Jewelry and Safety – Sometimes ya gotta give a little

What DOES safety mean to you as a jewelry artist? I’m sure we automatically think safety glasses, or dust masks, gloves, keeping your attention on what you’re doing, etc, etc… I’m not speaking about our safety though, but that of our customers – and friends and family members to whom we gift our labors of love.

Like most of us, I want the pieces I make to hold up to the test of time – like being passed down through a couple of generations at least! What do you do specifically for the end user’s safety?

Here’s a couple of things I do toward that end:

use open jump rings.

I use rings that are proportional to the design, or even larger. Much of my jewelry uses 2 or 3mm leather cord; I use 16 or 14 awg to attach the clasp. An open jump ring provides a “give” point if the necklace or bracelet gets caught (stranger things have happened). I don’t work with delicate pieces very often, and open jump rings are probably not a very good idea for those. The very delicacy of pieces made with very small gauge wire, chain, and beading wire will allow something to give way before much (if any) damage is done to the wearer.

use fine silver rather than .925 for hook clasps

That may have drawn a breath of protest or two – everything that I’ve read says that fine silver is too soft and easily bent to use in this manner. I’ll even admit to having to repair or replace a hook myself on a couple of occasions, but it hasn’t happened often, and I’d rather do a repair than leave the wearer with grooves around their wrist or neck where the jewelry dug into it when it got hung up hard and sudden on something.  I DO use a larger gauge in fine silver than in .925, and I do hammer the curves of the hook to strengthen it at the arch of the curves to harden it. I actually had a customer email me yesterday needing to have a stretched hook replaced on a necklace using 3mm leather cord with crown type cord ends, 5/32″ thick HDPE o-rings, and doubled 16 awg jump rings to attach the o-ring links to each other. The best give point for this necklace was the hook – which was made with 14 awg fine silver. The wearer was a slightly built 15 y/o – far better the hook than her neck. Check out the pic below – this bracelet features a doubled jump ring and o ring construction with a 14 awg hook also… it would pretty much be the hook that would be the first to give – agreed?

So, why did I bring this up to begin with, and why do I have this point of view? I worked in manufacturing for 28 years (in an aerospace wire and cable company). Safety was always important to me b/c I was conscious of things that could happen if I wasn’t diligent about doing my job.  Yeah, I know – this is JEWELRY we’re talking about, not planes falling out of the sky. It’s still the same principle even though the consequences aren’t quite so dire. BUT I’ve seen my husband have the skin on his ring finger peeled like a grape up to the middle knuckle when a ring got hung on a forklift at work…while it was driving away from him. A friend at work was wearing a very delicate pinky ring given to her by her father; she refused to take it off even when they changed the safety rules about the wearing of rings. She tripped one night and as she tried to catch herself that ring slid over a hook used to hang clipboards up on the machines; it ripped her entire finger off. Pardon the expression, but this kind of shit leaves an impression!

Now in reality, there really isn’t much that you can do to make a ring safe (as regarding getting hung) b/c it’s a closed loop – most of them anyway. I have nevertheless seen necklaces and bracelets get hung up leaving bruises, scrapes, and cuts b/c they didn’t give. While my POV may seem a little over the top, and the scenarios as rare and extreme as being struck by lightning, these considerations still bear a thought or two when you’re designing your beautiful and unique works. You don’t need to be in a manufacturing environment to get hurt. Accidents can (and do) happen under any and every kind of circumstance.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? Do you build in any give points in your jewelry – or even have a story of your own to tell? I’d love to hear from you!

WP o ring2508

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