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Dichroic Glass Jewelry by Karen Puckett

If you are looking for fresh, unique and eye-catching jewelry these days, whether in galleries and shops or on the internet, chances are that you are searching for fused glass jewelry, also called dichroic glass jewelry. This is a field of wearable art that has been gaining in popularity and recognition ever increasingly over the past 15 years. The amazing luster and luminous depth of color are a big part of the appeal that all forms of fused jewelry have for women everywhere who are embracing the concept of wearable art.

Of course the most important element of successful art glass jewelry is the artist. As a fused glass artist who began developing and refining her designs and techniques in 1992, Karen Puckett has been intimately involved in popularizing dichroic jewelry ever since. Her love of glass as a medium, with its ephemeral interplay with light and color, has propelled her into ever expanding explorations of how to bring this vibrant beauty to the countenances of women everywhere. It has been, and continues to be, a joyous artist's journey of creativity and innovation.

The dichroic glass itself is, naturally, the other essential ingredient that has helped to make fused glass earrings and pendants stand out so vividly in today's jewelry market. Dichroic glass was the result of NASA research in the early years of the space program. Their engineers were looking for transparent mediums that would filter out unwanted spectrums of light. The result was dichroic glass, a transparent medium that will reflect one color (or frequency range) and transmit another, while sometimes filtering out other ranges. To create this glass is a technical and exacting process involving vacuum chambers, electron beams, and various metallic oxides which are bonded or combined with hot glass.

Once the art glass community discovered this concept, the creation and innovation of dichroic glass for use by artists began to grow exponentially. Today dichroic glass is available in a wondrous variety of colors, textures and sheens, and also an ever increasing array of patterns and layered designs. Not all glass in Karen Puckett's dichroic pendants and earrings is necessarily dichroic glass, but all of it is what is termed "fusing compatible". Various colors of fusing compatible yet non-dichroic glass, combined with the great variety of dichroic glass are what add up to the stunning variety of effects which are present in Karen's wearable art. All "fusing compatible" glass, dichroic or otherwise, must expand and contract at a rate which is within a narrow band of tolerances in order to survive the journey in the kiln up to 1700 degrees and then back down to room temperature without breaking or cracking.

Over the years Karen has accumulated quite the collection of fusing glass, so when she walks into her studio each day she has the ingredients available to go in any creative direction which the inspiration of the moment is suggesting. The glass is first cut into the various pieces which comprise a pair of earrings, a pendant, or some other form of soon to become wearable art. These small pieces are then arranged, combined, and layered into the shape of the design being visualized. Once enough of these assemblages are ready, the kiln is loaded and gradually heated up to the fusing temperature, usually in the neighborhood of 1700 degrees or so. After gradually cooling over a number of hours back to room temperature, the pieces are either cleaned and readied for finish wrapping or silver work or the addition of the appropriate findings ("hardware"), or they are further shaped by grinding on an abrasive diamond head and then re-melted. Second, and occasionally third round trips in the kiln are usually accomplished at a lower final temperature, a process which is call "fire-polishing". Annealing is achieved through cooling the glass very slowly.

Quality findings - the metallic pieces necessary to convert the finished pieces into wearable art glass jewelry - are an important part of the finishing process. Karen has utilized her years of experience in creating fused glass jewelry to obtain and use those findings which combine durability, beauty, and the hypoallergenic properties which are essential for safe and comfortable wearing of her pieces. The french hooks, or ear wires, used in her fused dangle earrings are either gold-filled, sterling silver, or anodized niobium. The bails used in non bezeled fused glass pendants are either gold plated, or silver plated. The bezeled dichroic pendants and earrings are finished with sterling silver bezels, backs and bails. In Karen's fused glass necklace and earring sets, all clasps and metallic crimp beads are either gold or silver plated.
If you want further information or more details about fusing glass, the manufacturer which Karen uses the most is Bullseye Glass of Portland, OR. For information about Dichroic Glass, Karen's recommendation is CBS - Coatings by Sandberg in Orange, CA. Her wholesaler of choice for all types of fusing and dichroic products and equipment is Pacific Artglass in Los Angeles.