June 23, 2009

Wedding jewelry - for myself!

In the spirit of my first wedding anniversary coming up this weekend, I figured it would be fun to share with you the first large scale jewelry project I ever did (even before my days on Etsy) --- my own wedding! Finishing my Masters, finding a new job, moving nearly 400 miles away, and working two jobs didn't stop me from creating a very personalized, unique, and, if I say so myself, beautiful wedding. I was having a blast creating everything from the favors, invitations, website, centerpieces, even the flower girl's basket (which I will showcase, whether you like it or not, on Thursday!). But one task was starting to get on my nerves - that of finding the perfect jewelry for everyone involved in the wedding (i.e. 6 bridesmaids, a flower girl, a mom and mother in law, 3 grandmothers, 2 readers, and 3 very special helpers). I searched EVERYWHERE. I visited every online site (except Etsy, as I had yet to hear of it) and trekked all over San Francisco and Louisville with no luck. I finally found myself in the jewelry department at Macy's in San Francisco in tears over what was becoming this impossible task. From there I walked to Chinatown and into one of it's MANY jewelry shops and a light went off. "Duh, you can make it yourself, you OCD crazy lady, you."
(sometimes I felt like this bird - lost at jewelry sea! I took this picture from the boat on the way to Alcatraz... as a visitor, of course!)
I spoke with a lady at Lawrence Trading Company on Grant Street in Chinatown about pearls and crystals. I bought a few string of pearls and commissioned her to make 6 simple pearl necklaces (and managed to talk the price down from her original offer because I knew how much they would have cost me to buy them in China - I swear this is probably the only use my Chinese skills will ever have in my life)! Next I went to Baubles and Beads in Berkeley (say that 5 times fast!) and bought several bags of both real and imitation Swarovski crystals (that way I could tinker with deigns with the fake crystals first). I even asked the lady behind the counter what she thought of putting pearls and crystals together for wedding jewelry. She looked at me blankly. Oh well, lady, I am buying them anyway. Finally I got all the necessary findings at Michael's: silver wire, sterling headpins, sterling clasps, silver crimp beads, etc. I had no clue how I was going to manage to make any of these items, mind you, and half the time I was merely assuming that the supplies I was buying were right for the job. Thus the experimenting began. I was torn between a necklace or earrings for my outfit (I didn't want to clutter myself up and do both). I looked at all kinds of designs online and could only gather that, if I was going to do earrings, that they had to be big, yet elegant. My poor fiance had to watch me try on every design I made for about a week straight and give me feedback on what I am sure looked to him like repeats. "What do you think, fiance? Should I make this 3mm longer?" That poor man... Here are two designs I made yet didn't choose to use for my own wedding - they are now on sale on Etsy (just click on the picture for the link)! Finally I made a design with some briolettes I got from Artbeads (my now favorite bead source - hello free shipping!). The result was perfect - especially since I had the satisfaction of making them myself! I also have them for sale on Etsy because I just couldn't keep it to myself! Next on my list was a bracelet for myself. I had a vague idea that I wanted a funky, bold, yet again, elegant bracelet that I could wear again in the future. I looped ends of silver wire strands with crimp beads and crimped in large and small pearls on about 5 wire strands, and then lots of 3mm - 8mm Swarovski bicone crystals on 5 other strands. To end them, I did the same crimp loop at the end of the wire, and latched them all onto a Sterling heart-shaped clasp. I was very temped to continue adding more and more layers of these strands to the bracelet, but had to remind myself that I needed to save the beads for the remaining 15 other pieces of jewelry on to-do list! (If you look closely, you can see that the non-heart clasp side of the bracelet is a hot mess - the bracelet was too large by the time I was done, but there wasn't enough wire to cut off the crimp bead and re-crimp it... so I ghetto-fied it by wrapping silver wire around the end to tuck it in. Though this totally embarrasses me now - it didn't seem to bother me a year ago - I was just happy I had pulled it off!) Next on the list were my bridesmaids. I duplicated the bracelet I made for myself for them, but instead just had 3 strands of pearl and crystal mixes and only one crimp bead on each side of the beads so as to allow them to more up and down the bracelet rather than just sitting still in one place. (You can also find this bracelet for sale on my Etsy site or by clicking on any of the above pictures!). Since I had the lady in Chinatown make their necklaces (for less money than if I had made them myself, so as to relive my conscious!) all I had left were the earrings. I tinkered again with some ideas, but settled on this simple (yet snowman looking?) 3-pearl design, finished on sterling silver headpins and ear wires. Still not done. I wanted my flower girl to match, of course, so I made her a necklace in the fashion of the bracelet, except with a big glass pendant in the center. I liked it so much that I made one for my mom, mother in law, and grandma. By then I had run out of real crystals, so I used the remaining glass crystals and pearls to make earrings for our readers and bracelets for our helpers. They didn't even notice they were "fake." I of course presented all 25 pieces of jewelry in matching black and white polka dot gift bags with red tissue paper to go with the theme :)
(Notice how Lilly's basket matches her dress, which matched my dress? And the fan as a homage to my love for China? Click on the images to see detail!)
Though I literally spent 90% of my wedding week making all this jewelry, I loved every minute of it! And when someone at the wedding noticed that all my ladies were wearing coordinating jewelry that I made and suggested I sell it, well, the rest is history.


  1. Beautiful! How special it must be to have all the women (and lovely little miss) in jewelry that you made yourself. What a memory to treasure....both of the wedding and your start in jewelry making! :>

  2. I love it all. A good friend of mine made my wedding jewelry (including coordinating pieces for my bridesmaids and flower girl), which was also a combination of pearls and crystals. It's such a gorgeous look and very versatile.

  3. Beautiful! I do love pearls and crystals.

  4. What a project to undertake! It came out beautifully, I'm particularly partial to the bracelets.