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Fen Me! Your virtual fitting room


Some of you will know that I am a fan of The Young and the Restless, which I have been watching on and off for many, many years. I’d tell you how many years, but then you’d think I’m really, really old.

Anyway, being a computer programmer, as well as a jewelry maker and Young and the Restless fan, I watch with great interest whenever the show has a technology based storyline. Because ridiculous. Absolutely unrealistic accomplishments in record time. Remember how quickly Kevin developped Tag ‘N Grab? Fast. Ashley’s new Jabbot on the Go app went LIVE before we even heard them talk about it. Super fast. Now, we’ve got Phyllis Newman coming up with concepts for Lauren’s company, Fenmore’s, a department store. Yesterday, Phyllis introduced Lauren to the idea of a virtual fitting room – one where you can upload your own photo, and try on Fenmore’s clothes, virtually.

No doubt, Phyllis will have it all programmed and launched moments from now, but I took the opportunity last night and this morning to try my hand at SUPER SPEEDY WEB DEVELOPMENT.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce to you my prototype for Fen Me! (that’s my own name for it)… Fenmore’s new Virtual Dressing Room.

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Favourite earrings: lost and found and lost and…

my favourite earrings
My favourite earrings

I’ve got a favourite pair of sterling silver earrings that I keep losing. Over and over again. They’re my favourite earrings because they go with most of my casual wardrobe, can be seen from behind my thick dark hair, and they’re comfortable. I didn’t actually make these earrings – they were my favourites from long before I ever started making jewelry. And truth be told, I don’t think I’ve quite got the skill-set to make these myself. The hinged wires would be tricky to solder without melting. And the set of 5 itty bitty rings to attach the paddles to would really test my patience. They’d also be another soldering melting risk.

Lost and found and lost again

The first time I majorly lost one of them was about 5 or 6 years ago. It  had been missing for something like 2 years. I found it in the soil when I was pulling weeds in the garden. It must have fallen out of my ear when I was gardening.

When I found it, I was so excited. I probably posted about my glee on social media. But that glee was short lived – only a few months later, I lost it again. All I can remember was, at the time, I had put them in my purse for some reason. And it shouldn’t have been hard to figure out which purse since I’m a basic no-frills woman:  90% of the time I use one of two black purses. But it was not in those purses.  I think it was about a year or two ago that I lost it this time.

So guess what happened today? That’s right, I found the earring. It magically appeared on my bedroom floor, beside a purse I had used recently – a mega huge one I only use when I’m travelling.

But, was it actually the lost earring? Or was it the mate, just making an appearance in a look-what-the-cat-dragged-in sort of way? It took me 2 hours of searching to find the mate to prove that I now had a complete set. (Does that 2 hours count as another occurrence of an earring being lost?)

It’s a tarnished mess (actually, so is the other one) but that’s no problem – I’ve got lots of silver cleaning tips. And funny thing, until I took the photo, I never noticed that the one on the left actually has 6 paddles instead of 5.

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Judi Dench’s favourite necklace?


Do you have a favourite piece of jewelry, a favourite necklace perhaps, that you wear often? I was watching a video with Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch performing a bit of Shakespeare, and my eye was drawn to her necklace. I’ve always liked Judi’s style – she’s classy and understated. Anyway, back to the necklace… I googled to see what other jewelry she wears, and was struck by how many images I found of her wearing the same necklace, or combination of necklaces – she seems to have a few short chains that she likes to layer. The one I am talking about is the shorter one in this photo – it appears to be a double chain with a small focal open silver ring, with many very small silver discs dangling from the chain.

Is this Judi Dench's favourite necklace?
Judi Dench at the Olivier Awards in London in 2014.Credit Will Oliver/European Pressphoto Agency

So perhaps I have discovered that Judi Dench has a favourite necklace.

Go ahead and google “Judi Dench” images and you’ll see what I mean.

I have a favourite necklace that I wear with almost everything – providing the neckline of my top is suitable for it. It’s a sterling silver cable chain, with a darkened patina for an aged appearance. At the centre, there is a selection of pearls, crystals and stones in blue and grey, and a small textured dimensional heart charm. The necklace is about 18″ long, and works well with an open collared shirt, or a scoop neck or v-neck t-shirt. I find myself wearing it with white, black, grey, navy or red. It’s something I made, of course, and it’s nearly one of a kind – I did make another very similar to this, at the request of a customer who lives in another city – I’m pretty sure we’re not going to bump into each other wearing the same necklace.

my favourite necklace
My favourite necklace – I wear this all the time!

Do you have a favourite piece of jewelry that you wear often? Please leave a comment and tell me about it!


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Forged sterling flower earrings


discs1These earrings are one of my best selling items. Dainty sterling silver flowers, completely hand made by me. I’m not sure many people are actually aware of how much work goes into making these. There are a lot of steps involved, and the first step, the shaping of the flower petals, is by far the most time consuming step. It is possible to purchase “blanks” that are already machine cut into flower shapes. But that would give me less options as far as size and number of petals. It also takes some of the fun out of it, and reduces the handmade value I hold dear.

I start with sterling silver discs (or, from sheet, which I cut into discs) and, using a small file, I notch them and shape each petal. Some petals come out a little bigger than others… that’s the nature of handmade work… and it’s also the nature of “nature”.

The flowers, domed, beside a doming punch

The discs have to be domed. Fortunately, there’s an easy tool for that! I go through various sized doming punches to get the shape that I want. There’s a hammering step before this one, where I put a bit of a texture on the petals.


This is what they look like a few steps later… they’ve been cleaned up, pickled, cleaned up some more, and dipped in liver of sulfur to blacken them. The next step is to remove most of the patina, leaving a darkened look in the recesses, and an overall slightly time-worn appearance. I’ve skipped over showing you a few steps – I didn’t show you the itty bitty silver balls that I make, and solder into the centre of the flower, nor did I show you the attaching of the loop on the back to hang the flowers from earwires.

Flower earrings, in both shiny and antiqued finishesI also make these in a shiny finish, where I skip the patina, and do some extra polishing.

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My husband’s wedding ring

banded wedding ringFacebooktwitterpinterest

My husband lost his wedding band many years ago, and had been tanning his ring finger ever since. He was never much of a ring wearer, and wasn’t particularly fond of his wedding ring because it had a flat section that was supposed to sit front and centre – but it always shifted on him. He loved the idea of a new ring made by me – as long as it wasn’t too wide, and as long as it was the same all the way around, so it wouldn’t matter if it moved around on his finger.

Badly sawn strip of metal to become the middle band

We settled on a banded ring design with a hammered, antiqued finish – something that would look best when it wasn’t all shiny and polished, because he works a lot with his hands.

I made this ring quite a while ago, when my sawing skills weren’t well practiced. Bit of a crooked line there, but I fixed that up no problem with a lot of filing and sanding.

one-done-compositeThe second photo is a composite of photos that shows the 3 components of the ring… a flat, textured band for the middle component, with 2 narrow round bands for the outer edges, along with some pictures of the process of getting one of the outer bands soldered to the middle band.

I’d never done anything like this before, so it was a challenge to get the outer bands just the right size to fit with the middle component. But a bit of textured hammering on the outer bands saved the day – metal stretches a bit when you hammer it. Plus, the texture was going to work well with the purposeful aged look of the ring.

bill-wearing-composite-desatThe other tricky part about soldering on the 2 outer bands was getting them totally centered on the middle band. Things tend to shift a bit when you’re soldering.

When the soldering steps were complete, there was a big clean-up step. Lots of polishing. It looked rather nice shiny. But of course, that wasn’t the look I was going for. The next step was to apply a liver of sulfur patina, which darkens it. Darkens the whole ring to a near black, which I then had to polish off, leaving the patina in just the nooks and crannies.

Here’s the finished ring. He loves it. And I love that he loves it.

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Sterling silver care


Sterling silver has a lovely glow, but we’ve probably all experienced pulling a favourite sterling silver item out of our jewelry box, only to discover it has tarnished. But the good news is, it can be polished up with no harm done. Special care is needed with  intentionally oxidized or patinated finishes (but more on those in a moment). Because sterling silver is the same material right to the core, you can polish away without worrying about all the silver coming off (as it would with a plated item).

What is tarnish?

Before we talk about preventing it and removing it, it’s good to understand what it is. Tarnish is the darkening of some metals when a chemical change occurs on the surface. Tarnish ranges in color from a yellowy-gold to absolute black. It can happen when silver (or brass, copper, aluminum and some other metals) come in contact with air, moisture or certain chemicals. It’s not actually the silver that is tarnishing: it’s the copper that’s in the sterling silver (which is an alloy of 92.5% pure silver, and 7.5% other metals, predominantly copper).  Higher content silvers, like fine silver, which is 99.9% pure silver, tarnish more slowly, if at all.


If you can prevent tarnish in the first place, the battle is over!  Prevent tarnish with these tips:

Silica gel pac and an anti-tarnish paper
  • wear your item often! Oils from our skin help ward off tarnish.
  • keep your jewelry away from perfumes, lotions, and hairspray. Put your jewelry on last!
  • remove your jewelry when swimming, bathing, and doing household cleaning.
  • protect your item from air and moisture by storing in a plastic zip-lock bag, or by covering in anti-tarnish fabric. The idea is to keep the item away from air, as well as moisture, so anti tarnish strips, chalk or even those little packs of silica gel can be tossed into the bag.
  • store your jewelry in individual bags, to keep them from scratching each other, and from tangling.
  • do not store silver in direct contact with wood, as it might have been chemically treated.
  • do not wrap your silver in plastic cling wrap.


sunshine polishing cloth
Sunshine polishing cloths are great! This one looks pretty dirty, but it has a LOT of life left in it!

If your item is just silver (no gemstones or pearls), and doesn’t have an intentional  dark oxidization or patina in the crevices, you can clean your item a number of ways:

  • use a silver polishing cloth, such as a Sunshine polishing cloth .
  • you can electrochemically reverse (non-destructively) tarnish by resting the objects on a piece of aluminium foil in a pot of boiling water with a small amount of salt or baking soda. Each piece must be touching the foil for this to work.
  • make a thick paste with 1/4 cup baking soda and two tablespoons of water. Apply with a damp sponge, then rinse and dry.
  • make a paste of corn starch and water and apply with a damp cloth. Let dry, then rub off with something mildly abrasive, like a rough towel.
  • if you want to get into the cracks and crevices, use an old toothbrush.
  • I hear you can use other things, like ketchup, toothpaste, lemon juice and salt but I haven’t tried any of these.



But be careful…

floral fern rings
Rings with a patina. Don’t clean these with a liquid or a toothbrush!

If your item includes gemstones, pearls or intentional oxidation:

  • do not use liquid silver cleaners
  • keep pearls away from liquids, even water
  • liquid cleaners and brushes can remove the oxidation, so if it was part of the item’s beauty, don’t go there! Just polish the surface lightly with a silver polishing cloth and avoid getting into the crevices.