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Beautiful and sustainable jewelry made with care in San Francisco. Edgy and unique styles to wear everytday. We have everything from tiny platinum stud earrings to Moissanite engagement rings made from recycled gold and fashion jewelry from solid sterling silver.

Read all about how we make sustainable jewelry!

We have so much to share with you! Follow along on our blog | Sharon Z Jewelry | Shop Handmade Sustainable Jewelry San Francisco

Your Knuckles Are Not Too Big

Sharon Zimmerman

This and other myths about your fingers, coming right up.

Thigh-gap, cankles; too much volume in your hair, or not enough; boobs that are too big or too small; wrinkles; grey hairs - the list of things that we are supposed to feel bad about when it comes to our bodies is a lot. But your body is not a fault or a failing.

Jewelry Should Be Free of Body-shaming

I thought when I got into jewelry that it was more democratic and less judgmental than the rest of the fashion industry. And it should be. After all, many of us in the industry are making jewelry to order, so making a ring to fit you shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, when it comes to making sample sizes, a lot of us (myself included) opted to make rings in sample sizes that were less than inclusive. And that’s why I continually hear customers talking about their knuckles and complaining that they are “so big!” Or that “rings never fit” them. It’s a bad cycle, and one that I can definitely break.

If You Want To Flip Someone Off, You’ll Need Your Knuckles

So let’s start by talking about what knuckles are. Knuckles are formed when the round knobby ends of your phalanges meet and are joined together by tendons and ligaments so that you can do useful things like bend your fingers to flip the bird to the driver who just cut you off in the crosswalk. Knuckles are useful is what I am saying.* And sometimes knuckles are wider than the base of your finger, mostly cuz of the shape of your bones. And this is OK.

Rings Can Be Made to Fit

Now onto “rings never fit”, too many jewelry designers (I am guilty of this too) use a sample size that is “average”. What, exactly, is average? Is it a 6 or a 7? I’ve seen some unsubstantiated articles suggest that rings ordered online are likely to be about a size 5. No, wait! A size 7! Or maybe it’s really a 6. These averages don’t take into account the customers who get frustrated at not being able to try on their size and simply never buy a ring. Or potential customers who think that rings never fit them and so they stop trying.

And how should a ring fit? The answer is that a ring should feel a little snug going over your knuckle and then just a little loose at the base of your finger. A ring should fit snugly over the knuckle so that it doesn’t fly off of your hand when you move about. Some people have more webbed fingers with very little difference between the knuckle and the base of the finger. This is also OK.

So What Now?

Rings can be made to fit. Almost all rings can. This year, I am working to bring larger sizes of rings (8 and up) to my shows to provide more people with the experience of being able to try on rings. It is a slow process, but one that I am committed to because trying on rings is hella fun.

I’ve changed my ring sizing options on this website. A few of my rings can’t be resized below a size 4 without disrupting the integrity of the design. For any of those rings, you’ll be able to pick your size off of a drop-down menu all the way up to a size 15. For any ring with greater flexibility in the design, you’ll be able to specify your ring size (whole, half or quarter sizes) whatever your ring size is. Need a 1? I can do that. Need a 15? I can do that too. I want all of you to be able to experience the joy of jewelry.

Rings for all, and fuck beauty standards.

*This is just for everyone out there dealing with arthritis in your hands, the only time that your knuckles might actually be a little larger than average. Yet even with arthritis, your knuckles are not too big. They are inflamed and need care, and a couple of sizing beads on the inside of your ring. We can make that happen.

Three Reasons to Ask Where Your Gold Comes From

Sharon Zimmerman

In my first jewelry classes, more than 15 years ago, I ordered some silver. I spent a whopping $25 and that amount was so precious to me. But where did this silver come from? I asked my teachers where the silver originated and got some vague answers - Arizona? New Mexico? (Mildly true, since that’s where my main supplier of raw materials is based). The mine and source of the metals was not commonly known to my teachers (maybe you had teachers who taught you this, if so - lucky!), wasn’t taught as part of the curriculum, wasn’t published in the supplier’s catalog, and wasn’t disclosed anywhere on their website. I persisted and kept asking different people, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I started to get answers. Thanks to organizations like Ethical Metalsmiths, those of us in the jewelry industry who cared now had a place to find answers.This was a great resource since bad news about mines, mercury leaching into the water and human rights issues around mining were rarely big news, unless the story was incredibly tragic.

Pure gold in my hand - Sharon Z Jewelry

I think that many of us have this picture in our head of a miner, with a long beard, a scruffy hat and dirty clothes, leaning into a riverbed, perforated pan in hand. Maybe he’s scooping up river sediment to sift through - I know that I always like to think of him biting into a newly discovered gold nugget like in the cartoons, with eyes that turn into dollar signs. Maybe this is the way that it originally went down in California during the gold rush, and to be sure there are still places where you can go panning for gold, but methods for gold and silver mining turned far less idyllic, and far more destructive.   

The good news is that there has been a sweeping movement to reform mining practices and more and more suppliers are signing on to use recycled metals in their offerings. Even more modern methods and partnerships have resulted in better options for both recycled and Fairmined precious metals.

Here are just a few reasons why you should seek out jewelry made from recycled or Fairmined gold (and silver!)

1- Preventing mercury contamination

Mercury is a waste by-product of gold mining.  It is released into the air (and ultimately into our water supply) during the process of gold mining. The truth about how gold is mined is less a story of a single man finding nuggets in the ground, and more about large companies using mercury to separate miniscule fragments of gold from the sediment in which it rests.  This process has been terrible for the environment around communities near these mines, not to mention that these communities aren’t benefiting in a way that is equitable. Mercury gets into our water supply when mining companies don’t do enough to care about how their wastewater is handled. This often happens in parts of the world where the poorest people are the worst affected

2 - You won’t be contributing to Human Rights Violations

Once gold is mined and then shipped to the refiners to be made into sheet and wire, you and I have no way of knowing where, exactly, this gold came from. If it comes from Nevada, we may “only” need to worry about mercury poisoning, but if it came from other parts of the world - Mali, for instance - your gold may very well have been mined by children as young as 6. There are new sources of gold from Fairmined sources, with certification that gold and silver were mined using environmentally-friendly standards, with inclusive and gender-equitable workplaces, and with economic support and equity going to the communities that mine the gold and silver.

3 - It is easy to find recycled gold and silver

Finding suppliers of recycled gold is easier than ever. With increasing transparency in the jewelry industry, more and more suppliers are signing on to use only recycled metals. In the interest of my own transparency, know that I order my Fairmined and recycled materials from Virginia-based Hoover and Strong - their refining and environmental practices are above industry standards when it comes to reducing emissions and wastewater - their practices actually ensure that no wastewater is discharged into the environment. I also order recycled metals from New Mexico-based Rio Grande, a company that uses 100% recycled metals for most of their silver and gold.

What questions do you have about sourcing recycled and Fairmined metals? Hit me up in the comments!

3 Ways I Was Bad at Being a Jewelry Designer

Sharon Zimmerman

I was bad at being a jewelry the beginning.

Very, very bad. I had cobbled together a line of jewelry from some half-formed ideas in my head, took some photos in a small photo tent with my point-and-shoot digital camera, released them in an Etsy shop and dusted off my hands like I had accomplished something. This isn’t to diminish what I did at them time. At the time it was huge. Crazy, in fact. Looking back now though, I made some amazing errors. Ones I didn’t even know I was making. Everyone makes mistakes in their first few years of business, and ideally, we can all learn from those mistakes. I want to share mine with you, so that maybe you can learn what not to do.

So here it is, Three ways I fucked up in the first two years of my business and what I wish I had done better:

1 - I Was Bad at Photography

Original Grainy Image of my infiity ring - RI-008-PG-rose-gold-sterling-silver-infinity-wedding-ring-commitment-ring.jpg

I had a little Canon Point and shoot (I still do!), with a Digital Macro Setting. I sort-of-kind-of-partially-a-little-bit-almost knew the basics of how to use it. I mean, Point and Shoot - it’s right there in the name, right? But I didn’t know any other details - white balance? Uh, I was shooting on a white background (sometimes), so that should be enough, right? Focus? Got it. Sizing, resolution. Um, OK no I have no idea what I am doing, but I’ve got moxie so let’s wing it! So long as the images were in focus I was “doing it right”.

And here’s where that moxie took me. Images technically in focus, but the wrong size for a lot of website resolutions, plus they were grainy, dull, and lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. After a couple of years of DIY-ing my jewelry photography, I finally asked for help from my jewelry community, sought advice and asked questions like, “hey what does this button on my camera do and do I need it?” I also found resources to crop out my jewelry and put it onto a white background, and retaught myself a few tricks in Photoshop. The point is, I wasn’t stuck where I was at. I could ask for help, seek advice and make it all better.

Here we have a ring that is still a classic in the collection, even if I have better images of it now. The infinity ring was one of the first pieces that kicked off my official jewelry line launch. Couples still buy it as their wedding band, other customers love it for the symbolism of the infinity. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten even better at making this ring in the last 8 years. I am definitely better at photographing it.

2 - I Was Not a Good Designer When I Started

I was a designer! Of course I was a designer. I was designing all the time - always jotting down my ideas in a sketchbook, coming up with new ideas and different shapes and textures. The thing is, transferring ideas from paper and brain into metal and gems doesn’t always go the way you think it will. Ideas can look great in your head, even better in a sketch and still turn out all wrong when you execute it in metal.

For instance, these hoops. I loved the design (still do!), it made for a great idea and pretty sketches, but when I made it in oxidized silver, the front of the earring was too heavy, so the hoop kept falling out of the earlobe. Back to the drawing board with this one, and I think these wound up in a sample sale bin years later. Nowadays I know to account for things like weight and balance, and how to think of how a piece will interact with a real live human - fewer sharp and pointy edges to catch on your sweater, knowing how to counterweight a heavy design to make it wearable. Also how to photograph it better (again with the photography). One of my earlier ideas was to make my photography distinguishable from other photography. And, you know what? Achievement unlocked… just not in a good way. I didn’t iron that fabric, and thought that a dull green background combined with even duller lighting would make for a distinctive image. The point is, with more time and more experience I learned to adapt to the design and styling process, to make changes when the finished product wasn’t exactly right, and I got better with a lot of practice and experience. I also asked for feedback, did a ton of research about product photography and read up on what website photography looked best. I got better with time.

3 - Not asking for help

I could have asked any number of people for tips on photography, or read more articles, or taken more design classes or a photography class, but I bought into the lie that I was supposed to do it all myself as an entrepreneur. In our common culture, going it alone is supposed to define entrepreneurship. But I think that this is false. Sure there are times that you should be listening solely to your inner voice - I still take 100% ownership of the design process - but when it comes to other skills, seeking help is vital. Ask your community, hire a human who knows more, take a class, read a book. Here is one example of when I should have asked for help, I am solidly not a graphic designer. Here is a photo of my first business card submitted as defense exhibit A:

What I thought I was supposed to do was design a business card and logo on my own. What I should have done was hire someone else, or at least ask for feedback on the finished cards before printing a whole lot of them. Brown and green colorway to seem “environmental”? Trying to sound so “professional”, but instead coming across as formal and wooden? I could have used some mega feedback on these before handing them out to everyone I knew. Eventually I hired a graphic designer to make my logo and work with me on color schemes and a business name that was a little more catchy. I also asked my business support group for feedback through the process. And I learned to be open to changing all of it in the future.

What Is the Lesson?

These photos shown here are grainy, the jewelry is not designed for everyday wear, the center of gravity on those hoops was not well thought out, and the photo styling is, um, less than dynamic and professional, and I was clearly not a meant for graphic design. But these mistakes and missteps are mine. All mine. The jewelry was designed and made by me, the photos were taken by me, the images were styled by me. I take all the responsibility and own all of the mistakes because each mistake taught me a valuable lesson. And I learned a lot from each and every mistake. I learned to ask for help when I needed it, I learned to take classes when I needed a deeper dive on a subject, I learned to not be so hard on myself when I did screw up. Learning these lessons was painful, but necessary and constantly learning means that I got better.

I know it seems like I have always been a fully-formed jewelry maker, but I had to learn too. Part of the reason why I keep these images on hand, besides a being a good reminder about the pitfalls of hubris and ego, is that they stand as a record of where my work was then vs. where it is now. I keep these images of my old work and in their original formats, with all of their mistakes to show that, like anyone, I am capable of change.

*Have you ever looked back and wanted to change your old work? Leave your lessons in the comments below*

What I Learned at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show - the Ethical Edition

Sharon Zimmerman

When I made the decision 6 years ago to expand my designs to include precious gemstones and diamonds, I wanted to make a conscientious choice about my suppliers. And hoo-boy! It was a bleak landscape for those of us seeking ethically-mined and sourced gemstones. It has long been my opinion (and the opinion of others, tbh), that “conflict-free” stones come with some dubious claims. Choosing gems that meet certain criteria means that I ask some variation on the following questions when looking for stones:

  • Know where they come from - are they natural? If so, what country are they from, where they were mined or how they were gathered.

  • If lab-grown, what country grew and cut them?

  • Did the people who mined them get paid a fair price?

  • How much do you know about where they were cut?

Mine-to-Market Stones: all the cool kids are doing it!

With all of these questions in mind, for the first time ever I entered Tucson - The Granddaddy of Gem and Mineral Shows. Nothing prepares you for how massive it is. The whole city turns itself into one big emporium for gemstones, rocks, and minerals. There are the official shows, with all of the official and certified dealers coming from the US, Mexico, Brazil, India, Hong Kong, Kenya and so many others (So. Many.) Then there are all of the sideshows: hotels clear out their rooms to host crystal and geode vendors; there are shows in tents, parking lots, muddy fields, even at gas stations. There are gemstone dealers who aren’t at the shows and you have to make private appointments to see what they have. Decision fatigue is real, and you regret 100% of the gems you don’t buy. Alas, your suitcase is only so big and your budget too.

Ant-hill garnets - these were some of my favorite finds in Tucson

Ant-hill garnets - these were some of my favorite finds in Tucson

Finding the right people, those gemstone dealers who will welcome your questions is a relief. The newest term to hit the industry is mine-to-market. Think of it as farm-to-table, but for gemstones. When you’re in an industry that would love to never talk about the worst parts of your industry, it can be difficult to find the ones who will help to shed light on these dark places. Making jewelry is a joyful act, and I want the materials I work with to be joyful too. It’s the primary reason why I source stones with such strict rules in mind.

The good news is that I found gems! I know how worried you were. My favorite discoveries at this show were the Australian sapphires. They knocked me out. The colors, the sheen, the depth. Oh, and the guy I bought them from lives within 50 miles of mines that he works with. This isn’t abstract for him, he lives within this world, oversees the cutting, controls the amount of waste, and also sells them. He knows where they came from, who cut them, and how much the people mining and cutting get paid.

Australian bi-color sapphires. The colors were un-freakin-real.

Australian bi-color sapphires. The colors were un-freakin-real.

But my favorite find at this show were the Ant-Hill Garnets *record scratch*. Wait, what? Oh yeah. Garnets. Mined by ants. Yes, really. Ants dig underground to build their hills, the garnets are in their way, so they push them up to the surface, the garnets roll down the ant hills and Voila! Garnets that are eco and human friendly and such incredible colors. These in particular were found in Arizona. Designing around these is going to be delightful.

Ant-hill garnets are my new favorite gemstone.

Ant-hill garnets are my new favorite gemstone.

Going to this show gave me a lot of hope for the future of jewelry. So many more designers, producers, gemstone dealers than ever are passionate about getting behind ethical gemstones.

Have a question about ethical gems? Ask in the comments below!

Learning to Be Obsessed With Jewelry-Making

Sharon Zimmerman

Do you remember what it was like to be a beginner?

I know I do. More than 15 years ago I took my first official jewelry class. It was scary to be in a place of not knowing. I had been making jewelry as a hobby for years before I ever had my first real lesson, and I was intimidated by so many new tools in that metal workshop. And the torch! We learned on a h-u-g-e torch and I thought I was going to burn the building down. (I got over the torch thing pretty quickly because holy hell, torches are fun.) I also remember not understanding most of what my teacher said -  she told us to “see how the solder flowed” or talked about work-hardening the metal, or pickling (be honest - you probably didn’t understand that sentence either). I wasn’t sure I was “getting it” at all, but everything I was learning seemed full of possibilities, and I kept loving the finished results.

A student learns to use the torch to solder her stacking rings closed

A student learns to use the torch to solder her stacking rings closed

The point is, being a beginner is hard. We don’t all start out as experts, yet we all need to start somewhere. Why not start somewhere now? Beginning in April, you can register for one-on-one or one-on-two jewelry lessons, workshops, private customized lessons and even Craft Your Wedding Ring workshops. Work with me one-on-one, with a friend, or join me for group classes around the Bay Area.

To start, you can choose from Build Your Own Stacking Rings in Silver, move on to Wax Carving for Jewelry, learn Jewelry-Making Essentials at Jenny Lemons, or even request your own customized class - stone setting, chain making, wide band rings - so many options.

As for me, I pride myself on creating a non-judgemental atmosphere - there are no dumb questions and no such thing as too many questions. I’ve been making jewelry for more than 15 years and I have made my share of mistakes at my workbench. And you can learn from aaaaallll of them.

For one-on-one lessons, I’ll be there to guide you safely through every step of the process and to share with you how much fun it is to work directly with silver and gold. If groups are more your thing and if you love the energy and inspiration of other students, check out our upcoming workshop at Jenny Lemons.

Warning! Jewelry-making is a gateway drug into the maker world. You may find yourself getting inspired just by the process and wanting to make jewelry all the time (I know I did!).

Let me know in the comments below what you’d like to learn!

PS - Recently one of my students wrote me this incredible testimonial and I am verklempt:

Oh my, I had so much fun at this ring stacking class with Sharon Z! I’ve made a ton of things in my life but I was still kind of intimidated when Sharon told me we would be making five stacking rings from scratch. She immediately put my mind (and hands) at ease! She demonstrated each step and gave me plenty of instructions so I felt confident during every step. I was so excited to see my finished set of rings! My husband asked me 3 times “you made those?” which made me feel like they must have looked very professional. Sharon is a great teacher and made the class extra fun - she even provides snacks :)

--Rebecca S.

OMG Palladium What the Hell?

Sharon Zimmerman

A quickie economics lesson from someone with experience pricing jewelry and making jewelry - sometimes jewelry materials are really really expensive. Reductive? Yes. True? Also, yes.

Metal prices change daily with the market. Most jewelers I know take a look at the metals market at least weekly, if not daily. I will admit that one of the first apps that I open on my phone in the morning is Kitco to check on the day’s gold prices. More importantly than the day-to-day changes, year to year they can shift enough that we as designers and jewelers will take a step back and reevaluate our pricing. Such is the situation I’m in with palladium today. Palladium is a tricky metal to work with. It has a prettier color than 18 or 14 karat white gold (Full disclosure that I have OPINIONS about metal colors and which ones I like), which makes it great for bridal jewelry, but it isn't as easy to work with as platinum or white gold. It takes heat from a torch very weirdly (trust me, it is extremely weird to solder and melt this metal) making it a more technical metal to work with and it takes a lot more time to make almost all of my palladium jewelry. In the past, the relatively low cost of palladium made it worthwhile since you could make a piece that has a prettier color than white gold, and at a price point that was slightly less than 14 karat white gold. The extra work was worth it to be able to make something in a white metal that could still be in an acceptable price range for my clients. It's also a sturdy metal with a lot of qualities similar to platinum, but without the weight and density. It also used to be a fraction of the price of platinum.

That's all been changing in the last 4-5 months. The price per ounce of palladium has grown high enough that some of the rings I make in palladium are almost as much as the same ring in platinum. With all of the changes to palladium costs, I’ve been recommending to more and more clients that they simply upgrade a little bit to platinum.

This is all to say that part of the reason why my palladium rings are discontinued is that I won't be able to recreate these rings at a price that would appeal to most of my customers. I've tried re-pricing some rings in palladium and most of these rings would all be almost double their current prices. In the coming months, you’ll see some changes to my bridal collection as I reprice just a couple of styles and change the rest over to either platinum or 14 karat palladium white gold. This may be the last that you see of the solid palladium rings until palladium prices come down.**

**If they ever do. Currently, palladium prices are driven up by an increase of the use of palladium in car exhaust filters - it is keeping your air clean of pollutants. Take a metal in high demand, add limited mining output of palladium and presto! Increased metals costs. Citation -

Did You See Our Chain Necklace in Diablo Magazine?

Sharon Zimmerman

Sharon Z Jewelry in Diablo Magazine - photo by Annie Edwards - stylist Jeneffer Jones - HandMU by Cassie Chapman - Model Aga Wojtasik.jpg

Diablo Magazine

September 2018

The current issue of Diablo Magazine features a stellar Fall style round-up that includes our Mixed Metal Chain Link Necklaces styled with a Tibi suit. Features like this are a collaboration of so many talented people - photo by Annie Edmonds, Styling by Jeneffer Jones, Hair and Makeup by Cassie Chapman, Model Aga Wojtasik. This chain is currently available at Crown Nine.

The dos and don'ts of putting in a new nose ring

Sharon Zimmerman

C'mon baby, let's do the twist! You've purchased a brand new solid gold nose ring (or you've been keeping your eye on a new nose ring) and now it's time to give it the care that it deserves. Here are the right way and the wrong way to open up your new nose ring.

Did you know that there is a right way and a wrong way to open it up? Here is a quick list of the dos and don'ts when it comes to opening a nose ring (or a tiny hoop earring for that matter):

Do: Wash your hands. With soap and water, like a regular human.

Do: ABT - Always. Be. Twisting. Twist your hoop to open the ends side to side, which keeps them in line with each other and makes it easier to get a tight closure on your nose ring. This will be really important after you open up the ring to insert it.

Do: Only open your hoop the minimum amount needed to slip it into your piercing.

Do: Gently twist your hoop closed. You can use your fingers, but thicker gauges might require a pair of needle-nose pliers, or it might require going to a professional piercer for a jewelry change. Call ahead to a reputable local piercer (I like Rose Gold in the Haight!) and find out if they do jewelry changes. Some places charge a nominal fee to switch out your jewelry - I find that it is totally worth the investment in your jewelry to have it opened and closed properly.

Do: Look for the purest kind of metal that you can afford, and look for something that you’ll want to wear all the time. Choosing metals that cause irritation (gold plated base metal, white gold alloys that contain nickel) can irritate your piercing and the surrounding skin and cause some serious problems. Spending a little more, in the beginning, means that you won’t have to spend more later when you inevitably need to replace your nose stud or ring.

Don't: Open the hoop laterally. This not only makes the ring harder to close, it also stresses the metal in the wrong direction and could weaken the ring.

Final Note: You might feel a small amount of irritation after changing a piercing. This is pretty normal since you have been roughing it up a little more than normal. It can also happen if you are gauging up a size. Try rinsing your piercing with a saline solution or soak to soothe the irritation. If this doesn't work, consider switching to solid gold if you've been wearing gold plated/gold fill jewelry (this can be a big problem for nose piercings, and most piercers will recommend going with a solid metal like 14 karat gold or 18 karat gold). If you find that gold irritates your piercings too, consider switching to platinum jewelry as this one is the least reactive metal and the least likely to cause an allergic reaction.

The yellow gold nose ring in the top picture can be found here and the rose gold nose ring in the bottom picture can be found here

Have a question? Post it in the comments!