptians and Greeks both used peridot in jewelry, weapons and talismans. It has always been regarded as a symbol of the sun and was believed that wearing peridot brought royal dignity and kept away evil spirits.
Peridot is formed deep in the earth and has been brought to the surface by volcanoes that erupted thousands of years ago. Today’s gemstones are mined primarily in China, Pakistan and here in the United States they are found in Arizona and New Mexico.
If green isn’t your color then check out the richness and brilliance of sardonyx. These stones are a member of the silica family and most are white, gray or cream banded with brown/red/rust layers. In fact, the word “sardonyx” comes from two Greek words, “sard” meaning reddish brown and “onyx” meaning veined gem.
Both peridot and sardonyx are relatively inexpensive stones that offer a classy and timeless look in everything from rings to pendants. Or why not consider combining both stones in something like a stunning custom designed bracelet?
Lore has it wearing rubies brings good health, increased wealth and success in love and relationships. Also people who wear the July birthstone are thought have integrity, courage and are full of confidence, vitality and both physical and emotional strength. Rubies are considered a positive stone; one that increases positive thought patterns and lessens the severity of infection and certain blood disorders. In fact, during medieval times rubies were ground to a fine powder and ingested to treat digestive disorders and stop internal bleeding.
Second only to diamonds in hardness, rubies belong to the corundum or aluminum oxide family and are primarily mined in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and India. Rubies are so plentiful in Thailand and Burma that both of these countries consider the ruby their national stone. Here in the United States rubies are rarely found but some of the finest one’s on record have been discovered in both North Carolina and Montana.
True rubies are very expensive and because of that, many of the stones available today are lab-grown. These synthetic stones are also used as tiny bearings in self winding wristwatches, turntable styluses and in the scientific community as an important component to the ruby laser used in military rangefinding.
|"Tulip Ring" with lab-grown ruby by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
|Leaf Earrings with Pearl by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
White or cream are the most popular shadings for pearls, but these days it’s not unusual to see them also available in wide color palette including pinks, black, blue, lavender and green.
While pearls have been used for medicinal purposes since as early as 2000 BC, in many parts of Asia, even to this day, lower grade pearls are ground and used in different potions and salves.
If you think pearls are too traditional then why not check out a moonstone? From the family of feldspar minerals, moonstones got their name from the opalescent and luminous quality caused by light diffraction within the stone. The highest quality moonstones are mined in Sri Lanka but can also be found in India, Madagascar and the Alps. Folklore has it that moonstones bring good fortune to the wearer because of spirits that are believed to inhabit the stones.
|Chiseled Rainbow Moonstone Ring by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
Alexandrites are very sturdy stones, only diamonds, sapphires and rubies are harder. They are difficult to mine and considered a fairly rare and uncommon stone. Like its partner moonstone, Sri Lanka is home to the best and largest alexandrites. Synthetic alexandrite has been produced but only with limited success because the color change was unable to be reproduced.
An increase in world exploration during the Renaissance Period introduced new sources of gemstones to European jewelers. That, coupled with improved personal wealth for the upper class along with stable rulers including King of England Henry VIII and French King Francis I who both worn lavish jewelry from some of the era’s finest craftsmen, increased the demand for men’s pieces with pendants being one of the most popular.
|Portrait of Henry VIII of England by Hans Holbein|
The 1960’s and early 1970’s ushered in a time of great social change and men began sporting everything from multiple strands of colorful beads to gold medallions, pendants and bracelets. Earrings for men have ebbed and flowed over the years and now it’s not unusual to see a man with both ears pierced and filled with either matching studs or small hoops.
Today most major fashion houses include several tasteful jewelry collections for men including bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces. Popular London jeweler, Stephen Webster said in a Wall Street Journal article, “Picking the right ring, bracelet or necklace finishes your look…a well-chosen piece can lend a little bit of edge to an outfit.”
All metals work well with the more masculine pieces while stones generally should be darker in nature. White diamonds and colorful stones tend to be a bit too flashy for most gentlemen. Etched designs, religious icons and pieces with sentimental value such as signet rings or a medallion with the family crest are always good choices.
Father’s Day is less than a month away and while I always have several men’s pieces in stock, I’d love to discuss designing that custom piece for your special man.
|Various custom made men's items by Danielle Miller Jewelry|
While the most famous emerald mines, producing the world’s largest and highest quality stones are located in Colombia, South America, Zambia is the second largest producer. Emeralds are also mined in Russia, Pakistan, Australia, Norway and here in the United States the stones can be found in North Carolina.
Usually discovered inside shale which is a fine-grained sedimentary rock, an emerald’s color is caused by trace amounts of chromium and iron. Unlike many other gemstones, the inclusions and additional flaws found in emeralds are considered part of the stone’s character. Many natural emeralds are soaked in a green-colored oil to help define their shading and luster. Over the years as the stone begins to dull a quick soak in mineral oil can help return the emerald to its original shine.
Because of their coloring, emeralds work well set in all types of metals. But don’t surround them with too many other stones, emeralds are so rich and elegant, they need to shine on their own! So get your green on and have Danielle custom design an emerald piece just for you!
|"Breakfast in Bed" by Mary Cassatt 1897|
Ancient Egyptians celebrated the goddess Isis, their Mother deity, with an annual festival, while in Turkey the Phrygian goddess Cybele was honored and in Greece, Rhea was considered the Mother of the Gods. These earlier festivals became so bawdy they eventually died out and were replaced with more conservative and sedate affairs.
Then in 17th century England, a celebration of the Virgin Mary grew to include all Mothers and became known as Mothering Day. But after English settlers came to America, the celebration was discontinued until Julia Ward Howe introduced her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Howe who wrote the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was so upset over the Civil War, she wanted a way for all Mothers to come together and protest the killings.
Inspired by Howe, a few years later Anna Reeves Jarvis led a group of West Virginia Mothers in reuniting families divided by the Civil War. This event was named Mother’s Friendship Day. After her death, her daughter, Anna M. Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration held simultaneously in Grafton, West Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 10th, 1908. Finally in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared and signed into the law that the second Sunday in May would forever be known as Mother’s Day.
White carnations have long been associated with Mother’s Day. And while every woman, whether a Mother or not, loves getting flowers, nothing quite lets your Mom know how special she is like a piece of custom jewelry. It’s so easy to commemorate a milestone in her life with her favorite stone set in a necklace, ring or brooch. Let’s get started today so she’ll know how much she is loved and appreciated!
|Custom made 12 stone mother'g ring|
April! What a wonderful month! The weather is getting warmer, flowers are blooming and if you are lucky enough to have been born during this glorious month then you have the king of the gemstones, the diamond, as your birthstone.
The hardest natural occurring mineral, diamonds are four times harder than the next rated gemstone. They have high refraction, unusual brilliance, intense fire and while traditionally known as a classic colorless stone, colored diamonds have reached a new popularity. Available in hues of pink, red, yellow, blue and green all ranging in different levels of intensity, the more saturated the color, the higher the value. Because intensely colored diamonds are very rare many of the stones sold today have been chemically treated and technically should be marketed as “color-treated diamonds.” When considering the purchase of a shaded diamond it’s important to ask if any color enhancements have been added. Although, round Brilliant cut diamonds are the most popular, antique cut diamonds are also gaining popularity again, such as Rose cut, Old Mine cut and European cut.
Diamonds start life deep inside the Earth using a combination of heat, pressure and carbon molecules. Volcanic activity brings them to the surface and while diamonds were first mined mainly in India, most of the diamonds discovered today are from Australia, Africa and Russia.
The word diamond comes from the Greek and means “invincible.” The stones were believed to hold magical powers against poisoning, devils and phantoms and were worn during battle as a symbol of strength and courage. The ancient Greeks also believed the fire of a diamond signified everlasting love. This idea spread and then in 1477 Archduke Maximilian of Austria started the tradition of giving a diamond as a promise of marriage when he presented a diamond ring to his intended, Mary of Burgundy.
Vine Engagement Ring
Today the beauty of this gemstone looks fabulous no matter the piece or the price range. From a small simple bracelet or brooch to a cocktail ring with a stone the size of a marble, diamonds truly are a girl’s best friend!
Well, the drama with Mr. Grey the Goldsmith was over. I never saw him again after that fatal day and have recently found out, through the grapevine, that he is no longer making jewelry due to a medical condition. Despite our tumultuous end, this saddens me because he really was a master at his craft.
A month after the firing/resignation at Mr. Grey the Goldsmith's, I became famous...
HAHAHAHA! Well, I didn't exactly became famous, but I had an incredible press opportunity fall into my lap. I had a full feature article written about me in the jewelry trade magazine Lapidary Journal (now known as Lapidary Journal-Jewelry Artist)
|January 1997 - Lapidary Journal|
|January 1997 - Lapidary Journal|
The writer, Cathleen McCarthy called me and we arranged to meet at a local craft show. I was excited and nervous while she "played" with my kinetic jewelry. Later, she called me for the phone interview. I was really nervous for this and so afraid I was going to sound like a total idiot.
The article was published in January 1997---a few weeks after I lost my job with Mr. Grey the Goldsmith and a few weeks before I started my next (and last) full time job working for another jeweler. (That story may be next!)
Today, Cathleen McCarthy publishes her own blog/on-line magazine for jewelry lovers, The Jewelry Loupe. She also continues to write for Lapidary Journal-Jewelry Artist, as well many other publications.