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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.

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Filtering by Category: Jewelry Classes

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 Profile - Michelle H.

Sharon Zimmerman

Michelle came back to wax carving after a hiatus from jewelry-making. She had a specific idea in mind for what she wanted to make, so we set up a private lesson for her to achieve her design. We laughed, we chatted, and she finished this impressive square statement ring in wax. Michelle has made jewelry before, and it was so fun to talk about tools, tricks and tips for getting the best results for her special project.

Give us a little background on yourself- was this your first jewelry class?

”Since 2007 I have taken formal classes at community colleges, the Otis Art Institute and Farrin - O'Connor jewelry studio. I started making jewelry in 2007 beginning with earrings, necklaces and bracelets using wire-wrapping and metalsmithing techniques. So this was a return to jewelry classes for me.”

What inspired you to take this wax carving workshop?

”During a second semester class in jewelry making at El Camino college I had a unit (2 weeks) devoted to the art of lost-wax casting. I was so intrigued by the class and what seemed to be an ancient process taught through the ages for jewelry artisans. Even though I learned the process of wax casting from beginning to end, I did not master the art of crafting refined pieces so there wouldn't be bumps and scratches in the final outcome. I really wanted to master sculpting the wax model but realize that will take practice.

What inspired me to take the wax carving class was an Instagram post from San Francisco jeweler Colleen Mauer. She posted a pic from her learning session at your studio while creating a wax model for a ring. I've been wanting to create a ring for myself. It is difficult to find rings that fit my short stubby fingers, so I have to make my own or have them custom made.

After checking out Sharon’s website, I saw that she teaches classes on an independent basis. Although I haven't been on the bench for some time the muscle memory is still there and I thought I'd give it a try and take the class. I'm so glad that I did.”

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

“Learning how to notice crooked edges, surfaces and how to smooth down with specific grits of sandpaper and files.  Learning about little things like how to use the purple wax that Sharon showed me and the Kate Wolf tools to smooth out indentations. Learning the tricks at the end to smooth out surfaces and get a sleek finish. The emphasis placed on using files and sandpaper to smooth out surfaces rather than relying on different drill bits and the flex shaft. Using the manual caliper to measure size.”


Making this wax carving class into a private lesson meant that Michelle had lots of time to develop her specific design and vision. In most wax carving workshops, students all work on roughly the same project - a pendant that they then work a design into. But in a private jewelry lesson, students can work on their own ideas directly, and really let their creativity flow.


 

3 Ways I Was Bad at Being a Jewelry Designer

Sharon Zimmerman

I was bad at being a jewelry designer...in 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*

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 and find out if they offer 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

Ready to learn more? There’s a DIY workshop coming up soon. You get to make and finish your very own 14 karat gold nose ring in this fun jewelry-making workshop. Sign up below!

*This date doesn’t work for you? Contact me to set up a different time!