In the Studio with Nancy, Volume 8, 5/28/23

Volume 8 – The Faceted Stone Issue and A Lot More!

Updated 10/15/23

Sorry, the formatting from the original newsletter doesn’t like WordPress’s formatting, so this looks a little goofy.

(That’s me above, happily typing this newsletter!)

Hello to all the new subscribers!  Thank you all so much, and hey, welcome to the Newsletter!

Since the last issue, I’ve put out a few new videos, written many emails, and created several new pages (I also went to Las Vegas).  I was going to have a new website built and had been in the process of doing that for at least six months.  Unfortunately, the new site stalled, fell from the sky and crashed.  Now, another one is in the works but, I will not hold my breath, and I will wear a parachute at all times! (Flying analogy #1)

*Image of mountains on the drive home from Lost Wages (Las Vegas).

Recent Videos and Webpages



These pages are composed of responses to emails and provide relevant links to the subject. Hopefully, this section of my website will help if you are searching for a solution to a problem.

Tools that can be used by jewelers and metalsmiths from Harbor Freight.  Of course, this section doesn’t cover every tool ever used by a metalsmith.  But it does highlight quite a few.

This section covers tools I purchased that either worked for me or didn’t from Micro-Mark.

I added a few new charts – probably some redundancy here, but when I finally get anchored to my desk and write, I’m a bit compulsive. Those new charts are Wire Gauge B&S, AWG, and European Cross Section MM2. Also: A Comparison of Closest Matching Gauges with Standard Drill Bits (there are rumors about that I may be exhibiting nerd-like behavior). The next scintillating chart is Gauges and their Closest Matching Drill Bits with Lengths per Ounce for Silver (actually, I don’t think they should be considered just rumors anymore), and finally, the last of my obsessive, compulsive, self-abuse:  Drill Bit Sizes in MM’s and Decimals – (Smaller Sizes) with closest Matching B&S and A.W.G. Gauges.

Please check out the Class I’m teaching at Art is You in Petaluma on September 26, 2014.  Sign up early to ensure a seat in this limited-size class! Art is You has great classes and amazing people, and the food at lunch is worth the price of admission!  So, check out Art is You and My Class!

This is the cuff we are creating in this class.


If you buy a faceted stone and want to know whether the stone has been cut at the correct angles, lay the stone over some writing and look through the table.  Can you clearly read the writing?  If so, the stone is incorrectly faceted. It could also be glass. The area where you can see the writing through is called a window.  You don’t want a big window on your stone – you want to see facets, light, and sparkle. Are the facets evenly distributed? (Good). Is it poorly polished? (Bad, obviously!)

Check the girdle:  does it have a knife edge? (Bad) Is it symmetrical? (Good)  Is it very thick? (difficult to set) Uneven? (Bad)  All these elements will add to the difficulty level when setting the stone. Look at a setting bur.  Will your stone set well within the shape that it cuts?  Use a round bur for slightly misshapen stones.  I once bought several tiny, inexpensive rubies (about 1.5mm).  They were all cut so poorly that I couldn’t set one of them.  

Other issues to address when purchasing a stone are Cosmetic and Structural Flaws.

See the SGI Institute for a great site on gemstone inclusions (and other information!).

  • Structural flaws include feathers, cracks, fractures, included crystals, and inclusions, all of which may cause serious problems when setting. Fractures are often filled with oils or polymers.  Cleaning and heat can remove the fillers.
  • Cosmetic Flaws don’t affect the setting properties (unless they are flaws from bad craftsmanship! When purchasing stones, you need to determine or guess, if you have to, whether or not the flaw will affect the future health and well-being of the stone.  If there is a feathering that runs from top to bottom, there is great potential that it will crack during the setting process. Those little black bits in a stone probably won’t be a problem.

I always bring a loop when I go stone/bead shopping to check for cracks and inclusions and to look for sneaky practices like claiming a stone is natural but is, in fact, a doublet. Doublets are the addition of another layer of material to either enhance the strength and color or to offer an inexpensive version of a higher-priced stone, like opals. There is no problem with purchasing doublets, but there is a problem if the seller doesn’t disclose this information.

Quartz and Turquoise doublet from Rio Grande Jewelry. This item is no longer available on Rio’s site.

When purchasing faceted gemstone beads, it is also important to check for flaws.  If you want matched beads, carefully examine the strand for:

  •  Consistently sized beads 
  •  Inclusions 
  •  Holes that are larger at one end than the other and are too close to the sides of the bead. There needs to be enough material so the stresses placed on the bead by the wire or cordage don’t break the stone.  This is especially common with briolettes.
  • Chipping
  •  How they lie.  Hold the strand horizontally and vertically to see how it lies. Pull it into a “U” shaped form to see how it looks like a necklace.
  • Wear – look at the facets on the individual stones in a strand.  Often, they rub and bounce together on their long journey to the vendor’s table, and, especially with soft stones, they may now have worn and/or scratched facets. You’ll find this particularly common with softer stones. (See the Mohs Scale). This may or may not be an issue depending on how the stone will be displayed.
  • Watch out for new, odd, or unusual names for stones.  Check out this False or Misleading Gemstone Names list by the International Gem Society (IGS). Also, see this index on fakes GIA.  
  • IGS’s index on fakes.

Take your time; don’t be intimidated by the seller or believe everything they tell you! I can’t tell you how many strands of beads I bought (in the past!) that are mostly useless.  It’s just another way to throw away money.

On a different but similar note, if buying silver beads, bring a long needle (or a fabulous hat pin you have created) and poke around inside the bead.  I’ve purchased supposedly solid, silver beads that expelled black, smoky goop that I believe was tar.  The tar significantly added to the weight of the silver (purchased by the gram) and, of course, my cost!  I wish I could remember who I had bought them from! Save those business cards from vendors and record what you purchased from them.  Receipts will prove the purchase, too.


Natural – a gem that has had no human assistance in its creation. (except for the cutting, of course).

Organic – Organic material is a material that comes from a living or previously living being.  Even though the material may have been altered by time, environment, or pressure, if a living creature contributed its tissue, it’s organic.

  • A bivalve mollusk creates pearls – an irritant is placed or finds its way inside the bivalve. The creature builds up layers of nacre to protect itself from the irritant – creating the pearl. The mantle, or the layer that lines the shell’s inside, is made from the same nacre that creates a pearl.
  • Amber fossilized tree sap
  • Coral layer upon layer of the skeletons of filter-feeding creatures. 
  • Jet is wood that has been under extreme pressure.  It’s similar to coal but is considered a gemstone.  It is very soft 2 – 4 on the Mohs Scale. 
  • Ivory Is composed of the tusks or teeth of a once-living creature. Ivory is made from dentine – calcified tissue – just like our teeth. When you buy ivory, be sure of its source.  Elephants, hippopotamuses, whales, and other beautiful animals are massacred for their teeth or tusks.
  •   Carved Tagua Nut Earrings from GIA.
  • Vegetable ivory Tagua Palm also called the Ivory Nut Palm.
  • Ammonite Ammonites are fossilized ammonites (shelled cephalopods).
  •   Ammolite is similar to Ammonite because they are fossilized shelled cephalopods, except they are considered gem quality. 

Interestingly, fossilized dinosaur bone and fossilized coral are NOT classified as organic, yet amber is because it retains its mineral composition.  The reasoning is that other minerals have replaced all the original material.

I could find nothing indicating whether Ammonites and Ammolites were organic or fossils, so I’m putting them in the non-organic box.  They meet both criteria:  minerals have replaced the original material and come from a previously living being.


The following terms indicate that we humans have assisted in the development of the gemstone (or pearl) in one form or another.  These stones are generally identical in physical, chemical, and visual properties, but their value is less, as is their rarity. It is required by law to disclose whether a stone is natural or one of the following:

  • Synthetic – this term isn’t often used because many people associate the word with “fake.”
  • Laboratory-grown – same as man-made and synthetic.
  • Cultured – Think pearls  
  • Man-made – same as lab-grown and synthetic

Other things to know before purchasing gemstones:

  •  Dyed  Jadeite.  Image from GIA’s site.     Bleached (with acid) – pearls can be bleached, as can coral, jadeite, chalcedony, and tiger’s eye quartz.  These gems can be more brittle and porous after treatment.
  • Stones can be dyed. Chemicals or heat can change the stone’s color.
  • Tanzanite – after and before heat treatment. Image from Gem-A.                             Heat Treated – Colors may have been obtained by heating the stone.  Sometimes, the coloring is not permanent, and the stone will revert to its original color. Sunlight can cause fading.
  • Irradiated – You should read this from The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The visibility of inclusions may be reduced, and the color may be altered.  Green quartz is irradiated and heated amethyst, for example. 
  • Have laser-altered colors
  • (Mystic topaz) Coated – colors can be painted on the backs of stones or thin coatings applied to the front.  Metallic oxides can also be added.  Mystic topaz is an example.  Topaz can also be irradiated and heat-treated.
  • Doublets and triplets – Layers of other stones are added to increase either strength or color.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission – USA) has guidelines and rules pertaining to these issues as does AGTA (the American Gem Trade Association).
Here is AGTA’s page on synthetic stones.


Annie Fensterstock

 Dalan Hargrave 



Creative Stonesetting by John Cogswell

Gemstones of the World by Walter Schumann

Smithsonian Handbooks: Gemstones by Cally Hall

Gem Identification Made Easy: A Hands-on Guide to More Confident Buying and Selling by Antoinette Leonard Matlins

Gemstone Buying Guide by Renée Newman GG

The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe

Pearl Buying Guide by Renée Newman GG

Diamond Handbook by Renée Newman GG

Secrets of the Gem Trade by Richard W. Wise

For Further gemology research

*Image above:  Tagua Nuts –  “Vegetable Ivory”

  • AGTA – American Gem Trade Association. The place to go for information on gems.  
  • FTC – The Federal Trade Commission. Laws and Guidelines
  • Ganoksin – Everything jewelry related.  Search for gemstone information on the site.
  • Gem-A – Gemicological Association of Great Britain.
  • GIA – Gemological Institute of America. Another primary site for information regarding gems
  • International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA)
  • Barbara W. Smigel – Free Gemology Course! An amazing site!!!!!  Thank you, Ms. Smigel, for providing this great information.

For more information on ethically sourcing your materials, see the following sites:

Alternative to Ivory:  Vegetable Ivory – see Wayne’s World for more information.

Vegetable Ivory:


This email has nothing to do with gemstones! Instead, it concerns mistakes, deliberate/non-deliberate practice, and having “IT”!

Thank you for such a lovely email!!!  I should write a book entitled Jewelry Creation for the Postmenopausal – A Study of Jewelry Creation and Memory Resuscitation.  As you have no doubt seen, I have some issues with remembering the names of things.  But, my new attitude is: I have a great memory; it’s just a little short.  (“Little,” perhaps, being an understatement in my case). 

Unasked for, possibly unwanted tips:  
1. While you are learning the craft, practice deliberately.  Deliberate Practice usually involves making many mistakes.  The mistakes are analyzed, and changes are made. The mistakes become the teacher, the instructor who says, “Ah, that didn’t work. But, see that, that’s a good thing. The mound of molten metal might have been a pendant that told us:  see what happens when too much heat is applied, but, wow, aren’t I pretty? How could this mistake be helpful in the future, and how can I avoid unwanted meltdowns?  All these mistakes (an insufficient word for something invaluable to our growth) are pages in your jewelry how-to book.
Non-deliberate practice is repeating the same mistakes repeatedly because we aren’t learning from the prior error.  This process usually ends with one’s dreams never being realized.
2. Multiples. I love the practice of making something five times.  It always amazes me how much I learn each time the piece is created.  It’s led me to start designing tools to simplify processes and discover shortcuts and better ways to create/design/evolve my work.
3. Babbling on “Having it,”  “I don’t have it in me,” you said.  While you may not end up working as a designer for Cartier,  I bet you’d be pretty happy creating for yourself,  friends/family, and (as usually happens over time) strangers (meaning selling your work!). 
Since I love analogies (flying analogy #2), I’ll ask you to Imagine the following scenario:   I lead you to a set of steps that, very obviously, lead into the cockpit of a plane.  Next, I point out that, given your understanding of the concept of flying and that you have been in a plane before, you are perfectly capable of flying this plane.
I hand over the keys (do planes even have keys?)  and announce: “Let’s get going!  I expect to arrive in Hawaii in 4.5 hours – with cocktail service ready. ” You protest:  “I don’t know how to fly. I’ve never flown a plane before.”  I am shocked!  “Well, why not?”  You yell back: “Because I have never been taught how.”  I snap:  “So, I guess we won’t be arriving on time now! “
What’s my point, you may ask?  The point is a pilot doesn’t have to have “it” to be able to fly – she needs the techniques necessary to fly a plane. She also needs to practice flying – a lot.  It’s the same with making jewelry.  You can’t be expected to create precisely what you see in your mind without the skills or the practice to translate that vision into a reality.     
 So, prepare for your pilot training; good luck and happy flapping.  I’m thrilled you are pushing past that voice that says, “No, you can’t”!!!!      ” Thanks for flying Nancy LT Hamilton Airlines.” 

P.S. – Since Chimera (the makerspace) is a member-owned space, and there will be a lot of strangers there, Lou Loo Wee Wee will not be attending the class I am teaching there.  She hates to drive, dislikes crowds, and visiting new places plus, she can’t afford the dues as she refuses to work.  She says to tell you:  “My basket is as far from the food bowl as I’m willing to travel!”  Not a girl who dreams big, obviously.  ( :

“Quotes” and Random Acts of My Mind

From Jean-Luc Godard: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.

From Calvin and Hobbes by Bill WattersonAs my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.

Sorry, this is so blurry – I had to blow up the cartoon so you could read it!

Well, the babble is over. (Who clapped?) I hope you enjoyed this newsletter.  The following newsletter (The Enameling Issue) should be sent out soon, as I’ve been working on it concurrently with this one.  

Thanks for subscribing, and continue to make beautiful mistakes!


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