Have you been Behind the Beaded Curtain?

No and what is it?  

Behind the Beaded Curtain is one of my sister blogs that contains insider information into the world of hand-crafted jewelry.  

Here’s a link to check it out:
http://mandapandacreations.blogspot.com

Going for the Gold?

Since I began making artisan jewelry, I have been asked this question at least five-thousand times:  Which is better gold-filled or gold-plate?

The quick answer for both fellow jewelry artisans and consumers is ‘it depends’. Understanding the differences between the gold-filled and gold-plate processes is the key to determining which process is better for your application.  

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Gold is a relatively soft precious metal which, in most jewelry applications, is too soft to be used by itself.  There are two processes used to make gold more durable:  Gold- plating and gold-filled.

 

Gold Plating

Gold plating is a process where one to seven layers of gold are coated onto harder metal. The gold content is not significant, less than 1% even in the thickest of these processes so it should be marketed as gold-plated jewelry, not gold jewelry.

In hand-crafted jewelry, gold plating can be found on beads, clasps. wire and findings. Layers of gold are coated over base components made from glass, plastics, base metals (typically brass or copper), and silver which is harder less expensive precious metal.  

The greatest benefit to gold plating is the cost which is considerably less in most cases than its gold-filled counterpart.  For this reason, gold-plate is often the process used in higher end fashion jewelry (low end fashion jewelry is spray-painted with gold-tone paint).  The down side to gold-plating is wearability of the plated components and thus longevity of the jewelry piece.  The plating can flake or peel off, especially from those products with fewer layers of gold.  The layers of gold can also scratch, rub or wear off revealing the underlying base element(s), dispelling the appearance of gold.  Once revealed, base metals in particular, will discolor and may even react with the wearer’s skin (turn it green) or even causing an allergic reaction.  For this reason, gold-plate should not be considered or marketed as hypo-allergenic.

Gold-plate over sterling silver has been rising in popularity with the rise in precious metal prices due to the current economy.  The process of gold-plating is essentially the same as performed on other materials but typically more layers of gold plating are applied making the finish more durable.  And because sterling silver is a hypo-allergenic precious metal, gold-plate over silver can be sold as hypo-allergenic.  The cost of gold-plated silver is higher than that of gold-plating over non-precious materials but is a more economical option than gold-filled.

In some cases an added process called electroplating is performed resulting in a more stable bond at the molecular level and therefore a lower likelihood for peeling, flaking, or wearing off.  Electroplated gold can be damaged through scratches, but because the underlying metal is sterling silver the appearance of flaws are less noticeably flawed and will not discolor like base metals.

There are some industry/trade names for specific recipes of gold-plate over silver. Vermeil is the industry term used for electroplating up to 5 layers of 18kt gold over sterling silver (.925 or 92.5%). Duraplate is a trade name for electroplating seven layers of 24kt gold over pure silver (.999 or 99.9%). (Duraplate is a new process seen primarily in cast metal components and jewelry.)

 

Gold-Filled

 Gold-filled is a process where sheets of gold (usually 14kt) are wrapped around a stronger metal (typically brass or copper) in a mechanical bonding process. The end result is a thick coat of gold with the gold content of a minimum of 5% or 1/20 of the total weight and in some cases significantly higher. Gold-filled is considered fine jewelry quality. It is hard wearing, will not peel or flake and because the coating is thick, it would take an extremely deep scratch to reveal the base metal within the core.  Because the amount of gold is much greater, so is the cost of the jewelry or jewelry components; however, because the producing gold-filled is less labor intensive than higher-end gold-plating the cost for some jewelry components can be near equivalents.

 

Whether you choose gold-plate or gold-filled there some precautions that you should take with all gold, including 24kt (pure) gold: 

  • Gold will react with chlorine causing your gold to discolor permanently, so you should never wear gold in pools or chlorinated water (many water sources add chlorine).  
  • Avoid bathing or showering in your jewelry.  The soaps and soils removed from your body can leave a film on your gold affecting its luster.
  • Do not sleep in your gold jewelry as it can get twisted or break.
  • The alloy metals used in gold can react with the oils, salts and/or imbalance to the ph of a person’s skin (usually acidity).  
  • Store or pack your jewelry in a jewelry pouch or soft lined jewelry box so it does not come into contact with other jewelry pieces or hard surface.  Gold is a soft metal and can scratch or mar easily.
  • Clean your jewelry annually, or more often if necessary.  Inspect your jewelry connections to be sure any damage can be identified and repaired. 

Following good jewelry care practices are essential to keeping your gold jewelry beautiful for years to come. 

If you have any additional questions about this post or a related topic, please contact manda@mandapandacreations.com

World’s Easiest Chili Recipe

Those who know me know that I love food and have a very discerning tongue.  Becoming a mom forced my love of cooking from scratch into accepting the reality of needing quick recipes that not only I will love, but that will be craved favorites of the family, and fast to prepare.

In the hopes to help others, I present to you, my Easy Assemble Chili recipe:

  • 1-pound ground lean beef (sirloin is great but anything 90/10 or leaner will work)
  • 1/2 pound sirloin steak, diced into 1/4″ to 1/8″ cubes or stew meat, cubed to same dimensions
  • 1 large (30.5 oz) can or 2 regular (15 oz) cans Brooks or Bush’s brand seasoned chili beans, your preference (regular, mild or hot)
  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern Beans or navy beans or black beans; your preference
  • 1 can (15 oz) Cannellini Beans or red Kidney Beans
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes, seasoned if you desire
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, diced as you like (I prefer a very small dice)
  • 2 tsp mined garlic
  • salt, pepper, cumin (ground)
  • fresh cilantro, approximately 1/2 cup rough chopped
  • 2 large or 3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced (remove seeds first, then dice into 1/4″ pieces)
  • 2 cups Beef, chicken or vegetable stock, your preference

In a 9-quart or greater dutch oven/stock pot on medium high heat, brown the cubed meat with the diced onion, 1 tsp garlic; pinch of cumin, salt & pepper to taste.  Add the ground meat and brown with the 2nd tsp garlic plus a dash of cumin, salt & pepper.  Drain any fat off the browned meat.  Return pan to the stove and add 2 cups of stock, simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.

Add seasoned chili beans directly to the meat.  Rinse and drain the remaining beans and add to the pot.  Add the can of crushed tomatoes and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  Add fresh tomatoes and cilantro and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish as desired.  Our favorites include shredded monterey jack cheese, jalapenos, fresh finely chopped red onion, sour cream, more fresh tomato & cilantro, and tortilla chips.

Meat substitutes and poultry can be substituted very easily for the beef and are just as delicious.  Another favorite in our house uses ground turkey instead of the ground beef and cubed turkey breast instead of steak.  I use chicken or vegetable stock when I make this substitution.

Hope this simple and fast recipe becomes a favorite in your home too.  Enjoy!

Manda Panda Creations featured as a guest artisan on Isabella’s Beads

er8002146-010ec5For the month of February, the owner of Isabella’s Beads, fellow jewelry artisan and working mother, Mariealena Calabrese, is featuring some of Manda Panda Creations’ designs on her site. It’s an honor to be chosen as a featured jewelry designer and I’m in very good company with the other talented artisans from across the country.

Be sure to check out all the pretties available at Isabella’s:
http://isabellasbeads.com

Creating or administrating? Jewelry Artisan or Author?

Many of my local fans, family & friends know how hard I’ve been working to create a real presence on the web for Manda Panda Creations, and what really prompted that action. For those of you wondering why so many things are started but not yet completed, I’d like to allow you ‘Behind the Beaded Curtain’ on this topic.

In 2006, I became a mother and down shifted my efforts significantly and basically changed my job title to “CEO & CFO” of our household. As a new mother, I needed that break to figure out how to do the hardest job in the world. All the while my hubby regularly traveled cross country for his job. All the time apart was not ideal, but we made it work. Fast forward 1.5 years: Hubby’s travel schedule is less frequent and more predictable and when he is home, he’s working from home. Things are great! One year later, my husband becomes another victim of the bloody economy. The job market is pretty dry for him so hubby starts a consulting firm which means money is not only tight but unpredictable.

It’s late October and I decide there’s plenty of time to get busy and take advantage of the 2008 holiday season. I set up a number of local sales, but I’m still the sole caregiver for our then 22 month old so I can’t just follow my old recipe for success. I decide to just set up a website. Easy right? Well… not exactly.

I’ve been a hand-crafted jewelry artisan for nearly 20 years and I can speak on quality of materials, gemstone properties, and explain as well as illustrate how to determine excellent quality finish work and so much more about jewelry design, materials, etc. etc. etc. I begin attempting to express all this knowledge on my site and my mom agrees to write it for me. I quickly find it’s much easier to speak than it is to write it all down and pretty it up for web consumption. Then I get advice from experts in web marketing and I’m told that I need to have a presence on multiple artisan sites, blog, promote myself through social media … “which is what exactly??” … lots of free or semi-free channels to raise brand awareness instead of hiring a PR firm.

Nearly three months later, I’m still trying to complete this setup process. Sleep is still quite literally only a dream for me but I’m exhilarated. With the support of my family, especially my mom and my beloved husband as well as my friends, I’m reaching the point of completion of my site, have experimented with a couple blogs, am in more than a dozen networks with my contemporaries, and not only know what social media is, I’m quickly becoming a pro.

To be honest, I’m happier creating than administrating; and I’m definitely a better jewelry artisan than I am a writer. This will probably always be the case, but I’m thrilled with the journey and so abundantly thankful to all who have accompanied me so far as well as those who will join me in the future.

Why do I rock at creating with rocks?

Recently, in a forum with some fellow artisans we were asked to explain ‘why we rock’.  

As a modest person, I’m not really comfortable ‘tooting my own horn’, but doing this since 1992, I do have several stories to share about clients who have done that for me.  Here is one such tale:

A new client at a private sale I held recently purchased a bracelet which was about 1/2″ shy of perfect for her.  I told her, as I do with all my clients, that I would adjust it for her at no charge.  She said, “oh, it’s not too tight, just a little snugger than I hoped.”  I said, it won’t take long, custom design and fit is my specialty.  She thanked me and said she’d never experienced such a level of service or attention to detail.

Because the party was relatively busy I explained I would either need her to stay to the end of the event or I would take measurements to make the proper adjustments and get the bracelet it to her the next day.  She decided to stay after the event.

While I was measuring for the adjustment, she shared she has been an avid buyer of hand-crafted jewelry for years and often had to have bracelets lengthened which was done by just putting a (jump) ring at the end to extend it.  I explained that I don’t do that because I feel it’s a cheat.  Jump-rings are not elements of design, they are functional components and should not have a large percentage of presence.   “A good design is based on balance and movement of the pattern”, I explained.  “You need a jump-ring at either side of a strand of beads to attach the clasp properly.  Too many makes the piece unbalanced”.mpc_coverdraft_10272008-2

 For this design I needed to adjust the pattern so it would maintain the design’s integrity and the large gemstones would be centered on her wrist properly.  It took approximately 10 minutes to amend the pattern and restring the bracelet for her.  

After I finished, her face lit up as I put her bracelet on her wrist.  “Absolutely perfect” she replied.  She thanked me profusely and then asked, “with as much love as you put into your designs, is it hard to part with them?”  I just smiled and replied, “yes, I don’t make anything I wouldn’t want to wear myself. ” 

Creating pieces with love that will be loved;  that’s why I do what I do, and why I rock!

To view my current designs, visit www.mandpandacreations.com

Manda Panda Creations: What’s in the name

What’s in the name?panda-small

In elementary school Manda (not Amanda) was teased about her unusual name by fellow students chanting “Manda Panda”.  Since Manda had and has a fondness for panda bears, she decided it was a pretty fun nickname and adopted it as her own.  

In 1992, after a few months of making jewelry for herself, enough people asked to buy her jewelry that Manda started a business and Manda Panda Creations was born.

http://www.mandapandacreations.com