Monday, December 19, 2016

7 Gift Ideas for Jewelers (or yourself!)

Do tools make it easier to make jewelry? Well, not by themselves, but sometimes yes! When used correctly and at hand, a good tool can make all the difference. Here's a list of tools that make a difference. Some might even say they're life changing - when it comes to making jewelry, that is. How they change the rest of your life is up to you.

( 1 ) Miter Vise 
Can't file a right angle to save your life? A miter vise, also known as a filing block is a great friend when it comes to sawing and filing right angles and 45° angles on wire, sheet and tubing. Just slide your metal in place between the jaws and saw and/or file to the flat face of the block. Done! This is a great aid for making good joins for soldering. Just use a cheap file with the miter vise. Filing against the hardened steel of the block can wear out their teeth. $62.95

Buy it at Silvera Jewelry School. Limited time offer - 20% Discount Code HOHOHOLIDAYS good through 1/10/2017

( 2 ) Magnetic Finisher 
This tool has changed how we polish. Now you can make a ring, earrings, etc., polish it to a 400-600 grit finish (in other words get rid of scale, scratches and defects), and then drop it in the magnetic polisher. In as little as 20 minutes the super fine steel shot in this machine will render a beautiful polish on your pieces. The fine shot also gets into all the nooks and crannies in your pieces, unlike larger shot. They're pricey, but think of the time it can save you? While it's polishing, you can do other work. $470

Buy it at or

( 3 ) Quick Change Handpiece 
Change bits without a chuck key! Just turn the switch to open and close the chuck, to easily load new bits. The slender handle is more comfortable and the clever design allows you to hold it near the bit for better control. Love my quick change handpiece! Works with any flex shaft brand that uses a key hole style shaft, including Foredom. $44.95

Buy it at Silvera Jewelry School. Limited time offer - 20% Discount Code HOHOHOLIDAYS good through 1/10/2017

( 4 ) Bench 
The jewelry bench is the missing tool. It's everything you need at hand, in a small foot print. Plus the bench puts your work at the right height for the best ergonomic work station. And you can leave your bench and come back and pick up where you left off anytime. Trick it out with a GRS removable bench pin and a GRS soldering station for even more jewelry-time enjoyment. $310 or more

Buy it at (or pick them up if your local at their warehouse in Oakland, CA)

( 5 ) Fine Files 
Fine files, like Swiss cut #4 files are fantastic for clean up on your pieces without leaving a coarse file texture, or to remove that coarse file texture from other files! I recommend at least a #4 Swiss cut half round hand file and a #4 Swiss Cut half round needle file (great for rounding the sharp edges of ring shanks). While you're at it, get a set of Frederich Dick needle files with handles. These are the best and really do make filing easier and more effective. I recommend either a medium #3 or fine #5 cut (these are German files, so German numbering system).  $6.95 +

Buy it at Silvera Jewelry School. Limited time offer - 20% Discount Code HOHOHOLIDAYS good through 1/10/2017

( 6 ) Pepe Disc Cutter 
Pepe has made a fantastic disc cutter that you'll love. Use it to pop out smooth edged discs. And you can get it with a centering tool for making washers. If you like circles, you'll love this disc cutter.  $189.00

Buy it at

 7 ) Guillotine 
No one is chopping off any heads, so relax. A guillotine is used to cut metal sheet. As opposed to a bench shear that cuts sheet and distorts it, a guillotine cuts evenly across the sheet for a flat even cut. Use it to quickly cut blanks wit straight edges and right angle ends. We  have a rolling mill too, but we use the guillotine 10 times more for cutting bracelet and ring blanks, and lots more.  $6.95 +

Buy it at

Bonus time! Do you have an flex shaft and wish you had better speed control with your pedal? You don't have to buy a whole new machine. Just upgrade your pedal. Lucas Dental makes a great foot pedal with fantastic speed control for just about any flex shaft. Turn your inexpensive flex shaft into a luxury machine with their Low Boy Foot Pedal for just $49. It makes it easier to use burs for settings like flush and tube, and lots more tasks.

Well, there are always more tools you can buy that are wonderful new additions to your collection. But I hope you enjoyed this list and that one or more of these make you or someone special very happy. Thanks!

- Joe Silvera

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Interview with Cielomar Cuevas of Cielomar Jewelry

I'd like to share with you an interview with Cielomar Cuevas, owner and designer of Cielomar Jewelry. It was our pleasure, Anat and I at Silvera Jewelry School, to be a small part of her beginning with the craft of jewelry. She's graciously allowed us to share her story of how she has started her gorgeous jewelry line and new business, to help inspire our students and budding jewelers.

(Silvera Jewelry School) How did you get your start making jewelry?

(Cielomar) I’ve always loved art and design and enjoy collecting unique jewelry during my travels. When I moved to California in 2010, I took an intro to jewelry class at CCA where I learned the basics about jewelry making. After taking the class several times, I decided to seek other learning opportunities in the Bay Area where I could learn a variety of jewelry making techniques in order to build expertise and hone my craft…and that’s when I found Silvera Jewelry School! I started by taking torch enamel classes with Anat and I fell in love with the school. Soon after, I set a goal for myself to take every single class that interested me and that I could possibly fit into my schedule in order to accelerate my learning and develop my style. I took a great amount of classes including Torch Enamel, Lost Wax Casting, Keum Boo, Stone Setting, Chain Making and even a fantastic workshop with Jayne Redman were I learned about making multiples with blanking dies and making jigs. In 2014 I established my home studio and launched an online shop, as a response to my love for making jewelry and the incredible support from friends and family for my jewelry designs.

(SJS)Your degree is in graphics and design. And you're currently a full time art director. How does your graphics background influence your jewelry design?

(C) My graphic design background drives the way I design and make jewelry in many ways. I’m inspired by bold geometric shapes and develop my designs in terms of the components that create the overall piece. I always start with a loose sketch and then take the design to the computer to create templates whenever precision cutting is required.  In addition to this, my full time job influences my jewelry designs greatly since I’m always searching for the latest fashion and cultural trends as well as researching unique materials and techniques to apply to my work. 

(SJS) You have a wonderful website. Any advice for jewelry artists starting out on the best way to make a professional looking website? 

(C) First and foremost, I think that a website is a never-ending work in progress and once you are ok with that idea the pressure of having a perfect website goes away. I’ve been working on my website for about a year now, always adding new features to improve the way customers experience my brand. I use Squarespace as my platform and I find it very user friendly and I love all of the integrations that it offers including: Mailchimp, Xero, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Lastly, but actually most important is to have consistent photography that is well lit and reflects your brand. Since the customer is not seeing the piece in person, you have to help them understand everything about your jewelry through your images including: color, texture, scale, value and even and how to style it. 

(SJS) This month you're donating part of your sales to benefit research for a cure for breast cancer. I can tell this is important for you. Can you talk about why?

(C) In recent months two close people in my life have been diagnosed with breast cancer and knowing that they have to go through this process has been very difficult. I decided to partner with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in order to do my part in finding a cure for breast cancer. During the month of October, I’m donating 10% of every sale completed through my website and I also have a fundraising page where people can donate with no purchase necessary. If you are interested in learning more about our fundraising you can also visit,

(SJS) You're balancing a full time job AND a jewelry business. Any advice for artists who are just starting and looking to juggle the same or similar commitments? 

(C) I’ve been able to balance a full time job and a jewelry business by being consistent with my schedule and allocating time for work, jewelry making and family. I make time every day to work on my jewelry business and I divide my tasks by day in order to make the most with the time that I have available. Tasks include designing, ordering materials, jewelry making, accounting, photography and website updates. I also make sure to go to bed by 11:00 PM in order to get enough rest and be productive the next day. Another important thing when starting a jewelry business is to surround yourself with other jewelry makers that are developing their own businesses and understand your needs. Find a local school, an online jewelry community or even an industry organization like SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) where you can talk to other makers, ask questions, stay up to date on the latest in the industry and connected with your community.

(SJS) How do you find inspiration for your designs? Is it a favorite artist or jeweler? How do you get those creative ideas flowing when you're a little stuck? 

(C) I’m always looking for inspiration everywhere I go and I love photographing things that inspire me including architecture, street art and sculptures. I’m especially inspired by Joan MirĂ³ and Alexander Calder because of their minimalistic style and unique shapes. Additionally, I always have a pencil and a post-it pad close by to keep track of the design ideas that pop into my head on a daily basis. I review them afterwards and select my favorites to develop depending on my line needs…although sometimes I make things because I love them and they excite me. Time on the bench should be fun as well!

(SJS) And what does the future hold for Cielomar, in say 5 years? 

(C) I’m currently focused on developing a jewelry line that is more production focused in order to fabricate inventory at a larger scale. I recently started collaborating with a local mold maker and caster, and they are helping me to develop components for my line that I can then use to create a variety of jewelry designs. I’m also looking to expand my brand presence to boutique stores that fit my brand aesthetic as well as museum stores across the US. I’m excited to continue refining my brand aesthetic and connecting with other unique women who love to make a statement everyday!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Setting up a Bench Pin and Sweeps Tray for Travel

Do you make jewelry but you don't have a jewelry bench? Or do you need to make jewelry on the go, at a show, and wish you had some of the basic comforts of a bench? Well, here's a couple of ideas I'd like to share.

There are lots of kitchen table jewelers out there (I guess I should know, since I wrote: Soldering Made Simple: Easy Techniques for Kitchen Table Jewelers in 2010 ). Your average table is too low for sawing and filing. The bench pin should be level with your sternum for that kind of work, or you risk back and neck pain. Having the bench pin closer to your eyes makes it easier to see what you're doing, too.

When we travel to teach often the tables are very basic and too low. On the last trip to teach at Alaska Bead Company in Anchorage, I worked at the wrong height, and I was in pain after just a few days. So I grabbed a spare box/drawer from a small Ikea cabinet. I clamped the box to the table top and then clamped the bench pin to the box. Even with an adjustable office chair, the box made all the difference and my back feels great. Very light for travel. By the way, this is a v-slot bench pin that comes with a clamp. But I find when I use a real c-clamp it doesn't move as much from side to side. I used the clamp that came with the pin to help clamp it to the table. Another trick would be to screw the bench pin to the box to make it more secure.

The other thing I miss when I'm traveling is my sweeps drawer. It kills me to drop precious metal dust and scrap onto myself and the floor - what a waste! And then there's all the bits and tools that fall off the table, too, that used to get caught by the drawer.

After a little brainstorming, I came up with a leather sweeps bag to attach to the table (ignore the chaos on the floor, please, but at least you know this was really used away from the studio!).

The parts were easy. I found some inexpensive leather (luckily the location where I was teaching was next door to Tandy Leather). You could even buy a cheap leather garment and recycle it into your new bench bag. Hmm, maybe a use for those tragically depressing leather pants in the closet? And if it's a coat, as Charles Lewton-Brain points out in his fantastic must-have book The Jewelers Bench Book, you can sew up the sleeves to make handy tool holders. I cut the leather down to the size I wanted, with a straight front, and cut out sections on each side to make tabs to hook around the dowels.

Now a trip to the hardware store. I bought a dowel and cut it to size for two pieces 18" long each. I could only find a round dowel. Square would be much easier to clamp. I wrapped the last 3" of each end of each dowel with velcro tape. I put the other half of the velcro tape on the back side of those leather tabs I cut out. Then I clamped it to the table with a couple of 4-6" c-clamps. I stuck the tabs onto the dowels. They stayed, and the connection was tight. Step one complete. Total cost: less than $25.

Clamping the dowels under the table gives the bag support and let's you adjust the tilt to hold the sweeps. This table has a metal frame underneath, so I cobbled together some quick spacers for the clamps to hold properly. When I snap the middle of the leather bag lightly downwards, it funnels all the dust into a neat pile for easy sweeping into a container.

This may seem a bit MacGyver for some, but I love it and it was a big smile-making difference in my work and comfort. Of course, you can make better or prettier versions for a home jewelry studio that uses a standard table. In fact, you can get a bench pin with a metal frame to raise its height. And some students use a bench vise to hold the bench pin (hey, and it swivels out of the way, and it has a built in anvil, and it's... a vise!).

Another idea I've seen used for a sweeps drawer is a under-the-table keyboard tray. Of course, you want anything for sweeps to be low enough that you still have room to comfortably saw and file, and high enough to sit just above your thighs when seated. I'm sure you could find a couple of pieces of wood to use as spacers to adjust the height.

Hopefully these tricks are helpful for our students at Silvera Jewelry School, when they want to set up to practice at home.

Hmm, note to self: now make that box fit my GRS mounting plate so I can use my GRS Bench Pin and GRS Soldering Station...