by Lisa Yang.
(West Hills, California, USA)
Have you had enough of using trial and error to match gemstones for your earrings? You think they are the same size, only to find out after you make the earrings that one is just a bit longer than the other? Well, I have the solution – and as usual, it’s all about the tools and time you take to plan your piece up front.
Calipers is the tool I’m referring to – and I wish I had known about them years ago! It would have saved me so much time and disappointment when my earrings didn’t match as closely as I hoped.
I have a picture of two different calipers that I use – and both are readily available where you buy jewelry supplies. The plastic one came with a set of wire jewelry tools I bought for my daughter and it was the first time I saw or owned one. It is useful – but not quite as precise as the metal one.
They are not expensive. I think the metal caliper was under $10.
When I am preparing to make earrings, I find the gemstones I am planning on using and separate them into piles that look like the same size.
Before calipers, I would then string them side by side and ‘eyeball’ it, trying to find two gems that were similar. Using the calipers, I can measure the 3 dimensions of the stones – length, width and depth.
I don’t write down the measurements – because they are really insignificant. I just measure the first stone – say the length, and keep the calipers at that setting. Then I try to fit another stone into that opening lengthwise. I am looking for stones that are virtually the same or only slightly off. When I find slightly smaller stones, I pile them together – slightly larger stones also get piled together.
Once I find similar stones, I measure the width – again keeping piles of similar stones stones together. My last concern is depth- since this is typically the least detectable in a pair of earrings. It should be similar though, because it can contribute to the opacity or color tone of the gemstone. I allow for the most variance in depth, but typically using calipers I can find very similar stones.
I use artists palettes for my sorting, since it allows me to keep my pairs together as I identify them. Sometimes, I make the earrings right away. Other times, I find matches and keep them wired together for future use. It makes it easy when I’m inspired to make jewelry that I can get right to it, rather than having to measure and locate pairs first. The calipers also come in handy if you sell your jewelry. It is simple to check the size of gemstones to give that information to prospective buyers.