Nina Designs carries an extensive variety of sterling silver, bronze, and gold charms, pendants, and findings. The majority of our jewelry making supplies are made by skilled silversmiths in both Bali and Thailand, and are either handmade or cast and finished by hand. Every piece has a great deal of work put into it, and production is at a very large volume to keep up with demand. Staff members at Nina Designs were given the opportunity to take a metals class at a local art studio in Oakland, California, Studio One, to see what the process was all about, and to try and re-create some of the same techniques used to make our jewelry components.
All of the Nina Designs employees have a love for either making jewelry, or wearing it, so an opportunity to get our hands dirty and create our own pieces from start to finish was quite appealing! The metal-smith class many of us enrolled in covered all the basics in how to work with metal and make jewelry; soldering, sawing, stone-setting, etching, polishing, and more. Within the first hour of our first class, I remember getting familiar with a jeweler’s saw when cutting out ring bands, and also breaking handfuls of blades before making a single, straight cut. Our teacher, Anthony, said it was normal, and an initiation of sorts, to break and re-string blade after blade your first time. It didn’t make it any easier, but once your first piece was done, your pride showed when you could sport your new ring.
As the weeks pass, you feel more comfortable, and the skill sets you gain stack up, as well as your collection of new things to wear! You do run over quite a few speed bumps along the way, and it can get discouraging when a vision in your head doesn’t make it’s way into a finished physical piece, but when you problem solve, practice, and learn from mishaps, you can make some beautiful and unique pieces of jewelry!
Here are some of the techniques worked on in class, and the beautiful pieces produced as a result of gaining new jewelry-making skills:
In-class action shots from the metal lab at Studio One
After lots of practice with saws and saw blades, the cutting possibilities are endless!
Adding texture with different sized and shaped hammers: loud, but beautiful!
Making and adding rivets is functional while adding interest and detail
Setting beautiful stones to make stunning, one of a kind rings!
More creative work from the ladies at Nina Designs
Marcy, one of our designers, even made her own wedding bands in the class!
Our staff is so creative, and I’m so impressed with everyone’s eye for detail, and making their jewelry dreams a reality! Along with gaining new skills, the class gave us all a new perspective on the time and effort that it takes to make beautiful jewelery, and even more so, a serious appreciation for our talented silversmiths in Bali and Thailand. They produce consistent, high quality work, and in large volume. I know I wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand, or make two pieces that looked identical! Here is what some of the Nina Designs ladies had to say in regards to what they took away from the class:
“After cutting out and filing my small oval silver button, I grabbed a torch to heat it up and soften the metal before hammering. Lo and behold, my button turned into a small puddle of silver right before my eyes! This class increased the huge amount of respect I have for our skilled silversmiths, and I can finally appreciate why the smaller version of an item often costs more than the original larger version!” – Leah, Vice President
“Taking the metal-smith class has given me a deep appreciation of the work our silver smiths put into all of our Nina Designs components. I have a lot of fun cutting, filing, soldering, setting and polishing, but I easily spent three hours or more on one piece of jewelry. I now see what our silver smiths go through, and it takes a lot of skill to assemble little components. Seeing Nina Designs’ consistency from piece to piece is amazing!” – Veronica, Customer Service Manager
“While taking the metal jewelry class at Studio One in Berkeley, it became abundantly clear how difficult the metalworking process is and how incredibly skilled our metal-smiths are at Nina Designs. After the experience, I have an even greater respect for their work and process.” – Signe, Customer Service
All of us encourage you to take a class at a local studio if you haven’t tried your hand at it already, and broaden your creative horizon with new and fun ways to make jewelry. Who knows, you may find yourself addicted to metals, and wanting to take your career in a entirely new direction! Have you ever taken a class? What have you learned from working as a metal-smith? Share with us your experience!