Jewelry Collection Stories: Kate of @LuxCharmJewelry

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This month’s Jewelry Collection Story comes from Kate of @LuxCharmJewelry and it is a good one! Kate is a full-time art teacher and part-time jewelry enthusiast and collector. You may already be following her on Instagram, but if not you must. Her collection is pretty amazing and her story may resonate with many of you. So without further ado, I give you Kate’s collection story:

I’ve always loved jewelry. I have early memories of playing “dress up” and “jewelry store” with my grandmother Louise. She kept her jewelry in the top dresser drawer. Oh how I loved looking inside those little boxes and seeing all the sparkly jewels inside! We would arrange her jewels on top of carefully arranged bits of pretty fabrics and embroidered handkerchiefs and take turns “shopping.” It was so much fun trying on her white dress gloves and high heels and playing with all those pretty things.

When I was around 10 years old, my dad started giving me jewelry every year for Christmas, mostly rings. One year, I received a topaz ring that had the most amazing shade of bright blue. I adored that ring! Another favorite ring given to me by my dad was a gold signet ring that he had monogramed with my initials. I think I was around 15 at the time. It’s a classic look that will never go out of style and one I wear often today.

One of my favorite early jewelry memories was when my family went out to dinner before my high school senior award night. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to win the top artist award in my class, and my parents bought me this beautiful southwestern sterling bracelet and turquoise ring to mark the occasion. For high school graduation, I received a large, modernist sterling and gold ring. At the time, I wasn’t into yellow gold, and these bold sterling pieces were among the most beautiful pieces I owned. Luckily, my parents have continued the tradition of gifting me jewelry for special occasions, and I cherish them all. These pieces help to serve as reminders of special times in my life. My sweet husband has also joined in on the tradition and I have received many beautiful pieces from him now over the years, including my very first (and favorite) Victorian bird bangle bracelet and my beloved antique turquoise and diamond halo ring.

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As a teenager, I was really into second-hand shops–mainly for vintage clothes and small decorative items, but eventually I started picking up inexpensive jewelry and odds-and-ends; like pendants, chokers, chains, etc. At about the same time, I started making beaded jewelry and even gifting and selling pieces to my friends.

Years later, I decided to try my hand at selling handmade jewelry on Etsy. It was a fun, challenging, and creative outlet. Those were the relative early days of Etsy, and I grew as it grew. I did this for a couple of years and slowly started incorporating more and more vintage jewelry components and findings into my pieces. Eventually, the competition increased and my enthusiasm waivered, so I put my shop on hold.

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My love affair with antique jewelry began about eight years ago when my mom and I were antiquing at one of my favorite stores in Richmond, IN. My mom fell head-over-heels for this old gold cameo ring. At first, I was like, “What? Cameos? Ugh, I don’t get it.” Then much to my surprise, my mom professed her life-long love affair with cameos, citing stories from her youth. The shop owner quoted her a low price and my mom quickly bought the ring. She wasn’t one to make fine jewelry purchases on our excursions together, so I was intrigued and wanted to know more. I couldn’t stop staring at this unusual reddish-orange cameo ring on our drive back home; I was fascinated by it. It didn’t look like the girly, pink cameos I was used to seeing. It was more masculine in style and the gold was a rich rose color. The shop owner estimated the ring to be about 120 years old.

To my knowledge, I had never seen a ring that old before and now I wanted one for myself! The more I researched, the more I realized what an amazing deal my mom got on that ring. Sure, it was more than I was used to spending on random antique mall purchases (about $85), but still affordable. This made antique jewelry seem obtainable to me for the first time ever. I started reading jewelry books, researching online, and educating myself on antique jewelry. I liked learning the history behind each piece. It’s a perfect fit for me– combining my love of history, research, sentiment, story, etc.

Inspired by my new passion and focus, I reopened my Etsy shop–selling only vintage and antique jewelry. I absolutely loved hunting for old jewelry, even cameos! Thinking back to that special trip to Richmond with my mom, I believe this was the critical moment that later turned this new interest into a full-blown hobby and part-time job for me.

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Today I have such a deep and sincere appreciation for antique jewelry; I tend to collect a little bit of everything. All in all, I tend to go more for Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco pieces. Rings are probably my favorite type of jewelry to wear and collect. I love everything from dainty to bold, statement rings. I also love antique bangles and Deco necklaces in all sorts of finishes, metals, and styles.

One of my favorite things to collect are watches. My favorite makers are Longines and Bucherer. I have everything from watch pins, watch rings, wristwatches, and pocket watches. And I really love long enamel watch necklaces. My love of watch necklaces probably began when I scored an amazing Bucherer red guilloche enamel watch ball necklace for $60 in a small, local antique shop. I later learned this was a remarkable deal for one with its original enamel chain in perfect condition. I’ve since added about 10 more to my collection over the years. I just can’t stop myself when I see a beautiful one for a good price. I have such a weakness for fine guilloche enamel-work.

In addition, I love bird-themed jewelry and have many bird bangles, lockets, etc. I tend to favor cool-color pieces in general (it must be the Pisces in me!). I am very fond of blue–sapphires, lapis, zircon, and turquoise to name a few. Pale lavender chalcedony, dreamy moonstones, and that particular shade of green commonly used in Art Deco pieces–are all personal favorites. I have a growing collection of snake rings, too.

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I enjoy shopping at small, local places best. The Midwest is a gold mine for antiques of all kinds. The big jewelry enthusiasts seem to live on either coast and being stuck in the middle has its advantages… lower prices and less pickers. But this seems to get harder every year. My favorite display cases and shops seem to be shutting down. The old dealers retire; some pass away. I think part of me has also wanted to open a brick and mortar shop, but the risks are scary.

Currently, I seem to have the most luck shopping at antique shows and online auctions. I’m always on the hunt for new pieces. I would love to own more niello jewelry, antique enamel bracelets, and gutta percha bangles inlaid with gold. I have a thing for portrait paintings but oddly, own no portrait jewelry. I interned at the National Portrait Gallery right after college and it’s a subject I’m really interested in. I would love to find the perfect emerald ring and more “name” or “initial” jewelry to represent the important people in my life.

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Recently I celebrated a milestone birthday (hello, 40!) and had been hunting for the perfect aquamarine birthstone piece of jewelry for months. Then it finally happened…a huge, honking, 14-carat, Victorian, pear-shaped aqua ring in 15K gold popped up on my Instagram feed. Its large size, unfussy setting, and perfect pale-blue color, stopped me dead in my tracks. A direct quote from the seller was, “a mesmerizing, dreamy, huge piece of magic.” Indeed it was. I sold three personal collection rings to make room for this special ring, the latest addition to my jewelry box.

Back when I started wearing, selling, and collecting antique jewelry, I was the only one I knew who did. I just bought what I liked and what I could afford at the time. It wasn’t until I joined IG a couple of years ago that I found other like-minded people who loved and appreciated old jewelry as much as I do. Like most sellers/collectors, I am searching for more high quality and unusual pieces nowadays. Lately, there seems to be more competition, more reproductions, and higher prices on the online auction sites, making it harder to “score” a deal. While I may not be selling forever, I know I will be wearing and enjoying my jewelry for the rest of my life. It brings me so much joy. Marking special occasions and making new memories with jewelry are so important to me. Jewelry has a way of keeping our memories alive…providing a tangible reminder… connecting us to the people, places, and significant moments we cherish in life. Happy hunting!


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You can follow Kate –> @LuxCharmJewelry


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Q & A and Visit with Emily Stoehrer of MFA Boston

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After a long and exciting week in Boston, I had a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts set up to feed my jewelry history cravings. One of my favorite things about my love and passion for jewelry is learning! Museum exhibits are such a great way to see and learn, often producing a lifelong impact or memory–especially for me. Whenever there is a headlining jewelry exhibit, I like to try to schedule trips in hopes of catching it before it ends. Lucky for Boston, the MFA has quite an extensive jewelry department that is constantly researching, collaborating, and creating new exhibits. I got to have a private tour with Emily Stoehrer who is not only a wealth of knowledge, but highly dedicated and involved in what she does for the museum. I was fascinated in so many ways, as she brought me through the MFA’s current exhibit Past is Present: Revival Jewelry.

Learn more about Emily as she answers my questions below and make sure you stop by the exhibit before it ends in August of 2018. Can’t wait to visit again!


I am the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry. It’s a unique role in an American fine art museum, which was established in 2006. I was appointed in 2014, and over the last three years have worked to develop the exhibition program; add extraordinary jewels to the collection; connect with jewelers, designers, and collectors; and collaborate with colleagues across the museum to plan programming and events

Spanning thousands of years of jewelry history, there are more than 20,000 objects in the jewelry collection. Highlights include our ancient collections and contemporary jewelry, but over the last decade have added to our holding of fine jewelry. A great example of this is a gift given by the Rothschild family a few years ago, which included an outstanding pearl and diamond necklace that dates to the late nineteenth century. With large, perfectly matched natural pearls, it’s an extraordinary treasure! Yvonne Markowitz (who is the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry Emerita) and I have worked to establish a jewelry resource center for anyone interested in the study of jewelry, and as part of that we have also worked with the Curator of Design to acquire jewelry with related design drawings. Studying drawings from firms like Trabert & Hoeffer Mauboussin, the manufacturer-jeweler Louis Ferón, and the artist-craftsman Frank Gardner Hale, alongside the jewelry they made, has greatly informed our understanding of jewelry and how the industry operated historically.

We have also worked to add strength to strength by filling in gaps in our historical collection. For example, until recently we did not have anything by Carlo Giuliano. But, this year we added two amazingly naturalistic gold and enamel butterflies to the collection—a Duke of Burgundy and Bath White butterfly, to be specific. They are impossibly thin, and enameled on both sides to show every detail of the butterfly’s body and wings. They are a stunning example of the goldsmith’s art. Another historically important and spectacular ornament that I recently acquired is the Apparitions brooch which was designed by Eugene Grasset and made by Henri Vever for the 1900 Paris Exposition. It’s hauntingly beautiful art nouveau aesthetic won them the Grand Prix.

My favorite part of the job is the research and planning that goes into creating an exhibition—doing research in libraries and archives and taking a deep dive into historical documents, publications, and material culture. Unfortunately, as I run from meeting to meeting, I don’t get to spend as much time doing this as I would like. So, I rely on some a team of volunteers and interns to help with some of it. Once the research has been done, and the objects have been selected, the real fun begins. I have learned so much about the storytelling capabilities of jewelry from working with the MFA’s remarkable exhibition designers, mountmakers, and conservators as we discuss and mock-up how each object will be displayed in the gallery.

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As any lover of jewelry knows, the past has consistently inspired jewelers and designers. While interest in historicism was particularly strong during the nineteenth century, there were great revival jewels made before 1800 and after 1900. In the same way the Victorians struggled with the tension between mass-production and hand-craftsmanship, we grapple with digital design and the pace of modern life. So, I see this as a topic that is as relevant today as it was 150 years ago, and if you think about it that way you’ll notice many examples of twentieth and twenty-first century jewelry that engage with a historical narrative. I hope that visitors enjoy seeing traditional “revivalist” ornaments by outstanding jewelers like Castellani and Giuliano, Bapst and Falize and Boucheron, but also some unexpected surprises like a 9-foot titanium python necklace by Munich-based contemporary jeweler David Bielander, and that the juxtaposition makes them question their notion of revival jewelry.

The exhibition highlights four revival styles: Archeological, Classical, Renaissance, and Egyptian. Each case in the intimate space includes a choice group of jewelry aimed to tell a story – travel, nationalism, graduation, cameo, scarabs, and snakes are just a few of the themes explored. If you pay very close attention to the labels, visitors might also be delighted to learn how early some of these objects were added to the MFA collection. Like the Met, the MFA was founded in 1870, and some of these jewels were acquired in the subsequent decades, making them contemporary jewelry when they were donated. A neoclassical necklace and five brooches with mythological scenes in carved shell cameo, and a Castellani necklace, earrings, and brooch commissioned by the amber collector William Buffum are just two examples of the objects that have resided at the MFA for more than one hundred years. Newer acquisitions on view include: a tour-de-force bracelet by the Roman jeweler Ernesto Pierret that features a central bovine head, granulation, and two menacing faces that come together to form the clap; a spectacular early twentieth-century neck ornament by G. Paulding Farham for Tiffany & Co.; and a slithering silver snake belt/necklace, with sapphire eyes, that Elsa Peretti designed for the American fashion designer Halston in the 1970s.

While 80% of the works on view are from the MFA collection, there are also some noteworthy loans. From the collection of Susan B. Kaplan, a startlingly lifelike lion speaks to the genius of Castellani’s designers and craftsmen. Unlike other micromosaic workshops, Castellani left the surface of their work uneven to create a glittering effected. Wartski Ltd., of London, loaned a demi-parure (belt buckle, brooch, and bracelet) by Falize Frères. Enameled on both sides, the glorious ornaments use translucent enamel and foil to create a fantastical scene with birds, like those seen in illuminated manuscripts. Generously sponsored by Cartier, the exhibition includes four magnificent twentieth-century ornaments from the Cartier Collection. Made between 1906 and 1928, the garland style medusa necklace, winged scarab belt buckle, Eye of Horus bracelet (that once belonged to Linda Porter), and the diamond chimera bracelet are outstanding examples of French revival jewelry, and the depth of the MFAs ancient collection allows for these dazzling jewels to be exhibited alongside the ancient artifacts that inspired their design.

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My path to jewelry was a crooked one. I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and had plans to attend law school. But a few years working in the District Attorney’s office, I changed my mind and I began researching graduate programs in fashion. In 2005 I moved to New York City and enrolled in the two-year Fashion & Textile Studies program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Thanks to FIT’s remarkable alumni network I ended up back in my hometown with an internship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As an intern I worked with conservators in the Textile Conservation department to relocate the fashion collection.

My first full-time position at the MFA was as a Collections Care Specialist and my responsibilities included preparing more than 10,000 objects from the Asian costume and textile collection for photography – everything from kimono to dragon robes and textile fragments to temple hangings. When that project ended, I became the Curatorial Research Associate reporting to Yvonne Markowitz (then curator of jewelry). For two years I worked with her on the inaugural exhibition in the jewelry gallery, and the book Artful Adornment. Both the exhibition and the book focused on highlights from the MFA’s jewelry collection. Yvonne quickly became a very important part of my life, and has been an extraordinary mentor. She encouraged me to think about a future as a jewelry curator, bringing my knowledge of fashion history to the understanding of jewelry. She enthusiastically introduced me to her contacts and colleagues, took me to conferences, and supported my own research in the field. She also told me to consider a PhD.

During my time at the MFA, I had been teaching courses in textiles and fashion history, and in 2010 I left the Museum and took a position at a small college in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. As Program Director and Assistant Professor, I managed three robust fashion programs with more than 100 students. At the same time I took PhD courses and exams, and began work on my dissertation. My doctoral work focused on the intersection of fashion, jewelry, and media. I examined the vintage jewelry on the red carpet from 1995-2010 using Neil Lane’s collection as a case study.

After nearly 30 years at the MFA, Yvonne retired in 2014 and I was appointed to replace her. Over the last three years, I curated the exhibitions Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen, Past is Present: Revival Jewelry, and smaller installations; planned jewelry related events and trips for the MFA’s Fashion Council; traveled extensively to lecture, visit art fairs and exhibitions, participated in educational opportunities organized by Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts (ASJRA) and Art Jewelry Forum (AJF) trips, attend conferences, visited collectors, galleries, designers, and jewelers. It’s been a whirlwind. Recently I have taken on two leadership roles, joining the board of directors for the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) and the Boston chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA).

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I am immersed in research for two forthcoming exhibitions, and a book related to my doctoral work.

Opening in September 2018, an exhibition of Boston arts and crafts jewelry and metalwork will replace Past is Present in the Stanley H. and Rita J. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery. From the establishment of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts to the disastrous 1929 stock market crash that crippled many artist craftsmen, this exhibition will be the first to focus solely on Boston jewelers, and will include design drawings, jewelry, and hollowware by artists like Frank Gardner Hale, Josephine Hartwell Shaw, Margaret Rogers, and Edward Everett Oakes.

That exhibition will be followed by one on Elsa Peretti, who will be celebrating 50 years as a designer in 2020. Beginning her design career making jewelry and accessories for Giorgio Sant’ Angelo and Halston before joining Tiffany & Co., Peretti has created timeless designs that continue to resonate with modern consumers. Her refined taste has focused, primarily, on silver but the exhibition will feature a diverse sample of her work, as well as her inspirations, and—of course—include a fashion element. An esteemed arbiter of style, fashion icon, and friend of many twentieth century notables, this exhibition will celebrate Peretti’s life and career.

My work at the MFA keeps me very busy, but I am also in the midst of writing a book titled Jewelry in Celebrity Culture: Glamour and the Hollywood Spectacle. It will be published as part of I.B. Taurus’s Dress Culture series (edited by Reina Lewis and Elizabeth Wilson). From the tour-de-force necklace that the American firm Trabert & Hoeffer loaned Colette Colbert to wear in the 1935 film The Gilded Lily to the impact of The Representation Project’s #askhermore campaign, the book will examine how jewelry aids in Hollywood’s production of glamour.

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To be honest, the last three years have been a series of highlights. The people I have had the opportunity to meet have been the most memorable. The many conversations and meetings I had with Neil Lane as I conducted research on Hollywood jewelry and his private collection, having lunch with Elsa Peretti in Sant Marti Vell, Spain and discussing her incredible life and work, and spending two days in Wallace Chan’s Hong Kong atelier are at the top of the list!

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I look forward to seeing the field grow in new and exciting ways. There are so many M.A. programs that embrace the study of jewelry history, and there remain extensive subjects awaiting scholarly work. Coupled with a G.G. I think there is extraordinary potential for research and writing. I was lucky to have a great mentor, who guided my career path, and if you can find an experienced curator or historian to play that role for you, it’s priceless. This field is so welcoming. I encourage anyone interested in jewelry to find others that share their passion, social media is a great place for this.

Being a museum curator is much more multi-faceted than I realized after leaving graduate school. Even after years working at the Museum, it wasn’t until I was a curator that I realized the diverse requirements of the job—a natural curiosity, a mastery of your subject area and how it connects to other types of art, a vision and strong ideas that you can translate into exhibitions, excellence in building and maintaining relationships with artists and collectors, as well as strong research, writing, and public speaking skills.

I am very lucky that the MFA has such a vibrant jewelry program. My position, the gallery, and the prominence of jewelry at the MFA is all thanks to tremendous generosity Susan B. Kaplan. It is our hope that other American fine art museums will expand their collection, exhibition, and publication related to jewelry. And, that similar positions will emerge at other American museums.

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WANT MORE? You can follow Emily on Instagram —> @jewelcurator

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Arik Kastan Debuts New Styles at Couture 2017

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Arik Kastan and their team have been busy debuting some new designs and collections while out in Vegas for Couture. Buyers, press, journalists all hovered over their booth to get a glimpse of the new styles and fun gemstone combinations that still have people talking. As usual, Arik Kastan’s booth was one that couldn’t be missed when attending this year’s tradeshow.

If you missed out attending Vegas, we’ve got you covered in this installment–which is shown here on Gem Gossip, as well as all of Arik Kastan’s Newsletter subscribers. Be sure to sign up if you haven’t below!

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A padlock on a thin chain is all you need for a night out in Vegas! This one has us telling our friends it is perfect in every way. Classic and cool for a modern woman who still likes a nod from the past.

Oval cluster padlock in emerald + diamonds, Price: $2,360

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We weren’t ready for how much of an impact we would bring to Couture with our green agate pieces! Comments like, “what stone is this, it is amazing?!” and “this green color is glowing!!” have really made us proud. This ring is one of our favorites.

Five-Stone Art Deco ring in green agate + sapphire, Price: $1,280

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Since we are on a green/blue kick, we’ve changed things up by using emeralds and turquoise. This earring style and gemstone combo are totally chic, and we could picture these on a summer getaway on a plane near you!

Deco Rhombus Drop Earrings in turquoise + emerald, Price: $1,830

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To go along with the above earrings, we’ve created this ring which is sweet as can be! It is stack-ready and as we’ve said before, awaiting summer. Try wearing this one on your pinky if you’re wanting to do something more unique. Your friends will catch on.

Deco Lilac ring in turquoise + emerald, Price: $1,170

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Feeling the summer heat over here in Vegas, which is why we’re opting to keep our necklace situation simple. We have been wearing the Aster necklace most of the week and it has brought the right amount of sparkle and femininity to our lives. Definitely our kind of Vegas vibes.

Aster Pendant in diamonds, Price: $1,830

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Before we head back to LA from scorching Vegas, we want to point out our Delilah ring because SHE’S CUTE. One of our most-requested rings during our trade show and we can’t wait to see these on your fingers!

Delilah ring in emerald + diamonds, Price: $2,200

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We couldn’t wait to show off our newest vintage-inspired bow rings which debuted at Couture. And the newest gemstone color combo that had store and editors swooning–green agate and sapphires. Look out for them to hit the website soon! Can’t wait? Email [email protected]

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Halstead Lab Testing for Quality Control

Lab testing and quality control are extremely important to all of us at Halstead. We want you to buy sterling silver, 14 karat gold and gold-filled supplies with confidence that you won’t receive anything less than the federally allowed tolerances for precious metals.

The most common fear we hear from customers is buying findings as precious metal and then finding out they were fraudulent; for example, a “sterling silver” chain that ends up being base metal with silver plating. Many of our clients have experienced such an encounter in the past when they bought items from an unknown supplier at an event or ordered from a sketchy marketplace seller online. One negative experience can put you on guard for the rest of your career.

Halstead’s Quality Assurance

Seth Foreman, Halstead’s Purchasing Specialist, oversees our precious metals quality control. Each quarter, he selects a random sample of items to send for lab testing. We cycle through our  vendors so all suppliers and product categories undergo testing at regular intervals. Stock from new suppliers is extensively tested before it goes on the shelf for sale. Hilary Halstead Scott says,

“We take our responsibility seriously to be transparent and accountable when it comes to product quality.”

Many of our manufacturers perform their own lab tests for quality control, so this is often a second verification. Hilary says, “We source carefully from reputable suppliers. But, as the old saying goes – trust but verify.” We approach all our sourcing relationships as long-term partnerships. Quality control is just one area that we work on in cooperation with our manufacturers.

There are a small number of mills that process precious metal alloys or gold-filled into the wire, sheet and grain raw materials for manufacturers to purchase. This makes the quality control much simpler than if we were dealing with dozens of options and many more variables.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversees truth in advertising compliance and establishes the guidelines for precious metal sales in the United States. Over the years, we have only found a few cases of tolerance shortfalls. If something comes back below the FTC requirements, we pull the rest of the stock from shelves and send additional samples for testing. We then inform the vendor and ask them to independently investigate the problem on their end. We follow up with more frequent lab testing in the future to ensure it’s not an recurring problem.

Gold-filled metal is created by fusing gold with a base metal, typically brass, which means the outer layer can be polished too much and remove some of the gold. This is why we recommend you take care when polishing gold-filled material in your studio. A couple of times we’ve had vendors change their polishing media or process and it has had a negative impact on material. This kind of problem is easily solved as soon as it’s identified.

Sterling silver issues have occurred on items with extensive granulation, and therefore a lot of solder that brings down the pure silver ratio on the finished items. Other testing problems have been traced back to testing samples that still included internal steel springs, for example.

Lab Testing Basics

Two main tests determine the quality of precious metal. Both of these lab testing processes are considered highly accurate. Fire assay, widely recognized as the standard for gold analysis, melts the precious metal and concentrates it in a lead button. Once the metal is cool, it is separated from the lead and weighed. The second most common lab testing process is gravimetric, or wet chemistry. There are various material specific techniques in gravimetric testing, but they are all chemical-based reductions and precipitations of the precious metals in a solution in order to weigh the mass changes.

Melting Metal

Halstead uses Advanced Chemical lab testing for our quality control. Before each test, they will X-ray the sample to get an idea of what they’re testing. This is a preliminary step and x-ray is never relied on for a definitive result. Along with each material test, they also run a proof alongside it. These proofs are 99.9999% pure metal to act as a control so they know exactly what is happening with the sample.

If you are sending in samples for testing, it is important to remember to remove any non-precious metal parts such as stones, hinges, springs, or bezels made of steel or other metals. These can affect the results. Even after years of experience, we have still made this mistake from time to time. Items such as clasps, leverbacks, and hoops contain tiny steel components for mechanism durability over time.

At Halstead, we use both fire assay and gravimetric lab testing processes. If a result is suspicious for any reason, we will have a retest performed for verification. If you are submitting your own lab tests, make sure you send enough material just in case.

Are all Tests Equal?

X-ray fluorescence is frequently used for testing outside metallurgical labs because the equipment is easy to purchase and operate. By bathing the sample in x-rays, the equipment will measure the unique energy level given off in the light fluorescence by the sample.  This is non-destructive and quick, with results available in just minutes. However, Advanced Chemical does not recommend using the x-ray test for final results as they are not always as accurate as fire assay or gravimetric.

What do the Results Mean?

By nature, precious metals should have the following purity.

  • Sterling silver: .925 (92.5% silver)
  • 12/20 Gold-Filled: .025 (2.5% gold)
  • 14/20 Gold-Filled: .0292 (2.92% gold)
  • 14kt solid gold: .583 (58.3% gold)

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Any manufactured material is subject to minor variance between batches. The FTC established the following precious metal tolerances based on the National Stamping Act.

  • Sterling silver: .921 on unsoldered items, .915 on soldered items
  • 12/20 Gold-Filled: .022 on unsoldered items, .018 on soldered items
  • 14/20 Gold-Filled: .0262 on unsoldered items, .0192 on soldered items
  • 14kt solid gold: .58 on unsoldered items, .5763 on soldered items
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If a sample returns with .901 silver results, it is no longer “Sterling Silver.” A sample with .015 gold is not “gold-filled.”

If you would like to start testing your own metal, here is a list of labs to start your research:

  • Laboratory Testing Inc
  • NSL Analytical
  • Advanced Chemical
  • FAI Materials Testing

We want you to buy, create, and sell responsibly! To learn more about precious metals used in jewelry, read about the Types of Silver and Types of Gold most commonly seen in jewelry making.


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Jewelry Collection Stories: Lindsey of @ParkAvenueAntiques

Park Avenue Antiques Park Avenue Antiques Park Avenue Antiques Park Avenue Antiques

I’ve followed Lindsey of Park Avenue Antiques for a very long time! My first interaction with her was sort of humorous–I remember being on my way out the door to go antiquing for the day with my mom and sister. I was waiting on a ring to go up on the auction block so I unpleasantly made them wait until it did, not realizing it wouldn’t be until another 45 minutes. I can’t remeber exactly why I lost out on the ring, but while in the car finally on our way, I took a screenshot of the ring and posted it on Instagram with the caption, “Who outbid me on this portrait ring?! Confess!!” Lindsey was sweet enough to message me to tell me she had been the final bidder on it and graciously offered it for sale. A story too good to be made up, I’ve treasured that ring ever since! Over the years, we’ve continued to follow each other–even one point I tried meeting up at an antique show, but kept missing her! Hopefully meeting will be in the cards for us in the future, but until then…let’s check out her amazing jewelry collection!

Like many of you, I have been attracted to sparkly things for as far back as I can remember. As a little girl, I collected rocks and minerals, little buttons and sea glass. My father was an antiques dealer and the two of us were always on an “antiquing adventure”. One of our favorite places to visit was Roycroft Antiques in East Aurora, NY. They had a wooden whisky barrel filled with buttons and beads and I would dig through that barrel until my hands were black! Who knows what I thought I’d find in there! It was all about the hunt….

Park Avenue Antiques Park Avenue Antiques

I share this silver filigree necklace with my daughter Cameron. The three Edwardian silver bears represent her and her two brothers.

Around the age of 5, we moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a difficult transition. My parents both worked two jobs and I was home alone a lot. My mother always found ways to show me how much I was loved and that she was thinking of me. She came up with a hide and seek game we called “Rubber Legs” which involved hiding a yellow plastic figure. Before she left for work in the morning, she would hide Rubber Legs somewhere for me to find. Then I would hide him somewhere for her. I almost always hid him in her antique spool cabinet/jewelry box. It was a magical place where I wasn’t supposed to “dig around” but I couldn’t help myself! There were sparkly rings, beautiful strings of trade beads, flapper necklaces and cameos. She had all kinds of treasures but my favorite piece was a little gold acorn charm that rattled when shaken.

Once we moved to Hershey, adventures in antiquing with dad still continued. He opened an antique lighting shop in Adamstown, PA in the Black Angus Antiques Mall. Most Sundays I would tag along to help him but really spent most of my days with other dealers. I was fascinated with their knowledge in various fields and eager to hear their stories. This is where my love for jewelry and antiques really started.

Park Avenue Antiques Park Avenue Antiques

LEFT: Georgian sapphire and rose cut diamond bow brooch in silver topped gold, purchased at the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show

When collecting jewelry became a serious passion, I invested in books. Jewelry books on private collections, construction, symbolism, intaglios, various periods and markings. My jewelry library has helped me to educate myself and develop a true respect for the craftsmanship and symbolism that these pieces hold. I try to add one book to my collection every month. I would encourage any aspiring jewelry collector to do this as well.

RIGHT: Eight years ago, I was newly divorced and the only jewelry I had was my and my grandmothers wedding ring. I put some money aside and decided I’d like to create a piece of jewelry that would represent my family. I hoped to create a ring that could be passed on to one of my children. The first jeweler I went to was a rather unpleasant experience. I nearly gave up on my idea but decided to give it one more try. This is when I met Skip Colflesh, the owner of The Jeweler’s Bench in Hershey, PA. He helped me create the perfect ring. We used the diamonds in my grandmothers wedding ring, my engagement ring and each of the children’s birthstones. The first time I saw the ring it was an emotional experience. It was a perfect representation of my life’s journey. The diamonds no longer felt like the loss of a loved one or a failed marriage – they were now something beautiful and very personal. But more than that, I was so grateful for the friendship that had come out of designing the ring together. Skip has become one of my dearest friends and also my mentor. Friends make all the difference.

Park Avenue Antiques

I really don’t have a specific type of jewelry or period that I collect. I am mostly drawn to gemstones and figural pieces but my collection is quite varied. My most heavily worn pieces of jewelry are my watch chains. I love connecting them together for different looks and wearing them with various pendants.

Here are a few of my favorite necklaces:

LEFT: Painted enamel mourning locket depicting a young girl and her dog. It reads “Mary Rutherfurd Prime April 16, 1810 – Died September 9, 1835”

SECOND FROM LEFT: Opal pendant from Arts & Crafts Movement. This pendant reminds me of my favorite spring flower, lilac, and the opals are absolutely electric. I bought this in an antique store in England.

THIRD FROM LEFT: Not easy to pick a favorite, but if I had to, this would be it! Raj Era moonstone pendant from @saintespritofchelsea Beautifully crafted in silver and gold with huge shimmering moonstone cabochons.

CENTER: 19th c Kerosang with faceted white zircon.

Park Avenue Antiques

Here are a few of my favorite rings:

Victorian era amethyst and pearl serpent ring was purchased from David Ashville of Ashville Fine Arts.

The kunzite and diamond ring I bought from @blackamooruk. I believe this ring was originally an early 20th century brooch that was carefully converted. I love the size of the kunzite and it fits my finger perfectly.

The Victorian topaz ring was purchased from @ishyantiques.

The art deco moonstone ring is one of my favorites. It was purchased from Brad Wilson of Wilson’s Estate Jewelry in Philadelphia, PA.

The massive cameo ring I created using a 19th century cameo from @antiquestoreinwayne and a custom gold setting created by Skip Colflesh @thejewelersbenchofhershey.

Park Avenue Antiques Park Avenue Antiques

LEFT: Agate tree ring – This is one of my creations. I used an agate sourced from an old cufflink mounted in a setting made by @thejewelersbenchofherehey Victorian chrysoberyl and gold band @westandsonjewellery

RIGHT: This is my most recent purchase. My dear friend Will @martindaleasianarts recently took me on a day trip to a quaint town about an hour outside of London where I found it in an antiques shop.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I am honored to be a part of the Instagram jewelry community. Your posts have greatly enhanced my knowledge and appreciation for all types of jewelry and the friendships that have developed because of our shared passion for jewelry are priceless to me.


WANT MORE? Check out the other Jewelry Collection Stories

You can follow Lindsey –> @ParkAvenueAntiques


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Necklace Lengths Guide

With fashion changing throughout the year, the latest trends are hard to keep up with but don’t let that dissuade you when you’re choosing a necklace. Once you become familiar with the different styles, matching the necklace to the neckline will be a piece of cake. What’s the best necklace to wear with a v-neck? How about a turtleneck?

One thing you’ll want to remember when choosing a necklace is that you never want it to compete with the style of neckline you’re wearing. For instance, if you are wearing a strapless top you wouldn’t want to match it with a 20-inch matinee or 24-inch opera length necklace, yet a 14-inch collar or 16-inch choker would hang perfectly. The graphic below shows the most popular styles of necklines in women’s fashion.

Necklace Length Guide

Now that you know the names of the necklines, you can match them up with the necklace lengths below. Feel free to print this guide so you can have it on hand for quick necklace and neckline matches.

Choker length necklaces

The choker and collar names are often used interchangeably, with various lengths in inches listed for each. It is a minor distinction, but we contend that the choker would go high around the neck while the collar would rest on the collarbone.

Collar Necklace Length

Princess Necklace Length

Matinee Length Necklaces

Opera Length Necklaces

Rope Necklace Lengths

Lariat Necklace Lengths

Of course, various body types and bust sizes will affect the visual length and drape of jewelry on the torso. And each person has unique preferences. It’s always a good idea to use string to take a measurement so you can find the sizes that you like the most. Or, simply use a ruler to measure your favorite necklaces in your jewelry box so you know what to buy. 

At Halstead, we sell finished chain necklaces in lengths from 14 inches to 36 inches. Or, you can always make custom length chains with the link styles you prefer. We can special order different finished lengths for higher volume orders if you are willing to wait longer for delivery. We have hundreds of chain styles to choose from on our website. To browse more quickly, look for the results filter by length. On your PC computer, it will be in the left-hand column of the product listing pages. On your mobile device, it is a red drop-down menu at the top of your screen called Narrow Results.Chain Length Group

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Untangling Jewelry Chain: Tips, Tricks & More

Nothing can irk you more than untangling jewelry chain. It’s frustrating and can easily ruin your day, especially if you’re dealing with multiple pieces of finished chain or a pile of tangled footage chain. I asked the Logistics team at Halstead if they have any tips to untangling jewelry chain and they sent several my way, including a few stories as well.

Experiences & Tips with Untangling Jewelry Chain

Tom Halstead, Founder

We started in 1973, but it was mainly African Trade Beads and other kinds of beads in the beginning. In the mid 70’s we started to buy lots of mill products. One day I went to the vendors to place an order for more mill stock and when I arrived the owner was frustrated because he had a tangled mess of chain in his hands. I asked him if I could buy the hank of chain off of him and of course, he said yes. I took it home and untangled the entire knotted mess. It sold so fast that I’ve carried chain ever since.

Untangling jewelry chain

Tip 1: Get the hank of chain in a complete circle so that the palm of your hand is wearing the chain like a necklace. Put the other hand inside the circle of chain and run hands around the inside of the chains using your hands to hold the chain taut. This helps to separate chains that are slightly tangled and helps defeat possible future tangles. – Lisa

Tip 2: Open a single chain and pull it through the knot, then close the chain and repeat. – Justin

Tip 3: Use a needle to work inside knots. If you’re working with gold or silver chains, you can also add a dab of coconut oil for lubrication, which won’t tarnish or harm your jewelry. – Melissa

Tip 4: When untangling jewelry chain I like to use a wooden skewer and slip it through the middle of the tangle to loosen it and make it easier to untangle. This works for both finished and footage. – Heidi

Untangling Chain with coconut oil

Allen, Logistics

I had a tangled mess with 1mm finished cable chains that took almost two weeks to get untangled. After working on the tangles for about two hours a day and having no results, I was getting quite frustrated. Oddly enough, just about the time I was ready to give up, I got a single chain free, then another, and a third! Now I know that getting 3 cable chains free out of a group of 100 or more didn’t really mean much, but it gave me just enough encouragement to keep focused on the task and next thing you know, the chain was just falling out of the knots.

Tip 5: I always suggest laying the tangled chain out flat on a smooth surface, try using something pointed to work into the knot with a wooden skewer and gently slide the knots out to the edge of the chain. Usually, this gives me the ability to break the knot into smaller more manageable segments. – Allen

Tip 6: When untangling jewelry chain I usually try to find a small toothpick sized instrument and visually identify where the knot is coming from. Next, I would isolate a single chain and try to separate it from the other chain in the same fashion that one would untie a knot in a shoelace. If multiple chains are tangled the same idea applies, just one chain at a time. – Justin

Tom Halstead, Founder

Starting when Hilary was 5 or 6 years old, she and I would sit on the floor and untangle chain together. I built a large wooden block that had pegs all over it and we would stretch the chain all across those pegs while we were untangling it. We always approached it like a puzzle and that’s why she enjoyed untangling chain so much. She was always involved in the business though. At 6 years old, customers would come to purchase products and Hilary would show them her drawings and then turn around and sell them for a nickel a piece. By the time she was 11 years old, we began to sell in Tucson (Gem & Mineral Show). We would rent a room and customers would come in specifically asking for Hilary because she already had her own customers at that age.

Tip 7: My go-to process for this situation is to try to get as many chains as you can together in one loop. Try to separate the very tangled chains away from the not so tangled chains simply by gently pulling them away from each other in small groups. The remaining tangled chain is usually very difficult and time-consuming. I try to single them out and unclasp them and then pull from the clasp side outward until it finally snakes its way through. Things to look for: sometimes the individual chain links will catch onto the clasp lever and I look to undo those first as they are usually the culprit for a lot of tangles I see. Also using a sharp stick and poking the center of a knotted chain and then pulling outward without moving the stick helps with those smaller clusters. – Kevin

Tip 8: I look for spliced chain first of all and I will try to unhook any caught up chain.  If that’s not the case then I will usually just unravel the footage chain until it’s no longer tangled up and re-spool it as that’s usually the fastest and least stressful way. Any attempt at untangling chain without unspooling doesn’t usually work for me. – Kevin

Twist ties and gourd pins

Amanda, Logistics

After 14 years I’ve dealt with my fair share of tangled messes. Probably one of the worst was a new employee who had accidentally dropped 100 loose finished chain on the floor. There were no twist ties to keep the chains from tangling! The employee silently tried to untangle them, suffering in silence. After about a week they came to me for advice. I told them that this happens to everyone, and over time they’ll get better at it. I took the chain and sent them on their way. That’s when I noticed that about HALF of the chains had been unclasped in an effort to get the chains apart (which took a couple of months to get untangled). Needless to say when training on finished chain now, we’ve added a section on untangling jewelry chain and how it’s so important to not unclasp several chain as you try to get them apart.

Packaging & Storing Jewelry Chain

Packaging and storing jewelry chain

Once you have all of the tangles out, properly storing and packaging jewelry chain is another hurdle.

Finished Chain: With finished jewelry chain, we individually bag the thinner chain and we bundle the thicker chain in packs of 10 or 25. When packaging the packs of 10 or 25 pieces we use two twist ties at either end of the chain bundles to prevent tangles from occurring.

  • When storing finished chain for long periods of time it is a good idea to put the jewelry chain into sealed ziplock bags with anti-tarnish tabs.

Lori, Customer Service Representative

Funny and Tangled do not go together in the same sentence. Or in the same room. Or planet. There is NOTHING Funny about Tangled Chains – they are and continue to be a cause to groan and tear your hair out. Or seek other employment. We had one snarl of some finished fine unclasped cable chains that everyone tried working on with headpins to pin and pull and separate – and I think it sat up here in Customer Service for an entire year before they scrapped it. The fewer the chains the easier to untangle – the more – impossible.

Footage Chain: With jewelry footage chain we spool everything over 120″ inches. With 120″ or less we will put the chain on a tab or twist tie the chain together.
  • Chain spools should always be stored on the flanges like a wheel. Do not stack them flat like donuts. When you stack chain spools, the loops on the spool core tend to slacken and cross over one another. This is the primary cause of tangles on spooled chain. Storing your spools on a rod or in a bin where they can’t roll away will minimize problems.
  • Always tape your chain ends on spools. Keeping the chain taut on the spool will prevent loose chain loops from tangling.
Spooled Footage Jewelry Chain

For additional information and fun facts abouts jewelry chain read our blog post: Jewelry Chain Glossary of Styles.

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Holiday Gift Guide: Ready-to-Wear & Tools

How quickly time flies! The holidays are on the way. It’s always a good idea to have ready-to-wear or quick-finish concepts in mind to round out your inventory in a pinch. Sales can be difficult to forecast in the fourth quarter. Ready-to-wear basics can also be easy upsells at holiday events.

And don’t forget jewelry making tools for your own holiday list or the other metalsmiths and beaders in your life. Here is a rundown on some of my personal favorites coming into the 2018 holiday season.

Ready-to-Wear Easy Upsell Items

Ready-to wear hoop earrings

We have you covered if you love hoops. From 15-65mm we have hoop earring findings in sterling silver and gold-filled with styles ranging from plain and diamond-cut to sparkly wire hoops that would look beautiful hanging from the tree. Hoop earrings are having a moment this year, so they are sure to be strong sellers as stocking stuffers.

Fancy finger rings and bands

Another favorite item is fancy finger rings. We carry hundreds of ring styles including stacking, midi, and bands in sterling silver, gold-filled, rose gold-filled and solid gold. With our large ring selection, I’m sure you’ll find something you love. We anticipate a huge demand for rings this year. Be sure to stock up early and plan your buying ahead as best you can. Manufacturers are already warning that capacity will be strained for bestselling basics.

Ready-to-wear finished neck chains

How can you go wrong with chain? We have hundreds of finished chain bracelets and necklaces that are ready-to-wear, from thin and lightweight to large and heavy. These easily stand out on their own as a wonderful gift.

Or, create finished fashion chains from some of our fancy footage options. The sequin chain style shown in the header image above is one of our bestselling chains of the year. Customers will love layering sparkle in with your custom pendant chains and statement necklaces. You can never have too many chains!

Treat Yourself

Metalsmith Hand Tool Starter KitFor the jewelry makers in your life, we have different starter kits available, from soldering to wire-wrapping: however, my personal favorite is the hand tool starter kit which has all of the jewelry making tools you need to get started plus soldering supplies, too.  This is a great investment especially if you’re a student on a tight budget.

Jewelry tool bench polisher

One of our favorite items in the Halstead Studio is the jewelry tumbler. It’s nice when you can throw a piece into the tumbler and let it finish up in there as you move on to other projects. The mirror-finish looks so good, too!

Bench polishing metalsmith tool

To make quick work of your polishing, the bench polisher is a great purchase. It does the job quickly whether you use it to buff or polish your jewelry. It also comes with two abrasive buffing wheels so you can remove firescale and oxidization right away.

Last, but not least, we have a 12pc set of mini forming stakes that would make a great gift for a metalsmith. It’s perfect for shaping metal such as rings and cuffs and it comes with a nice wooden stand. We also sell stakes individually and those would make excellent stocking stuffers. Forming stakes are trending. It’s the perfect time to hone your hammering skills and try out a new technique.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Shop Now for Sterling Silver Jewelry Supplies
Shop Now for Metalsmithing Tools and Supplies

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How to Manage Your Time Better Using 7 Simple Steps

Being your own boss has a lot of benefits, like choosing your own dress code and stocking the mini fridge with your favorite flavors of lacroix. One downside is learning how to manage your time  so you can actually ‘clock out’ on nights and weekends.

Loving what you do makes it easy to work all the time, but that still doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Learning to separate your work time and rest time is an essential part of running a productive, efficient business. Giving yourself the time to recover, relax, and recharge actually makes you more productive during your working hours.

So here’s my very best advice on how to manage your time in your jewelry business.

1. Use a project management system

Use a CRM to help manage your time.
Use a CRM and/or project management system to help manage your time. Collage courtesty of alligatortek.

No matter how good your memory is, it’s no match for technology. Putting your tasks and priorities into a project management system like Asana, Basecamp, or Trello is a lifesaver. Things fall through the cracks when you’re a solopreneur, but as your team grows these apps help keep everyone on the same page. Plus, there’s peace of mind knowing you’re literally checking things off the “to-do” list. No more waking up at midnight in a cold sweat wondering if you replied to that email or shipped that order!

2. Use a CRM

Again, technology is your friend when it comes to organization and time management. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems help you keep track of your accounts and clients so you’re following up with everyone at the appropriate time. You can set up reminders to contact your accounts every few months, update contact information, and even track sales! Having all the information about your dream clients (including birthdays!) in one place helps you use your time efficiently. You don’t want to waste time searching for that torn napkin with a phone number scribbled on it.

3. Plan your day/week beforehand

Managing your time starts with managing your calendar. Each month you should have an idea of a few projects you want completed. Breaking this down by week and then by day helps you have simple steps towards a larger goal that’s going to move your business forward. I recommend having 3 priorities per day, 3 goals per week. Once you have those 3 priorities complete for the day, you know you’re on the right track. Otherwise, you’ll get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of your business and not focus on bringing in revenue.

Schedule your time in advance

4. Time Block

Once you know your 3 daily priorities, block out time in your calendar for them. You can literally schedule a meeting with yourself in your Google calendar or something to hold yourself accountable. Especially when it comes to revenue generating activities (RGAs) you have to be consistent. Blocking out this time on your calendar is the biggest favor you can do for the health of your business. Just like Mark Cuban says, “sales cure all” so if you have enough money coming into your business, you can fix other problems as they come up.

5. Work in sprints

It’s impossible to be productive all the time. Managing your working time also means managing your non-working time. You have to schedule in breaks, otherwise you’ll quickly get burned out. Set a timer and work for 45 minutes, then take a 15 minute break. You can also experiment with a Pomodoro method of time management. Establish a task to be done. Set a timer for 25 minutes, when the timer goes off put a checkmark on a piece of paper. If you have fewer than 4 checkmarks, take a 2-3 minute break. If you have more than 4 checkmarks, take a longer break. When you come back, start your checkmarks over again at zero.

Make your breaks count

6. Make your breaks count

During your breaks it’s important to change it up! Get outside, take a walk, and stretch. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Especially if you’re doing creative work, try switching up the scenery. Feeling stuck in your studio or cooped up behind a computer is not the best way to get inspired! Maybe spend your 15 minute break walking to a local coffee shop with your laptop to work there in the afternoon!

7. Hire help

The only way to get the most done with your time is by outsourcing tasks you’re not naturally good at. This doesn’t mean hiring people in another country, it just means bringing in help so you can focus on what you love. You don’t have to be the one categorizing your business transactions – hire a bookkeeper! If you’re not good at graphic design, scheduling emails, or writing blog posts, hire a virtual assistant!

I call this the freedom method, but it has lots of names. It all boils down to doing the work you’re naturally gifted in doing – like designing jewelry, talking with customers, or sharing your story. True visionaries know they don’t have to do everything in their business. Start practicing these tips on how to manage your time by only saying “yes” to the creative work you do best!

Want more ideas on how to focus on the creative work and still move your business forward? Grab our free Master Your Day Checklist!

Tracy MatthewsTracy Matthews is the Chief Visionary Officer of Flourish & Thrive Academy, an educational community dedicated to helping independent jewelry brands attract the RIGHT customers, get consistent sales, and grow businesses that support any vision of success.

Tracy started her career as an independent jewelry designer in the 90’s. Since then, her jewelry has been sold in over 350 stores internationally and featured in the hottest magazines like InStyle, Elle, and Glamour. Celebrity customers include Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon and more!

She now hosts the top-rated business & lifestyle podcast, Thrive By Design and is the owner and designer at where she specializes in heirloom redesign and custom bespoke pieces.

You can grab her FREE Master Your Day Checklist to keep all of these tips right by your side. For jewelry business programs, personalized business coaching, and one-of-a-kind community support visit

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