When I first began making beaded jewelry, the Y necklace was the most popular design. I was "hired" by a local bead/jewelry store to make links for these necklaces. Sadly for them, my first loops were like any other beginner's; a bit on the misshapen side. After a couple thousand, though, I was much better, and, more importantly, I was completely addicted to making jewelry.
My first designs were variations on jewelry I had made in classes. Eventually I started making my own pieces, which were mostly seed beads on Soft-Flex wire. Most of them were ugly. My sister delights in wearing a few of my first pieces, and I cringe every time she does, though she claims that it's "vintage Laurel Moon" and I should be proud of it. I always tell her to say someone else made it.
Anyway, up until this point I had been using base metal, and after a while I realized that "base metal" was considered synonymous with "cheap" by a good portion of the jewelry design community, and I started to buy silver instead. Headpins, earring hooks, beads...I replaced my whole inventory of base metal, except for the charms. I invested in lots of Bali silver and obsessed about the price per ounce.
When I started selling at shows, I understood even better why some designers used only sterling silver and goldfill metals. Customers came up constantly and asked, "Is this silver?" To be able to answer "Yes" is a very good thing, let me tell you. Sadly, I am a Full Disclosure person and I would often get bogged down in the telling of it by listing all of the parts that were sterling silver, which does tend to make some eyes glaze over. But I digress. Sterling silver became the big Selling Point for a lot of jewelry, and it was definitely what was selling.
Fast forward to a few years ago. At this point, I had started designing less. I went into a local bead store, and there was a tray of these very old-fashioned looking components on the counter. I asked what they were, and the owner said, "They're from a company called Vintaj." To my sterling silver eyes, they looked...well, I hate to say this, honestly, but they looked a little cheap, and I couldn't imagine that they'd sell in such a sterling-silver-obsessed market.
But they did sell. And I noticed design after design pouring into the magazines with darkened brass, copper, and bronze. The market was turning. Sterling silver had become so expensive that people were looking for alternatives. I went online and noticed Etsy shops like Lorelei Eurto's amazing jewelry shop, and I realized that it was here to stay, and worse, I had no idea what to do with these new trends.
So I decided to experiment. I bought a small assortment of Vintaj pieces, along with some beads and chain in copper from a different source, and I started playing. Here's one of my first pieces:
I made this for a friend for the holidays. The tourmaline was really yummy and I only had a little handful, so this was perfect. And she likes a minimalist look, so I did a less-is-more design.
I'm still trying to understand things about brass and copper; I don't know if I'm ready to sell it at a show yet, for example. But I'm enjoying breaking out of the sterling silver mold.