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Rolling the Dice

Posted by Christine Barbour on

The spirit of something has gotten into this watermelon tourmaline ring. When I saw the incredible polished slice with its dark eye watching me steadily, I knew it needed to be bezel set in sterling. That way maximum light gets in and the fair pink and green color that overlay the glassy crackles would have its best chance to shine.

But Rocks have a mind of their own. Don't let anyone tell you they don't. And in my experience, jewelry making begins with listening to what they tell you.

So I  designed the setting. Made it. Set it. But try what I would the bezel seams on one side kept splitting. Still the Rock sat in the setting so perfectly I knew it was telling me to remove it at my peril.

I tried cutting the metal on the other sides so the split would look like a feature, not a flaw.

Worse. Much worse. And more to fix. 

I knew that what I wanted to do was to just drop some solder on the openings and melt it in. My gut said "go for it." The Rock said "go for it." My metal guru Nancy Lee who I consulted on the matter did not smile benignly on either of us. She knew there was no way that heat was going to do that mystical tourmaline any good and what I admire so much about Nancy is that she always does things the right, precise and beautiful way, a good counterpart to my impulsive risk-taking nature. (Nancy is the author of the Idiots Guide to Making Metal Jewelry who I am pretty sure was thinking, "yup, this book is for YOU, Christine.)

But I dunno. On the side of taking it apart and doing it perfectly from scratch was the hope that it might be perfect. But I've been at this long enough to know that perfect doesn't happen (to me, at least) and sometimes improv is the name of the game. It's certainly the name of MY game. My best stuff has been born of serendipity, not design. 

I dropped the solder. I lit the torch. I heated. I melted. I cooled. I pickled in salt and vinegar. I filed and polished.  I dropped more solder. Torched. Rinsed. Repeated. Several times.  

I knew Nancy was right about the stone and she was. Tourmalines can't take heat and keep their original appearance. Sometimes they don't survive at all. But this particular stone was working with me. Yes it darkened. Got more opaque and internally crackled. Got more interesting, in fact. But it hung in there. Didn't go black (though the eye glared at me once or twice.). And it emerged a little scathed but still a small work of nature's art. Bloody but unbowed.

Life's lessons learned at the bench? Many, most of them obvious and cliche (coming through the fire, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Blah, blah, blah.)

Did I learn them? Probably not. Because next time I promise you, the urge to roll the dice will possess me again.

The Rock is with me on this. 


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  • This tale is told beautifully, Christine. I’m so glad it worked out and that your ring has a happy home. Sweet story!

    Nancy Lee on

  • Everything that Christine said about this ring is so true. It is mine – I received it today. And it was meant to be mine. Karma – I asked her about the ring size, marked 3.75, because I just could not see this as a pinkie ring. I benefited from the typo. It fits my ring finger perfectly and I can also wear it just over the knuckle of my index finger for a bohemian look. dcbRocks! Merry Christmas to me! And Merry Christmas to Christine, my new friend…

    Patricia Madden on

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