Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Part Three – The Ugly

I’m an artisan jeweler.  I have been making jewelry for about three years now.  I have learned over this time that jewelry can be GOOD, it can be BAD, and it can be downright UGLY.  In this blog today, I will share my thoughts as to what I feel fits into the “Ugly” category.


When you think of jewelry, you probably think of bright shiny pieces of jewelry and glistening gemstones.  This is true, but it is the end result of the jewelry making processes.  These wonderful pieces of jewelry weren’t always so pretty.

Being an artisan jeweler can be a very dirty job.  Of course there is no poop or dead animals, so Mike Rowe wouldn’t be terribly interested.  If I have a client coming to the studio to work on a custom piece (which is one of my favorite ways to create jewelry - with the client), I always warn them: Don’t wear anything too nice; wear something you’d clean the house in.

One of the dirtiest parts of the job is polishing the jewelry.  As you polish, little bits of the polishing compound get on your fingers, on your clothing, and on your face.  Sometimes after a long day in the studio, I will look in the mirror and wonder if I spent the day in a coal mine.  Also, if I have spent a long time polishing, I have to “dust” myself off before going in the house.  The cotton buffs I use to polish deposit little strings all over the place as I polish, which includes my clothing and my hair.  I can brush myself off when I’m done and watch it “snow”.

Another “ugly” part of jewelry is what it does to your hands.  I try to be as careful as I possibly can be, but there is always the occasional accident.  I’ve had the jewelry saw slip while cutting a piece and take a good chunk of finger with it.  On more lucky occasions I’ve had the saw just “trim” some nails.  Then there is the flex shaft.  It’s like a Dremel on steroids.  It’s one of the most versatile and needed tools a jeweler can have.  This multiuse tool can be a life saver.  It can also skin you alive.  I’ve had it happen.

On the one year anniversary of my Grandma Mizell’s death, I wanted to make a ring (me, make a ring, surprise, surprise) that reflected her personality.  It had to be big, bold, and sparkly.  On part of the ring I used my engraving pen to get a textural element.  In order to polish this part, instead of using the cotton buff and polishing compound, I had to use a wire brush attachment.  I lost control of the flex shaft, and before I knew it the flex shaft (still running with the wire brush spinning at many revolutions per second) had traveled down my index finger and part way up my middle finger, coming to rest in the webbing between the two fingers. When it was all said and done, the top layer of that webbing was gone.  That was one of the most painful injuries I have ever received in the studio.  The ring, which I went on to name “The Ruth”, did turn out beautifully, though.

There you have it, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Being a jeweler is great. I have a ton of fun doing it and I love the creative process.  I love that it makes me grow and stretches me as a person.  As with anything, there are downsides, some of which I have shared with you.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my Good, Bad, and Ugly series as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Tomorrow we will go back to my Random Thoughts.  It may be jewelry-related, it may not.  That’s why they’re random.  ‘Til tomorrow – Melissa

Should you want to see some of my custom pieces please see my Facebook page at!/pages/Chrysalis-Jewelry/193401868091 or my Etsy page at

  The Ruth


  1. I've definitely enjoyed this series of posts, and I can totally relate to the hazards of jewelry making. Have cut my finger with a saw, and have stabbed myself with a needle at least a hundred times. And is it just me... or is it impossible to have long, unbroken fingernails?

    But still... I wouldn't trade it for anything. :)

    The Ruth ring is gorgeous, by the way! Awesome job.

  2. With all the rings I create, you would think I would have beautiful nails to go with it...but noooo, I'm always breaking them in the studio. So glad it's not just me! I'm glad you enjoyed the series. I plan to do more jewelry related ones in the future.