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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!

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Filtering by Category: Jewelry making

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 https://earthworks.org/issues/mercury_air_emissions_from_gold_mines/



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. http://www.responsiblemines.org/en/

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!






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.





The Exciting World of Jewelry Care

Sharon Zimmerman

Jewelry Care

You want your jewelry to last you a long time, and so do I. A lot of heart and soul go into each piece and while some wear and tear are normal over time, treating your jewelry and giving it a little TLC can keep it looking great for a lifetime. 

The Basics Don'ts

Avoid wearing while swimming, working out (yes, even yoga), showering, gardening or when working with chemicals. All of these activities can stress your jewelry, scratch it, bend it or just generally gunk it up (ew).

Cleaning Oxidized Silver Jewelry

Oxidized silver has been given a surface treatment to create a dark black color. Over time, this color may fade to bright silver and is considered normal wear. Never fear though, this blackening can be brought back simply and affordably. Contact me if you would like the oxidized patina restored to your Sharon Z Jewelry piece - info@sharonzjewelry.com 

Storage

We know that you want to wear your Sharon Z Jewelry piece all the time, but when you aren’t wearing it, we suggest storing it in the box that it came in or even better, in a tiny plastic bag with an anti-tarnish strip.  The plastic bag trick works especially well for silver.

Eco-Friendly Tarnish Removal

Fun Science Project Alert!

Silver jewelry has a great luster and bright, white color, but over time, exposure to moisture and air can cause tarnish.  Here is a fast, cheap, easy, fun and eco-friendly way to restore your silver jewelry to a bright shine.

  • Boil water
  • Place a piece of tin foil in a heatproof bowl
  • Place jewelry on top of foil
  • Sprinkle baking soda and a pinch of salt over the jewelry
  • Pour boiling water over the jewelry and foil
  • The mixture will bubble (like you're a witch standing over a bubbling cauldron) for a moment and then your silver jewelry will be bright again.
  • Careful when removing jewelry-it will be very hot! (This seems obvious, but my lawyers recommended that I tell you this.)
  • Rinse with cool water

This method is safe for many stones, except for turquoise and opals.  Also, be advised that while pearls will be fine in this process, the epoxy that often holds them in place might come loose due to the heat.

PS - this works great on gold that has discolored too!

The Making Of - Custom Palladium Woodland Rings for a Sweet Couple

Sharon Zimmerman

The Woodland Wedding bands are some of my favorite rings to make. Each ring starts as a thick blank of metal. It gets rolled flat, heated, formed, heated again for soldering and finally, each ring is individually textured, making the rings unique and meaningful. Making the knots in the "wood" is my favorite part, and in this case the couple asked to customize their rings with only three knots in each ring. I love how each ring comes out a little different - your ring won't look like anyone else's.

"Thank you so much again for our Woodland bands. We love them. They are just the combination we were looking for of simple and understated yet unique and evocative. We were so happy to find a local artisan whose values and aesthetic resonated with us." - Ana
Soldering the rings closed

Soldering the rings closed

The tools of the trade

The tools of the trade

The finished rings. The bottom ring was created in a custom width. The top ring is available to order  here .

The finished rings. The bottom ring was created in a custom width. The top ring is available to order here.

 

5 Ways to Find Out Her (or His) Ring Size On the Sly

Sharon Zimmerman

You're in love, you know you want to get married and you’re ready to propose. So you run out to get a ring, but how do you know that it’s going to fit them? A ring, unlike earrings and necklaces, isn't a one-size-fits-all piece of jewelry, so getting the size at least kinda sorta close to right is important.  Here are a few helpful hints for getting things right the first time.

Option #1 - Find a ring that he or she wears on their ring finger

This is probably the easiest shortcut to finding out their ring size, but it also assumes that your beloved wears a ring on their ring finger. Some women don’t wear anything on that finger before engagement or marriage out of tradition. Just keep in mind that there can be a significant size difference between the right hand and the left hand, so if you find a ring that they wear on their right hand, it may not be exactly the right size for their left hand.

Option #2 - Ask her friends.

There is always a chance that she’s dropped hints. Big hints. And by hints, I mean that she may have actually told her best friend (or sister, or Mom) what her ring size is. So...not really a hint. More like a giant clue that she’s left for you to find. And a pretty easy-to-find clue at that.

 Option #3 - Find out while they are sleeping

This will assume that you have super stealthy ninja-like skills. Your first step is to acquire a finger sizer. Then, while they are asleep, carefully and without being detected slip the sizer onto their left hand ring finger. Et Voilà! Ring size!*

Option #4 - Order a placeholder ring

Have they already decided which designer they’d like a ring from**? If so, then it's a good bet that your future betrothed would like something else from that same designer. Ordering something smaller and less formal is a lot less risky and can create a sweet memory for the two of you. Then you can plan together which "official" ring to get. It could even be a ring that can stack with their eventual engagement and wedding rings.

Option #5 - Well, you could just ask

Sure, it’s not exactly romantic, but maybe you guys are a couple of rule-breakers anyway. Or maybe you are both super-communicative.  Either way, if you talk openly about your future together, asking for their ring size won’t be a downer. Besides, you don’t have to tell them when you’re planning to propose.

*If they wake up and you get caught, just tell them that you were trying to hold their hand.

**OK, so let’s back up for a moment and say that you have no idea what kind of ring they would like. The best place to do your secret spy research is on Pinterest. Take a look at their boards and see what kinds of jewelry they pin. There is a great chance that they already have a board totally dedicated specifically to engagement rings. And when in doubt, ask their friends.

Our Feature in the San Francisco Chronicle

Sharon Zimmerman

It's been a roller coaster year, but we were thrilled with our recent feature in the San Francisco Chronicle. It shows mein action - drawing down wire to make a nose ring, soldering a wedding ring, and basically showing you all the work and effort and love that go into each and every piece of sustainable jewelry we make here in our San Francisco Studio.

Sharon Zimmerman draws down wire for a  nose ring  in her San Francisco studio

Sharon Zimmerman draws down wire for a nose ring in her San Francisco studio

Soldering a  wedding ring  in 14 karat gold. Image by Liz Hafalia

Soldering a wedding ring in 14 karat gold. Image by Liz Hafalia

Article by Carolyn Said, photos by Liz Hafalia.

Read all about it here.

How I Wear It - the Spear Huggies with Tiny Studs

Sharon Zimmerman

I'll admit it - I got into jewelry-making largely for my own self-interest. I wanted to have beautiful pieces of jewelry to wear and the best way to get something that's exactly what I want is to make it myself. So I started making jewelry. A lot. Obsessively. All the damn time.

Time passed, more jewelry got made and I got more curious about where my metals came from. I got more interested in creating a jewelry line that uses sustainable materials and incorporated more designs and more creative and wild visions. Each year, I make more and more jewelry that I love down to its core. It becomes pretty hard to figure out which pieces to put on each day when I feel like I have an embarrassment of riches. So much to love...so little ear space.

I mean, of COURSE - making more jewelry means that I need to be wearing more jewelry. So a couple of years ago I added two new piercings to my left ear to make room for more studs and earrings.*

I love how tiny studs accent the ear like a sprinkle of stardust. All the more so when those studs are made in rose gold. (14 karat rose gold is my not-so-secret favorite metal to wear). Though if yellow gold or platinum are your jam, by all means go to town and create your own ear party!

Sure, you can wear our spear huggies on their own, without any other earrings and they will still look great alone, but this was far too fun of a look for me to pass up and adding in all of these studs feels like I’ve armored up for the day.

Pictured on my ear from left to right, all of these are shown in rose gold, and available in yellow gold, platinum (except for the spear huggies) or sterling silver:

Tiny Stick Stud Earrings
Spear Huggies
In the Rough Diamond Studs
Tiny Pebble Studs

We’d love to hear from you and see how you arrange your ear party! Feel free to post a comment or reach out to us by email. We’ll post your image to our Instagram feed and tag you too!

How do you like to wear your tiny studs and huggies?

*I had mine pierced by Perry at Rose Gold in the Haight.

Why is my skin turning black under my rings?

Sharon Zimmerman

Hint: It's not an allergy.

A few years ago, I thought I was developing an allergy to silver and gold.  Almost overnight, my skin was turning black underneath my rings and I couldn't explain it. The answer?  Science!

Image of skin turning black underneath my  s ilver and gold rings

Image of skin turning black underneath my silver and gold rings

At about the same time that my skin started turning colors, I had started using a mineral sunscreen* containing zinc oxide.  Zinc Oxide, in its non-nano state, is a fantastic and safe sun-blocking agent as well as a common ingredient in many cosmetics. I am pretty obsessed with my skin care (though you wouldn't believe it if you saw my hands. Ah well, such is the jeweler's life). Zinc oxide is also, as it turns out, a very mild abrasive.  Veeeery mild. But gold and silver are soft metals, so the mild abrasive in my sunscreen was actually rubbing off minuscule particles of metal from my rings and these particles transferred to my skin and appeared black.

My solution?  Well, I wasn't going to discontinue using my sunscreen nor would I stop wearing rings and the problem goes away when I, you know, wash. My. Hands. I also wait to put on rings until after I've applied the sunscreen and washed my hands. Sometimes the simple solutions are the best. And don't forget to clean your jewelry to get rid of any residual make up, soap, sunscreen, etc. Here is our Step-by-Step guide to safely cleaning and caring for your jewelry.

And now, please resume wearing all of the rings.