Some Assembly Required

I never stopped loving art, although I didn’t do much for a few years once I had realized that I didn’t want to make it a career.  Eventually, though, I found a new way to express my love of the visual: fashion.  I discovered that I love a classic style but with a vintage twist.  Before I knew it, I was scouring vintage and consignment shops and finding beautiful pieces both older and newer styles that were still in amazing condition as well as a fraction of what they would cost brand new.  I learned how to wash wool and cashmere by hand.  I learned what pieces and materials had to go to the dry cleaners.  I learned how to carefully repair spots and what was beyond fixing.

This, naturally, led to a love of jewelry.  A single piece of amazing jewelry can pull together an entire outfit or take an otherwise bland ensemble and make it gorgeous.  The thing I discovered was that I had zero interest in the mass produced fine jewelry sold in malls.  I mean, it was pretty, but it wasn’t memorable.  After combing through jewelry catalogues, e-bay, and reading a lot about antique and vintage jewelry, I knew I’d found my match.  I particularly love art deco period jewelry with the strong geometrics, stunningly complex designs, and bright colors.

There was one little, itsy-bitsy problem: art deco and vintage jewelry is expensive.

Arthur gave me a beautiful art deco lavalier pendant as a gift one year before infertility struck (okay, okay: he said he wanted to give me a necklace, I found what I wanted, bargained it to a price we could afford, and then told him the plan).  In any case, I love it and wear it often.  I’ve also picked up a few good buys on e-bay and in thrift shops/garage sales.  Part of it is that I don’t typically go for the highly collectible pieces since my goal is to have something unique that suits me.  There are plenty of unique pieces out there that aren’t hugely costly, and I enjoy shining and even repairing some pieces which often further reduces the price.  And I figure it’s a way of recycling, of not buying brand new goods but finding a treasure under years of ill-repair and tarnish.

This approach worked until I discovered something called “Pools of Light” jewelry.  “Pools of Light” pieces essentially consist of spherical, perfectly clear, undrilled quartz orbs wrapped around the outside in wire.  They are gorgeous.  The orb shape with the effect of the rock crystal causes them to be very bright and eye-catching when light hits them.  They also tend to pick up the colors of clothing worn behind them, making them easy to wear with most outfits.  “Pools of Light” started being worn during the Victorian period.  Plenty of people advertise “Pools of Light” jewelry, but most of it is drilled, glass, or otherwise not the real stuff.

I wanted an authentic one.  Then I checked out the price tags.  There was absolutely no way we were paying several hundred to several thousand dollars for a necklace and earrings, and that’s typical of the excellent antique pieces.

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This is the actual, authentic necklace I was drooling over…but the price was more than a bit steep!  Source

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This necklace has had holes drilled all the way through the quartz orbs, which destroys the unique lights and refraction.  These are generally cheaper and fairly easy to find, but not what I wanted. Source

So then I started looking to see if anyone made “Pools of Light” jewelry any longer that might be a more economical solution.  The answer appeared, for the most part, to be a no.  At that point, my art and sculpture experience kicked back in.

I spent a fair amount of time finding out where I could get undrilled, genuine quartz orbs in the size I wanted.  I finally found a jewelry supply store that sold them after several weeks of searching.  Then, to get the wires around the orbs to stay in place, the orbs have to be engraved around the outside circumference.  I found my engraver and ordered some diamond-tipped bits.  I figured out that a pre-made round pinch-setting would probably be the easiest way of wrapping the spheres instead of making my own out of wire.  I bought bulk chain and jump-rings.  I was ready.

Excited, I plugged in the dremel and outlined the place I planned to form the groove.  I clamped the sphere down with the vise and got ready.  I put on my safety glasses and mask, flipped on the engraver, and brought the bit into contact with the orb.  It shot out of the vise and across the table.  Whoops.  I retrieved it, clamped it harder and started again.  I ruined about three orbs before I figured out how to hold my hand steady and realized that I probably needed a better vise more suited to holding round objects.  I picked up a small, specialized vise for holding round beads and found the process much easier.

It’s worth noting here that in terms of financial outlay, my homemade “Pools of Light” necklace was indeed far, far less costly than buying an antique, even using sterling silver chain and real quartz.  It only cost about as much for materials as buying a necklace at Target or Kohl’s in the end (although my time investment, of course, was considerable).

As a bonus, when I’m fiddling to close teensy jump rings with two miniscule pairs of pliers, there isn’t much room to think about infertility.  Musing over treatment plans isn’t really an option when I’m working on trying to fit the rings over orbs.  It definitely wasn’t my first thought when I applied superglue to a spot to hold something in place temporarily while I got wires put in place to hold it there more permanently and glued my fingers together (the remedy, if you’re wondering, is acetone – I use nail polish remover to un-stick myself).

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My necklace…no drilled quartz orbs here! 

And at the end, even if it still has some flaws that drive me nuts, I’ve refined my technique, gotten better and faster results, and have a necklace I’m still pretty darn excited about wearing.  Additionally, I read somewhere that wearing undrilled quartz is supposed to bring good luck, and one old wives’ tale even has it curing infertility/sterility.  I don’t believe it for a second, of course, but since I’m enjoying wearing the necklace, I figure it can’t hurt.

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11 thoughts on “Some Assembly Required

  1. Beautiful! I have a friend who has done pretty well “making it” in the vintage jewelry business. Over the last couple of years, her stuff has been picked up by boutiques and bigger businesses all over the country. It’s such a cool thing to be able to make!

  2. Hi there,
    I love this! 🙂 I actually have a few of the pools of light vintage orbs that have the wire bezels, but they have come off. I have been trying to find a bezel to fit them with the ring on each side like the ones you made. Where did you get your pinch settings if I could ask? The ones that I have found seem way too big to fit in the already drilled grooves around them. Thanks so much , you are very talented!

    • I used just a little bit of E-6000 glue to make sure it didn’t move since I don’t have access to a way to weld the band at the pinch end. That seems to have done the trick.

  3. Wow I just bought 27 verified art deco orbs with hole in top not drilled held by a piece of linen. I hope to make a necklace like yours. I wish you had a step by step visual LOL. Thank you

  4. d Younger Daughter or anyone readying my reply! Please tell me where I can buy the loose orbs without holes. Jewelry supplier etc. thanks

    • I’m trying to find the site I originally bought them from, but the last time I was there, I remember that they didn’t have them any longer. I have seen some on etsy at times that were comparable in price to what I paid (around $0.99 per orb).

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