December 11, 2020

My Jewellery Journey: from Glass to Turquoise

My Jewellery Journey: from Glass to Turquoise
Murano Glass for Making Beads 
In 2015 in a small shop in Norfolk, I watched as a jewellery store owner demonstrated how to make stunning vibrant coloured glass beads in her shop.  I was mesmerised by the colour of the glass.  All the blues, greens, reds and oranges where just up my alley.  
So when I returned home to Hampshire, I searched for a class on how to learn to create these stunning glass beads to make strung jewellery which I had been making for years.  I found a class, however keeping the glass level, with a flame near my face and potential popping glass (it happens) wasn't for me.  But this class led me to discover a local silversmith in Chichester and here I learned how to make my first silver ring and I loved it.  But I wanted more...
New Mexico Land of Enchantment
Travelling to New Mexico
In February of 2016 during the school holiday, I decided not to go to my in-laws but instead to take a silversmithing class in Taos, New Mexico, in the high desert of southwest America.  My artist/teacher in Taos had been making beautiful jewellery for 50 years and she specialised in setting unusually shaped stones.  So, I made the trip alone, driving through mountain and desert on the open roads in vast open spaces.  To say it was beautiful is an understatement.  The sunsets and landscapes are just stunning.
New Mexico, Los Alamos
View of Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Background from Los Alamos
Sunset in Santa Fe Facing Jemez Mountains
Sunset Over Santa Fe and Jemez Mountains
The architecture is so different to both the eastern US (where I was born) and to England where I have made my home for over 23 years.
Santa Fe Casita
Santa Fe Casita (small house) 
Falling in love with turquoise
On this trip I learned so much - how to solder, how to file and saw and  how to make bezels (silver around the stone) and how to set stones.
Setting Turquoise in a Ring
Setting my first Turquoise Ring
But more importantly the teacher introduced me to the owners of the stone shops.  When I pulled out  the long, wide drawers of turquoise, nothing could have prepared me for all the amazing colour variations I saw.
American Turquoise
Turquoise Drawers in Taos, New Mexico 
Until that point, I had thought turquoise to be a standard blue colour.  But there was so much variation in the stones I saw, it was breathtaking - from beautiful light blue, to dark blues to striking greens and also stones with a lot of matrix, which are the lines from the host rock showing through the turquoise. This array of colours satisfied me and settled what I would work with.
The best thing was that all these stones were mined in the USA where I was born.  So I decided then and there American mined turquoise would be what I would make and sell.  These stones were stunning and here was a way for me to add my love of colour to the sparkly silver I was learning how to make.
Since this first trip to New Mexico,  I have never looked back.  I have been making jewellery ever since, primarily turquoise rings, pendants and earrings from different US mines and I return New Mexico every year to learn more.