Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Sensational in Silver

So the expected nor'easter is upon us and the snow is quickly piling up, being driven sideways by gale force winds. On Digby Neck, we call this Tuesday.

Inside, the wood stove is cranked up and it is nice and warm (house is making some funny noises, though).

So it's perfect weather for working with some beautiful stone. I cut this piece from a rock Vickie found pretty close to home. There is a cluster of amethyst crystals at the top that sparkles as it moves and the colour is picked up in the banding of the agate.

I call this piece "Lavender Light".

It is wrapped snugly in 24 gauge sterling silver wire and hung on a delicate, 17 inch sterling silver chain. Quite frankly, the photo doesn't do it justice.

Digby Neck has an amazing diversity of both scenery and rocks and minerals and it is an absolute treat to have so many beautiful pieces in the shop. So if you are planning a trip to Nova Scotia in the summer, come on by the shop and say hi!


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Treasures of the Far East (Coast of Canada)

Here in Nova Scotia, especially on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, we are blessed to be able to find beautiful agates.
Recently, we have been working with material from Mexico but now we are back home working with some beautiful local agate from the North Range.

It's called Straw Agate and it is formed by the agatization of small tubular structures (probably straw) that have found their way into cracks in the basalt, producing this amazing pattern. This piece is called "Straw Dreams".

It is about 2 cm. x 5 cm.and shows the unique and beautiful patterning of the stone. The setting is entirely hand made in copper and it is wrapped with brass wire. The copper clip at the top has been wire brushed for texture.

The next piece, called "Splendid Straw" is larger- about 3.5 cm. wide and 2.5 cm. deep.

Again, note the amazing patterning. In this case, the copper clip at the top has been textured by running it through the rolling mill we got from John Hood at Scotia Gems (thanks, John!!). As with the first piece the setting is totally hand made as are all the findings but we added a manufactured copper clasp and copper beads. The ends of the copper wire wrap are tucked neatly into a channel in the copper clip.
We are featuring copper in a lot of our settings recently because it is easy to work with and really goes well with the rock we have been using. Plus, I have to try and use at least a small bit of the copper wire, sheets and findings that Vickie has stashed up over the years! lets just say we have 10 of EVERYTHING!

Finally, I'd like to show you a pic of a piece we featured in an earlier blog being worn by the new owner.
It was so nice having Seonaid, a fellow Nova Scotia Rockhound visit the shop and become our first customer of 2018! She even signed the guest book! And as a die hard Boston Bruins fan I have to admit that the piece even looks good on that red background!!
A similar pendant is on its way to a customer in Florida as soon as I get to the post office tomorrow. Hopefully, she'll send a pic or two so we can show that one off as well.
Digby Neck is expecting a big storm on Tuesday but after that, the outdoor sign will go back up and we'll be in business so if you want to spend some time browsing some very interesting stuff, come on by!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Copper Creations

We have recently finished two pieces where the colour of the stone was a perfect marriage for copper.

The first piece is called Escondita.

This small (3 cm high) jasper stone has a pattern and colour reminiscent of the terraces of the Escondita copper mine in Chile, surrounded by the arid grey desert. It is drilled and I used a pure copper leaf bail with prongs that fit in the drill hole. The colours and patterns are much more striking in person.
 It hangs from a buna cord and features hand made copper findings and a solid copper lobster claw clasp.

The second piece is called Cananea, after the Mexican copper mine that is one of the largest in the world.

Again this Mexican Crazy Lace Agate is not an overly large stone (4.5 cm wide) but it has absolutely beautiful colouring and patterning that is complemented perfectly by the copper wire and spacer beads. It also hangs on a black buna cord.
All the clasps at the top are hand made copper.
These pieces were a lot of fun to make because the stones are really spectacular and were both worked from rough to finished in my rock lab and I already had a lot of the copper findings.
Drop by The Artist's Mark on scenic Digby Neck and see these and many more gorgeous pieces of jewelry plus a ton of other interesting stuff!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


Just finished a new pendant called Oceana.

It features a beautiful piece of ocean jasper that was cut, polished and finished in the VT Rock Lab.

I came up with a pretty unique copper wire wrap that kind of looks prong set and finished it with a hand-made copper clasp and a jumbo buna cord.

The detail on this stone is truly amazing and the polish finish has created tremendous "depth" to allow you to see the patterning in 3 dimensions.

So if you find yourself on Digby Neck, come on by and see this and many more truly unique pieces of jewelry.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Drill Baby Drill

I belong to several groups dedicated to lapidary and the making of rock jewelry and there are some amazingly talented people when it comes to wire wrapping stones to create pendants and earrings. An alternative technique to creating such jewelry relies on drilling the stone. While in many ways simpler, this can produce some pretty neat stuff.

Here's a beautiful piece of local agate on grey basalt that I made into a pendant- simple but nice.
I started by shaping and finishing the stone but you will notice that I didn't go for a high gloss finish because I find the lines and shapes show better if I take it to just this stage without using any polishing compound.

Drilling Rocks:
I often have people write or come to the shop asking how to drill rocks- often after they have tried unsuccessfully to do it themselves. So here's how it is done. First, you need the right drill bit.

This is a 1 mm. diamond drill bit made by Drilax. It's true length is 4.5 cm. and I buy them in boxes of 30 at a web site called Wish. They will break (hence the box of 30!) but I like them because on a relative basis they are cheap and the thicker shaft makes it easier to set the bit perfectly vertical in your drill. And speaking of drills, while I know of people who drill rocks with a Dremel, I can't. It is vital that you eliminate as much bit "chatter" as possible because when the bit is wobbly, it creates much more heat and heat is a big problem! So my suggestion is to use a drill press. Going back to heat for a moment, it is important (mostly for the stone) that the operation stay as cool as possible since too much heat can cause the rock to shatter. Some people drip water on the bit, I do it totally underwater. Here's my set-up.

Sorry for the wrong bit- I was doing some wood working and was too lazy to change it. This is a plastic container with a piece of quarter inch wood at the bottom. It is there to stop the bit from putting a hole in the plastic since when I am drilling, the plastic container is filled with water to cover the stone. I will drill stones up to a cm. thick but regardless of the thickness or type of rock, I have found that even using all the patience I can muster, I have a tendency to blow out the back of the stone when the bit exits the finished hole.
To solve this, here's what I do. First, I decide where I want the hole. It should be centered relative to the geometric mass center for the piece. If it is an abstract piece, you may have to hold it lightly to see how it will hang because believe me, gravity always wins! You don't want the hole right on the edge to minimize the chance of fracture but you want it close enough so you can attach your bale and leave room for the chain. Start the hole on one side and drill about 75% of the way through. Then, take the stone out and use calipers to see where the exit point will be. Mark it with a water resistant pen and restart the drilling on that side at that point so the holes meet in the middle. Throughout the process, the stone has to be held absolutely still. Some prefer to clamp the stone using a C-clamp but I prefer to hold it by hand. Drilling should be done slowly with the bit being partly removed from time to time to let water get to the area of the stone where the bit is working.
And that's all there is to it!
Then, when the stone is cool and dry, I attach the bale. In this case it was a 925 silver antiqued bale with two prongs. I buy them and all my other wire and findings from Fire Mountain and if you can put together an order of 100 pieces or more with some friends, you can get some really decent prices (about 60% of the unit price).
The glue I use is FPC Surebonder 9000. It comes in a clear plastic tube and there is no mixing required. I use it to bond all kinds of metal to rocks and have never had one give way, even when I am gluing bell caps. Fill the hole with glue using a thin wire to get the glue in the hole and then warm up the silver bale in your hand. This is necessary to make it a bit more pliable because you then need to open it up to go over the stone and get the prongs on both sides into the hole. Then you have to pinch the bale back together, put some kind of weight on it and let it cure for 24 hours. Make sure that there is no excess glue that can be seen on the bale or stone.
In the case of the above piece, I added a sterling silver 16 inch chain and now it's ready to go in the shop.
If you have questions or want to learn more, just make a comment on the blog or send me an email.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Polymer Clay Jewelry- Part 2

Yesterday, I showed you beautiful jewelry made from polymer clay. Many of the pieces contained striking geometric patterns and we are often asked how this is achieved so today, we're going to show you how it is done.

We start by mixing up the desired colours: (and by we, I mean Vickie)

These colours are then assembled into various patterns and shapes:

These shapes are then assembled into what is called a "cane" and reduced to about 1.5 square inches. This reduction process creates a cane about 10 inches long and this is then cut into two or more (in this case 4) sections each 2.5 inches long. The blade needed to produce these cuts is a tissue blade and is EXTREMELY sharp!

Two of these sections are then cut on the diagonal through the length, cutting opposite corners on each of the two. This yields 4 differently patterned triangle canes, each of which can yield 3 different patterns for a total of 12 potentially.

Each triangle is cut into two equal segments and the two pieces are picked up and placed face-to-face.

This is further reduced to about a half inch square which produces a length of about 4-6 inches. This cane is then cut into 4 sections:

Each piece is arranged in one of the three possible double mirrored arrangements ( called a tessellation).

Then this final arrangement becomes the new cane and can be wrapped in complimentary colours and then slices can be taken and used to  cure and produce the final beads.

Pretty easy, huh?

Actually, you can see that this takes a lot of skill and practice as well as an artistic sense to choose the most desirable options and colours.
So now that you know the process, we hope that you find this jewelry even more special!

P.S. Thought you might like to see a shot of what we woke up to this morning and what makes this place so special. Enjoy!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Polymer Clay Jewelry- Part 1

In the last while, I've been showing you some of our rock jewelry but we have a whole other line of beautiful polymer clay pieces in the shop that I want you to know about.
About 30 years ago, Vickie started working with this material and soon became a recognized expert and teacher. Over the years, she has developed many proprietary techniques and her tutorial on making faux bone has been seen over 11,000 times on You Tube! In fact, she has become so good at faking stone (jade, fossilized bone, amber) that I tell people "I find it- she fakes it!"
A downside to rock jewelry is weight but here's a carved fake jade piece that is much lighter. It's important to note that this isn't plastic. These pieces are museum quality- in fact, polymer clay jewelry is sold at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and is often worn in top fashion shows- especially in Paris and Milan. It is as durable as it is beautiful.

We have an great selection of bracelets with some incredibly intricate patterning.
Everything Vickie does is top quality and spacers include Swarovski crystals, rock beads and sterling silver beads and clasps.
Here's a pic of a beautiful necklace.
And a close up of just one of the beads.
These beads are not painted but Vickie can produce almost any colour she wants. Here's a necklace with beads shaped like shark's teeth.
And a close up of a couple of the "teeth" (note the real red coral and sterling silver spacer chips).

The ability to create patterns with this stuff is nothing short of amazing!
Vickie has also been at the forefront of combining polymer clay with found materials to create fascinating "steam punk" pieces.
Check out the detail on the focal bead.
And that belt isn't leather- it's polymer clay!
Lastly, our daughter Sandra has taken this same material in a different direction, creating whimsical characters and scenes.

Pretty impressive, huh? All these pieces are available in our shop but if you want to see more of Vickie's work, just google "vickie turner polymer clay".
Many visitors ask how these patterns can be formed so in my next post tomorrow, I'll take you through the development of a piece. You will be truly amazed!