Well, my plans to blog more went totally out the window! I’d rather be making than on the computer, as much as I enjoy writing. In fact, I have cut my social networking down considerably as well. I find making & listing garners me more sales than social networking ever has. Not to say I don’t enjoy connecting with others, it’s just so hard to find time/balance when you are a maker, a busy (unschooling) mom (kids having their own interests and activities to boot) and being a self-employed household. Besides my website, I still maintain my Etsy shop & have added a few listings to my Ebay account. I feel like it’s coming full circle as Ebay was the very first place I sold online in the late 90’s!
Due to requests I have made some bulk discount coupon codes for larger orders. I can give larger discounts on orders of $250+ simply send me a message and let’s discuss! These codes work on the website and Etsy shop:
Save $10 on orders of $50 or more with code: BULKSAVE10
Save $20 on orders of $75 or more with the code: BULKSAVE20
Save $30 on orders of $100 or more with code: BULKSAVE30.
One code per order, but these are combinable with:
Free shipping on orders of $45+ with the code: FREESHIP45
Offer subject to change at any time.
Thanks for your support and most of all, for supporting handmade!
Here in Canada, Canada Post Employees have been involved in a rotating strike since October. At first, this was not a problem: I found that my packages were still being delivered and were only slowed down by a day or two. Canada Post is now stating that the backlog of mail due to these rotating strikes is so large, they don’t see it all getting delivered until sometime in the New Year. Although back to work legislation just passed in the House of Commons, I still doubt disgruntled employees will clear up the backlog in a swift fashion (I certainly do not agree with back to work legislation).
I know I have at least 2 packages to my knowledge held up in the system. Instead of running my usual holiday sale on Etsy, I put my Etsy shop on vacation mode until I could figure out what to do next. On my website, I have disabled shipping with Canada Post until further notice. I have become increasingly frustrated with Canada Post over the past few years, the reasons could be a blog post on its own. Sad considering I have been satisfied with their service for several years prior. I’ve been selling goods off & on online since the early 2000’s.
I’m treating this as an opportunity to do find new carriers to work with. Here are the current shipping options for my personalized handmade jewelry, knitting accessories and handspun yarn:
MARITIME BUS (NS, NB & PEI provinces only)
My husband has picked up orders for computer gear from the Maritime Bus before, and I thought it was a really neat idea. They are continuing the tradition of shipping small packages via the bus much like Acadian Lines did back in the day. I can remember as a child my mom packaging up my dad’s dress shoes or other items he may have forgotten, to ship to Cornwallis where he worked in the summer with cadet camps.
Maritime Bus is an affordable, quick option. Their staff in my experience is really nice & helpful. They run 7 days a week, and you’ll receive your package same day or next day once your package is dropped off (with the exception of inclement weather).
FREIGHT FORWARDING TO BORDER, delivery handled via USPS and UPS (US customers)
This is now my recommended way to deliver packages to the United States. Your package will be driven over the border by a Freight Forwarding company, where it will be then dropped off at USPS or UPS for delivery.
You will always have tracking on your packages, whereas the economical Canada Post Shipping option does not. Since your package will be driven over the border by a bonded carrier, there is less to no customs hold up of packages, and your package will be delivered quickly once it is over the border.
This option is 100 km away for me, thus I can only plan to drop off once a week, or use a local courier company to get it there. Therefore, the perception is that your package takes quite awhile to ship, but in reality, you will receive your package far faster this way than if I were to mail it immediately with Canada Post.
TRADITIONAL COURIER SERVICE (USA & Canada)
Choose a courier such as Purolator, UPS, Fed Ex or CanPar (for Canadian customers). Please note that the prices given on the website are approximate. Because I sell items of varying size and weight, I took an estimate loosely based on shipping quotes to destinations as far West as possible. Should the cost be lower you will not be overcharged.
Courier service tends to be reliable with tracking and faster delivery compared to the mail service.
The cost is astronomical in Canada to ship via courier for small businesses like me that don’t do the volume to qualify for discounts. I wish they would become more competitive with their rates!
FREE SHIPPING OPTION
Don’t forget you can bypass the whole shipping headache by ordering a minimum. Orders $75 or more in Canada ship on me. For US orders, $100 (that’s Canadian dollars – so approx. $75 USD with the current exchange rate).
Don’t forget to use these voucher codes on the website for free shipping:
Use code FREESHIP75 for Canadian orders 75+; The code FREESHIP100 will give you free shipping for US orders over $100
If you are located in Kings County, Nova Scotia, we can arrange pickup at a convenient location or I can possibly deliver to you. I also frequent Hants County and Halifax/Dartmouth/Sackville – if you can wait to receive your order until the next time I’m in the area.
I don’t live in a heavily populated area so I recommend meeting up in town (Canning, Wolfville, New Minas, Kentville, etc).
NO ECONOMICAL OPTION FOR REST OF CANADA
Unfortunately, I have not found an economical shipping option for outside the Maritime provinces for small orders. I would suggest taking advantage of free shipping with a minimum order (above). I’m hoping that this will change in the near future as more carriers see the growing need for competitive reliable shipping in Canada.
These shipping options are available on my website and will continue to be available once the strike and its backlog is over. I haven’t decided if I will re-open my Etsy shop before the New Year. Currently, I am informing Etsy shoppers to go to my website if they want to order anything before the holidays.
How long has it been since I posted here?? Good grief. So much for making time to blog. Family life has taken up much of my time but fingers crossed for more balance this coming fall. These past 10 months have been filled with family time including homeschooling (unschooling) my girls, bulk yarn orders, name jewelry orders, and supporting my husband with his business endeavours. I simply have not had the time to put up new yarn listings, let alone the bin of jewelry prototypes, some 2 years old. I have had time to work on, and I can confidently say, perfect my dyeing technique for yarn: at least, I have a system that I am now happy with. Dyeing, much like spinning, is proving to be very meditative and satisfying for me. It is my new destressor. 🙂
It’s a long weekend here in Nova Scotia, and I’ve taken the time to give the website a much-needed up-grade. We’ll be moving it to a faster server soon – which is exciting. All the yarn backlog is now listed, now on to the jewelry backlog as well as spiffing up this blog.
Here’s some promo codes for the website. I wanted to note that shipping for yarn is an estimate and I’m happy to refund the difference if the shipping ends up to be more expensive. Canada Post shipping rates in Canada are complicated and at times seem very random. How about free shipping to save the hassle?
Use code FREESHIP75 for Canadian orders 75+; The code FREESHIP100 will give you free shipping for US orders over $100; and use code 10DOLLARS to take $10 off your order of $100+.
There is a disturbing video making its rounds on Social Media, of workers brutally beating sheep as they are being sheared of their fleece for the wool industry. I won’t link to the video here because it is truly upsetting. Seeing this video auto-play time & time again reminded me of one of the main reasons why I started spinning yarn.
When I was teaching myself to knit and finally became comfortable with it, I started asking knitting friends and acquaintances what yarn brands they recommended as far as quality goes. Often the brands that came up were 100% wool – often merino. So off to the (craft) big box store to investigate. I was surprised at the lack of information on the label about the wool itself. In fact, there simply is no information past the weight and fiber type – normally just 100% wool. Well, what kind of wool? From where? I couldn’t help but ask myself the question, “Is wool yarn ethical?” Looking up the websites for these brands provided no information as well. What I did uncover, is accusations of abuse and mistreatment of the animals bred for this industry. I was left concluding I simply could not continue on with a hobby knowing animals were potentially abused just so I could knit a hat. At the time, spinning seemed way out of my wheelhouse. But the more I wanted a greater understanding of how yarn is constructed so that I could understand knitting better, the more spinning became appealing.
My family frequently attended wool shows and fiber festivals, in the beginning because I
wanted to do more natural crafts with my children & this route was suggested to me. They proved to be a great family activity. I grew up in a rural area and sometimes it was nice to get away from urban life. It soon became apparent that I could buy fiber from small producers and hobby farmers. I have even at times met the animals the fleece came from, and bought their fleece fresh shorn – on the spot. This is how I know sheep do not have to be abused to be shorn. Sure, some are very stubborn, but a skilled and compassionate hand can get the job done quickly without punching and kicking and strangleholds with minimal discomfort to the sheep (shearing in and of itself is a craft and I’d even say an art form – it is very fascinating to learn about & watch). In my observation they are also pretty darn happy to have all that heavy fleece off in the hot summer months. Much like buying local & direct to know where your food comes from, the same could be said about the fiber that is to be spun into yarn. I could connect with the producers and breeders, & I could feel confident in the product I was using. This connection lead me to learn how to process fiber by hand. At first, I couldn’t imagine handling a dirty fleece! Now I will skirt them if need be, hand pick then wash it – often soaking for hours on repeat – then card, dye and comb it (if creating top). My yarns really are from the ground up – and it is absolutely satisfying to me to see this product, a gift from the animal turned into something so lovely and appealing. This way I can really honor the animal that was so generous to share their fiber with me. Without these animals, I could never grow as an artist.
I know there will be people that will disagree with me that I cannot know know for absolute sure the animals are happy and well treated in captivity. And to some people’s horror, these same farmers also offer lamb meat (I personally do not eat lamb). I am a believer that every little bit of conscience effort is valid. We cannot do it all. I am also well aware of the large amount of greenwashing – and as I call it – “guilt-washing” out there. So I hope that is not how this reads. I am not here to convince you to buy my yarns. Honestly I am happy to keep them all to myself *evil laugh*. 😉 I am here to give thought to alternatives so that we do not have to always live in such extremes.
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to self-promotion. I like to make things, and would rather spend my time making things, than promoting my work and getting it “out there” and known. Plus I just feel like what I make is not exactly critical to one’s survival: it is not a food staple or a cure for cancer. It’s just pretty, handmade stuff. Certainly money is not a motivating factor for me either: anyone who is in the handmade community knows what an uphill battle that is.
That said, I have no problem supporting and promoting others in the cottage/handmade industry. I totally see the merit in what they do, the quality in the goods they make. So when thinking of a topic to write about this month for the newsletter, I thought, why not get to know me a bit better? I offer to do artist spotlights on other people, so why not me?
So here are my answers to the questions posed for the artist spotlight.
Who I am & what I make
My name is Leilani, I am married and a mom from Nova Scotia. Currently my creative outlet of choice is jewelry making: particularly personalized keepsakes that I manually engrave an initial or monogram on, and producing fiber for spinning and felting. The name of my creative work is the bb3 project or studio bb3. I used to go by the name “heavenly flower” but now the name is an ode to my 3 gems: my 3 little girls, and based on the superstition that things (good or bad) come in 3’s. I call my work a project and not a business as it is impossible for me alone to really devote the time and money needed to make this what the mainstream world would consider a business.
How long have you been creating?
I have been making jewelry for over 15 years: I started in the late 90’s but didn’t seriously get into it until a few years later. My first creative outlet was writing, and my family always saw that as a career path for me as I was growing up. These days I still enjoy writing, but prefer creativity in a more tangible form: things I can create and feel with my hands and allow colors to blend and compliment each other.
What made you start creating?
I always found solace in working out my feelings in story or verse. I was encouraged in my early 20’s to find an outlet for my time as I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Writing is always cathartic but I needed something – shall we say – happier to bide my time with. So jewelry making helped me express myself and gave me something joyful and tangible to enjoy. I also appreciated the challenge & tediousness that goes along with learning a new skill. I think that is one reason why I love to spin yarn now, as well.
What inspires your designs?
In the beginning I started making the things that I couldn’t find in the stores. When I was younger I was more into fashion & accessorizing. I always liked to have something different to wear than everyone else. These days life in general inspires my work. I like my jewelry to be more classic, everyday wearable – as well as be a keepsake or daily reminder of what is good in one’s life, a milestone, or a loved one we hold dear or are missing…(although I am overdue to play around with statement pieces once again!). My yarn is definitely inspired by color play – it’s like painting but by mixing fiber. But mostly I just love to spin: to hear the whorl of the wheel, to see the transformation from fluffy fiber to twisted rope. The wheel spins and all my thoughts and wishes and desires and negativity and positivity – all spin around with it, meld together and melt away…
What are your favorite pieces to make/creations you have made?
Certainly “Wings” is the piece that means the most to me – I rarely leave the house without it on. It has my mother’s monogram, and she is my angel, my protector. Certainly the jewelry I made for my wedding is also very dear to me, especially the charm bracelet, that has evolved into a mother’s bracelet (coincidentally 2 of my girls’ birthstones is sapphire – which was my wedding color theme). Mostly I love to hear people’s stories regarding the personalized jewelry I make, and becoming a type of support mechanism for them. Everything from honoring the death of a loved one, to happier events & milestones from weddings to friendships honored, breastfeeding goals reached etc etc. I am humbled to be part of their lives in this capacity: It gives what I do purpose, and I spend a lot of time convincing the negative side of me that what I do *does* have purpose outside of my own emotional well being. Sometimes it feels rather futile & pointless.
I have a few skeins of yarn that I am coveting because I cannot bring myself to turn them into something, I just love to stare at them in skein form. They are curly and fluffy and soft and a whole lot of fun. I probably broke every rule about spinning when I made them, which only makes me love them more…
Where do you sell your work?
Currently my products are available online only. My family tends to spontaneously roam so I have never been one to commit to doing a market regularly or even a show. We have moved into the direction of permanent residency in Nova Scotia (where we are originally from) by selling one of our properties. Whether or not I will open my North Mountain studio up for shopping or classes remains to be unseen.
Sure, so long as the request is within the scope of the style I am currently offering. Custom work is tricky because it takes me hours to develop a new product. There are many factors to consider including wearability, color, flow…if the request is not an esthetic I can put my name on, or if I know it will take several hours in research and development I will politely turn it down. Time is definitely not on my side these days. I encourage everyone to ask though – I will always consider your requests and are honored you asked.
Many of the charms I use in my theme name necklaces are culinary grade pewter (AKA Britannia pewter alloy – you can drink or eat off cutlery or cups made from this form of pewter). The charms have been FDA certified lead free. I love these charms: they are made in the USA and have an amazing, beautiful detail. Plus since they are an electroplated pewter they are a fraction of the cost of sterling silver cast charms. My pieces that contain sterling silver cast charms can be double the price simply because of supply price.
Even though these charms are pewter you can polish them much the same way as you would sterling silver or gold-filled items. This is because the charms are electroplated with pure silver (AKA .999 silver or fine silver) or 22kt gold plate. The silver charms can be polished with a polishing cloth or liquid cleaner but it is not recommended that you bench polish them, or use abrasive paste polishes as vigorous friction may “burn off” the electroplated layer. The gold charms will not tarnish. You can shine them up with a soft cloth to remove dirt and oils when needed.
Don’t let the fact that these charms are electroplated turn you off. Unlike ordinary plated items that we are all accustomed to, electroplating leaves a thicker and more durable surface area. Regular wear and tear will not harm these charms. You will also find the pure silver tarnish to be more subtle than sterling silver. From my experience it will start to cast a pinkish hue. It is easily removed with a jeweler’s cloth, which is my recommended product for cleaning this type of jewelry, although a mild liquid dip cleaner works as well.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
If you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I have been revamping my work to sterling silver since mid-January. This month, I was honored to revamp the one piece that is most dear to me: a necklace that I developed bearing my mother’s monogram. I called it “Wings” and it is a memorial necklace.
I stumbled upon the original design quite by accident, playing around with charms and engraving blanks- and I really liked the 2 angel wings together. It was as if they were hugging the disk in protection. At the time most pieces I had seen with angel wings only had one wing – or were a completely different design altogether. I knew I stumbled upon something I was really feeling, but with the current fonts I had it simply did not seem “finished”. Wings was benched for awhile – until I purchased an interlocking monogram set.
The original design was made out of silver plated components and when I finally offered it up to sell the original price I listed them at was $17 – because I still felt weird selling a remembrance piece. It seemed really wrong as it was a memorial necklace for my mother. But over the years I have heard the stories that go along with the necklace: loss of children, mothers and fathers. Friends and relatives. I was beginning to feel part of one’s healing process, and that in turn was very healing for me.
I’ve been “test driving” the new design and really like it. It’s smaller in design compared to the original, and I am finding the older I get, the more I like to either have a very subtle piece – or the option to layer with other jewelry. And although the price is significantly higher than the silver plated “Wings” (double the $23 price the original had been currently selling for) you really can’t argue with quality. Most of the cost incurred is due to the fact that these are cast wings. Unlike the culinary grade pewter charms I tend to use, these wings are completely sterling silver, making the cost significantly higher. Unlike the silver plated option, there is no fingers crossed that the item will not tarnish to ruin: you can polish the sterling silver version again and again.
Switching this piece in particular to sterling silver means it will stand up to the elements and I know I will cherish my piece for years to come.
If you loved the original “Wings” piece don’t despair: it will be coming back as a keychain/bag charm & a metal bookmark. I had a purchase for a rear-view mirror charm once, and I love that idea. That is a possible development as well. For those of you who love gold, I have not had any luck finding 14kt gold-filled wings yet that I like. But I do have the engraving blanks ready to go, for when the time comes.
I’ve been using gold-filled components for many years now, and I don’t find it to be as popular as sterling silver for my products. I think the reason is many people don’t know or understand what gold-filled is, and why it is priced higher than sterling silver.
Not to be mistaken for gold-plated
So just what is gold-filled? The easiest way to describe it, is layers of brass and gold sandwiched together. These layers are bonded (clad) together with extreme heat and pressure. There is two or three layers within this sandwich. The result is a very durable product that has all the benefits of karat gold without the hefty price tag. The top gold layer does not chip or flake like gold plated items which has a minuscule amount of gold covering. Gold-filled is very popular with jewelry makers like me because it is affordable and easy to obtain. You can expect gold-filled to not tarnish just like a gold wedding band.
Legally gold-filled must contain 5% – or 1/20 gold by weight. If you compare with a gold plated item – which has 0.05% or less gold in the plating – you clearly see the value: 5% vs. 0.05%. Gold-filled products can be purchased in 10 karat, 12 karat or 14 karat gold. I purchase 14kt gold-filled disks and chain for my engraving. You will often see it listed in the industry as 14/20 gold-filled. I put 14kt gold-filled in my listings as karats are more recognizable to the general public.
I have had requests for “pure” gold items, and this may still be an option in the future. I priced one of my necklaces out with 14kt gold components, and the supply price alone was approaching $100 CAD. That is a steep investment for little ol’me. 🙂 It is not out of the question, just out of my reach currently.
I should clarify: why I switched to sterling silver for my engraved necklaces. For now I will still be offering bracelets in silver plate and cord, and the engraved stitch markers will remain silver or gold plate (but I’ll certainly take requests for sterling silver versions ;)). As far as my most popular items – which are my necklaces – we’re going sterling silver all the way. 🙂
Time for Change
Back in mid-January it hit me: it was time for a radical change. I was slogging through my list of sterling silver requests. The list of, “if you ever do a sterling silver version, let me know…” and I was feeling both overwhelmed and under-whelmed. There is no fun remaking something that you already make, and happen to make a decent amount of. Quite frankly, I was bored. Normally I combat boredom by developing something new. But by necessity I was pushing myself to do sterling silver versions of certain designs. People asked for them a year agoand I had to make it happen. It was the key to shaking this stale feeling, the unmotivated feeling that has been creeping up over time. I was going through the motions, with something that I am passionate and love to do.
To throw another wrench into it, I think too much. I over think everything. One reason why sterling silver versions had not yet been completed, is because I over analyze and essentially talk myself out of it. It seems too complicated. So finally one afternoon I asked myself, what do I find the most complicated about it? And the answer was juggling all the options. Having a silver plated option, vs. a sterling silver option. Then add to it a gold plated option vs. a gold-filled option. That’s up to 4 options for one necklace design. The answer was to upgrade everything to sterling silver, and concentrate on 14kt gold-filled later.
What? Discontinue successful products? Why in the world would I do that? But this time instead of thinking it over (and over) I just did it. Like, when you have a really stuck band-aid. Just rip it off really fast, rather than peeling it slowly and feeling every single tug on the skin. This is the analogy of my entire life. Otherwise, I would never make a decision!
You know what? The decision has been just what I needed. By discontinuing many products I was able to see more clearly what needed to be done, instead of feeling overwhelmed with too many products, too many options, and too many what-ifs. I got so much done in a week. Many prototypes were completed, and photographs taken. The pictures were okay – but they were good enough to get the items relisted and presented for the February newsletter (I have since re-taken the product photos and my photography skills aren’t the strongest, but the final set of photos has the energy and vibe I want to convey). I have that excitement again: the sweaty palm, bubbling from the pit of my stomach feeling that I get when I create something wonderful.
A few years ago (okay, maybe a tad more than a few) I would never dream to use plated items or base metal for my jewelry. That’s because sterling silver was so. cheap. I used to do all my prototypes in sterling silver – I considered it scrap metal! When I purchased my manual engraver and started teaching myself engraving, I had bought some silver plated blanks for practice. The price of silver soared, and the landscape of selling handmade online totally changed. All of a sudden, everyone was selling something they made on the internet. Plus, there were mass-produced companies popping up everywhere that needed individuals to sell their products, often times masquerading as handmade. And the prices were all. over. the. place. On top of it all, many people were struggling financially so there was no room for life’s extras. I had to look at where I could cut cost, and the best way to do it was in the supply cost. My cost: AKA my time and expertise was already as low as I could go.
I rarely get complaints on my silver plated and gold plated items. I think most people understand that plated items are a crap shoot since there is no guarantee the level of tarnish or when tarnish will happen – everybody’s body chemistry is different. And the pieces were priced accordingly. It was certainly affordable. But even one disappointed customer is a disappointment to me, especially when you consider most of the purchases are as gifts and have stories attached to them. Many people are hurting and grieving, or have overcome a hardship that they want to honor. The silver plated items were intended to be a gesture – I never dreamed that people would become so attached to their necklace, that they would wear it often, even to the point of not taking it off.
Sterling silver does not always agree with everyone’s body chemistry, I do know a few individuals who can’t wear it at all. But for the majority of people the main issue with sterling silver is tarnish. Luckily, tarnish can be removed via a polishing cloth or even with hot water, tin foil and baking soda. Offering products in sterling silver gives me piece of mind that they will stand up to much love and wear.
Keeping it affordable
The biggest issue with offering sterling silver is to how to keep it affordable. I design with the philosophy that everyone deserves a nice product that they can be proud of. Silver has stabled in price, so it makes it more attainable. I buy in bulk: wholesale lots. So I have to make sure I have the funds to front the cost of large orders. It is the only way I can offer my work at the prices I do. That, and I donate a lot of my time. A lot. That’s the truth. Being the sole designer, sales person, marketer, photographer, copywriter, graphic designer, web designer (with help from my developer husband), and accountant means I really should be tripling or even quadrupling my cost (a topic for another day…).
Knowing where my supplies come from
I buy my sterling silver engraving disks from US suppliers. The disks are made in the USA and one supplier in particular smelts scrap metal to make their sterling silver sheet (disks are cut from sheet). The culinary grade pewter charms are made in the USA. The sterling silver cast charms are European or US made. The older I get, and the more informed I get, the more I would prefer to buy as close to home as possible. Plus, I have an established relationship with these suppliers. I can trust them.
An over-all product I can be proud of
I am confident with my skills and abilities. Am I perfect? No. Do I make mistakes? Of course. I am happy to fix and honor them. It happens. But I have no control over supplies that are simply not up to par. I am at a different place in my life. My philosophy has always been, would I wear it? And these days I don’t wear many of the items I originally developed. So after it is all said and done, this is the crux of change for me.
bb3 is still a project: I hesitate to call it a business as I just don’t have the time or resources to hire or grow it. It is a labour of love born out of the belief that we truly can get back to basics, express ourselves, be creative – and support local and small industries. It’s my reflection of where we are as a society – where mass produced, non-personal, bought without a thought does not always equate to better. It’s about spreading a little joy, a little positivity, a little healing, one item at a time.
I get asked often to engrave full words or even 2 lines of text & sentences on my items. It’s been happening so often lately that I thought I should write a blog post about it. I try to be very clear on each piece just how much space I have to work with. In the age of computerized engraving I think most potential customers don’t realize that this is done manually and I am limited with size and space. I can really only comfortably fit 7 characters (letters like this: ABCDEFG) – and in some cases 8 characters (letters like this: ABCDEFGH). This is with the plain font (#3 option above). My script fonts definitely cannot do more than 4 letters on the typical 15mm blank that most of my pieces are made with. Remember that the more letters you add the smaller I have to go, and I will not sell anything that does not look good. The smaller the letters the less detail you can see, and thus it does not look clean or in some cases legible. So if you are going to need a magnifying glass to see it, I won’t be offering it. 😉
With the popular curlz & curlz vintage fonts, they are larger templates and are only intended as a focal initial. That means even at my smallest setting I can only get 2 letters, max on the blank.
I’d love to be able to fulfill all your requests and maybe in the future I will have bigger blanks that will accommodate more text. More text = more work which = more work for me, and potentially higher costs to you. Manual engraving is a skill that I have been honing for 5 years now. It’s not as simple as choosing the right letters and go. I have to position the blank accordingly, gauge what size to go with; often times deciding which of the fonts will look the best (it really does depend on initials vs. a word), and this is all done more by feel and intuition than by measurement. Mistakes do happen, so then I have to scrap that blank and start again. Sometimes I scrap a blank not because I made a mistake per se but because I think I can do better. Many times before I even start on the actual blank I will engrave on a piece of scrap metal first to make sure I have the size and spacing just so. By the time I offer an item to the world I have spent a lot of time perfecting its execution. It’s important to really stick with what the piece is intended to be: an affordable gift with an initial or two, or a simple word with meaning for the intended recipient.
I don’t want to discourage you from contacting me, I love to hear from you all, and if you have a request out of the norm feel free to send me an email. But hopefully this answers some questions in regards to size. 🙂
What necklace length is appropriate for a gift? If you google necklace lengths there are many good diagrams to give you a visual idea of the different lengths available. Here’s my advice for some of the common chain lengths that I offer with my personalized engraved and artisan jewelry.
First and foremost, who are you buying for? What body type do they have? What length of necklaces have you seen them wear before? As with most things, all necks are not created equally. When I first started making jewelry, I was barely out of my teen years & far more petite than I am now. I really liked chokers, thus I made a lot of choker style necklaces. So I naively made all my necklaces in the 14- adjustable-to-the-16 inch range, believing this would fit my target clientele just fine. Until a 6 foot plus co-worker tried a necklace and she could barely get it around her neck. My bracelets, in that 7.5 – 8 inch size would not fit her either, and let’s not even go there with anklets. It made me re-examine the “average” size stereotype, and why it’s more important to know who you are buying for rather than relying on the S, M, L, XL size categories.
Here is my general guideline for picking necklace lengths, but again think of who you are buying for:
14 inch – this is my general child size, or choker size for a petite person.
16 inch – Another length on the smaller size, great for children, teens or petite/slender build people
18 inch – I consider this the “when in doubt” size. It is a decent average length without being too long or short.
24 inch – for those who prefer longer chain or are more bigger boned or curvy/full figured.
30+ inch – this is a nice long chain that I find great for layering with shorter necklaces.
I will emphasize that this has simply been my experience & observation selling jewelry for 15 years. It is definitely not true of all people. I hope it helps with your decision making if you are unsure which length to go with.
It is inevitable that we must clean our jewelry from time to time, especially sterling silver jewelry, which will tarnish over time. The exposure to air, moisture, our own body oils, perfumes, lotions & makeup will eventually dull a piece regardless of what it is made out of. There are a few ways I recommend for storing your jewelry in order to slow down the tarnishing process.
I recommend wiping all pieces down with a soft cloth to remove any residual oils, lotions or makeup. Also store your jewelry separate so they do not react with metals from other pieces. One of the most effective ways for storage, although not very attractive, is to store them in a small zip lock bag. This will cut down on the air & moisture exposure & slow down tarnish. It may not be as pretty as storing them in a jewelry pouch, but there is the added plus of being able to see the piece through the bag. I store all my jewelry for sale in small plastic baggies with an anti-tarnish strip (more on these shortly) arranged in large binders. I can easily see the piece I am looking for to get it ready for shipping quickly.
When you buy a piece from me, I supply a small cloth pouch & an anti-tarnish strip. The strip helps absorb moisture that contributes to tarnishing. Wiping the pieces down with a soft cloth & storing in the pouch with the strip works well for slowing down tarnish & protecting the piece. You can purchase anti-tarnish strips widely on the internet from bead shops, auction sites and direct from the manufacturer.
Jewelry with gold-filled components will not tarnish as sterling silver will, so keeping them safely tucked away in a jewelry pouch or zip lock bag giving them a gentle wipe down with a soft cloth now & again will probably do the trick.
CARING FOR PEARLS
Jewelry containing pearls should have a little extra attention taken to them. Pearls are the most fragile of gemstones, being that they are made up of porous organic material, and tend to absorb foreign materials easily. It is recommended that you store your pearls separate from other jewelry, although I always recommend you store your jewelry separated. Pearls prefer to be stored in a cloth bag/jewelry pouch. Make sure you put on your pearls after you have applied any makeup, lotions, perfumes, or hair spray/products. If your pearls come in contact with any food, wipe clean with a moistened soft cloth immediately. Avoid chlorinated water.
It is also recommended to wipe pearls after wear to remove any residue with a soft jeweler’s cloth. Do not use commercial cleaners or ultrasonic cleaners, soaps/detergents, or steam cleaning.
I have cleaned my own personal pieces containing pearls with the baking soda/salt method mentioned under Simple & Effective Jewelry Cleaners, just omitting the detergent, and being sure to use distilled water and not tap water (which may contain chlorine). The results were fine: clean silver, and the pearls were left undamaged. I wouldn’t recommend this on your high-end pearl pieces, though. Definitely try at your own risk.
It seems the best way to clean your pearl jewelry is to invest in a small jewelry cloth. I will be eventaully offering these for sale on my website.
Proper storage of your jewelry will mean less cleaning time for you & more time for you to enjoy your pieces.
(NOTE: I originally wrote this post in 2009 based on my personal experience with my own jewelry and experimenting with jewelry cleaning. At present, new, engraved sterling silver items are hand polished as needed and wiped clean with a soft cloth before shipping. These are not the steps taken for new items you purchase from me).
Living in a virtually chemical free home myself, it became necessary to seek out ways to clean my jewelry without using chemicals. Here are some of the methods I use to keep my pieces sparkling…
STERLING SILVER CLEANERS
These methods are perfect for your jewelry which contains sterling silver components. The bonus is you don’t have to worry about them damaging your stones!
In a glass bowl, cover the bottom with a piece of aluminium foil, shiny side up. Place 2-3 inches of boiling water in the bowl (distilled water is preferred, but I have used boiled tap water as well and haven’t noticed any difference). To this add 1 teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of baking soda, & a squirt of dishwashing liquid. You’ll notice the mixture begin to fizz. Add your silver pieces, making sure the water covers them completely & that they are touching the aluminium foil. I find swirling the pieces around gently helps loosen any dirt. If you do this be sure to use a wooden or plastic utensil. The foil will absorb the tarnish from your silver jewelry. There may be a bit of a sulphur smell as you do this, which is okay. After a couple of minutes, remove, rinse with cold water & dry thoroughly. Buff with a soft cloth. An aluminium pie plate will work in replace of the foil as well.
Plain old white toothpaste! Do not use gels. To clean off tarnish, gently rub a small amount of white toothpaste on the silver, and then run it under warm water. Work it into a lather and rinse. An old toothbrush will help get it into all the crevices. This provides minimal cleaning. I still prefer the first method to this one. I do keep a tube of white Crest toothpaste around if I need to clean pieces quickly that only need a quick clean to become shiny again. Be sure to pat dry your pieces thoroughly before putting them away.
This is my least favourite method but it’s great if you just want to give your piece a little shine & only have a mild residue to remove. Place a tiny drop of baby oil on a disposable baby wipe. Be sure to use a VERY small amount, or it just becomes an oily mess. This method works on gold as well.
USING A JEWELER’S CLOTH
Of course, the best tried & true (and time consuming) way to keep your silver or gold jewelry sparkling is to use a rouge cloth, also known as a silver cloth or jeweler’s cloth. I do offer these as an add-on purchase to pieces, and they are very handy to have. I always recommend finishing your cleaning job with a jeweler’s cloth as it will give the silver or gold a bright shine & slow down the tarnish.
Gold-filled jewelry reacts much like its more expensive gold counterparts as the gold is bonded with another alloy throughout rather than just being electroplated to the outside like gold plate is. Therefore, it is considered a life-time product, as it has the same durability & characteristics of solid gold. You can expect to clean it much like sterling silver, so I find that the cleaning suggestions that I have listed for sterling silver work just as well on gold-filled components.
A NOTE ABOUT THESE CLEANING TIPS
Although these are tried & true methods, many jeweler’s would never recommend such products as baking soda & toothpaste as they can leave microscopic scratches on the metal. I have even heard jewelers go as far to say never use chemical dips or silver polishes either, and that the only tried & true way to polish your beloved metal is with a jeweler’s cloth. I can tell you from my own experience, that I have never noticed any scratches from doing these methods myself, and I certainly don’t have the time to sit and polish every piece by hand every time.
If you have a piece of jewelry that you have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on, or if you are unsure because your piece contains a delicate component such as pearls, it’s best to err on the side of caution and have a professional do the cleaning for you.
Careful storage of your jewelry will equal less time cleaning it. In a future post I will write about storing your jewelry…