The raw beauty of tumbled gemstone jewellery

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Tumbled gemstone jewellery is challenging for a jewelry maker. Their irregular shapes are difficult to fit into a standard bezel. Very often the only way to hang them onto something is to drill a hole through them. Drilling requires special diamond drill bits which are difficult to get in regular internet shops for hobby jewelry makers. Even those – quite expensive – bits which are sold under the label ‘diamond’ – leave nothing but scratches on Mohs 7 and harder gemstones . I know it from my own experience, having spent lots of money on these bits and lots of time on drilling.

Ring with tiger eye

On the other hand tumbled gemstones offer great food for imagination. Every stone is unique. And every stone resembles something.  For instance this gorgeous tiger eye resembled the shape of a sitting cat’s body. Only the head and the tail were missing. So I grabbed silver clay and sculptured them. Shrinkage presented a slight problem here, but at the end of the day a small deviation in size does not matter that much. This cat is not meant to be 100% naturalistic. Just imagine what art would be if it stuck to  real-life sizes and proportions.
The tiger eye stone has a flat side which made it suitable for a bezel. Not all tumbled stones are that easy.

Cat on agate – greenware
For instance, this agate was one irregular chunk. Happily it had some natural ‘dimples’ which made a basis for a drilled hole.

Cat on agate pendant

Looking at the curves of the stone I imagined a cat figure climbing on it. Shaping the cat which would fit the stone was not difficult, but only later I realized that shrinkage would make this perfect fit much less perfect. Actually this is the biggest challenge when trying to combine precious metal clay sculptures and tumbled stones. Unlike ‘regular’ cabochons which allow more or less precise shrinkage estimate, tumbled stones offer just a bold guess. Of course fired silver clay can always be slightly bent, but to a certain limit.

The cat was fired and fastened to the stone using a silver wire which runs through the drilled hole. To prevent sliding of the cat on the smooth stone surface I put a drop of glue into the hole thus fixing the wire to the stone. The result looked great and a millimeter-wide gap between the cat and the stone was not that important. You can see that the cat is hugging the stone – a real tree-hugging cat 🙂

Tumbled stones are not easy to work with. But they can be very inspiring. In addition to it stone therapy experts say that only such stones (or even better – crystals) possess maximum healing and protective power. A piece of jewelry with such stone can become an amulet protecting its wearer from evil eye. And last but not least, tumbled stones are quite inexpensive too.
So I will continue making tumbled gemstone jewellery, enchanted by the raw beauty and magic powers of the stones.

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