May 032011

We all love to create. We all love to SHARE our creations with others. And why not? We work had and we’re proud of our work! Right?

After spending hours creating and more hours taking photos, nothing is worse than uploading them only to find out they are out of focus, or dark, or there is too much glare. It can be very discouraging!

After receiving many many questions about what camera I use and the set-up etc. I decided to condense into 5 areas that *I* think are the most important


Jewelry Artists Network Photography Tips

Those little dials help!

Seriously, this is number one. Its the main deal here folks. Get to know your camera. Read the manual or just experiment, but KNOW what the dials and buttons are for. Understand what they do and use that to your advantage.

General tips –

  • set the ISO at 100 or less
  • turn off the flash
  • use macro setting
  • adjust the exposure

And yes, the type of camera matters. I know many people get great photos with relatively inexpensive cameras, so you don’t have to spend a fortune for a camera like the Rebel. After going through many cameras, I finally have one that I love and it didn’t break the bank. I use a Panasonic Lumix. Its a point and shoot but itsa great camera with some really nice features for jewelry, like the macro-zoom. I thought macro was great, but macro-zoom takes it to a whole other level!


It does’t have to be expensive. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be store bought!

But it really can make a huge difference in your results.

Jewelry is a difficult shot because of the light reflection – it bounces off the metal and stones creating glare and out of focus shots. For crisp clear images – use a lightbox.

When I started I made a lightbox from a semi-transparent plastic tub. (ok, when I FIRST-FIRST began, I used a plastic gallon milk jug top cut off and the bottom cut out) Any semi-transparent container will diffuse the light. You can be more creative and use some sort of cloth over a makeshift frame or tissue paper (just be careful with your lights!! they can get hot!)

I now use this lightbox – it was inexpensive and I like that it folds flat. Space is an issue for me, so this works well. (the price has gone up but its still worth it!)


This deserves its own heading because I can’t over stress the importance of lighting. You need to understand your lighting. Whether you  use natural light streaming in from a window (or if you take your party outside) or artificial light – halogen, daylights, whatever. .. . the DIRECTION of your light, any GLARE, etc will impact your photos.

I like to use lighting coming from all angles to reduce shadows.

If you don’t have enough light sources, use mirrors. Set them outside of the shot, opposite a light and they will bounce light back in the opposite direction!


Many people don’t realize what a colossal effect different backgrounds have on images. Again, it has to do with how the light plays off it.  I find that matte backgrounds work best. I don’t have a preference for light OR dark backgrounds but I can tell you that alter my camera settings differently if I am shooting on black rather than white. (refer back to #1!)


It pays to do all you can to reduce movement of the camera.

Jewelry Artists Network Photography Tips

Use the timer! Your finger pushing down the button to trip the shutter WILL move the camera, and even the slightest movement will have an effect on your images.

Don’t hold your camera – use a tripod or set your camera on a box or stack of books. Anything to reduce movement.

And finally #6 (I know I said 5, but I can’t hold back here!)

My best tip is to use a notebook. TAKE NOTES. Any time you alter your set-up, document it. Then compare the images against the set up. See what works best for you.

If taking notes is too cumbersome – take a photo. That’s right! Take a photo! Each time you change something, back up and get a picture of the set-up. When you load your photos on the computer there will be a photo set-up image prior to the new pictures. Delete the ones that don’t work – save photos of the set-up that does. It will make duplicating awesome photos very easy!


So those are the 5 (ok, 6) things that I often talk to people about. Next time I’ll share some of my favorite backgrounds, the use of props, setting up for illusions (floating jewelry anyone?) and more. I won’t tell you which way to go, as I think different situations warrant different set ups. I’ll just show you how to go about it. Then you decide what suits your purposes. 🙂

What are your best photography tips?

Sep 022010

One thing that we all deal with is scrap. Whether its botched work, or filings, or those little wire snips and bits; we can accumulate a lot of ‘scrap’ metal.

Some people use their scrap for sand, broomstraw, water, or other casting at home. A bit of the scrap metal can often be used as embellishments on new pieces of jewelry, but at some point, most of us will end up with a bag, box, or even bucket full of metal.

What do you do with it?

One consideration is to send it in to a refiner and have them either give you ‘cash back’ (a check) or a credit on a subsequent purchase of metal, tools.

How do return programs work?

Basically you are going to package your scrap and send it to a refiner and they are going to either give you cash back – or a credit on future purchases.

You will need to separate your scrap. Remove any stones, organize it by metal type, and in some instances, remove any soldered parts. Each refinery has their specific instructions, read carefully or call to find out how best to ‘clean’ and package your scrap.

Then you send it in, usually with a form specific to their company, but sometimes with a note. They will log, weigh, assay, weigh, check current spot/market prices, and then do some math to calculate your return.

Who has the best prices?

That seems to be the million dollar question.

Return prices vary from company to company and then each one usually has different prices within their own system which are determined by the amount you send in, whether you want cash or trade, and how quickly you want it turned around (rush or standard?).

In addition, some companies have refining fees, surcharges, etc that will affect your return. It is in your best interest to ask before hand about any and all charges/fees.

To help get you started, we have researched a few companies and have created a list of their current scrap return/refining rates.

These are listed alphabetically and do not necessarily include the surcharges or refining fees. If you have another company to recommend or someone you want us to check out, please use the contact tab above to let us know!

  • G&S Metals

  • Silver Scrap buy – 90% – credit acct. 90%
  • Silver/Bars/Coins – 95%
  • Gold Bars/Coins – 95%
  • Platinum and Pd – 90%
  • Argentium Silver – 90%

  • Hausser and Miller

< 150 oz 81%

> 150 oz 98%

  • High Tech PMR

gold – 98%

silver – 92%

platinum – 92%

you need their patriot act form to open an account

and they have a shipping form that is downloadable on their website

you can send both at the same time with your first shipment and then just the packing slip for future shipments.

  • Hoover & Strong
will accept mixed material, however, separating scrap is recommended.

NOTE: there are refining fees of anywhere from $1.00 to $1.25 an ounce.


> 90% fine silver  65 – 85% depending on weight and return time requested

<90% pure silver 65-70% depending on return time requested


> 25 % fine gold  94-98% depending on quantity and return time requested

10-24% fine gold 94-95%

<10% 89-90%

Platinum or palladium

> 90% 89-96% depending on weight and return time requested

  • Midwest Refineries

sterling scrap  90% of pure sterling assay

  • Monsterslayer

Sterling/Fine Silver Sheet, Wire & Precious Metals Clay (PMC) Scrap:
75 % of the current Silver Market in Trade or

we will pay 60 % of the current Silver Market in Cash.

Soldered, Brazed, or Melted Silver Scrap, Clean Filings, Chains, and Old Jewelry with quality marking:
55 % of the current Silver Market in Trade or

we will pay 45 % of the current Silver Market in Cash.

12k-14k Gold Filled Findings, Sheet, & Wire Scrap:
1.2 % of the current Gold Market in Trade or

we will pay 1.0 % of the current Gold Market in Cash.

Example: 1.2 % of a $ 1,000.00 Gold Market = $ 12.00 per OzT.

  • Rio


Fine silver and cadmium-free sterling silver*75%

Cadmium-bearing sterling silver (requires special refining) 65%

Silver dust 40%

Minted fine silver coins and bars from Rio Grande 98%

Minted fine silver coins and bars not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Gold-filled ( at least 12/20 ) 1.89% total weight

24K gold ( Jeweler’s karat gold scrap )**  75%

Minted 24KY gold coins from Rio Grande 98%

Minted 24KY gold coins not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Platinum*** 60%

Palladium**** 60%


Fine silver and cadmium-free sterling silver*65%

Cadmium-bearing sterling silver (requires special refining) 65%

Silver dust 40%

Minted fine silver coins and bars from Rio Grande 98%

Minted fine silver coins and bars not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Gold-filled ( at least 12/20 ) 1.89% total weight

24K gold ( Jeweler’s karat gold scrap )**  65%

Minted 24KY gold coins from Rio Grande 98%

Minted 24KY gold coins not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Platinum*** 60%

Palladium****  60%

  • Thunderbird Supply

unsoldered silver

80% of the for trade or

60% for unsoldered silver for cash

scrap jewelry or soldered pieces:

60% for trade

fine silver coins and bars

90% for trade or

85% for cash.

For gold-filled scrap
cash or trade 1.45%
[$900 gold market, ($900 x 0.0145 = $13.05) gold-filled scrap would be worth $13.05 per ounce.]



Handy & Harman Precious Metals Group

800.463.1465to speak with a Scrap Recovery Specialist

[note, I called and could not get through – press 3 for refining dept. then 1 if you are a new customer. The extension went into voice mail which said not to leave a message but to try another number which is – 416-419-3114 – I didn’t call because I’m not local! ]



Cookson Gold

Has a scrap metal chart similar to a live market chart – updated frequently but may not be accurate…


Download list as a PDF document


If you have other refiners we should add to the list, please use the contact tab above to let us know, we’ll verify and then update!




Aug 272010

The last post was really just a teaser with brief definitions and photos. Now let’s look a little further and try to get a handle on some of the tools and terms associated with raising.

Basic definitions

(we will expand on these as we go along)

Raising: forming metal over (or on) a stake (of some sort) using a hammer to compress and stretch the metal.

Stake: a solid object (can be various material) with varying curvatures.

Course: one complete pass of hammering while raising.

Synclastic: forging metal along two curves at right angles to one another and moving in the same direction. (bowl)

Anticlastic: forging metal along two curves which are moving in opposite directions. (pringle)

Annealing: heating metal to increase its flexibility (annealing article here)


I thought a little sketch might help clarify the curvatures for us. These sketches are reproductions of ones found in the book Form Emphasis. (I considered taking a photo of the page and then decided that went too far into copyright issues…so my crude sketches will have to do.)

anticlasitc and synclastic forms

anticlastic and synclastic sketch

Alternate imagery is sometimes helpful.

jewelry making anticlastic example


A saddle is anticlast as it curves in two opposing directions.

One curve goes ‘down’

One curve goes ‘up’

think of the long line as a curvature that follows the horses body, it would wrap around the horses ‘trunk’. The other, shorter, line creates a space for the riders bottom.

As an abstract – it can hold something from the top and from the bottom


Alternately, a synclast shape, in its basic form, only holds from one direction.

synclastic diagram for jewelry making


all of the curves move in the same direction.

either ‘up’

or if the bowl were flipped, all curves would move ‘down’

Don’t be fooled by imposters!

The following image is neither synclast or anticlast.

only one curve!

Why? Because there is only one curve.

To become anticlast, the two points on the straight line/plane would need to move down.

To become synclast, the two points on the straight line/plane would need to move up.

The Tools I Use


Stakes for Jewelry Tutorial Metalsmithing Raising


These are fairly simple stakes. The metal ones having only one curvature on each end. Typical sinusoidal stakes have a series of curves on one stake.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of variation in forming that can be done on these.

Stakes 1 and 2 are metal and would be used with a nylon or delrin hammer.

Stakes 3 and 4 are delrin and would be used with a metal hammer.

Never use a metal hammer on a metal stake as it would mar and pinch the metal too much.

A delrin hammer is not used on a delrin stake as both materials are going to ‘give’ a little and therefore the force of the hammer blow is going to be diffused too much. You will waste a lot of energy hammering for very little movement of metal.


jewelry raising hammers


Here I have two metal ‘raising’ hammers and one hammer that is made of delrin.

Technically, the metal hammers are sold as ‘bordering’ hammers. I have two because they have different sized heads.

Hammers used for raising typically have profiles longer than they are wide.

The other tool is a vise. I use a regular vise bolted to my workbench although alternatives could be a GRS system that has a holding mechanism or some stake sets may come with their own holder.

One problem that can occur  with a regular vise is slippage of the stake in the vise while hammering.

I combat that problem by making a hammock for my stakes. Basically it is a hanger made of brass sheet that overlaps the top of the vise jaws.

Here is how I make mine:

Estimate how much you need to hang over the top of the vise jaw. Place that much of the sheet of brass down into the vise. Bend and mallet down.

Remove sheet from vise and place stake at the bend. Mark the depth of your stake.

Bend that second line, bringing the first fold UP. Now you have a little ledge for your stake to sit on.

Bend again at the end of the stake, bringing the bottom ledge up the other side of the stake.

Next, mark a line at the top of the stake, while it is on the ledge.

You will fold DOWN, away from the stake at this line.

Now you have a little hammock for your stake. This will help give the stake something to rest on and keep it from moving down while you hammer!

I normally place this entire packet back into the vise, tighten the vise up, and mallet down the top edges. This confirms all the folds so they stay put.

You can also conform the top of the flaps to the top of your vise jaws.

When you take the ‘hammock’ out of the vise, trim and sand so you don’t inadvertently cut yourself!

Next time we’ll move on to the actual forming process!

Jul 152010

One of the most frequent techniques I receive questions for is raising. People are very curious about raised forms, perhaps because they have such dimension and movement.

Customers are fascinated by the shapes and the lightweight but solid feel of the shapes. Fellow jewelry artists light up for another reason – they want to know “HOW?” !

I explain a little to customers, just enough until I begin to see the deer in the headlights look, but my fellow artists like to know it ALL.

So, I thought I’d run through a series of posts outlining how I do it.  I always like to remember (and remind)  that there is more than one way to do things. When I share, it is what works for me, others may do things a little bit differently, or a LOTTA bit differently. That is A-OK. In fact, I think its great and I enjoy hearing how other people go about things.

Here are some raised forms, pieces, and samples.

The two types of raising I’ll talk about over the next few post are synclastic and anticlastic.

Synclastic raising forms the metal in one direction – think bowl.

Anticlastic raising forms the metal in two opposite directions – think saddle or pringle potato chip.

The next post I’ll show the tools I use, stakes, hammers, etc.  and then we’ll look at the actual forming process.