Saturday, February 19, 2011


February 19th 2011....... I have 5 weeks left in the Graduate Jeweler Program. Let me begin by saying, as I have before in some shape or form, that nothing has ever frustrated me more than making jewelry, but still continues to hold my interest and fuel my passion and imagination. I turned to my friend Akshay yesterday sitting at the bench beside me, and said, "Akshay, can you believe we do this every day?!"

My instructor, Jerry, checks my work in front of me. I can see his trained eye behind his glasses, scanning and focusing through his jewelers loupe. For the most part I already know what's wrong. I know what he's checking, and I know when he'll find it. Knit-pickers! Prong needs to be pushed down more. 30-40% Contact. 75% free-standing metal...etc etc. Oooh! the dreaded flashing, ooooh! abraded stone, Ooooo! Stone tables not level. all gets fixed. A slight internal grumble for the struggle, but perfection is necessary - back to the bench.

I wonder if perfection is strived for as much in any other industry, as it is in fine jewelry. Even the back of a piece, must be as beautiful and free of imperfections as the front. However, I am still learning. It is expected that I will not achieve total perfection on my class assignments. There is always something, whether it be in matters of prong alignment or waviness in the metal caused by polishing or over-filing after a ring sizing. Some things they let slide, other things may lead to starting the piece of jewelry over. I heard a story once from one of my instructors who studied in the hardcore land of Switzerland. A Swiss Jeweler's Education makes mine look like kindergarten. I often wish I was in Switzerland. Anyway, the story goes that a jeweler in my instructor's shop, was working on a gold locket of exquisite beauty and detail. The piece was hand engraved, had several working, tiny parts, and the jeweler had been working on it for 3 months. And then it happened. Perhaps a loss of focus, perhaps an act of God; the jeweler's solder had become contaminated, the locket was over heated, and those perfect movable parts were destroyed. The jeweler had to begin again. ~ The above pearl enhancer with the pear shaped stone (synthetic spinel)... I started 4 times since my torch was too hot and I melted the gold prongs. Once I had the gold all together, it was time to set the stones. After an intense fabrication, such as that was, the idea of setting stones; having to ever-so-carefully push the prongs over the stones, after cutting away 40-50% of the prong metal....let's just say the margin for error makes one feel like they're defusing a bomb. One slip, and slips do happen, could ruin my week. Luckily, I'm just that good, and set those stones without fail. But damn, how I've failed in the past. ~ Wish I'd taken a picture of the Tiffany-head ring I screwed up the other night. I had filed a gold half-round band, to fit a white gold Tiffany-style head. The Tiffany Head, as you may know, holds the diamond high above the band to "present" the stone to all viewers. It's like a freakin lighthouse! If you ever buy a ring with this type of head, please make sure you splurge on the Platinum. The ease with which those prongs collapsed under the pressure of me setting the stone was ridiculous. I also destroyed a pair of simple earrings I had been working on. They were from a simple lesson on dapping metal - making small domes, soldering them on posts, and then setting small round malachite beads. Anyway, long story short, my Quick Work of these simple earrings had been my mistake, for I could not in good conscious put my name to them. From there, my chasing hammer finished the earrings for me. This was a lesson - that even the simplest of designs need care, an eye-for-detail, a little bit of patience, and a desire for perfection. I wonder what a reader would think of all my notes on perfection. Nothing is truly perfect, or is it? People are not perfect. Gold was, is, and will be....what will it be? We Know What We Are, But Not What We May Be. Ahhh rambling philosophy.

The stress has really begun to affect us... We do this every day. 8am to 3pm, though it feels non-stop. We torture ourselves at the bench with the pressure to finish, with the pressure for perfection, with the heart-wrenching wonderings of self-worth, when it just doesn't go right! When the solder just wont flow. When we burn ourselves with hot metal. When we stab ourselves with files and gravers. Even my instructor, Don, has sawed off his thumb before. Nausea hits weekly, sometimes daily...Remember to BREATHE!!!! Men like me (and it's not just me) have left the room in near tears, blood boiling, stomach rolling, from the shear cliff of frustration we hang from or fall from each and every day.

{I have a long weekend now to enjoy.... President's Day. Not good actually....we miss an entire day of work because of it. I doubt the dead presidents would want us to stop working - this is America. Even though we were given extra time after class this past week to make up for the missed upcoming Monday... I still wish I could go in on Monday. There is work to be done. More lessons to be learned. And only 5 weeks left. Maybe, I'll go take a walk. My weekends are often spent relaxing: sleeping in, eating, reading about Professional Goldsmithing, reading about jewelry, designing jewelry, or playing Gran Tourismo 5 on Geoff's Playstation (the way I figure it, it can only help my hand-eye coordination.) }

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