Friday, December 18, 2009

My Cubic Zirconia Discovery

I always hunt for new stones and beads and each time I discover something new. My future goal is to travel to India to find a nice collection of stones and shapes that hard to find in Toronto.
But meantime I am still here and trying to find interesting addition to my wirework jewelry in Toronto and US.
Lately, I have discovered a beauty of cubic zirconia. You can find my first set of lariat necklace and earrings in my shop.
To my surprise I was offered to review some collection of Cubic Zirconia from ArtBeads that was sent to me free of charge. I was so thrilled to have them added to my beaded treasury. Though I have been so busy with this Holiday season, I couldn’t resist and decided at least to have one piece of jewelry made with this stone. I selected one particular stone which came in light amethyst color and designed a necklace with sterling silver wire that I oxidized for more drama and character. I am not a professional photographer and I did my best to show off a beauty of this bead. It’s a long drop faceted so uniquely that you can see color darkens at the tip of drop which adds so much elegance and luxurious.

Besides that I received amazing Cubic Zirconia beads from ArtBeads, I have also enjoyed their customer service and really responsive replies to all my questions. Special thanks to Duchess Erickson.

Disclosure: I received the products from free of charge and I have not been paid for my endorsement of the products and I have honestly reviewed their products .

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pearls: Natural Pearls and Cultured Pearls

Since I launched my new Etsy shop where I introduce my new Bridal line using a lot of high quality pearls while having affordable prices by making more simple pieces I hear a lot of comments from people stating that I probably use non-natural pearls because real pearls should be way more expensive. So here is some answers to those questions.

Natural pearls vs cultured pearls
A "natural pearl" is one that forms without any human intervention at all, in the wild, and is very rare. Many hundreds of pearl oysters or pearl mussels have to be gathered and opened, and thus killed, in order to find even one wild pearl, and for many centuries that was the only way pearls were obtained. This was the main reason why pearls fetched such extraordinary prices in the past. A cultured pearl, on the other hand, is one that has been formed with human intervention on a pearl farm. The vast majority of pearls on the market today are cultured pearls.
A well equipped gem testing laboratory is able to distinguish natural pearls from cultured pearls by using a gemological x-ray in order to examine the center of a pearl. With an x-ray it is possible to see the growth rings of the pearl, where the layers of calcium carbonate are separated by thin layers of conchiolin. The differentiation of natural pearls from tissue-nucleated cultured pearls can be very difficult without the use of this x-ray technique.

Do natural pearls exist nowadays?

Quality natural pearls are very rare jewels. The actual value of a natural pearl is determined in the same way as it would be for other "precious" gems. The valuation factors include size, shape, quality of surface, orient and luster.
Single natural pearls are often sold as a collector's item, or set as centerpieces in unique jewelry. Very few matched strands of natural pearls exist, and those that do often sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Previously, natural pearls were found in many parts of the world. Present day natural pearling is confined mostly to seas off Bahrain. Australia also has one of the world's last remaining fleets of pearl diving ships. Australian pearl divers dive for south sea pearl oysters to be used in the cultured south sea pearl industry. The catch of pearl oysters is similar to the numbers of oysters taken during the natural pearl days. Hence significant numbers of natural pearls are still found in the Australian Indian Ocean waters from wild oysters.

How to distinguish between cultured pearls and fake pearls?

The method of testing for imitations is to rub the pearl against the surface of a front tooth. Imitation pearls are completely smooth, but natural and cultured pearls are composed of nacre platelets, which feel slightly gritty.

Definition of pearl

Almost any shelled mollusk can produce some kind of "pearl" when an irritating microscopic object becomes trapped within the mollusk's mantle folds, but the great majority of these "pearls" are not valued as gemstones. Nacreous pearls, the best-known and most commercially-significant pearls, are primarily produced by two groups of mollusks bivalves or clams. A nacreous pearl is made from layers of nacre, by the same living process as is used in the secretion of the mother of pearl which lines the shell.

Fresh water and sea water pearls

One family of nacreous pearl bivalves, the pearl oysters, lives in the sea while the other, very different group of bivalves lives in freshwater; these are the river mussels such as the freshwater pearl mussel. Natural freshwater pearls form in various species of freshwater mussels, family Unionidae, which live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. These freshwater pearl mussels occur not only in hotter climates, but also in colder more temperate areas such as Scotland: see the freshwater pearl mussel. However, most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China. In addition, pearls (especially cultured freshwater pearls) can be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple, or black
Saltwater pearls can grow in several species of marine pearl oysters in the family Pteriidae which live in oceans. Saltwater pearl oysters are usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls.

The development of pearl farming

Today, almost all pearls used for jewelry are cultured by planting a core or nucleus into pearl oysters. The pearls are usually harvested after one year for akoya, 2–4 years for Tahitian and South Sea, and 2–7 years for freshwater. The nucleus is generally a polished bead made from freshwater mussel shell. Along with a small piece of mantle tissue from another mollusk to serve as a catalyst for the pearl sac, it is surgically implanted into the gonad (reproductive organ) of a saltwater mollusk. In freshwater perliculture, only the piece of tissue is used in most cases, and is inserted into the fleshy mantle of the host mussel. South Sea and Tahitian pearl oysters, also known as Pinctada maxima and Pinctada margaritifera, which survive the subsequent surgery to remove the finished pearl, are often implanted with a new, larger nucleus as part of the same procedure and then returned to the water for another 2–3 years of growth.
The original Japanese cultured pearls, known as akoya pearls, are produced by a species of small pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata martensii, which is no bigger than 6 to 8 cm in size, hence akoya pearls larger than 10 mm in diameter are extremely rare and highly prized. Today, a hybrid mollusk is used in both Japan and China in the production of akoya pearls. It is a cross between the original Japanese species, and the Chinese species Pinctada chemnitzii.

Recent pearl production

China has recently overtaken Japan in akoya pearl production. Japan has all but ceased its production of akoya pearls smaller than 8 mm. Japan maintains its status as a pearl processing center, however, and imports the majority of Chinese akoya pearl production. These pearls are then processed (often simply matched and sorted), relabeled as product of Japan, and exported.
In the past couple of decades, cultured pearls have been produced using larger oysters in the south Pacific and Indian Ocean. The largest pearl oyster is the Pinctada maxima, which is roughly the size of a dinner plate. South Sea pearls are characterized by their large size and warm luster. Sizes up to 14 mm in diameter are not uncommon. South Sea pearls are primarily produced in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

So you think you want to start a jewelry making business…

I have compiled some start-up advice for you. These suggestions are completely based on my own experience, and I hope that they are relevant to your business goals….

1. Medium – You have probably decided in what medium you want to work. If this medium is at low price range, then go for it and try your hand at it. You can switch to more expensive materials later on when you feel more confident. I personally started with sterling silver wire at a very early stage of my designs, and I think it was a really big mistake.
Copper is much cheaper and can be found at any hardware store. It is an excellent medium to practise wire wrapping techniques and as finished products, copper jewelry pieces are very beautiful and interesting.

2. Tools – Good tools are essential and, although they might be very pricey, they will pay for themselves later on. Don’t buy a set of tools even if the price point looks good to you. You don’t know at the beginning if you will use them all. Buy them as you go.

3. Your Company Name – Before you register your name, Google that name to check if it has been taken and is being used by other people or companies. I still like my company name - Ingo - which contains the two first letters of my first and last names. However, I think that adding the word 'Jewelry' was a mistake. First of all, this word has two different spellings and it might create difficulties when people look me up. Secondly, when I decided to have my own jewelry tags, I had to fit the whole ‘Ingo Jewelry’ name on it and this made my tag hard to read…

4. Improving Your Skills – You might consider taking extra classes or courses. Well, it’s always a good idea to increase your knowledge. I personally like to learn from books. Books are always a good source of information that resides just within your reach… I have taken two classes and found them close to useless. My goal was to learn about tools and techniques. Instead I was making pieces following the instructor’s taste and directions. They were all so primitive and poorly designed. So before registering for any class or course, make sure that you understand the course description. Buying a specific tutorial from an artist can be another good approach.

5. Organizing a Studio – I have read and heard that many artists work in their dinning room, kitchen or bedroom. Certainly not everyone can afford to have a special designate place. However, when you have at least small hidden corner of your house where you can easily leave your creative mess while you go back to your normal routine, you will be surprisingly more productive and even more motivated. When I have even 15 min time break, I go to my studio. Well, it’s not enough time to start a new project, but you can spend this time on fast cleaning or making some sketches too… There is always a pile of things which can be done in any given period of time.

Monday, April 6, 2009

How to add your business to Google Local Business Center

Adding your business to your local Google Maps can bring your local customers right to you if you list your business in local Google Maps.

It can be done in 10 min and here is how:

1. Type or (or Google of your country)

2. Click on 'Put your business on Google Maps' on the left side of your screen

3. You might be asked to login to your google account.

4. After login you will be navigated to 'Enter Business Information' screen. Please note that you need to provide a full name of your business as it says in your business card or any other promotional items you distribute along with your products in field of 'Company/Organization:' Also provide a short description in this field in order for your business to be searched by key words.

For example: mine looks like 'Ingo Jewelry - Unique handcrafted sterling silver wire jewelry'

5. Enter all additional information in other sections.

6. In Photos section you can add max 10 images (Though I couldn't figure out what sizes are acceptable, however I added my business card image)

7. After submitting you will be navigated to confirmation page. In order to activate your listing you will be asked to confirm that by a SMS or a call. Follow the instructions as per your selections and you will be notified that your listing has been confirmed.

It may take one day for your listing to appear in your search.

To test your listing go to (or other country of yours) and type key words along with your city/region location.

If you don't see your listing in your results try to edit Company/Organization: field.

How to edit your listing after submission:

1. Type again or (or Google of your country) and click on 'Put your business on Google Maps' on the left side of your screen.

2. You will be navigated to your listing summary page where you can select Edit to update/change your listing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Organic Simplicity Exhibition.

I am very excited to announce that I have been selected by a very exclusive jewelry store in Toronto’s downtown core which is going to feature my work for April showcase with open after hours reception on April 23 at 5:00pm where I am going to meet with potential customers and answer questions about my work and design.

18 Karat jewelers has spanned across two generations, with brothers Massimo and Dino Giannetti carrying this family-run business into Toronto's downtown core, where it has lived for over 25 years.

Take a look at my Organic Simplicity Collection here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

DIY Light Box

This Light Box is made with foam boards and it can be done within an hour. Here is how....

1. You will need two of those. You can find them in any Wal-Mart store in the section where Bristol Papers are. They are 22" by 28". You have to cut them in half to have 4 boards of 14" by 22". Use 3 of these boards for sides and back panels. Cut last fourth panel into 2 pieces - one is 14" by 14" will serve as top (roof) panel and second is just 14" by 8" which is enough for bottom part to hold the shape.

2. All walls are joined with masking tape. As you see in the Ready for shooting picture I have fixed lamp with daylight bulb that I can't use in position other that lightening from the top. To accommodate this setting I made an opening covered with trace paper (from any dollar store, craft section)

3. Place lights on both sides of your light box and as it shown in my case I place top light through the window. Make sure your lights on sides beam to the opposite wall to have defused effect. Now it's ready for shooting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Discover new mode in your camera for your product pictures

If you are not satisfied with your Macro settings pictures so maybe it’s time to experiment with something else.
I personally had difficulties to take my pictures on contrast background, specifically pearls on black fabric. Also, I had problems to catch flashes in stones like labradorite for instance.

Since, I have never heard other suggestions but Macro setting so I was constantly annoying my husband blaming wrong settings/lightbox/camera/lamps and etc. Well, I had to have someone to blame. He helped me a lot with that, since he had good knowledge in this matter.

So one day he decided to try AV setting in out Cannon Power Shot S70 camera. Wow, results were amazing. You don’t have to be that close to your item. With 5 or more Mega Pixels you can always crop your image with no harm to quality.

Here it goes:

AV or A (AV in Cannon and A in Nikon).

AV or A mode determines whether all the photograph is in focus or part of. Like you can choose to have a sharp foreground and background, or you can blur the background. If you have SLR camera aperture is indicated by F-number value. The higher the F number, the greater depth of field of the photo that will be in focus. In other words, the higher F-number the smaller the hole in camera lens. You can see what aperture your digital camera is set at by looking at the back LCD screen for a F number. To understand that better I would recommend refer to your camera user manual guide to find out how to change F-number for your camera. The best way to understand how aperture works is to take numerous photographs with different f-number values and see what the difference is.

Shutter Speed.

You also need to understand what shutter speed is. In my case my camera determines stutter speed automatically. In theory shutter speed is amount of time a digital cameras shutter is held open for when taking a photograph. Shutter speed allows light to reach the cameras image sensor.Depending on your camera you will need to point your sensor on the brightest spot of your item. Again you have to refer to your camera user guide to find out how to change shutter speed and experiment with different settings to see the difference.

ISO Number.

ISO denotes how sensitive the image sensor is to the amount of light present. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the image sensor. This increase in sensitivity does not come free. There is a price to pay with your image appearing more noisy. ISO speed affects the shutter speed / aperture combinations you can use to obtain correct exposure.
If you set your digital camera to a low ISO, for example 100, the resulting photograph will be less noisy than one set at 1600. Therefore go for a low ISO number whenever possible.

Don’t forget.

Have proper lightening in well constructed light box.
Always use tripod.
Set white balance.


Now look at this necklace photographed in Macro and AV mode. Finally I got labardoriote flashy stones shown.

AV Setting

Macro Setting

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Glass background for your picture shots

I have been always attracted to jewelry photography on glass background because of reflection that makes jewelry even more sophisticated.
I have been experimenting with this and I still am.
I would like to share my latest tutorial on how to make a nice glass background for your picture shot.

You will need:
  • Cut glass
  • Succors
  • Masking tape
  • Silver acrylic paint from Michael's (spray may work even better)
  • Sponge brush

1. Take a piece of cut glass in a size that is suitable to your item size. Can be just glass from any old pictures frame.

2. Wash it with the soap and dry it with paper towel.

3. Apply at least two coats of paint on one side of glass. Let it dry between second (or third) coat. Let is completely dry.

4. Cut stripes of masking tape and wrap all sharp edges of the glass. You don't want bleeding while taking pictures shots. How do I know? ;)

5. Place the glass painted side down in your light box and enjoy experimenting.

6. Some more ideas. I have painted another piece of glass in black color. Looks stunning. But be careful of a mirror effect that reflects everything. Though I managed to crop that properly. :)
Next time I am going to try to paint with white color.

7. Almost forgot. When you remove your newly painted glass from your lightbox don't put it on the chair beside you... You may forget and sit down on it. Guess again how do I know that too? LOL