Carrabassett Valley Jewelry was started in 2006. The designs and stories for these designs are often inspired by everyday objects, or the natural world. Each piece is specifically designed with classic lines and simple beauty to appeal to those who enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle. Sterling silver has the added benefit of being much less costly to replace than a similar piece made with gold or platinum misplaced in the great outdoors.
The majority of our collections are fabricated from sheets of sterling silver, and the designs are hand-cut into the piece with a jeweler’s saw. Some have natural gemstones set as accents to the pierced design, and some are created by melting and/or forging Argentium® wire. Many of our customers grow attached not only to the jewelry, but also to the original story or poem which accompanies each design. Each piece is signed and dated on the back before being sent to a good home!
Carrabassett Valley Jewelry is following a commitment to use eco-friendly products, and all metal used in fabrication and casting is 100% recycled.
Argentium® sterling is used for all designs in silver, and contains (as does all sterling silver) at least 92.5% pure silver. In Argentium®, a small portion of the remaining metal (generally copper) has been replaced with germanium, which forms a protective oxide on the metals surface and inhibits tarnish from forming, although I find that any silver that is worn on a regular basis just develops a patina and doesn’t really tarnish anyways.
Once the initial idea has taken shape in my mind, I begin to sketch possible variations on graph paper or directly into my computer. If the design started as a pencil sketch, I then photograph the design and edit it in Paint Shop Pro to get a grey and white template of the proper size. The paper template is cut out and glued in place on the sheet silver, and I use a jewelers’ saw to cut the outside shape before filing the edges so they are smooth. The grey areas get cut out, so I drill pilot holes in each grey area through which to thread the saw blade and cut out the inside design. After a quick soak in water, the paper rinses off and the piece is hammered into shape. Most pieces are buffed to a mirror finish, but some are further textured using various hand tools to get the desired effect. Some pieces incorporate an overlay method, where a second layer of silver is soldered to the back of the pierced piece and the reveal areas of the back piece are oxidized to create a black contrast area. I use a soft toothbrush with dish detergent and toothpicks to clean the buffing compound from each piece. I then drill any final holes, attach the appropriate findings and initial and date each piece. Voila!
Carrabassett Valley Jewelry offers some of the its popular designs in a sturdy cast construction. The model is still made by hand using pierced construction, most often with an overlay (a solid sheet of silver is soldered behind the pierced design) and oxidized design. It is then sent to be cast using a silver alloy that is 100% recycled silver and offers an increased degree of tarnish resistance.
And the environment
I have found myself presented by a bit of a challenge by being in an industry not exactly known for its ‘green’ practices. I recently amped up my effort to make environmentally conscious decisions, the most impactful of which is that I now source all my sheet silver and wire from a company that uses reclaimed metal. Mining is an inherently destructive industry, and I feel glad knowing that I have cut it out of my supply chain.
My other main supply company is powered entirely by solar energy, and has recently started making it easier to choose their products by coding all their sustainable products with green order numbers. As they offer more sustainable options I will certainly be choosing those as much as possible. I also look to buy local products, but do understand the value of keeping costs balanced to provide a conservatively priced product.
I am a firm believer that the little things add up over time to make a significant difference. My biggest fan base consists mainly of “outdoorsy people,” and I tend to have be successful at the shows located in the mountains and lakes regions that attract people who are interested in being closer to nature. The attendees tend to make environmentally conscious decisions in their own life, and are willing to spend their money with a company that has similar values.
I am always open to comments and suggestions on how to improve in this area!