Q & A and Visit with Raquel Alonso Perez of Harvard’s Museum of Natural History

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My very last stop while in Boston, hours before my flight took off, I had planned the best parting gift–a visit to Harvard University’s Museum of Natural History! Sounds dreamy, right?! Well it is and then some. An entire room filled with thousands of minerals and gems is open to the public on Harvard’s campus, and Raquel Alonso Perez was there to give me a full tour, including some majorly fun behind-the-scenes stuff. I honestly think my one-on-one time with Raquel had taught me more in one hour than my entire Freshman year at college! I didn’t want to leave! I got to hold pieces of gold that came out of the ground looking like sculptures, play with rough diamonds, see some incredible gemstones, and the highlight of my day was getting to spend some time with the Hamlin Necklace–rare and notable because of its gigantic tourmalines it showcases, which are all from the same mine in Maine!

Raquel’s hospitality, warmth and passion to share with me what she does at the Mineralogical & Geological Museum was accepted with much gratitude and I had so much fun! Here’s some insight into what Raquel does, illustrated with photos from my visit! Enjoy!

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I serve as the Curator of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum (MGMH). Our collections date back to 1798! After 230 years of collecting, the MGMH is one of the oldest, largest and continuously operated mineralogical and geological museum, built for the nation and world-renowned for its fine quality collections, broad representation of species, unique occurrences and large number of type, described, and illustrated specimens. Our repository has become a true library of the earth with over 400,000 objects divided in 4 main collections: minerals, gems, meteorites and rocks. My role as Curator is to provide access to the world-class Earth Science collections at Harvard University, encouraging its use for teaching, research and public education. The favorite part of my job is research and all teaching and academic related activities, in addition to working with the dedicated team of people at the MGMH, the Earth and Planetary Science Department and the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, HSMC, where our public gallery is located.

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In total, the museum has around 400,000 objects divided in 4 main collections: minerals, gems, meteorites and rocks and ore deposits. Only 3550 individual mineral specimens are on display at the Museum, 145 of these include a gemstone of the same variety. My favorite examples are in the wider variety of crystals and gemstones. For example, the beryls, we have a whole case of them displaying 40 specimens full of light and color. I also love the tourmalines, with all of the different kinds displayed with bi-color and watermelon elbaites from Maine, USA. As you can imagine, we have a strong collection of New England minerals, gems, and rare species. We receive a lot of donations, but we couldn’t display our entire collection, even if we wanted! Space is a major constraint, but not the only one. We also have to make hard choices about what to share in order to fulfill the Museum’s mission. Our museum is not only about highlighting aesthetics. We also need to prioritize the display of specimens that will also serve reference and research purposes.

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I am a geologist by training specialized in mineralogy, gemology, geochemistry and petrology. There are too many “logy’s” in there! These branches of Earth Sciences come together in a fascinating way, giving color and texture to the world we inhabit. In 2006 I completed my PhD at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, where I studied how the earth crust is formed, by comparing it with artificial rocks produced in the lab. After graduation, I took a short break to have my two children, Marco and Amaya, and returned in 2009 to professional life to work as a research assistant at the Earth and Planetary Science Department, Harvard University. A year later I was hired as Assistant Curator to take care of the rock collection at the MGMH and got appointed head Curator of the entire MGMH collections in 2011.

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I’ve always wondered why minerals acquire a color and not other colors. We know so little about the chemistry and the physics involved! My passion, stimulated by my daily encounter with Harvard’s amazing collections, is to uncover the story behind nature’s color choices! My work in the past 2 years has been focused in tourmalines and beryls. The most common color of elbaites from Main, USA is green but they also come in blue, yellow, pink, colorless and with many different hues and tones. With the use of non-destructive analytical techniques, I was able to determine the chemical distribution, trace element patterns and color correlation in a suite of elbaites from Maine, Hamlin Collection. In addition, this non-destructive dual-technique used in this study (Confocal Micro Raman Spectroscopy and LA- ICPMS, laser ablation-induced coupled plasma-mass spectrometry) has great potential to be applied to other gemmological materials to also distinguish provenance, natural versus synthetic materials and treatments. My current project aims to better understand the formation of emeralds, and is focused on the geology of the emerald deposit of Irondro, Madagascar. In fact, I mostly focus on rocks from Madagascar, which is a blessing, since the MGMH is quickly becoming the main repository of minerals, rocks and gemstones from this part of the world. I also benefit from the museum’s vast network. I sometimes end up requesting research material from friends, donors and supporters of the Museum from faraway lands! However, my main priority and where most of my work goes is into ensuring that the MGMH’s collections are curated according to the highest standards of museum best practices for their preservation in perpetuity and use by future generations. Digitization plays an important role to achieve these goals and our ambition to open them up to a wider audience, especially those concerning research, education and public outreach, which will result in an online database of our collections sometime in the fall of 2017.

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Every day, in the environment I am, could end up being a highlight and making you proud of the work you do, especially when it can impact other people life’s. I would like to share with you a portion of an e-mail I received from one of the female students attending my class at the Harvard Summer school as a beautiful example. “..Here again I want to say thank you for bringing me my best summer ever. I really enjoyed the lecture. Every time when listening to the lecture, I really feel I’m being educated and have more knowledge on mineralogy and gemology. The happiness of gaining knowledge is hard to express; it’s like seeing the moon coming out of the clouds and lighting up a street in the dark midnight. Also, I love the labs. I feel so good identifying minerals by myself, putting everything I learnt into use. I’m also fascinated by the gemstone experiments. I can’t wait to get a full set of tools and practice in the gem markets back in China. What I really want to appreciate is that for all your support for me to do more microscope experiments. I know that doing the experiment before class means you have to skip lunch, I’m really sorry. The experiment is so incredible, I never see those features before, and I couldn’t fully understand everything without doing the actual experiment. The image is fantastic. I gasp that people ever create those ways for examine stones. What I like most is the field trip. The behind the scene of the museum is awesome. I never thought that museum work would be so interesting. There are so many stories behind every collection! I also really really like the field trip to mine. You became my idol when you drove the van packed with all of us and fed us snacks. Working in the field is so different and I think I need more field work to really become a geology people. I sometimes feel so shame that I learned so much knowledge but still like a baby when put in the field. However, going to the field makes a lot of knowledge easier to understand. In the mine, when I saw you standing on the shiny mica mountain, I feel like you are one of the best women in the world—- a woman who could stand in the field with knowledge, and explore the earth, go right after the unknown, a kind of woman I really want to be. It is this summer that I, for the first time in forever, really willing to go to university; not because it is what everybody do, but because all the knowledge and skills I could get, all the resource I could access, and all the fantastic professors in the future I will meet to motivate my life..”

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My best piece of advice for anyone in general is to follow their passion, work hard, overcome challenges, focus and don’t give up! The combination of passion and perseverance will bring you where you want to be.

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WANT MORE? You can follow Raquel on Instagram —> @raquelalonsoperez

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Q & A with Heather B. Moore Jewelry

Heather B. Moore

Heather B. Moore’s story starts with love, laughter and family…and fittingly, just as her jewelry often depicts those words both literally and figuratively, she has brought personalization of jewelry to the highest level. After viewing the video displayed below, you see just how hands-on and multi-faceted her business has become. This interview also touches upon how it all came to be, in the most innocent of ideas and forms. Sometimes we are destined for a certain path and it seems as though Heather was meant to bring memories, quotes and cherished words to life through her jewelry designs. Each piece is heavily sentimental and often instant tear-jerkers. As jewelry enthusiasts, we know how special a personalized piece can be–but how about one that is in the exact handwriting of a loved one? Or an exact doodle from your once 5-year-old son or daughter? I know if and when I start a family, Heather B. Moore‘s designs will be first on my list for a little keepsake!

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We are currently developing an exciting new series based on personal empowerment called the Sculptural Series. Its foundation stems from personalized themes people were requesting for their designs, which usually fell into four common categories: strength, growth, wisdom, and healing. With that as our guide, we started the Sculptural Series to capture moments that feel personal while complementing our other designs.

While we are only launching with a limited selection, this is just the beginning. The world is full of wonderful symbols that have meaningful messages, and Heather B. Moore jewelry is excited to add more sculptural jewelry to the collection in the future.

Heather B Moore | Gem Gossip

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I only took one jewelry class in college. At the time my focus was cast glass, Venetian glass blowing, and steel work. My sister Wendy was an anthropology major and had moved to Kathmandu, Nepal where she lived with a jeweler’s family. That’s where I started getting interested in what she was doing! After college, I was working for an artist welding large-scale art installations across the country for Judy Pfaff. On the weekends, my sister Wendy used to ask me to make jewelry for fashion shows and low-budget movies in Los Angeles.

I started off doing chain work and handmade chain, which we still do today. I also integrated glass beads and stones within the chain, and while we still integrate stones into our chain, we moved away from glass beads to focus on precious stones.

In 2004, I started offering personalization on a number of pieces and everything grew from there. Our personalized collection was created on the foundation that timeless designs start with a blank canvas for our customers, then we collaborate to create the perfect piece. We have the capacity to create the steel stamps of people’s handwriting and children’s drawings as well as a wide variety of fonts and layouts.

I started collecting tools when I was 13. I grew up in the steel industry of Cleveland and loved going to my dad’s factories, so craftsmanship was something that I related to.

The first steel tooling stamps that I purchased were from a garage sale at an old machinist’s house. I carried those stamps around with me for 15 years before knew what to do with them! In 1991, I pulled out those stamps and decided to integrate quotes from my friends and family. I stamped them out onto the silver plaques and then framed it with a handmade cast glass frame.

In 1997, my sister Wendy was in a skiing accident and passed away. Before she passed I stamped a quote she gave me into a piece of metal: “I said to my sister and she said to me, come let’s play laughter together.” I remember loving the quote so much that I took the plaque with her quote off the wall, and I put it in my wallet. To this day I look at it and it makes me smile.

After moving back to Cleveland and receiving the Rising Star Award from the JCK trade show, I had an interview with Real Simple Magazine about why a designer from NYC would move to Cleveland.

During the interview the writer asked a series of silly questions like, “what kind of hair care products do I use?” and, “what is in your purse?” At first I was a little confused, but I pulled out my wallet and got the plaque of my sister’s quote, and they loved it. They photographed it and used it as the focal point of the article.

At the time, I was designing for bigger companies like Banana Republic and I was getting tired of doing trendy jewelry that was “in” one season and “out” the next. I thought it was interesting that they loved the little plaque so much, and that made me think about the unique stamps that I had in the basement, and I knew I wanted to make something for myself. So, I stamped my kids names on some silver discs, framed them in gold, and I created my first personalized necklace.

I fell in love with it because my kids would sit on my lap and flip through the charms and look for their names. That is when it hit me: personalization has more value than the material that it’s on, because personalization is forever. Telling your story is not a trend; it’s a keepsake, an heirloom, and one-of-a-kind… just like the person wearing it.

That is when I knew I was on the right track. I was putting something into the marketplace that I had actually created in 1992… it’s like it all became a full circle.

It’s amazing to think I was so young, but I’m also very proud to say that now we create our own stamps in our steel shop. It’s fun to have the opportunity to create special tooling for each individual customer.

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Left: the plaque Heather made, with her sister’s special quote Right: a necklace Heather wears almost everyday–it features her new Buddha charm


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I think my proudest moment was winning the Town & Country International Gold Award at the Couture Jewelry Show in Las Vegas.

This is a show where all designers get together and showcase their pieces to stores across the country. Town & Country magazine had sponsored the event, so it was super fancy that year. Most people were in black tie… but I didn’t know that! I showed up late to the party in flip-flops, jeans, a t-shirt and messy hair!

When I thought about designing something for the Gold category, I wanted something no one had yet documented. One topic that came up was that we had never documented someone’s letter, and I had the perfect one. It was a whimsical thank you note from my sister Wendy. She had sent it just days after Christmas and she spoke of the importance of family and new traditions. This was the first year I didn’t spend Christmas with my family because I was with my husband’s family in Canada, so it really hit home for me. It was the last letter I ever got from her. She passed away shortly after Christmas.

We stamped this whole letter on a big yellow gold cuff, with a rose gold frame on the outside and a green gold frame on the inside, then we covered the frame in diamonds.

We arrived late to the awards show party and had already begun to announce the winners, so we quickly grabbed a glass of wine and snuck into some seats just as the announcer said, “And the Gold Award goes to a designer from the city of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame…”

…I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, there’s another designer here from Cleveland,” but then they called my name!

Heather B Moore | Gem Gossip

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In a broad sense, my hopes, dreams, and goals are to make sure I can continue to create beautiful pieces for people and documenting their stories. I love that we have the opportunity to work with customers hand-in-hand.

And with the sculptural collection, there are so many amazing symbols that empower people. I just love the direction we are going with that!

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I have so many pieces I love and adore! We have a wide variety of designs within the collection, and I truly love all of them. I have many iterations with my children’s names (Henry, Leo, Oliver and Coral). They are my proudest creation!

I have a yellow gold bangle with their names on it, a leather bracelet with with their names on it, and a necklace where they each have their own charm! I actually named the frames after them. The Henry frame is a braid like the Nantucket braided bracelets. The Leo frame has a granulation frame for him because he really loves the arts. Then there’s the Oliver frame. He’s really an organized child so I did a spiral frame for him. Coral’s got a bubbly personality, so her frame kind of looks like bubbles!

I like to wear my cuff bracelet that has my sister’s letter with jeans and a t-shirt, but I also wore it to the Beastie Boys black tie Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction.

My sister Halley and I both have a charm with Wendy’s phone number on it. She never had business cards, which we always thought was hilarious! We made it in green gold because her birthday was on Saint Patrick’s Day.

My new favorite necklace has a bunch of charms on it, and it’s a story about my boyfriend Jason and me. We went to high school together so I have one charm that says “You were worth the wait,” and another charm that says “Home is when I’m with you.” And I have a little single initial J charm for his name… and a diamond, of course!

I have a 4mm square cuff bracelet that grounds me–it says “When you look at life through the right lens, everything comes into focus.” Life certainly does throw you some curveballs sometimes… so that helps me through those challenges. The fact that I’m a photographer kind of makes it perfect! My dad gave me my first camera when I was 14 and then shipped me off to Africa with 13 rolls of film. I have been an avid photographer ever since.

I will end with this one:

I have this fantastic ring that has been dubbed “the hockey ring.” It’s my good luck ring for my boys’ games. If it’s not on my finger it’s in my wallet waiting for the next game. I did not put any personalization on it with words… and it’s really quite thick. We call it The Pope Ring at the studio! So when I’m photographing the hockey games (because all three boys are in hockey) if something happens like a goal or a good defensive play, I can bang on the glass with my ring, and I wont hurt my hand! Because of all the banging, overtime it has collected quite a few, great dents! It is essentially personalized from all the dents!

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This sponsored blog post was brought to you in collaboration with Heather B. Moore.

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Jewelry Collection Stories: Kate of @heartofsolidgold

HeartofSolidGold Collection HeartofSolidGold Collection

Kate is no stranger to my blog, in fact she was one of the first collections I documented on here back in January of 2013! Since then we’ve gotten the opportunity to meetup and spend a few days together in London along with our jewelry bff Jenn (@bellflowerbay) and Kate has gotten married! Her jewelry collection has grown since then and she has not only added some wedding jewels, but a whole lot more! If you haven’t read her interview/collection story from four years ago, I suggest you read that first, then check out her amazing collection:

I’ve been collecting jewellery for about eight years, although the passion for all things old and sparkly has been burning for much longer!

I think it all started with my Gran – she’s given me pieces from her jewellery collection over the years, as well as some things from my Great Aunt too. My Gran wasn’t really much of a collector, but the pieces she does have are sentimental and unique. When she was younger she had a real love for stopping and browsing the jewellers’ windows in our local town. She wasn’t able to splash out that much, so perusing these shop windows was often as good as it got. She often tells me the story of how she fell in love with a diamond solitaire ring around the time of her 21st birthday. She was given money by her family as a present which was enough to buy the ring, but she sensibly (she says!) decided on buying a good quality carpet for her living room instead. The carpet apparently lasted many, many years, but she does say to this day that she regrets not choosing the ring. What I’d give to know what it looked like!

(Left: all rings I’ve been given by my Gran. Right: my collection of Art Deco rings, some of the early additions to my collection, all presents from over the years from my parents and husband)

With her lovingly gifted antique pieces, little did my Gran know at the time that she would spark a real passion in me for collecting antique jewellery. As soon as I began working fulltime and had a little cash to spare, I moved quickly from buying sterling silver and vintage costume jewellery, and on to collecting gold and diamonds. It’s taken a few years to refine my knowledge and hunting skills, and my tastes do still vary week to week, but it’s a love affair that grows stronger for me every day – and one my husband has so lovingly accepted too.

I’m lucky that my mum also has a real love of antique jewellery – we often go shopping together for new pieces. We share similar tastes too, which means we pretty much have one large collection between us both.

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My jewellery collection spans from early Georgian right through to modern pieces, I definitely like to collect a variety of styles, stones and metals.

One of my favourite eras has to be Georgian – the passion they had for creating such beautiful, detailed jewellery and with minimal tools, it’s something that I think is truly hard to recreate these days. As the years pass, Georgian pieces are harder and harder to find, which makes the hunt even more fun!

(Left: some of my favourite diamond rings although one is an imposter, (L-R) Georgian table cut diamond flower ring, antique Victorian rose cut diamond fox ring, Victorian rock crystal five-stone ring, Art Deco diamond evil eye ring. Right: one of my most treasured pieces, a Victorian rose cut diamond pendant)

People who know me and my jewellery collection know that I have a slight addiction to rose cut diamonds. I think it’s something about their irregularity and one-of-a-kind nature that really draws me to them.

I also have a real thing for antique animal jewellery too. I think it’s one of those loves you don’t really know you have, until you take stock of your collection and realise you can fill a whole ring case with creature-themed jewels!

HeartofSolidGold Collection

(My animal themed rings – I think my love for this motif stems from my love of animals. One of the rings above is a close replica of my beloved German Shepherd, Cleo.)

Another love of mine has to be Georgian and Victorian mourning jewellery – the sentimentality behind each and every piece really moves me and I love the idea of having something beautiful made to represent your loved one. One of my most cherished pieces is a sepia mourning ring with a beautiful ruby halo. The words on the front read ‘Not lost but gone before’ and the reverse is engraved with the details of a precious 9 month old girl named Elizabeth who died in 1773 – I think this is actually one of the oldest pieces I own.

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Online Jewelry making classes

I was talking to my friend and fellow blogger a few days back regarding her Europe travels and she remarked that she had only travelled to all those places as she was already stationed abroad and that it requires dedication to travel to another country (and continent) just to learn a skill and better yourself. She, ofcourse was referring to my latest USA travel to attend Beadfest Workshops

I was talking to my friend and fellow blogger a few days back regarding her Europe travels and she remarked that she had only travelled to all those places as she was already stationed abroad and that it requires dedication to travel to another country (and continent) just to learn a skill and better yourself. She, ofcourse was referring to my latest USA travel to attend Beadfest Workshops. Some people might consider me lucky but only I know the hurdles that I had to cross and planning and work that I had to do (and still doing) to make the trip happen.
Many have also written to me asking if I could teach them enamelling or Precious metal clay that I learnt there. As a full time design educator, I am not someone who takes teaching lightly and without really practicing what I had learnt ( I mean I just did it once in a few hours time!) and experimenting with different techniques I cannot teach them.
But this Diwali, we are all indeed lucky. You and me can take any class we want, from world class instructors in the comfort of our our own homes for just $20 at Craftsy. Post contains affiliate links

craftsy classes sale

Yes you heard it right! Craftsy is now having a mega sale on its classes – you can learn anything from water color painting to how to sew a bra or how to solder metal for $20 starting today till Monday. Isn’t this a great Diwali bonus?
The best part about craftsy classes is, once you buy a class, it never expires. So you can watch the demo over and over again or go back to it and watch a particular step if you ever get a doubt which is not possible in a live class which far outweighs the other benefits

 

Craftsy online classes

I do agree that not everything can be learnt online, in a asynchronous platform. As jewelry being a touchy feely subject you might think that learning online might not work out for you. This issue can be simply solved by picking classes and techniques that can easily be learnt online. Here is a handy guide aka cheat sheet to help you figure that out.

How to Pick Jewelry making classes online

1. Material Availability – Pick a class where the materials are easily available to you (locally) or that use materials in stock as you need to be able to practise the skill that you just learned. For E.g – Take a Creative wire jewelry class if you already have base metal or artistic wire and required tools with you
2. Technique Up gradation A new or advanced technique class where you have experience with the material For e.g A Metal Form folding class will help advance your sheet metal skills, A Resin casing and sculpting class will help you further polish your resin jewelry making skills

cheat sheet on how to pick a online class

3. Learning tips and tricks To get guidance from a master – to learn tips and tricks of the trade. If you are self taught in soldering, then taking a course like Soldering Success in Every Scenario will equip you with tips and tricks that you would take years to learn by yourself.
4. International Exposure Pick a class which is not taught locally in your state or country. Believe me, it is much easier (and cheaper) to import materials and try out a technique taught online rather than flying to another country to try learning it, especially if you are not sure if you are going to practice it professionally after learning it. It is almost impossible to find a tutor to teach Torch fired Enamelling in India but it can be easily learnt online.

Pin or print out the above cheat sheet on how to pick a online class and use it as a guide whenever you are faced with a dilemma. Remember to never let your age, health or financial issues come in the way of your learning to be the best that you can be. Whether you are looking to add a new skill to your repertoire or pursue a new hobby, I hope that craftsy’s classes give you the best that you are looking for.


I hope you found it interesting. Wishing you all a very very Happy Diwali. May this festival of Lights with your lives with happiness and prosperity Cheers

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Beadfest Summer 2016 part II

Whenever I show the pieces that I made at Beadfest to my relatives, they ask with wonderment – “How did you make so much in four days?” My answer was and is that after years of instructing students to concentrate in class, I took my own advice and applied it to the workshops. Still, I too was amazed to see how much one can accomplish with hard work.

Whenever I show the pieces that I made at Beadfest to my relatives, they ask with wonderment – “How did you make so much in four days?” My answer was and is that after years of instructing students to concentrate in class, I took my own advice and applied it to the workshops. Still, I too was amazed to see how much one can accomplish with hard work. But it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have wonderful and generous instructors. I spoke about Jean Breaderoe and Marti Brown in the part one of the Beadfest post. In this post, I would like to share my experiences of the other two workshops that I attended with Richard Salley and Lisel Crowley.


Day 3: Stacking Stones
When I was selecting workshops to attend, I was very particularly that I learn at least 4 different skills. I chose metal as my common link and wanted to pick one metal clay, one coloring or patina, one bezel setting and an another class for some extra soldering input. I kept changing the classes to fit into the available time, skill level and their affordability. But, however, I chose I kept coming back to the stacking stones class by Richard Salley. His pieces looked so chunky and store bought (meaning so well made that it could be casted using a machine mould) I backed off thinking that I don’t have enough soldering experience to do justice to it and then he wanted us to bring tools. How was I going to carry saw blades and hammers on an international flight? Finally, I summoned up some courage and wrote to him. He was very sweet and offered to teach me if I was interested. Ofcourse, I was interested! He stayed true to his word at the workshop and taught me very patiently, calling me “Little girl” all the while 🙂
In a few hours, I learned how to size a cab, drill a hole in an agate cab (it was super hard!!), make a bezel, saw the backplate, make silver balls, rivets stones, set a stone, and solder a ring base to the bezel. I did that all at one shot for the first time. My very first bezel was a perfect fit for the stone OMG!! Though I melted one of the silver beads during the final solder and had a normal redo with the riveting (flaring) the turquoise stone setting to agate, the ring turned out to be pretty decent.

I was super thrilled that I bought more silver from him to try and set a chunky lapis lazuli cab that I had bought in Mt.Abu in 2012. Then disaster struck at every stage, I melted the bezel wire, burnt away silver beads and my base plate became shapeless. How much ever I tried I couldn’t fix it, even after Richard taught me how. By this time, even those participants who were trying complicated cutouts for their first piece had finished them and left. But Richard was extremely patient, and he fixed the bezel for me and showed me how to smooth a setting over a large stone. The “D” is slightly tilted and the texturing has flared out the metal in a couple of places but overall I am happy with it. So I patina-ed and sealed it after coming home but I am yet to string it.


Day Four – Romancing the Stone
On the final day I took up he Precious metal clay class with the PMC queen Lisel Crowley. I am not a clay person to begin with, so I took up this class to challenge myself knowing fully well that I will not be working with PMC anytime in the near future as its very expensive and I don’t have a kiln to fire my pieces in. As expected I didn’t enjoy this class much. My clay was extremely dry and it had to be reconditioned many times and I had to redo my bezel over 5 times as it kept cracking. Also the stone that I initially picked turned out to be too big for the amount of clay that we were given so I had to change my design as well. But somehow I figured things out and made one Art Nouveau style vine pendant and another mini charm using a cubic zirconia stone that I had with me and scraps of leftover clay.

I did learn a lot about what not to do with clay in this class – like, if you want a textured impression at the back plate then you must be careful during the final cleanup before firing and you must not sand after dehydrating but after firing. I also found that cold hands like mine are actually an advantage when working with PMC.


I brushed it clean, patinaed and sealed this piece after I came back but I am yet to string it or wear it. I like the fact that it is quite heavy and looks like an antique heirloom (probably worn by some medieval princess)


I cannot conclude writing about my beadfest experiences without mentioning all the wonderful people I met there. Everyone was so friendly and even extra nice when they found out that I had come all the way from India.I had a fan girl moment when I clicked a selfie with the Susan Lenart Kazmer of Ice Resin and Justin Russo of Ranger inks. I cannot forget the ever helpful and ever Ellie who manned Beadfest’s FB page and answered all my queries patiently. On the second day after the niobium I met Lori Schneider and Robin Showstack who stayed with me as roommates for the rest of the fest. It was so much fun being with them – listening to their stories, learning from their experiences and at night showing off each others haul of the day. I have never stayed with or even spent a lot of time with people (in person of course, nah, Social media doesn’t count!) who share my love for all things jewelry in a very long time. Thank you guys for making my beadfest trip very enjoyable and memorable.
If I ever get an opportunity to attend beadfest or a similar event with beads and jewelry I would definitely be there. It the meanwhile I need to work on my completely diminished physical health and slightly shaky financial health and get back to normal boring life.
I hope you found it interesting
Cheers

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Budget Shopping in USA

My last post on Beadfest beads was filled with photographs of colorful beads.

My last post on Beadfest beads was filled with photographs of colorful beads. This one on what I bought is a little duller – monochromatic as I mostly bought metal or metallic paints. You can buy anything and everything you want in USA but when you are on an extremely tight budget, shopping for art or jewelry supplies can be considered a frivolous pursuit. Still, I managed to shop and here is my haul – artsy/crafty and jewelry related things that I bought at Michaels and at Beadfest. Apart from these items I shopped only for food, Disney souvenirs, and yes “Foreign” Chocolates to feed 100 hungry mouths back home 😀

Michaels
Outside the US, the word ‘Michaels’ conjures strong images of a treasure filled cave like structure (from Alladin) in the minds of crafters. You imagine endless aisles of crafting supplies that are to be reverently bought and carefully used. So when you step in to the store, it is a sort of an anticlimax moment – it is after all, just a craft store, that is going to tempt you to spends three times your budget.
I loved the flowers and art materials (at the King of Prussia store) but felt that the beads were far too expensive. Most beads sold there are from India or China and even at 50% off they were atleast twice their original price. So I bought some artistic wire, wire gauge, mini canvases, Prismacolor pencils for coloring on metal, Pebeo paints (my biggest splurge there), metallic alcohol inks, some rhinestone connectors and metal texturing plates. I also found a really cute Mickey – Minnie T shirt in the kids coloring section for $3.5 that was surprisingly well made and I wore it to Disneyworld.

My friends later told me, that they never shop at Michaels without a coupon. I didn’t have one, so I checked the price of everything in Indian web stores, their availability or lack thereof and only when I found a bargain I bought it. I swear I have never made so many currency conversion calculations in a single day at the end of which I became fluent in the multiplication table of the number 69. Inspite of my crazy calculations, I still spent about $132 there, which was 2/3rds of my shopping budget for the entire US trip. I left Michaels thanking God for wonderful relatives, who believed in giving me cash gifts, that I could spend on art supplies.

Beadfest
Since I was at Beadfest the entire weekend, I was able to look through the booths more than once which translates into – going overboard my budget even though a lot of what I wanted to buy wasn’t available to. My first bead purchase were the decoupaged and resin beads. I have great plans for the Frieda beads and the banana fiber horn. I bought a Xuron cutter for 12g-18g, hard solder paste, a cup burr (which was quite difficult to find) Apart from these I spent bulk of my budget at the Metallaferous booth buying textured metal, chain, bracelet blanks and a locket and at the Parawire booth buying (yes) more wire and 5 in 1 texturing hammer which has been on my list for 3 years now.


I also bought some UV resin to try as my students keep asking me about it, some casted metal for coloring and really cool enamel headpins which was my “best buy”. The Artist was selling it for just a dollar a bunch on Sunday afternoon as end of show special. On the last day, I finally gave in and bought some beetle wings and Afghan coins. My mom has been behind my life to get myself some swarovski or cubic zirconia earrings that look like solitaires and not wanting to disappoint her I finally found some luscious earrings with Cubic Zirconia (mine look like solitaries and hers are snowflakes) for the both of us. Also, my parents were getting our apartment painted while I was away and in the middle of all that chaos my mom lost her new (aka my old phone) and was extremely upset. So I got her some swarovski pearls because I was feeling really bad for her and put away some cash for a new phone.


Amazon
My purchase list had ren wax, polishing pads and Clauss scissors in list none of which I could get at beadfest. So just before I left Philly I had this brainwave to order them on Amazon and get them delivered to my Disney Resort. Unfortunately, only the Ren wax qualified for Prime shipping and was delivered on the last night of my stay in the US. I am still looking for people who are likely to travel to India in the next couple of months and will be willing to carry the rest for me.


Freebies
What is a good haul post without some freebies thrown in? I got awesome swag from the Ice resin booth – you guys are the best !! (the full story on this later) and some really yummy beads made by Lori Schneider who along with Robin Showstack were my roommates for a couple of days. It was so much fun being with them.



Out of the three beads, the beetle is my favourite (the hieroglyphics beads is the back of the beetle) and I am so happy to have some really cool artisan beads that I can use for challenges and contests.

I realize that I have been incredibly slow in posting about my trip and even when I do, its not in the right order. But then, with one infection after the other, I am all wiped out. All my energy is spent on just preparing for class and getting there on time, that I just don’t feel like doing anything else. Finally I made some Jewelry the past weekend for the BNB “A day at the beach” Challenge Beach sparkle necklace and Color pops necklace. Do check them out and like them to vote for me


I hope you found it interesting
Cheers

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How to: Write a DIY Tutorial

Let me open with the disclaimer that I am not a tutorial expert and there are people who are far more experienced than me when it comes to writing design instructions. But as someone who has been writing DIY Jewelry and craft tutorials for both web as well as print, I thought I’ll share my learning with everyone.

Let me open with the disclaimer that I am not a tutorial expert and there are people who are far more experienced than me when it comes to writing design instructions. But as someone who has been writing DIY Jewelry and craft tutorials for both web as well as print, I thought I’ll share my learning with everyone.

Contrary to what people think creating a jewelry tutorial is a hard job. It hard enough when you get paid for it but harder still when you write it for free on your blog. You need to come up with an original idea (that well, will work!), create it, document it every step of the way using photographs, edit the photographs and then write the tutorial. That is just the first part; the second part is promoting it, responding to comments, answering questions, and updating it as you go. Also ,tutorials are slightly different from “How to” posts such as this one, in the sense that there is a definite product/ process that results from following the tutorial and how to is just a series of steps leading ot varied results.

When I started writing tutorials for my blog, I thought if everyone is doing it, why can’t I, it must be easy after all. I learned the hard way, that there is a big difference between writing a tutorial and writing an excellent tutorial and I cringe when I look at my old posts. So in this post, I’ll talk about the elements that make a tutorial stand out in a great way.


1. Show Finished product images:

This might sound like a no-brainer but there are hundreds (maybe 1000s) of tutorial on the net that do not show clear pictures of end products. Some of them have such tiny pictures enclosed in all sorts of fancy frames that I cannot see the details. Personally, I cannot follow text instructions and often learn how to make a product just by looking at the final picture and the material list. I look at the step wise pictures only if the product is very complicated or if the final product image is very small.
Also post at least 2 pictures (one full image showing the back, clasp or hook) and one close up. They must be in large size – one landscape and one portrait preferably as it makes your tutorial easily shareable across social media channels. Showing how the item is being used is an added bonus, though not a must.

2. Write a Detailed material list
The craziest part about writing for magazines is that they want a super detailed material list. Interweave specifies that name, size, finish, number, measurement and supplier name must be mentioned for every single consumable that it used. Also, all tools and equipment must be listed. When you write online, it doesn’t have to be that specific but it is good to have a clear material list so people know what exactly they need to create the item. When using Affiliate links, do not flood the entire list but use them only when the item is specific or uncommon as a common courtesy.

3. Take Step by Step pictures
A Majority of the craft world seems divided on this. Many say that a great tutorial must show every step (video tutorials might work better in that case) while others say that pictures showing the important or complicated steps are sufficient. I follow my “N-4 or above” rule for tutorials. That is, if there are 10 steps, I show a minimum of 6 steps visually. They can be separate images or a collage provided the images are clear and big enough. A tutorial is no place for tiny fudgy pictures. The idea is that a person who does not understand the language (in which the tutorial is written) must be able to comprehend the making process with just a rudimentary knowledge of the field.

4. Offer material or technique alternatives

When we write for an international audience, we must keep in mind that materials that are easily available to us might not be available to them. So suggest alternatives. For e.g, if the material list says Swarovski crystals, mention that it can also be created using glass, plastic or coated Chinese crystals. If the tutorial uses artistic wire mention how it can be created using base metal or other coated/plated wire. It might seem self-explanatory to an experienced person but a beginner coming across your post will require that support and guidance.

5. Discuss design Variations

Unlike Print, when we write for the web, basic courtesy demands that we discuss variations of the suggested idea. Apart from curbing plagiarism, it will encourage people to use your tutorial as a starting point to create new ideas and products.

Though there are many more good practices, I feel that the above five are an absolute must. As a bonus for all you tutorial newbies out there, here is a sample Tutorial template that I follow for every tutorial of mine. It is not restricted to jewelry making or crafts but can be adapted to any set of design instructions. So do download and share!


How to: Write a Jewelry Tutorial
A Sample Template

1. Introduction: Background of the design, your inspiration, how you chose the materials and what is the application of the idea or design
2. Finished product image no. 1
3. Material list, Material image optional
4. Method – numbered Step by step instructions with pictures
5. Finished product image no. 2, 3…..N
6.Conclusion – Summary if required (for complicated designs), any problems that you faced in the process and how they can be resolved, tips, suggestions, and variations. Add additional images if you have them as variations.
7. Call for action

That’s it for today folks, do add your tips on how to write a great tutorial in the comments section and tell me what you think of my tutorial template. If you find the template useful, please share on Social media (twitter, Instagram or Facebook) by tagging it to @jewelsofsayuri
I hope you found it interesting
Cheers

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How to make Jhumka earrings

I like doing simple projects on lazy Sunday afternoons that keep me occupied for an hour or two just after my lunch.

I like doing simple projects on lazy Sunday afternoons that keep me occupied for an hour or two just after my lunch. One such afternoon, I stumbled upon some white silk thread jhumka bases I had bought and wondered if I could use them for something else other than Silk Thread jhumkas. My eyes then slowly wandered to the top shelf of my craft materials cupboard where I keep all my paints and glitter and that was when I knew what I wanted to do with them – make light weight glitter jhumka earrings

DIY Glitter Jhumka Earrings Tutorial
DIY Glitter Jhumka Earrings Tutorial

Materials
– 1 pair jhumka base (acrylic hemispherical dome) – any size
– Silver spray acrylic paint
– Mod Podge sparkle (referred to as MP)
– Iced enamel – Silver Inclusion
– Iced Enamels – Relique Glitz Silver
– silver tone eye pins – 2
– silver tone ear hook – 2
– 10mm Silver crystal Rondells – 2
2 mm Silver crystal Rondells – 2
– Round Faux pearls -2
– 2mm glue on clear rhinestones

Tools – Paint brush, Nose pliers, wire cutter


Method
1. Spray paint both the top and the inside of the jhumka bases ( I have used medium size) with silver paint. If you do not have spray paint use can use acrylic paint from a bottle. Spraying is easier. Do 2 coats and let it dry between each coat and between spraying the top and the bottom. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
2. Apply a coat of modpodge to the inside of the domes to seal the paint and let it dry once again.

DIY Glitter Jhumka Earrings Tutorial
3. Apply a liberal coat of MP on the top of the base with a brush and sprinkle Iced enamel – Silver Inclusion glitter on it. You can use any Silver glitter, I used Silver inclusion as that was what I had in hand. Blow slightly on the glitter so that it sticks on to the MP and add more MP at this stage followed by a sprinkling of the Relique Glitz Silver. Let it dry.
I have used two different silver glitters here for added depth and dimension (and as I find the regular shiny glitter earrings somewhat tacky). Here the glitz silver is white and reflects a lot of light while the inclusions is a gray silver with a lot of depth. I have used MP sparkle to intensify the shine, you could use the matt version if you want less shine.Yes, the earrings do look much better in person and there are not very glittery.
4. Once they are half dry (slightly tacky to touch) add more MP and glue the rhinestones on. Let it dry completely.
DIY Glitter Jhumka Earrings Tutorial
Assembling
1. To a silver tone headpin, add a pearl bead (for weight) and put add the dome on it.
2. Add the larger crystal bead followed by the 2mm bead and using your nose pliers create a loop and Add ear hooks before you close
DIY Glitter Jhumka Earrings Tutorial

Variations:
1. Use different designs of earhooks to change the look and the length (as shown)
2. Use a different color glitter (copper or bronze would be interesting) and other coordinating beads with it
3. Instead of a Jhumka, make tassel earrings using the same idea by adding chains instead of the pearls

Now that 90’s trends like culottes, white sneakers, sailor stripes, and polyester pleated skirts are coming back with a vengeance, I am pretty sure that fine glitter earrings (Gosh I had plenty of them as a kid) are going to come back too. What do you think? Do tell me in the comments if you wear jewelry or accessories that have glitter on them and your reasons for wearing/not wearing glitter.

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Game Colors bangle DIY

The 2016 summer Olympics in Rio are almost upon us and it gives me great pride to mention that a team of 120+ athletes will be participating from India. To paraphrase the Olympic Creed, life is all about participating and utilizing opportunities and fighting well to the best of our abilities and not just winning

The 2016 summer Olympics in Rio are almost upon us and it gives me great pride to mention that a team of 120+ athletes will be participating from India. To paraphrase the Olympic Creed, life is all about participating and utilizing opportunities and fighting well to the best of our abilities and not just winning. This message, or the Olympics spirit is conveyed by the five Olympic rings which represent wholeness, solidarity, and continuity. Designed by Pierre de Coubertin as a true international symbol, the Flag with five rings, in my opinion, symbolises fair play, sportsmanship and vibrancy of the rich world of sports.
Inspired by this upcoming event, I have designed a bangle with bands of blue, black, red, yellow, and green as a symbol of strength and support to the games. Join me in making one for yourself.


Olympics Colors bangle DIY

Materials Required
– Metal bangles in preferred size – 2
– 28g brass wire
– Liquid fusion Glue or Araldite
– Iced enamels medium
– Iced enamels relique powder in Carnelian, Pewter, turquoise, Chartreuse, Glitz gold
– Alcohol or patina inks in dark green, dark blue and yellow
– 2 part epoxy resin, mixing stick, cup, and wet wipes

Tools: Heat gun, paint brush, nose pliers, wire cutter, tile or any heat resistant surface


Method

1. Glue 2 metal bangles together and let it rest for a while. Alternatively, choose a broad bangle, as your base
2. Wrap 28g wire around the bangle, the wire must be in the same finish as the metal bangle. This is to provide texture and additional hold for the relique powders



3. Mark 5 equal (similar, I just eyeballed it) sections in the bangle. Each will be in one of the Olympic ring colors.
4. Apply medium to one section and sprinkle the relique powder on it. Wait for 5 minutes until it begins to dry and then move to the next section. Check my previous post on Iced enamelling for a quick how – to video.


5. Repeat until you complete all 5 sections. I did blue, black, red, yellow, and green as my sections.*
6. Place you bangle on a tile and using a heat gun slowly set the powder section by section. Be sure to turn the gun off a few times in between otherwise, it will get very hot.
7. If your powder bubbles and starts to flow, it means that you have applied too much binder and if no reaction happens then it means that you have used very less binder. The former cannot be corrected, but if you have applied less medium, to begin with, then you can give a thin coating on top as you are heating it ( when using the heat it tool only)
8. The relique powders are light colors so to get dark green, blue and yellow apply a thin coat of alcohol or patina ink on the set enamel and let it dry. I used gold as the base for yellow as it gives a beautiful soft shimmer to the bangle ( unfortunately it is not visible in the pictures)


9. Mix your two part epoxy resin as per your manufacturer’s instructions. After the initial five minute rest time, apply a thin coat on the bangle and let it cure for 48-72 hours. Clean up any spills before it cures hard.


Your chunky textured Olympics inspired bangle is ready to be worn when you cheer for your country. *In this bangle, I have only used the colors as seen in the Olympics rings and not in their exact order as I wanted it to be only my inspiration and I did not want to make an exact copy. I hope that I have brought out the symbolism of connectivity and strength of interconnected rings using the circular shape of the bangle and the wire wraps. This little something will not only help you to get into the Olympics spirit but its fashionable enough to be worn with multiple outfits long after the games are over.


I am not a “sports” person but I am excited about the Olympics and will be wearing this bangle that week. What about you? Do you have any plans to celebrate the games?
I hope you found it interesting
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DIY Empress Cord necklace

For a while, I was tempted to try my hand at Soutache jewelry. Soutache originated as a flat, narrow braid used to ornament clothing and hide seams.

For a while, I was tempted to try my hand at Soutache jewelry. Soutache originated as a flat, narrow braid used to ornament clothing and hide seams. It was also used to indicate ranks and to monogram clothes and accessories. Over the years, it was adapted as a jewelry making technique, as you could form loops, curls and swirls easily, creating excellent ornamental bezels to hold cabochons and beads over a flat base. Though I am not exceptional at embroidery and a mere novice when it comes to beadwork, I can handle embroidery projects like a yoke or even jewelry. But at the same time, I am impatient; I like projects, that can be done in a matter of minutes, or a couple of hours at the most making soutache less than ideal as a technique that I would enjoy pursuing.


As a mixed media artist, whenever I come across a labor intensive technique exclusive to a particular medium, I look for ways to simplify the process by which I can combine it with another material or technique. I try to come up with alternate methods that might imitate or bring about the concept or simply the look of the piece but from a different perspective. By doing this, I mean no offense to the original craft, artisan or the process. Instead, I try to establish a new, previously unsought route to practicing a familiar craft. In this case, I thought, why not adapt the concept of ‘capturing a focal using a cord bezel’ from Soutache jewelry and morph it into something modern by using round cords and wire wrapping. Copy and adapt, as they say in Marketing – Simple!
While I was mulling over this idea, I came across these beautiful fine silk twisted cords at Endless Leather and thought that they would be perfect to create quick and easy jewelry that was fit for an Empress. Check the tutorial below to see how I made this beautiful necklace in 10 minutes, excluding drying time.

DIY Empress Cord necklace

Materials
1.Silk Cord 4mm – beige
2. Silk Cord 4mm – gray taupe

3. 1.5″ long Maroon Crystal Focal with brass setting
4. Champagne gold rhinestone shank button
5. 26g brass wire
6. Jewelry findings (gold plated) – 6mm End caps – 1 pair, 1 lobster clasp, and 2 jump rings
7. 2 part epoxy resin or any strong glue
Tools – Nose pliers, wire cutter, scissors and clear tape

Method
1. Cut the cords to size (mine are 25″ and 24″) leaving 1 cm extra on each end. Tape the end to stop the yarns from untwisting and fraying
2. Bend the cords in half to find the middle point. Make a little loop and place your rhinestone focal in the center to mark the required length. This is the point where you would be wire wrapping the button. Remember to keep both cords, flat and parallel to one another while measuring.
3. Cut about 8″ of wire (more or less depending on the no. of wraps that you want) and insert it into the shank of the rhinestone button. Place the button at the marked point.


4. Making sure that the cords are flat, start wrapping by coming to the center and feeding the wire into the loop before coming out the other side. Repeat 2-3 times until secure and do not cut the wire.You can use 28g wire if your shank hole is very small.
5. Cut about 10″-12″ of wire ( you can take more and cut away the excess), make a “U loop” and insert it at the bottom (center) of the focal*.
6. Push the focal into the loop pushing the wire behind
*My focal was back open with gaps all around its circumference making it ideal for this design. You can also pick a focal with multiple holes or channels.


7. Starting from the back, wrap the focal to both cords, keeping them flat, one side at a time.
8. Repeat the wrap on the other side
9. Insert the ends of this wire into the previous (horizontal wrap) and secure
# Optional – Wrap around cords once again before you tuck the ends into the horizontal wrap
10. Finish the ends of the horizontal wrap wire by twisting and tucking them into the center gap. Press all wire ends down to smoothen them and eliminate pokey ends.

11. Cut away the individual clear tape bindings and carefully wrap both cords together with the same piece of tape. Cut away the excess tape and repeat on the other side. Instead of tape, you can also use sewing thread to bind the cords
12. Glue the end caps on and let dry (depending on instructions on the glue) and add the clasp and rings once dried.


#Tip 1 – Wire Wrapping- make a small loop at the end of the wire that you are tucking in. Even if it gets out of the nest it will blunt and will not poke
# Tip 2 While using resin to glue the cords to the caps, apply glue on the inside of the caps, push the cords in and hold. The tape on the cord might make it slippery, so it’s necessary to bind the cords until they dry
#Tip 3 For a more Soutache flavour, add seed beads on the outer cord or create beaded wire wraps

Once upon a time, fine jewelry was the prerogative of just the rich and royals folks. Master craftsmen would spend multiple hours, days or sometimes even weeks perfecting a single piece by hand in a manner that would be worth presenting to an emperor or an empress. Any and all surrogate procedures were considered shortcuts and were severely condoned as they brought down the value or the “fineness” of the product. Over a period of time, with fashion as the epicenter of change, costume jewelry came to the forefront and alternate materials were accepted. Now simplification, abstraction, reduction and morphing of procedures are not just allowed, they are in fact encouraged in the same way as fine jewelry practices.
So do not shy away from morphing traditional techniques and ideas to create new forms and if you try my tutorial do share your pictures on my Facebook page or tag my Instagram profile.

I hope you found it interesting

Cheers

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