Palette of Gems II

Working with new material is like going on a first date. Getting to know the stone, seeing its beauty, revealing new qualities by the minute...ah, falling in love. It gets serious, you're thinking you need to put a ring on that stone.

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Waiting on a shipment of jewelry supplies can be frustrating when all you want to do is create more jewelry! What to do? Make more stones. Second only to the excitement of setting some of the stones from the last batch was the anticipation of getting into more of the rough stuff we got recently. Most of the dark swirls in the pieces above are the sparkling swirls of marcasite through the plumey goodness of the agate. Things that sparkle naturally, like druzy, make me weak in the knees. Marcasite is metallic so the plumes look like metal in the stone and the tiny bits look like glitter suspended in the agate. Yes, the love affair continues.

Palette of Gems

It's an extreme pleasure to be able to actually create the 'painter's palette' that I use when designing jewelry. From a week's hard work, I have a new spectrum of different colors and shapes to choose from. Each new stone has been hand polished on the lapidary machines by me, and by the time that we're done with that journey, I've had enough time with them to imagine how I'd like to set them.


Plume Agate

with Marcasite

Usually, I can barely wait to set the stones I've just polished from raw rocks. These were some ugly ducklings in the field that turned out to be quite exciting in the studio. New colors, minerals, shapes, and dendritic forms emerged in front of my very eyes when polishing these stones. Not to mention the fact that they had some very nice saturated colors.


Echoes in the Stone

Set to work I did on this setting this piece of honey colored agate with white, blue and marcasite dendrites blooming through it like a skipped stone echoing a bouquet of ripples on a pond. I was so mesmerized by this little one that I went back to the raw rock pile to look for more of any similar kind. I am happy and relieved to say that there are a few more stones with this patterning so I don't have to keep this one.

Slices of the Deep Sea

In the past, I have hated making earrings. It's strong vernacular, but doing anything twice goes against my creative, artistic grain. In the creation of the earrings in the latest body of work, an element of the distaste has completely vanished. Because of the raw and asymmetrical nature of the metal-smithing, each piece gets to be a stand alone exploration into texture, mixing of metals, shapes, and sculptural concepts. Long story short; now it's fun and not so much like pulling teeth. 

This pair of earrings, fresh off the bench, were a pleasure to create. I had not tried the exact way of engraving before, I hadn't blended the patina black silver with the Keum Boo in this way before, I hadn't floated black pearls out in front of anything like this before either.  The trip into the frontier was akin to the deep sea diving for those pearls of wisdom these earrings visually represent to me. They're little slices of the big, deep sea garnering the little gifts to be found.


In the Deep Sea

Engraved, Patina Treated Fine Silver, Hammered Keum Boo, Black Pearls, Sterling Silver

Crazy For Keum Boo...

Those who have been to the gallery have met me (Karen Britt) most likely. Many days I am pinned behind my bench-pin sitting low at my jewelry work-haven at work. Today, a visitor to the gallery and I were equally startled by each other as I was deep in focus (on the earrings in the thumbnail) while they quietly snuck up on the jewelry counter not noticing me either. We were both in our own 'zone' and galleries are good 'zoney' places. On the pretty days, I am out on the landing overlooking the Yaquina Bay polishing stones and doing the dirty work on the finishing of the jewelry pieces (getting a tan). 

My grandfather loved to fabricate in his metal-smithing and I believe I received the genetic propensity for it as well. Lately in the gallery/studio, Keum Boo has been what's cooking in addition to mixing other metals. Many of you have purchased pieces and heard the story about it but desired an explanation in writing so here goes:

Keum Boo is an Ancient Korean method of fusing Gold (23.5k) to Fine Silver (99.9). For more information about the history, google is awesome. My mom learned to do it decades ago and I was instantly jealous though it took me many years to catch up to her. One uses heat and friction to create a mechanical bond between the two metals without solder. The result is a terrain-change-free blending of the two. Often, the fine silver is hammered or textured before the application of the gold to give it topography from which to glimmer and glow. In addition, one may opt to 'patina' the silver with Liver of Sulfur (potassium sulfide) for a bluish-black contrast to the gold that does not oxidize. All these results are delicious, inspiring, and somewhat habit forming.

The earrings in the thumbnail are actually an amalgam of 4 metals (going for the mega-mixed-metals award). The platforms are copper textured and treated with patina, overlaid with hammered fine silver and gold Keum Boo, the prongs, loops, and earring wires are sterling silver. The harmony and contrast of hues and textures are the goal.

Keum Boo is touching many of the pieces in the jewelry counter as of late. See it on the stone necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, and even dare I say it, some pieces of art on the walls! Check out the New Jewelry Gallery for the latest pieces.



Engraved Shibuishi Copper/Silver alloy, Hammered Keum Boo, Sterling Silver Prong Setting