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December 07, 2012

Opals - Real or Imitation?

My friends love to pick up shiny things that they find they think are a good deal.  In this case, my Mom bought me small bag of what appear to be opals at the swap meet.  I'm not very familiar with how to tell a real opal from an imitation- so I'm posting them here so someone can give an opinion.  One thing I am pretty sure of - they don't appear to be doublets since there is no seam on the edge.  They are also not very big - ranging in size from about 3 mm to maybe 9 mm.

For the most part, they are pretty fiery - as you can see in the picture.  The fire does range in color with a lot of green and pink - but also some blues.  There are also a few that seem dull - like the finish has worn away somehow.

Some of the stones were obviously part of something - since you can see glue lines on the backs of some of the stones.  That is the one indicator that makes me think they may not be real -  like they were part of a costume maybe?

So, does anyone have any tips on how to tell if they are real?  I'm willing to sacrifice one if I have to (only the ugly dull one though!)  I've got my fingers crossed that they are - they are so darn pretty!

December 02, 2012

Handcrafted Donations to Support Charitable Causes

One of the biggest challenges having a handcrafted business is getting the word out about your business.  Whether you sell online, through home parties or in boutiques, you need to find your customers - the people who love what you make.
One of the ways I do that is by donating my handcrafted jewelry or my jewelry making skills to local charity organizations.  For me, most of the organizations I support are local schools.  When my children were younger, I used to donate jewelry making parties for up to 8 children.  I would provide all the beads to make a bracelet, necklace or set.  These were very popular, but they were a lot of work!  It helped people know that I made jewelry - but honestly, they weren't seeing my best work.  After all, I don't think I've ever sold anything with pony beads or buttons in it - and it is rare that I make a stretch bracelet.  So, while this helped people know my name and what I did - I don't think it was the best advertising.

Now that my children are older, I donate finished pieces of jewelry, gift certificates to my etsy shop or jewelry parties with a bonus hostess incentive.  It can be challenging to find the right donation for the cause.  You want to find something that represents your business, but also something that will make money for the organization you are trying to support.  I usually try to find things that are reasonably priced, but represent my jewelry style well.  

The pictures in this post are of jewelry that I donated  this month to a local middle school.  They are relatively simple pieces - and represent my love of gemstones very well.  They were not very expensive to make, but I expect they may bring $100 or more to the school.

One thing that is an absolute necessity when you donate items, is to make sure you include your business information on the tags, the charity website, or anywhere else that your items will be seen.  It doesn't do anything for your business if people don't know how to contact you for future orders.  Well, I guess that's not entirely true - there's always the tax deduction! 

I don't believe donating to local charities gives me a huge boost in my business - and I don't think it helped right away.  It takes time.  Now that I have done it for about 8 years - I believe it really has paid off.  People at local organizations - school and religious organizations mainly - invite me to their craft sales and also recommend me to their members for jewelry parties or even weddings.  It is nice to be known locally for what I do - especially since this is not my full time job.

During this holiday season - or any time of the year - remember that donating your handcrafts can help local organizations, your business and make you feel good!