Featured Item: Abalone Cluster Earrings with Niobium Loop
Let me show you some of my recent favorite earrings. These are abalone bead earrings with a niobium loop and handmade earwires. The beads hang in a cluster, creating a fun "tufted" effect, and since shell weighs virtually nothing, they are still very lightweight. These earrings, by the way, are 2 1/4 inches (6 cm). This is a little longer than my "typical" earring style, but boy, are they worth it.
Now, please, let me tell you about them:
Abalone, for a start, is an amazing bead. As a shell, it shimmers and shines with a variety of colors. Things that look like imperfections just add to the beauty. And the more you gather together, the more the variations make a pattern that is both organic, and perfection itself. Since it comes from the ocean, it causes the mind to muse for a moment on its watery origins, peaceful blue waters, and the ocean itself, the source of all life - turbulent, yet eternal. (Really, just go with it for a moment.)
Then, I could go on about niobium. Should I? It seems like all I ever talk about. As you know, and I have repeated often, nickel allergies are common. Niobium will not irritate your skin, even if you have an allergy to nickel. Not only does it contain no nickel at all, it will not react with virtually any skin type. It is not an alloy, it is a 99.99% pure metal, which does not require any other hardeners or fillers (such as nickel) to make it strong enough for jewelry. Gold is very nice, but it is really, really soft on its own, so people resort to adding stuff to it, to make it stronger. Many times, that includes nickel. So I stick to metals that I know more about, like niobium.
Niobium is a relatively "recent" addition to the toolbox of jewelry makers in general, since it was not known until around the 1860's how to extract niobium from it's companion element, tantalum. This may sound like a long time ago, but in the history of metals and rocks and things, is sort of recent. It was formerly called "Columbium," as was its companion, Tantalum. It is now understood how to get these two love bugs apart, and each has its own identity and unique properties. Niobium is now used in jewelry, but interestingly, it also is a superconductor, which make it useful for a host of other industries, from electronics to rocket engines.
Another aspect I love about these earrings is the art itself. I wonder if you have taken note of how I am changing and growing as a jewelry artist. I discover styles as I go, letting my wire and other materials tell me how they want to be formed. I certainly do read books, watch videos, and otherwise educate myself about what is possible with my materials. But when I sit down to create, I usually have very few pre-conceived ideas of what the end product will be. In fact it is common for a bracelet to turn into earrings, or earrings to turn into a necklace before I understand the pattern that is emerging before me.
You may have noticed, though, that earrings are among my favorite things to design with. I do think this is partly because I was unable to wear them for so many years, so I suppose I'm just making up for lost time :) But as a design element, I just find them fun. They interact with gravity, the movement of the materials, and the movement of your own body, to eventually find their full shape. I like to say that earrings are designed "upside down" since they are supported from the top, not the bottom, like most artwork is.
Okay, enough talk. So where do you get them? Just follow this link to my shop, and you get a closer look.
Handmade and Nickel Free
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*Do you have a question about this or other items in my shop? I'd love to hear it. Serving you is what I do.