Category Archives: custom designs

Stormy day Musings

Happy New Year Everyone!

As I work on this draft, we are getting ready for a gale here on the coast of Washington State. It is just getting light outside, the yellow dot-to-dot of deck lights from the crabbing fleet glow across the horizon. In the relative calm before the storm I took  photos out on the beach of a new cuff bracelet , stepping back as the tide washed up around my feet…

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This cuff represents different processes-from etching the copper with a design, to forming  it into a bracelet, adding silver rivets and soldering bezels for the stones, and applying patina until the desired color/s is obtained. The rest of the post will be about the technical steps that relate to each part of the process, with pictures in progress and of the finished pieces.

Step One: Etching

Before the etching,  a  a thin layer of fine silver was fused to one side of a piece of 20 gauge copper. After that I applied a resist to the copper side.  Everything that is not covered by the resist is exposed and will be etched away in an acid bath. Even though this solution does not etch silver, it was covered with duct tape to keep it from darkening.

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The first photos show my low tech etching station. When the weather is warm, I set up a table in the garage with the door open for ventilation. I mix a solution of Ferric Chloride with distilled water in a plastic container (yellow colored solution). Essential supplies include rubber gloves, safety glasses, duct tape, wooden tongs and baking soda for neutralizing acid.

As an aside I should mention that when I was a student at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, my on campus job was in the printmaking lab. I loved the etching process and did a lot of photo etching of Barbie dolls in those days, printing them on alternative materials like canvas, wood veneer, leather and more, ultimately using the copper etching plates in sculptures.

The next photo shows a detail shot of a future cuff in progress. I took it out of the acid bath to check how quickly the metal was being eroded. The design being etched is a Japanese textile pattern. It was photocopied onto a special contact paper made for circuit boards called PNP paper,  then transferred to the copper with heat and pressure. The blue color is the PNP transfer which forms a resist against the acid. Everything that does not have the resist (blue ) on it will be etched. After examining it I decided to immerse it for a longer time to get a deeper etch. I would estimate the total time for this was about an hour plus…


The second photo shows two etchings with different designs. They are taped to foamcore board which allows them to float (upside down) in the acid. Note: you will see how each of these pieces looks as a finished piece of jewelry if you continue to read this post!

After the desired depth of etch has occurred, the resist is removed with acetone. I love this part of the process (no not because of the chemicals, Marcy Merrill a.k.a. Silver Nitrate Queen)   because you get to see what it’s going to look like!

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When the etching is completed the forming begins…

My friend Jeffro set me up with this handy vice stand, made from a salvaged tree stump found on the beach. The steel forming stake that is clamped in the vice was made by Bill Dawson of Mud Bay, WA. The cuff will be given it’s shape by a process of hammering it around the stake until the top and bottom edges start to flare out. It is called anticlastic forming.

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After the cuff has been formed and filed, stones or rivets (or both) can be added…

026 22KT gold rivets and bezel for moonstone are added.

What follows after the bezels, rivets or other accents are applied is the patina process. Patina is the darkening or coloring of metal due to exposure to chemicals or the elements. I have been studying Japanese patina formulas and applications. More about this in a future post.

Here are the two cuff in a finished state:

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Gauntlet cuff– copper, silver, 22 kt gold with abalone and a moonstone that was found on a local beach (Thanks Ann)

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Satori Cuff– with diamond and 22KT gold rivets.Photos by Marcy Merrill

Photo Gallery: Etched cuffs

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These cuffs are made with sterling  silver that was etched in Ferric Nitrate. They have an abstract/ organic texture the result of applying traditional asphaltum resists in a free hand manner. The top two photos feature a large moonstone found on the beach. This cuff was made for the beachcombers (and friends) who found the stone.

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Rain Cuff-etched silver with Ellensburg Blue agate, custom cut grey moonstones and 18kt gold. This was a custom piece for Chris of Vancouver, BC. who sent the gemstones to me for the project.


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Japanese textile -etched cuff with coral, mother of pearl, 18kt gold

Hopefully this post has shed a bit more light on some of the processes and creative surprises involved in the making of jewelry.  Looking forward  to the projects and adventures of this coming year-and sharing with you!

PS: I just discovered this Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Connections/Magic feature. It is a four minute slideshow with Marco Leona talking about science, art and magic-the alchemy of creative experimentation.  The art images that accompany it are great. Here is a link:

Best Wishes for 2014~

Custom Summer


It has been a great summer spent close to home. Enjoying the easy living of warm temperatures, long hours of daylight, visits from friends and family, camp outs and back yard barbeques.

Instead of setting up a booth at outdoor festivals this year, I have been keeping busy developing new designs and working on commissions from old and new customers. Also in early July, I  opened an Etsy storefront too…(Thank you Sophia for your computer and jewelry modeling skills!)

What follows is a look at some recently created custom work… all photos by yours truly unless otherwise credited.

Wedding Rings

john and dianne photo by Marcy Merrill

John and Dianne visited my studio last April during our annual Tokeland Art Studio tour. They were planning a late August beach- front wedding on the Oregon coast and were looking for wedding rings that reflected their love of nature-especially the beach. Dianne found her ring that day in my studio-orange sea glass with a diamond. They commissioned a band for John that related to the textures of Dianne’s ring adding a diamond that had belonged to Dianne’s grandmother.

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idea2lifestyle commission: Horse coin cuff

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ideacuffphoto by Gerald Chen

Idea2lifestyle is one of my favorite indie clothing designers. Located in Shanghai, they consist of a tightly knit design team, creating free spirited and poetic fashion. I made this copper cuff with an ancient Sicilian horse coin by request for a fashion shoot-you can see more designs  at their shop:

Jane’s Ginger Amulet

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This piece is made of Victorian era sea glass, from the NE coast of England. It was commissioned by Jane, (a returning customer) from Olympia, WA.  Especially cool is the secret  “horizon line” in the glass, visible only  when held to the light. The double chain allows it to be worn at two lengths, making it a versatile go-to necklace.

New Mother ring

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Ross from NYC commissioned this ring as a gift for his wife, Thanh. She has very recently given birth to a beautiful baby girl. The ring is water like in color and form, with sea glass set in 22KT gold and an ocean blue sapphire.

Moonstone ring

ann mills ring photo by Marcy Merrill

Ann lives by the beach in Westport Washington. She has been collecting moonstones on her daily dog walks for years. Moonstones are pretty rare here-local beachcombers call them “Westport diamonds”. In their natural state they are frosty and translucent, resembling a piece of white sea glass. Ann polished her moonstones in a rock tumbler, resulting in transparently clear stones, each one like a droplet of water.

She came to my studio with a small bag of moonstones and we discussed design possibilities for a ring. I loved the serene clarity of the stone she chose for her ring. It seemed destined for an ancient style ring shank. Set in 22KT gold, it is flanked by two small diamonds that twinkle like sun (or moon) on water,

Later, Ann surprised me with an amazing gift-a  cloth pouch filled with tumbled moonstones, the result of about nine years of beach combing. I felt treasured by her generosity. In appreciation I surprised her with this pair  of earrings.

ann's earrings

Pegasus ring


Chris from Vancouver, BC  has loved ancient Greek mythology since childhood, He was interested in having an ancient coin ring made to wear at his twenty fifth high school reunion. I sent him some photos and info about the  ancient Greek coins in my collection. Chris selected a  Late 4th century B.C. silver coin  from Corinth, Greece. The obverse side features the goddess Aphrodite, the reverse side shows the winged horse, Pegasus.


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Festus Cuff

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Tom from Texas wanted to purchase a cuff from my website for his wife’s birthday gift. The piece he was interested in had sold, but I was able to make a bracelet  with the same elements-an etched silver anticlasstic formed cuff with ancient Roman coin of the same type and era as that of the original cuff. Better yet, it was in her size.

Very pleased with the cuff, they placed a custom order for their eleven year old son, Blake. He really liked the warrior ring on my page, and selected a similar coin dating back to Constantine ll. It was made into a pendant showcasing the two Roman soldier guarding the camp gate. I hope this inspires him to continue his interest in ancient history!



Salt Water Ring

Dan, from So Cal wanted to have a ring made for his girlfriend Tania. They had a one year anniversary coming up and the ring seemed like a great way to commemorate. We decided on a Salt Water ring substiuting the 18kt gold accent for a diamond….

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Salt Water Ring classic (above) Salt Water Ring custom (below)

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Rings for Christine and Jim

Well, there is still more work on the bench to do, but I am going to end this post with pictures of rings created for two of my favorite customers from North Carolina.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!


jim hazen band shoreline gold

 Bonus Shot: Sandra’s Ring

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Sandra fell in love with this piece of cat’s eye green sea glass on my work bench…and the rest, as they say, is history…


Studio Time/Be-ing/Becoming


It has been a few weeks since my last post. I have been working on designs that take much longer to realize, as they are based on ancient metal working techniques. The key word here is Process. Working in the long, pre- summer evenings, enjoying the endless shadows stretched across the tide flats outside my studio window, I savor the opportunity to slow down. To practice patience. Knowing that I won’t have a finished piece to to show for my time this evening- but I will have made progress in forming the metal that will eventually be part of something beautiful. Be-ing Becoming….

046013017009Step 1. It begins by the melting of silver scraps and casting into an ingot. Step 2. Twist in vise

Step 3. roll ridges down between two rocks, Step 4. hammer into rounded, tapering pieces.

Step Forever: anneal and repeat- repeat- repeat!

After A LOT of rolling, twisting, smoothing between rocks, the ingot becomes longer, eventually forming a taper at both ends…This is where surrendering to the process comes into play~

The tapered piece of silver is now ready to be formed into a ring shank or earrings….

Here’s to the beginning of Summer~may it be a wild and magical one!

Solstice Collection

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blue banglesolstice ring marble

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stirrup hoops




Something Old and Something New

herband billphoto by Marcy Merrill

Wedding rings are a great example of jewelry with meaning. Chosen with care to represent both individuals and their union to each other, it is always a great honor for me to work with a couple to custom design the rings that will signify their commitment  and love.

Recently I made the wedding rings for my friends Herb and Bill, from Astoria, Oregon. They have been together for nearly twenty years. On March 4, 2004, they were legally married in the state of Oregon. The rings they used in that ceremony  were made by a  Hopi silver smith, purchased on a previous trip to Sedona,  Arizona.

Eight months after they were married, same sex marriage was repealed in Oregon. It will go back on the ballots in November 2014. Although same sex marriage is now legal in nearby Washington state (yay!) they choose not to get re- married there.They are going to wait for it to pass ( again) in their home state.

Herb and Bill asked me to design some new rings for them, using parts of their original wedding bands. They really liked the organic texture and form of my reticulated silver bands.The idea was to incorporate a piece from each of their rings into the design. Herb’s ring had four bear paw prints across the top, in gold. The bear symbolizes healing, protection, power and strength. Bill’s ring had a four part  wave motif in gold. The wave symbolizes continuous life and love.

I started preparing the metal during a full moon in April. Lots of positive thought and intention went into the process. It was a bit of a challenge to work with elements that were not completely of my own making. I really hoped that the stylized and polished Hopi designs would mesh with my funky free form organic silver bands….

When the rings were finished, I called Bill and Herb.

They planned a trip up to my studio in Tokeland. (Coincidentally, it was during another full moon.)

They were more than delighted with the look and fit of their new wedding bands! We drank a champagne toast to their new rings and continued happiness together…something old and something new.


Making it a romantic weekend, they stayed at the historic Tokeland Hotel. Built in 1885, it is the oldest resort hotel in Washington state. They invited me to be their guest for diner that night. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and great company, in the rustically charming dining room, wood stove blazing brightly as the rain came down outside.




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Here’s to you Herb and Bill, all the best and many thanks!!!