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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

Filtering by Category: Jewelry making

All About Bezels - Scenes from our recent bezel set ring-making workshop

Sharon Zimmerman

Welcome to the fourth in our series of student profiles! Each week or so, a new student will be featured with parts of their story - why they fell in love with jewelry-making, what inspires them, and what they get out of each class.

This week features the work of a couple of our students in the recent Bezel Set Ring Making workshop. We spent a weekend going through each step - stone selection, design, using fine silver for your bezel, how to shape and texture your bands, best practices for soldering, and the best tools to set your stones.

We asked them some questions about how they decided to take this class and what they liked best.

Had any of you taken jewelry classes before?

“Yes! This was my third jewelry class with Sharon Z”

“Yes, this was my first jewelry class. I have always made my own jewelry for myself and for friends. A few years I started wire wrapping with copper, bronze and silver wire, mostly gemstone beads and pendants.”

What inspired you to take this class?

“I enjoy Sharon’s teaching methods.”

“I was ready for the next challenge and eager to work on real bezels, rather than wire wrapping the stone (although that is pretty awesome as well), I was also inspired by Sharon's beautiful designs, and beating cancer :)”

What was your favorite skill that you learned in this class?

“Soldering tricks!”

“Soldering a piece with multiple solder stages, problem solving and understanding the process that goes into bezel ring making.”


So you want to get started with a jewelry class that will challenge your skills? Here’s what you can expect:

In our Bezel Set Ring Making class, students get lots of hands on time. They get to learn more than one technique for setting, and we talk about and practice using a variety of tools. Also lots of creative license to do what they want to shape and texture the band to really make it their own. Students get to see how they can use basic hand tools and more advanced hand tools to achieve the same results, and practice using both. We even explore how to streamline and simplify the process, offering organizational tips and tricks so that you can go back to your studio and craft new and exciting work with ease. You’ll leave this class feeling inspired by all the new ways you can put this skill to use!

Ready to sign up for a Bezel Making Class? Hit this link to see when we offer it next!

Student Profile of Christina B. - Flush Setting Class

Sharon Zimmerman

Welcome to the third in our series of student profiles! Each week or so, a new student will be featured with parts of their story - why they fell in love with jewelry-making, what inspires them, and what they get out of each class.

Christina B in the process of learning how to flush set a sapphire into a silver band

Christina B in the process of learning how to flush set a sapphire into a silver band

This week features Christina B! Christina and I have known each other for years, and visitors to Oakland’s downtown neighborhood might recognize her as the woman holding it down at Crown Nine. She also produces her own line of jewelry that sells in the shop. 

We asked her three questions to learn more about why she took her class:

Christina B at the bench pin, learning about how to flush set using mostly hand tools

Christina B at the bench pin, learning about how to flush set using mostly hand tools

Give us a little background on yourself - was this your first jewelry class? How did you get started in jewelry?

This was not my first jewelry class - I have taken some other classes around the Bay Area. I got started in jewelry-making about 4 years ago and have been upping my skills ever since!

What inspired you to take this class?

Flush setting is something I’ve been wanting to learn and I had been wanting to take a class with Sharon, so the stars aligned and I signed up for the date that worked for me!

What was your favorite skill that you learned in this class?

I loved learning what it looks like to make a seat for a stone in the process, and also what it feels like. It was great to get the experience of practicing the skill multiple times in the class.


So you want to get started with a jewelry class that will challenge your skills? Here’s what you can expect:

Christina with her finished flush settings

Christina with her finished flush settings

In our flush setting class, students get lots of hands on time. They get to learn more than one technique for flush setting, and we talk about and practice using a variety of tools. Students get to see how they can use basic hand tools and more advanced hand tools to achieve the same results, and practice using both. We even explore how to streamline and simplify the process, offering organizational tips and tricks so that you can go back to your studio and craft new and exciting work with ease. You’ll leave this class feeling inspired by all the new ways you can put this skill to use!

Ready to sign up for a flush setting class? Hit this link to see when Flush Setting is offered next

A Labor of Love - learning to make each other's wedding rings

Sharon Zimmerman

You’ve taken the plunge as a couple to get married and you’re caught up in the swirl of wedding planning, but what about taking time out together? Finding experiences that you can do to bond as a couple in the run up to your wedding can be challenging. let alone finding those experiences that are meaningful to you both. Making sure you carve out time together is vital.

Oh wait, and then you also need wedding rings! You can absolutely purchase ready-made wedding rings. I But what if you could spend a day making a memory together, crafting your wedding rings together from scratch? And imagine that you could do this with a professional there to guide you through each step, who lets you get your hands dirty in the process. You get the experience of finding out why crafting jewelry is satisfying and loving work, and then step back with pride to admire what you’ve done.

Kirstina isn’t phased by DIYing her wedding. Getting married on the Big Island of Hawaii where she grew up is going to be a meaningful experience, and one that helps her and her fiance feel tied to her family.

Kirstina isn’t phased by DIYing her wedding. Getting married on the Big Island of Hawaii where she grew up is going to be a meaningful experience, and one that helps her and her fiance feel tied to her family.

You can do all of this in the Labor of Love Wedding Ring Workshop. In one day, you will learn to craft a flat piece of plain metal into each other’s wedding rings, using the traditional methods and tools of making jewelry. As a couple, you both get your hands on the project from start to finish, for rings that will be worn on each other’s hands for life. Working directly with the metal, you get to form, forge, heat and finish your wedding rings step-by-step. This day-long event is a perfect way to ground yourselves and bond before your wedding day.

A few weeks before your workshop, you’ll choose your metals and widths. The day of, we get down to business - measuring, cutting, bending, forging and texturing your rings. It is a fun and rewarding day - we’ll play music, have lunch and even toast at the end of the day to a job well done.

Kirstina hand hammered and hand sanded her fiance’s wedding ring in 14 karat gold

Kirstina hand hammered and hand sanded her fiance’s wedding ring in 14 karat gold

By now, you are probably wondering if this is a good experience for people with zero training and skill in jewelry, or anything mechanical, for that matter.

Yes! Absolutely! Perfect! For sure! This is great for anyone with no experience. You don’t need to be good with your hands, or skilled with power tools in order to craft each other’s wedding rings. This is a guided learning process. You get step-by-step instructions from a professional (oh hey, that’s me!), lots of support and one-on-one instruction tailored to fit you and the way that you learn best. Each step, from selecting the metal, the design and the fit, to cutting, soldering and hammering will be done by the two of you, side-by-side and with your hands on the entire process. But don’t worry, because I’ll be there to walk you through the whole process. Plus, you get all the bragging rights to your rings - they’ll be designed and made by you!

You’ll leave with a feeling of satisfaction and pride - having taken your dreams, hopes, and ideas and forged them in metal. 


Interested in learning more about pricing and the process? Head over HERE to get more information.

Student Profiles - Alissa Bailey of AB Positive Jewelry

Sharon Zimmerman

This begins a new series of blog posts. Each week or so, a new student will be featured with parts of their story - why they fell in love with jewelry-making, what inspires them, and what they get out of each class.

This week, Alissa Bailey of ab positive jewelry is on deck! Little known fact - Alissa was my first jewelry assistant and worked her tail off producing a lot of the most essential pieces in my collection. She is also the primary model of a lot of my jewelry all over this website. So if you were thinking that she looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen her all over my lookbook.

Alissa learning more advanced wax carving techniques

How long have you been making jewelry, and how did you get started?

I’ve been metal smithing for about 5 years now.  

While living in LA I was employed as a server and pursuing an acting career - I like to say that jewelry found me. Over the years acting had become more of an obligation rather than a passion, so I began to explore my interest in beading. I went to the nearest bead shop gathered all the pretty little things that I could afford, and the next day I came to work wearing my newly designed and handmade necklace. It was that night that I sold my first piece of jewelry. From that point forward I was selling to more and more co-workers which then trickled down to people that would be dining there, and so on. That was the true birth of my business. It was also the time that my identity as an actor was slowly fading into jeweler. When it came to deciding what the next career choice would be for me the answer was super clear - I wanted to learn to work in metal, and hopefully one day be my own boss with a full-fledged line of fine jewelry. I always tell people that I feel so lucky to be able to continue a career path that still allows me to be creative. Since acting lost its appeal for me,  I will forever be extremely grateful that I found another creative outlet to pour my heart and soul into. 

Why did you want to take the Intermediate Wax Carving Class?

I was recently asked to make my first engagement ring, and my clients decided to use this beautiful center stone. Creating a setting for this stone is out of my current wheelhouse, so I decided to take Sharon’s class so that I’d be able to fully fabricate the ring myself. I did this instead of finding someone else who could do it for me. I’m super excited that I now have one more skill to add to my ever growing arsenal of skills as a jeweler. 

wax carving for a princess cut stone setting

What is your favorite material to work with and why?

As of right now I’m a big fan of working in sheet metal. Specifically Argentium Silver Sheet. My work contains a lot of hand-sawed pieces. Silver sheet feels like you're sawing through butter, and then on top of that Argentium keeps the fire-scale* at bay! 


Alissa took an intermediate wax carving class to advance some of her skills, but even if you have no experience, you can start with a Wax Carving Basics Workshop, or contact us to find out what class would be best to kick off your jewelry-making adventure.

*What is fire scale? Fire scale is something that happens during the soldering and heating process when working with sterling silver. It brings some of the copper that is present in sterling to the surface, and must be removed or it makes your silver surfaces splotchy-looking. It’s a tiny bit of a PITA, and a lot of jewelers have switched to a kind of silver called Argentium. This kind of silver doesn’t have this same problem.

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 Cleaning

Sharon Zimmerman

What’s the Best Way to Clean Jewelry?

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.