TierraCast Tour

One of my first purchases from an official bead store was in the mid 1990’s, at a bead store in Cambridge, MA. It was a small antique silver plated goddess charm by TierraCast. I still own that charm as at the time it was just too special to actually use. Across the country in Berkeley, CA Jim & Lisa Kaufman’s bead store, Baubles & Beads, was in its infancy, and Julia, our current store manager, was a high school student who shopped at their store. None of us knew one another, we were all just beaders who could never imagine that nearly two decades later we would all be working together at Baubles & Beads and going on a field trip tour the TierraCast facilities. TCI-Logo-WebChances are if you have ever made jewelry with base metal beads or components you too have introduced TierraCast products into your own collection. It was with great pleasure and much anticipation we were given the opportunity to tour the factory and learn more about the production of those fabulous finds and meet the people who create them.

We were met by Julia wearing a fabulous ring made by Tania Skevos, a former store manager of Baubles & Beads who is now quite famous.

We were met by Julie who wearing a fabulous ring made by Tania Skevos, a former store manager of Baubles & Beads who is now quite famous.

Upon our arrival we met up with Julie, our ambassador for the day. Her bubbly enthusiasm immediately struck a chord with us as we too are excited to share the story of growth and change of another small business.

Meet Tracy, she is TierraCast's marketing guru.

Meet Tracy, she is TierraCast’s jewelry designer and marketing maven.

She began by introducing us to several people we had interacted with on the phone, through email, and whose names we’d recognize from years of doing business together.

Alan Joseph, one of the company owners and product designer, was our tour guide and he guided us through the entire impressive compound, in order of production from design idea to finished piece. Every piece is made under the same house except for the plating including: design, production, manufacturing, sales, and marketing.

Digital rendering meet the finished piece.

Digital rendering meet the finished piece.

Alan works entirely through graphic design templates on his computer when designing the beautiful and detailed signature TierraCast pieces. He has a background in fine art, so the process starts with that in mind. The products go through rigorous testing periods before they make it to you, the beader. Only 1 in 10 design ideas actually make it into the product line.Scotts BenchAfter all design specifics have been developed digitally he then hands the work off to his team of metalsmith geniuses to begin the task of making a model.  Above is a picture of Scott’s bench, he trained at Tiffany. Be sure to zoom in on the pic to get a good look at all his tools. The window directly in front of his bench looks out to a tranquil garden setting, now that’s what we call a good day’s work! microscopePerfection is required, evident by the microscope in the room. Once the piece has gone through the intensive and fastidious design process, they begin production by making a mold.stackofmoldsMolds are made by pressing silicone in a steel plate that is heated. We were impressed by the organization in the mold making room. Notice in the background of the photo above how the finished molds are arranged. There is a whole back room filled with molds.MoldsEach mold only has a lifespan of about 300 uses. The mold maker was on vacation the day of our tour. He just celebrated 25 years at TierraCast. Definitely a sign of a good company to work for.pewtersolidTierraCast excels in the use high quality pewter. The standard for lead content in culinary pewter is 500ppm. TierraCast uses a pewter alloy called Britannia that contains lead in the minute level of less than 100 ppm. Most pieces have about 25-35ppm of lead content.MoltenMetalWe step over to the next room and find a vat of molten metal next to the casting machine. casterWomanRocksThe caster pours the molten metal into the opening of the mold located in a centrifuge. Centrifugal force pushes the molten metal evenly throughout the mold making for consistent results. Angela, the caster pictured above is one of the fastest casters at TierraCast.buttonsOnATreeOnce the caster has produced a large quantity of product they then simply break the pieces off the “tree”. It is a testament to the fine craftsmanship of the mold maker that no hand finishing is required after removing the product from the tree.removalofbeadsHow dreamy that the day we visited they were casting one of our best-selling items: the Buddha Bead.  A short walk away is another building that houses the finishing room.HomemadeTumblerMy little Lortone tumbler is nothing compared to TierraCast’s homemade version. These drums are filled with cast pieces and different tumbling media to help quickly remove any burrs or imperfections. Once the pieces are tumbled they are sent off-site to be plated. Plating is the only process that does not happen in-house. Upon return from the plater, TierraCast applies chemical antiquing as needed.fillingorders

When we opened the door to the order fulfillment office a blast of cold air struck us; a true sign of women working in here. This room was filled with drawer after drawer of beads, charms, pendants, bails, button, findings, clasps, earwires, oh my gosh I can’t list all of the wonder inside. Sorry the pic so so fuzzy but those ladies work fast!! julieandlisaThe conclusion of our tour left us time for photo ops with each other. Above is one of myself and Julie. We all know Julie well as she has been TierraCast’s sales rep for a long time. We often meet up at the bead shows in Tucson and Milwaukee. lkandjulieNext up is Lisa Kaufman , co-owner of Baubles & Beads, and Julie. Have we mentioned how fun Julie is?organizationAnd to finish us off we have Julia, our store manager, loving the tidiness of the entire place. Interestingly enough, between three of us photographing our tour, Jim Kaufman (the incredibly handsome co-owner of Baubles & Beads) never made it into any of our photos.


DIY -Tri Color Chain Weave


Wow, the bead store just received a shipment of new chain and the 4-in-1 chain has me so excited! If you have been following this blog for a while then you know I like to stitch things together, especially chain. The chain consists of a figure-8 links connected together by a large round link. The resulting effect looks very similar to flat 4-in-1 chain mail.  Chinese knotting cord is used to connect these chains side-by-side while adding a splash of color. The finished bracelet measures 7 1/4″.  Oh, the possibilities…enjoy and share your creations on our Facebook page.

Tools Neededtricolor materials
2 Pairs of chain nose pliers
Wire cutters
Hypo-tube cement

Materials Needed
1 1/2 feet 4-in-1 chain (can be all one color or use 6 inch lengths of different finishes for the tri-color effect)
2 yards Chinese knotting cord
1 D-ring toggle clasp
4 jump rings -6mm, 18 gauge
5 jump rings -4mm, 18 gauge
Medium twisted wire needles

Preparing the Materials

Step 1: Begin by cutting 3 equal lengths of chain that measure 6 inches each. Cut off the figure-8 link on each end of the chain so that the final link on each end is the larger center ring.

Step 2: Cut a 1 yard length of Chinese knotting cord and string a twisted wire needle onto it, doubling over one end by about a foot.

Weaving the Chains Together

The 4-in-1 chain is made up of figure-8 links that are connected together by a larger jump ring. The resulting effect looks very similar to flat chain-mail.  Chinese knotting cord is used to connect two of these chains side-by-side while adding a splash of color.

attachingcordStep 1: Rest two of the chains side-by-side so that the links of each chain are going the same direction.

Step 2: Attach the cord to the chains by feeding it through the first two side-by-side figure-8 loops. Leaving a 2 inch tail, tie the two cords together with a double knot.

Step 3: Feed the cord back through the same two links to secure the cord. (The first row of figure-8 links have now been connected together.)

weave1The basic weave pattern consists of wrapping the cord through two side-by-side links (this step keeps the chains flat) and then stepping up to the next row of figure-8 links by feeding the cord diagonally, between the two chains, and up through the next figure-8 link on the chain.

Step 4: “Step-up” to the next row by feeding the cord through the figure-8 link located one row up on the opposite chain. The cord will cross between the two chains diagonally.

Step 5: Connect the two chains together side-by-side by feeding the cord down through the corresponding figure-8 link of the opposite chain.

Step 6: Complete the stitch by feeding the cord back up through the figure-8 link of Step 4. (The next row of figure-8 links have now been connected together.)

twochainsStep 7: Repeat Step 4 through Step 6 until there is only one figure-8 link left to be stitched together.

Securing the Cords in Placeknot00Step 1: If needed, flip the piece over so that the beginning knot is on the side facing up. “Step-up” to the next row by feeding the cord through the figure-8 link located one row up on the opposite chain.

Step 2: Connect the two remaining figure-8 links together by feeding the cord around them twice so that the cord goes through each link two times.

Step 3: Feed the cord under the diagonally crossing cord from Step 1. (In the next steps, the cord will be secured in place by knotting it around this diagonal cord.)

gluetheknotsStep 4: Using a half-hitch knot, tie the cord around the diagonal cord.

Step 5: Make a 2nd knot around the same diagonal cord and pull the cord tight.

Step 6: Completely coat the knots with cement glue. Once the glue dries, about 10 minutes, cut off the excess cord close to the knot.

Step 7: Glue and cut the remaining cord from the knot on the opposite end of the chain.

 Adding Additional Rows of Chain3rdchain01Additional lengths of chain can be woven to either side of the finished piece. Use the same techniques outlined above to add a third length of chain.

Attaching the ClaspattachingaclaspThe clasp is attached to the center round link of each chain using a jump ring.

Step 1: Using chain nose pliers attach a 6mm jump ring to each of the outside chains and a smaller, 4mm jump ring to attach the center chain. Repeat on the other end of the bracelet.

Step 2: Use three 4mm jump rings to attach the toggle bar to one of the D-ring toggle components.

Step 3: Put it on, put it on and show someone!!!!

WE LOVE READING YOUR COMMENTS!! Comment on this post for your chance to win a kit of materials to make your own. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on July 22nd!

Update: Congrats go out to Angi M. for winning the kit!!

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