Since I deal primarily in vintage-style brass stampings and jewelry findings at Ebay, I get asked this question all the time: I love your stuff! And, I love to make jewelry. But WHAT do you do with brass stampings?
Brass stampings are one of the MOST VERSATILE jewelry crafting components on today's market!
It seems so many people these days are knee-deep into beading, which is great---because it's a leg up on using a stamping. Beads can be incorporated into designs using stampings very EASILY. Use them to turn a stamping into a pendant, for example, or combine with a cool stamped drop and make bodacious chandelier earrings. Still.... sometimes those who have only worked with say, wire, or beads, look at these beautiful components and just don't 'get it' right away!
That's OKAY....that's why I'm writing this guide. ;-) Let me explain and give you some cool ideas.
Don't confuse a brass stamping with the rubber stamps used in scrapbooking. The rubber stamps in scrapbooking, of course, make an image. Brass stampings ARE an image. They are made from a die (machinery) that is struck under very high pressure into sheet brass. The dies that make the components I use and sell have been in service for decades. There is actually true vintage jewelry made out of the same parts we sell, and they're made exactly the same way they've been made in the industry for lo these many years. That's another reason why they are so cool! If you want to search out just the right components, you can actually design in the manner of the famous old jewelry designers, or make reproduction Victorian jewelry, or great Boho Czech looks!
I find brass filigree stampings particularly intriguing and useful, especially to beaders. First, I just love their intricate, lacey quality. Also, the way they are made makes them especially malleable, meaning you can form them around odd-shaped old stones for which you'll never find a mount. There are a number of people at Ebay who make and sell jewelry and employ this technique, which I call jewel wrap. The results are completely stunning.
You can also bead through filigree stampings. This is called cagework. Many popular designers of the 30's-60's employed this technique and the jewelry is today extremely collectable. Some look at this style of intricate jewelry and feel it must be very difficult to make, but I'm here to tell you, it's NOT that hard! You just need the right filigree, plated 28 gauge wire, some determination and imagination. It's sort of like a puzzle that must be worked, that's all. Did you ever embroider a piece of fabric? Well, you can also look at it as a coarse form of embroidery. Simply choose small beads to work with, I don't like to use anything over 4mm, and small seed beads and pearls are even better. For an authentic look, you might also like to incorporate roses montees (little rhinestones set in a tiny pronged mount that have sewing, or beading holes on the backs).
If you make a caged piece, you will also want two pieces of the same filigree, a style that has a slight dap, or push OUTWARD to it. This is because you will work the design on one piece, and you will finish the back by mirroring the other piece to the back, and wiring it on, so you will have a nice, sleek finished look. You can then wire a pinback to it (or just glue it on, that's up to you.) Work with small wire 'stitches' and try to make them as tight and inconspicuous as possible.
I like a finished, plated stamping and that's why I offer so many that are. However, there are alot of jewelry crafters who prefer raw brass stampings. This is because they like to add their own finishes! There are so many things you can do to make your own finish, too. Here are a few ideas:
1. You can warm the piece and then dip in a bath of liver of sulfur to make an oxidized look. Liver of sulfur can be obtained at most lapidary houses, and probably someone at Ebay even sells it (I don't.) After you take it out of the bath, you can 'scrub it up' with some fine steel wool, or run it up under a buffer to add some highlights and 'finish'.
2. You can skip liver of sulfur entirely and just use tripoli (a type of jeweller's rouge also obtained at lapidaries, hobby shops and some jewelry supply places) on a muslin wheel on a buffer or the buffer attachment on a Dremel tool, if you have one, and you can achieve a similar 'antiqued' look. You'll want to seal the result with either a paint-on or spray-on lacquer. (I'm cool with the triple thick aerosol lacquer you buy at the hardware store.)
3. All that sound like too much investment for a beginner? Don't despair! I have seen some AMAZING results achieved with something as simple as acrylic paint you buy at the crafts store! Mix varied black and brown shades and then, paint the cleaned raw brass piece, wait about 30 seconds and then wipe off. Repeat til you get the look you like best and then seal it with lacquer (spray-on will be fine, do one light coat, let it dry well, and then do another.)
4. You can actually SPRAY PAINT the parts to make it look like old 60's cold paint enamel (it won't be an exact vintage look, but it will be close, and look great, if that's the look you like). Be sure you do this with GOOD ventilation, however!
5. Another thing some crafters do is HANDPAINT the pieces with acrylic paint, or use paint pens, to accent the design on the stamping, or create a little floral motif. This has been very effectively done on many of the heart-shaped charms. If you are adept with an artist's paintbrush, spectacular results may be achieved. You can even mock the look of old dresden enamel which is very rare and hard to get, anymore. Seal your completed, finished work with a resin-based lacquer.
You can also accent many of our finished, plated charms with enamels and paints, as well. My most popular finish is called brass ox. Ox means 'oxidized', as in antiqued, and our brass ox finish would be the same as antique brassplate. I love its warm, even look and I use brass ox plated stampings alot, to make pretty vintage style lavaliers and earrings.
Brass stampings are always great incorporated into collage jewelry. That's how I started making jewelry! I made so much collage jewelry that I started doing shows with my pieces, which sold briskly. From there I ended up doing bunches of home parties, and then I started doing fine arts shows and eventually ended up selling wholesale through trade fairs and showrooms---we had over 500 store accounts at one time! We used little pearl buttons, bisque roses, brass stampings galore and charms in our darling little pieces and, some people even collect those old pieces to this day!
It all started with bits of this and that, and brass stampings, a love of jewelry craft and alot of determination! Anyone can do it, and you can, too! Try some brass stampings out and see where you go with it!