A Crowning Achievement


When one of your favorite customers ask you to make a pair of crowns for their upcoming story book wedding, what else is there to do but enthusiastically agree? With a design in mind, several pieces of graph paper, and a large piece of graph paper, I cut out the basic shape and textured it with a ball peen hammer. I measured and cut a heavy copper band and soldered it in place for added rigidity and comfort in wearing. Using 12 gauge copper wire, I cut and shaped the pieces that would go on the top and soldered them in place one by one using silver solder.


Once the ornamentation was in place, I rounded the crown and soldered it in place.


Using a 20 inch wooden mandrel and a leather mallet, I hammered out the crown to give it an even shape.


My husband liked it so much, and it fit so well, he almost made off with it!


Husband was kind enough to sandblast it, since it wouldn’t fit into the pickle pot in my shop!

I made the sterling decoration for the front of the crown. The stone was a piece of custom dichroic glass purchased from an Etsy artist.


A couple of coats of silver duracoat were added, and the finished product was beautiful!

Can I say that we felt like absolute rock stars when we finished this?

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The best description I have heard of a rolling mill was an observation made by one of my students who, after watching me roll out a piece of metal exclaimed, “A pasta roller for metal! Cool!”

Although it can have a reputation as finicky and hard to maintain, this wonderful tool allows a metalworker to pattern sheet, make custom wire, decrease the thickness of plate and wire, and make amazing fold-forms shapes.

Here’s a couple of things to remember when you run out and buy your own…

1.  The rollers must be protected from rust, so they need to be kept oiled and wrapped in paper or cloth when the rolling mill is not in use.

2.  When using the rolling mill, a brass plate (mine was cut from a brass kick plate for an outside door) will help protect your rollers from being imprinted during texturing and help give a nice, clean impression.

3. All metals should be annealed, pickled, and rinsed before they are rolled.

4. Always wipe your rollers after use to clean any metal residue or grit.

5. Rule of thumb – the handle should turn with effort, but never tighten it down to the point of having to use so much force that you could damage your equipment.

There are many wonderful texture plates commercially available. Also, many unusual textures can be embossed on metal using common everyday objects like sandpaper, lace, feathers, or leaves. We use our rolling mill constantly. Its been an enormous addition to our studio!

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When a Thought Works Out Well…


Sometimes, you have the chance to create custom items for someone that turn out even nicer than what you had envisioned! This lovely design was the idea of Rebecca Brittian, a photographer with a wonderful sense of design. She came to me with the idea, and we were both delighted with the results!

The bezel setting was created basically like a pear-shaped tube mount. I made the first, outer tube to fit the diameter of the diamond. After soldering it shut with hard solder, I fabricated a second, inner tube to slide into the mount. Once I had them fitted together, I tapped the tube in with a leather mallet, leaving about 1/8th an inch clearance to set the diamond down in. I soldered it in place with medium solder, then trimmed the bottom of the mounting with a jewelers saw.

I filed a flat spot to join the tube mount, then soldered it directly to the band with medium solder. Then I filed a small 90 degree v-shaped notch at the point of the pear, to relieve the pressure on the stone during setting. After clean-up and polishing, I was able to burnish edge of the mounting the diamond, and polish it to a bright shine!

Please visit my website at http://www.etsy.com/shop/moonkistdesigns for contact information and more ideas. I’d love to help you create your own special piece of uniquely perfect jewelry!


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Mokume Gane Wedding Band

Mokume Gane Wedding Band

Final image of the band made in the last post!

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Making a Continuous Pattern Mokume Gane Wedding Band

Wedding bands are beautiful things. And mokume gane (Japanese for “wood-grained metal”) lends itself well to the symbolism of weddings. It is created from two seperate metals that are forged and twisted together to make a striking and beautiful pattern. I love how the blending of two things can combine to make something much different and unique than either one alone. 

One of the main challenges of making a mokume gane wedding band is to make it without breaking the pattern, since the traditional method of cutting out a strip and soldering it leads to a line of unmatched pattern. Below are the steps that I used to create a continuous pattern mokume gane band with pictures taken during the process. 


 I started the project with a 16 gauge sheet of argentium and copper mokume gane from www.riogrande.com. This sheet came already annealed and ready to work.


The argentium silver has the same percentage of alloy as sterling silver, but is made up of silver, copper, and germanium (an element simular to tin) which makes it very resistant to tarnishing. The sheet is backed with a layer of argentium, which keeps the copper from contacting the skin and makes it easier to wear.


I used a Swanstrom Disk cutter with a center punch to create an even, symmetrical washer. First, I punched a 1/2 inch washer. Since this plate was 16 gauge, it took a lot of whacking! Then, I used a 1 inch center punch to center the plate. I tightened down the punch and then used the 1 inch punch to cut out the outside perimeter of the washer. Be sure to leave room around your original 1/2 inch punch so that you don’t run out of metal…I came perilously close!


Once it was cut out, I measured each side, just to double check that it was even. Call me overcareful…I always like to double check before I start.


I put the washer on my steel ring mandril pattern toward the tip. Then I hammered…a lot. I beat, banged, battered, clobbered, drove, forged, formed, hammered, knocked, pounded, pummeled, shaped, struck, tapped, thrashed, and whacked. And slowly, slowly, the inner circle of the washer stretched. When I got about halfway, it became too stiff to work any further.  


Next, I annealed the washer. Since argentium melts about 60 degrees lower than sterling, I used a black permanent marker as a visual clue to help me keep from overheating it. The mark from the marker disappears at about 1000 degrees, so once it faded, the annealing was done. I let it rest a couple of minutes and then quenched it in water.


I turned the washer and started hammering from the other direction. When I approached size 10.5, I used a planishing hammer and started tapping the band to even up the flared edge (outside of the washer) and the stretched edge.


After a couple of hours of work, I had a size 12 band. These measurements would have made anything from a size 10 to a size 12. 

Next, I used 250 grit sandpaper to clean up the edges on each side. Once I had even edges, I used a file and a flexible shaft tool to round the edges. Then I polished the band in a rotary tumbler with steel media for 8 hours in order to work harden the finish. Once I pulled the ring out, I roughed up the finish with a Scotch-bright pad and applied Baldwin’s Patina to darken the copper.

Stay tuned for better images of the finished ring, which will soon be listed on my Etsy store at www.etsy.com/shop/moonkistdesigns – Thanks for reading!

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Just because I did it before doesn’t mean it will be easy…


You know that old phrase “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”? Have you ever had the experience of learning a skill, then not practicing it for a while and coming back to it…just to find that you had to relearn it all over again? Last weekend I had this principle amply demonstrated for me – in an entire studio full of experienced metalworkers!

The copper pendant pictured above was created with a fold-forming technique that my silversmithing teacher, Bill Churlik, and I had done about 6 years ago. After selling a copy of this piece in my Etsy store, I realized that I honestly couldn’t remember what I had done to make it. So, I drove up to Bill’s studio at Earthspeak Arts in Asheville to consult with the experts. My studio friends have a vast amount of knowledge and many years of experience – I was confident that we could work this out again relatively quickly.

The first attempt was carefully annealed, sandwiched between two pieces of brass with an iron wire to score it, and run through the rolling mill. We reannealed and began to bend the copper. The result was far from what I was hoping…it was small, squishy, and…well, FAIL.

Take 2 – Tried not annealing after running the copper – FAIL.

Take 3 – Tried bending the iron wire wider, with more space between the curves. The result was better, but the curves were still not as distinct as what we had hoped. – NOT QUITE FAIL

Take 4 – Same iron wire bend, used a jump ring mandril to create the bends. It was a WIN!!

All of this was done much to the amusement of my fellow metalworkers…nothing is quite the same as two metalworkers in a grudge match with a piece of copper! But, finally, with much cussing and fussing, several cuts from metal splinters and a voluntary time-out before tempers flared, it was finished!

I really hope my customer enjoys her new custom necklace…I know that it was a great way to spend my New Year’s Eve – in the metalworking studio, among friends who could cheer for my successes, make suggestions for improvements and help me laugh at my continuous waste of metal as I tried to reverse engineer something I had made years before. Love you, guys. Long live the rubber chicken!

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What Makes The Perfect Hoop Perfect?


Head’s up, gentlemen! I’ve done some research for you, so if you are looking for a nice gift for your special someone that will really be appreciated and worn, here are a few thoughts…

Women love their hoops.  Women have embraced this age-old style for their everyday jewelry wardrobes, often having several styles and sizes. Hoops are easy to dress up and just as easy to dress down. They are fun to wear on a weekend shopping trip. They are classy and easy to wear to work. And, most importantly, they are a piece of jewelry that goes with almost everything else they want to wear.

I recently had some of wonderful conversations with several of my friends about what made their favorite hoops so perfect. Although the answers were just as unique as the women I asked, a few factors remained the same.

1. The perfect hoops are not so large that they catch on everything. Most of the women I talked to said that their “go-to” pair of hoops were about 1 inch or the size of a quarter. Large enough to be noticed, but small enough that they didn’t have to take them out to answer the phone at work.

2. The perfect hoops were interesting, but not overstated. Although there may be times when a women might consider hanging barbed wire and dolphins from her ears, that style may not be something she could wear in a conservative work environment. Something with some detail, but not too…well…you get it.

3. The perfect hoops are the same color as the rest of the jewelry she wears. If she’s a yellow gold lover, and all of her rings and necklaces are yellow gold, buying her a pair of silver earrings may be less appreciated than you hoped. But, with gold soaring at $1700/oz right now, finding nice gold earrings can be a challenge. Many of the women I spoke with thought that an elegant pair of brass or mixed metal earrings would be a wonderful gift that spoke to their own personal tastes.

4. The perfect hoops are easy to put on and take off. When you’re shopping for a pair of hoops, ask to hold them, and reassure the salesperson you’d like to try the clasps. Hold them behind your back. Try to open them, and close them again. Are they easy or a challenge? There are many different styles of closures, but the best ones are the ones that a woman can do one-handed, in a hurry, while she is walking out the door. 

5. The perfect hoops are light enough to wear all day without causing pain. Pretty straight forward here…would you want to dangle a radiator from your earlobe?

6. The perfect hoops are built to last. Too many of the women I spoke with told me about finding a pair of earrings they really liked that were too soon crushed or broken. These were earrings that were basically of a hollow tube design which is fairly popular. They had very thin walls, and couldn’t take any pressure before they were flattened.

Hopefully these tips will help you as you decide on your next gift purchase…The most important point in choosing any piece of jewelry is to consider the tastes of the person who will be wearing it, and to consider what you see that person wearing on a daily basis. If you choose well, you will be rewarded by getting to see your gift worn often, with confidence and comfort. 

Please visit my shop at www.etsy.com/shop/moonkistdesigns to the pictured hoops and more styles of earrings available!

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