Monday, December 15, 2014

Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Chanukah also known as the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re dedication of the holy temple in Jerusalem. This year the festival starts tomorrow, December 16 and ends on December 24th. The festival is observed by the lighting of candles in a unique candle holder, called a menorah. The typical menorah consists of eight branches, one for each day of the festival, with an additional visually distinct branch. The extra light is called a shamash and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden. Many families exchange gifts each night, such as books or games and "Hanukkah Gelt" is often given to children. Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil based foods such as doughnuts and latkes. I may not be an expert in making doughnuts or latke, but I love the challenge of creating something new that is sure to be treasured by the recipient of such a gift. One traditional Jewish item that I have made in the past is something that every Jewish home must have. A mezuzah, it's a piece of parchment (often contained in a decorative
case) inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah. The parchment must be prepared by a qualified scribe who has undergone many years of meticulous training. The parchment is then rolled up and placed inside the case. As you may have guessed I'm not qualified to prepare the holy Jewish prayer of Shema Yisrael, but I'm certainly qualified to build an ornate case to keep it in. This one, I carved from a block of wax and cast into sterling silver. The theme for this mezuzah was the family tree, or tree of life. I set each family members birthstone in place of leaves on the tree to ensure that they new it was custom made just for them. So don't forget to think outside the box this Hanukkah season, just because I'm a "jeweller" or "goldsmith" doesn't mean that I'm limited to making jewellery or objects made from gold....

Monday, November 17, 2014

DuKo Board Games

DuKo designs specializes in custom engagement rings and wedding bands and creates all sorts of jewellery pieces. I'm not limited to creating jewellery objects though. People have contacted me to put my skills to use on many different projects. I've now made three board games. The chess set pictured on the left is made of walnut with hand carved and cast, solid sterling silver pieces. This set depicts ancient Aztecs versus modern Bauhaus figures, they have turquoise and amber accents set into the kings and queens. I recently made the crib board, pictured at right, as a birthday gift for my fiance. The board was made from a piece of maple, the pegs are solid sterling silver and they tuck away inside, when not in use. The last game is Mancala, possibly the worlds oldest game. Mine is made from walnut with sterling silver hinges and clasps, the counting pieces are quartz, tigers eye, hematite, and agate. These sorts of projects are challenging and a true pleasure to make. Let me know if you're in the market for a truly unique and deluxe gift or gaming experience.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Travel inspiration

I've just returned from backpacking around Europe with my fiance for the past 2 months. Inspiration was everywhere. Architecture is not unlike custom jewellery design. It's just in smaller scale. While in Barcelona, I was awe struck by Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. His inspiration comes from nature. Spiral staircases like the inside of seashells, church spires topped with details that resembled lavender or an exotic fruit. Just like Gaudi, I too get inspiration from nature. I find the intricate details in a leaf to be beautiful, I've taken a sage leaf and twigs and turned them into rings, earrings and necklaces. These lines are on hand in sterling silver for anyone who would like one for themselves or as a gift for a loved one. I've also done many custom variations using these components as building blocks for unique custom pieces.
Something as distinct and detailed as this church, has taken time to construct. Just like a unique custom jewellery piece. Gaudi's church started construction over 100 years ago and will be many more years before it's finished. I don't need quite that long, but I do enjoy it when a project grabs me and consumes me, taking on a life of its own.
The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona was just one of countless buildings, wonders and sights that we saw in our 2 month whirl wind experience. Now that we're home, I have a refreshed love for my work, with many new ideas that I'm excited to execute.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My engagement....

2013 was a very big year for me. It was busy and life changing and apparently I didn't have time to post a single blog entry. With so much going on I certainly need to rectify that and fill people in.  I met my fiance on Halloween day in 2011 and convinced her to move in with me within a couple of weeks. By Sept of 2012 I had plans to marry her and had a beautiful half carat eighty eight cut diamond set aside for me in my diamond dealers safe. The one I
picked out fluoresces under black light, not all do, not everyone considers it desirable, I think its pretty neat. I spent the next many months designing the ring in my mind and saving my pennies, literally. My diamond broker told me that mine was the first diamond that he had ever seen purchased partially with rolled change. Once the stone was in my possession I set about making plans to propose.... Oh ya, and I had the rare honor of building the ring that my fiance now treasures. White gold and sterling silver mokume gane is a favorite of both hers and mine so naturally I wanted to incorporate it. I built the frame and setting out of 19k white gold for both strength and beauty.
I inlay-ed the mokume gane, marked out the placement of the diamond accents, drilled holes and soldered in more 19k white gold. Now my diamond gypsy set accents will be surrounded by another edge of 19k white gold, a time consuming detail but one that I'm very pleased with.  Everything needed to be filed and sanded to shape and the main setting needed to be soldered in place. Some polishing and then it was time to address the diamonds, two of my accent stones are black diamonds to continue in the black and white theme that I started with the mokume gane.
I set the stones and moved on to even more challenging parts of the procedure..... I told/ asked her father, which turned out to be more nerve racking than I thought it would be. His response "right on!", set me at ease. I borrowed a camera from a photographer friend of mine, one that had the ability to be set up and take photo after photo so that our proposal could be captured in stop motion. The results were amazing, if I can get some tech help I'll attempt to post the short video clip at some point. I chose to propose in a spot close to my fiances home town, on a hike she had been dying to take me on.
Luckily, the location was perfect, I knew it would be. Her father coordinated a surprise BBQ for afterwards so she got to spend the evening with friends and family. It couldn't have gone any better, we've since been planning for our 2015 wedding. Planning big life events seems to occupy a great deal of my time these days, I'm not complaining, just letting you know why it took me so long to update my blog......

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come from anywhere. You don't always need to have all the details sorted out either, part of my job is helping in the process. Some of my clients bring me their ideas already completed and all that's left for me to do is build the design. Other clients have an idea that we develop together, some people need me to take the lead on the entire process, everyone and every job is different. The Diamond engagement ring pictured above is a modified replica of my clients girlfriends favorite ruby ring that she wore every day.

 I built a Sterling Silver 1957 Chevy belt buckle based solely on a picture that my client brought to me.                 
  A recent client wanted engraving that was symbolic and had meaning to both he and his girlfriend. After much back and forth I prompted him to think of travels they had had together and places they had been, objects that they had purchased while abroad  that were prominent in their home. He settled on a replica of some patterning in a carpet that they had brought home from the middle east. It's a focal point in there living room and now in her ring as well. Keep an open mind and inspiration will find you, if it's taking too long, call me and let me help.                                               

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Crazy Chunky Dream Ring

I like my job. It is creative and artistic and allows me to bring ideas to life. But rarely do I have the opportunity to work with a client who is even more passionate about pushing the boundaries of an idea than I am. This job provided me with that opportunity. My client had been dreaming about this ring for years. Literally having dreams about it. So my challenge was to get inside her head and envision this ring that she already saw clearly in her mind. Daunting, yet exciting and challenging all at once. We knew the ring was going to be big and chunky. We knew that it was going to be adorned with many gemstones, some of which were sentimental and provided by my client, and some of which I had to find to compliment the idea. We knew that it was going to be organic and some what dark, with an influence we described as like roots or bramble bushes. It was going to be two tone, both gold and silver. The bezels surrounding six of the thirteen stones were to be cast in 10k yellow gold, so I started there. Carving and building those six bezels and having them cast. Once I had the gold bezels I carved the basic ring shape in a block of wax and sunk my gold bezels into the wax by gently heating them and melting them into my wax ring/block. I then completed the wax carving with the gold portion embedded firmly into the wax that was due to be cast into sterling silver. I cast the silver with the gold already in place and although the gold seemed solid then soldered them permanently in place. The next step involved a great deal of grinding and sanding to achieve the fluidity I desired, it also helped me eliminate extra bulk and weight. After polishing and applying a colored patina, it was time to set all of the stones and complete the final finish. I'm proud of the final product and even more importantly, my client was thrilled. It was a pleasure to work on and it sounds like there may even be a matching pendant in the future!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Custom Christmas Rock Star Buckle!

I've shown this process on my blog before, but the feed back I get from people is always so great, so here I go again. This is how I carve a block of wax into a custom made belt buckle. This particular buckle was given as a Christmas gift to one of the members of a great local band here in Vancouver, BC, The Washboard Union. I started by cutting a slab of wax from a large wax block using a special wax blade on my jewellers saw. Using a cheap file and rasp that I bought years ago at Canadian Tire I then flatten and smooth the slab until I deem it ready for the template. I've re-sized the bands logo on my computer and printed it out to be the exact dimension that I need for the buckle. This to me is by far the hardest step as I'm much better at carving wax or hitting metal with a hammer than I ever will be at using a computer. The very fact that I'm uploading blog posts sometimes boggles my mind! Once I've taped the printed template in place I begin the painstaking process of transferring the image onto the wax, this is done by poking little holes through the image and into the wax using a sharpened scribe. I often have to do this step in a couple sittings due to hand cramping. Once completed, I remove the paper template and begin connecting the dots. The next step involves pulling out a bunch of old dental tools, each one specially modified so that it can reach here, or scrape away wax there, where another one just might not do the job. Again, a few sittings were required to completely remove all the wax from the unwanted negative spaces. If an error occurs I also have an electronic wax pen that can re-add wax where it is needed, allowing me another chance to get it right. I then begin on the finishing details, laying out the back, adding little wax skulls for findings. Modifying them to make a hook to hold the belt. Adding a custom inscription, shaping the edges and adding a border, etc.. etc.. When I'm completely satisfied with my wax it then gets encased in investment material which is sort of like a high tech concrete. It's then put in a kiln, so that all the wax melts away, leaving a perfect void inside the investment in the exact shape of my carving. Using science and the wonders of centrifugal force, molten metal, in this case jewellers bronze is injected into the void. Once cooled, the investment can be broken away revealing our bronze buckle. There is still a great deal of sawing, filing, sanding and polishing that needs to take place before it resembles the buckle shown here in the picture, but this in essence is the process of creating a Custom Christmas Rock Star Buckle!