As A Veteran and a Jewelry Artist, Joshua Farrally Draws on His Military Background and Young Family For Inspiration

MEET REAL JEWELRY ARTISTS: Joshua Farrally / Kansas City, MO / Paracord Bracelets

Following his own departure from the military, Joshua Farrally entered a new type of service as a full time stay-at-home dad so that his wife could continue to serve as an active duty member of the United States Air Force. But that didn’t mean he was ready to give up on contributing income to the family budget. Instead, Joshua decided to pursue the American dream of starting a small business.


“Our goal is to always have one parent at home with the kids, at least until they start going to school – and – I really enjoy being a stay-at-home dad. So, I wanted to find a home business where I could help bring in some cash for our extra-curricular activities.”

His wife already had experience selling on Etsy, so that website seemed like a natural venue for his new business. The only question left was what to sell – the husband and wife duo put their combined experience together.

bracelets2“While in tech school with the military, a sergeant there taught us how to make a paracord bracelet. 550 Paracord, also called parachute cord, is a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope originally used in the suspension lines of parachutes. It was used to make parachutes during World War 2 and was used by astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. It peaked my interest at the time so I made a few for myself and my friends. …while brainstorming with my wife on ideas for an Etsy shop we decided this was something I could do easily. We started researching different weaves, materials and marketing ideas. My wife set up my Etsy shop and made all the graphics. I immediately ordered the materials I needed.”

After experimenting with various designs, styles and sizes, Farrally knew this was something he would  not only enjoy doing, but could also use to bring in extra income.

“I started off making a couple bracelets for my daughter. I made her the Tinkerbell Inspired bracelet and the Doc McStuffins one (both found in my store!). This opened up the line for infants, toddlers and kids. I also made a very simple bracelet for my son and a camo bracelet for my wife to wear in uniform. We enjoyed this so much, I knew this would be something I could do on the side and enjoy.”

That was it –  FarrallyManMade was open and ready for business. The shop carries a wide range of hand crafted Paracord bracelets in a variety of styles and colors from traditional military hues to brightly colored children’s pieces. But these bracelets don’t just look great – they also serve a real function.

“Paracord is made with nylon that won’t mold or rot and it’s UV resistant. It has an outer sleeve with 7 inner braided strands. Paracord is still a favorite among military professionals and outdoors men of all kinds, but it’s also become a modern style in fashion and jewelry wear.”


As if this wasn’t enobracelets4ugh, a number of the bracelets in the FarrallyManMade line are designed for special causes and Farrally contributes a portion of the sale price for each of these items to charities.

There are plans in place to expand FarrallyManMade’s offerings. Joshua will be adding a mix of men’s and women’s jewelry including leather cord necklaces, leather wrap bracelets and some more urban designs.

Right now though, he’s happy to be able to do enjoyable work from home in Kansas City, Missouri while watching over his 2 year old daughter, 3 month old son and their 3 year old German Shepherd.

You can shop the full selection of Joshua’s artwork here:  FarrallyManMade


Posted in Jewelry Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Men Now Wearing More Jewelry – Welcome to the Party Guys!

man wearing rings jewelry

The New York Times ran an intriguing piece this week on the uptick in consumption of Jewelry by American and European men. I can’t speak for our brothers across the pond, but it doesn’t take a sleuth to see that dudes here are wearing more jewelry today than they were a few years ago. Rings, Bracelets and Cufflinks have made a killer come back  — which can be evidenced by the anecdotal fact that I ran into my mechanic (the scrubbiest, non-metro, manliest man I know) at dinner with his fiance last week (in a part of Western NJ that might as well be a wormhole to Kalamazoo) and he was sporting a pair of blue guilloche enamel links -with jeans no less.

I’m sure there’s a dozen reasons why jewelry has resurfaced as an “acceptable” male accessory, but we’ve got our own take on it. Consider the fact that in many cultures men regularly wear jewelry that might be considered too feminine in the West (just take a long hard look at the hands and wrists of your male Indian friends and acquaintances). And that’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? We Westerners have been putting jewelry and femininity in the same box for decades. But things they are “a’changin” my friend.

The later 90’s to early 2000’s rise-of-the-metro-man combined with: continued growth and progress of the women’s movements; the mainstreaming of what were formerly American subcultures (hip-hop culture, gay culture); and the ever present desire to push boundaries – have all come together to soften our collective projection of Western maleness.

cutesy guys



Assuming you’re in the “art imitates life camp”, just look at the 21st century’s Hollywood leading male heroes — Chris Pine, Ryan Gosling, Zac Efron, Ryan Reynolds — all cutsie-bootsey boyish heroes that wouldn’t hold a flame to the rough masculine heroes of yesteryear (epitomized by the likes of Bogart and perhaps Eastwood) — but we love them and keep flopping down $20.00 a ticket to see them save the world. Why? Because we can live with the idea of a hero who isn’t 100% manly-man 24 hours per day. (Consider the evolution of Clancy’s  Jack Ryan from Baldwin to Ford to Affleck to, you guessed it, Pine.)

In addition to undoubtedly saving countless American men from feelings of inadequacy (except perhaps for that whole abs thing), this increasing comfort with softer masculinity allows Western men to wear some jewelry without fearing the repercussions they might have suffered a few decades ago. The reluctance to wear jewelry (other than the obvious personal preference) stems from a fear of appearing less-masculine, but if we live in a world wear its acceptable (if not desireable) to appear less masculine, but still be a man, then there’s no risk to the wearer. In fact. many would argue that wearing jewelry is simply an expression of how comfortable you are with your own interpretation of masculinity.

Now, that’s not to say we expect to see your average Joe flaunting pearl lavalieres anytime soon, but keep your eyes peeled just in case. In the meantime, welcome to the party, guys, and take a look at the hundreds of pieces of vintage men’s jewelry we’re currently offering. (as a welcome gift – use the code “MENS18” to take 18% off any men’s item in our Etsy store – now through June 1, 2015)

Shop Men’s Jewelry on Ebay

Shop Men’s Jewelry on Etsy


Posted in Musings / News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matching Jewelry and Stones to Marsala & Pantone’s Other Spring 2015 “En Plein Air” Color Choices – A Hunter Ridge Spring Jewelry Guide

Pantone’s annual color report is out and its time to consider the jewelry that best compliments the season’s colors and attitude. Spring is generally a time for awakenings – metaphorically and physically – and is thus a great time to get in touch with your lighter side. This year’s color choices mesh well with that goal.

Easter Blue Topaz



Fortunately, there exist a wondrous menagerie of natural, affordable gemstones that fall both in, and around, this Spring’s vaulted palette. Marsala is the color of the year, and while it’s possible to use jewelry to match or at least “color block” in this tone, we’d suggest bringing the color to life in your clothing and then using jewelry to brush in some of  the season’s other colors that happen to synergize well with Marsala.

Marsala’s rich tone is perhaps best matched to the blue-green spectrum and luckily for us, there’s an almost unending assortment of blue-green’s that can be easily and affordably accessed with a variety of copper bearing gemstones. These of course include members of the Turquoise Family. Turquoise owes its rich green and blue colors to copper salts that stew with the stone during its creation. Just think about how a clever copper roof turns green after a few years in the elements.

The jaw-dropping earrings pictured at the top of this post were crafted by famed Santo Domingo jeweler and lapidarist Jimmy Cabeza. They feature two thin book-matched slices of natural Easter blue turquoise. Stunning statement pieces that won’t go unnoticed.

Easter Blue Turquoise

For that same Easter Blue color in a more budget-friendly edition, try something like these square,  vintage, unattributed earrings. They were also crafted in the tribal Southwest, but alas we do not have the benefit of knowing the artist.

See all of our turquoise pieces here


The ever popular Dominican gemstone, Larimar aka “Stefilia’s Stone” is a springtime favorite. The stone is named for the “sea” and truly lives up to the moniker. Light Caribbean blues blend with sheer whites and greys to create an inviting pool of color that anyone can jump right into.

Larimar has recently become more popular, but there was a time when you could source it only on location in the Dominican Republic. It’s a form of pectolite, and like turquoise, derives its unmatched blue color from copper salts.

Larimar Pendant


While not a copper bearing mineral, we would be remiss not to mention the oft forgotten Blue Chalcedony and its cousin Chrysoprase. These simple stone lie in the vast family of cryptocrystalline silicas (see our blog on them here). The blues and greens in these beauties can be attributed primarily to traces of nickel oxide.


The single “true blue” identified by Pantone this year is labeled “Classic Blue” and Lapis Lazuli is an obvious match. Prized for millennia, the best specimens of this rich blue stone hail from Afghanistan (see our blog on Lapis Here). It creates a symbiotic contrast with Marsala toned clothing


Above are two awesome vintage pieces. The first piece is a hinged necklace with fine grade lapis set in 950 silver. It’s an entirely artisan crafted classic circa 1970’s.. The second piece is a super rare 800 silver (see our silver article here) and very fine lapis cabochon Bali necklace from pre-1970. This is the color most people associate with lapis. The pieces below feature the slightly less common “denim” lapis and are both Southwest tribal pieces.


See all of our Lapis jewelry here

Also on this year’s spectrum are earth tones “Custard” and “Toasted Almond” This is a great opportunity to look to humbler minerals like Marble, Agate and Quartz — but also certain varieties of opaque and translucent amber.


 Antique Scottish Agate Flower Pin Circa 1900 and a Tova Jewels designer yellow agate chunky link statement bracelet

See all of our agate here.

The yellow quartz gems, including citrine, are a super affordable way to add yellow glamour to your get-up. These stones reflect the angular spring sun and glow from within.


Simply classic large yellow quartz cocktail ring.  

See our citrine here

Amber is another obvious choice for yellow and mustard. This versatile gem can be soft and understated or bright and ambitious. Read our article on finding genuine amber here and see all our amber jewelry here.

Amber earrings  Amber tie bar 

The amber dangle earrings are from Poland and feature natural Baltic amber. The tie bar is a vintage Russian piece with a column of rich golden amber. 

If you want to skip the accessory colors and go right for the muted reds “Strawberry” and “Marsala”, it might seem a challenge at first blush, but don’t be discouraged. These color combos are easily achieved with members of the Jasper Family.

Marsala AgateMarasala agate 2

These earrings by Joanna Laura Constantine feature natural agate panels that run the spectrum of red from marsala to fire. The ring is an antique circa 1900 featuring a blood agate cabochon.

See our reddish agates here, and jasper here.

 If you want to hit the full Spectrum — then there is no better choice than natural fluorite. It’s impossible-to-reproduce color variety just screams SPRING!!


Posted in Jewelry Guides | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interesting new finds…

While I haven’t lived up to my promise to update this topic weekly (been real busy sourcing new product!) I figured now was as a good a time as ever to brag about just a few of the interesting pairs of earrings we’ve come across and added to the store inventory.

These outrageous earrings are from the studio of master silversmith Margot de Taxco (Van Voorhies). While the robbin’s-egg-blue enamel has some rough spots, they are still an iconic example of Margot’s work —– at an excellent price point. Fully signed and hallmarked. We purchased them at auction along with a large collection of other pieces by notable Mexican silversmiths.

Classic 1960’s Tiffany & Co. Earrings. What else is there to say?

Absolutely gorgeous tiger lily earrings by American “enamel queen” Merry-Lee Rae. Entirely artisan hand crafted, they sure to be the only pair at the party.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Big, Bold, Natural Gemstone Rings

We’ll be featuring some gorgeous natural gemstone rings in the coming weeks. These rings are awesome in their hugeness! Enjoy these preview photos. The marquise shaped ring is rainbow moonstone and the other two are labradorite. These will be the first three available in the store.

928043_745253045513619_723114996_n 10549742_430134847128803_2100207326_n 924026_1504901113078291_1045109047_n

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

JEWELRY as an INVESTMENT for the Regular Person


Jewelry as investmentContrary to popular belief, jewelry can be a valuable and dependable form of investment — if it is acquired intelligently with a focus on current value.  In fact, for most of human history, jewelry was a simple, dependable and convenient means for storing wealth in a quasi-functional form.  Changes in economic models, global and domestic economies, the global fashion industry, advertising norms, and the commonality of person-to-person transactions have drastically impacted the usefulness of jewelry as an investment vehicle. These changes began in earnest in the 19th century and progressed very rapidly in the second half of the 20th century. As a result of these economic and cultural forces, jewelry investment has become less common for most of us.  However, jewelry investment remains an excellent way to store wealth and insulate yourself from inflation. How do you accomplish these goals? The answer may be pretty simple: make educated acquisitions of preowned jewelry.  And, we are talking about jewelry that can be purchased by the average person, as opposed to gems of exceptional rarity or museum quality pieces.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewelry Guides, Musings / News | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Difference between Silver, Sterling Silver, 900 Silver, 800 Silver, Alpaca, Nickel Silver and Silver Plated Jewelry


Vintage Sterling Silver Wide Cuff Bracelet with Dimpled Rope Pattern (American Tribal, 1970’s)

This article looks at the difference between the various metals used for jewelry that include the word “Silver” or are often mistaken for silver. It is a companion piece to our article on gold and gold jewelry. If you buy silver jewelry for collectible purposes, business purposes or simply because it’s beautiful, it is important to know exactly what you are buying. The purpose of this guide is to prepare you, as a consumer, when shopping for silver jewelry.

Before getting into jewelry specifics, it’s good to have a grasp on some of the fundamentals of Silver. Silver, like gold, is an elemental metal. This means that pure silver is made up of nothing but Silver atoms (represented on the periodic table by the symbol Ag). Other examples of elemental metals include copper, aluminum, platinum, iron and lead.

In its pure elemental form, silver has a white metallic appearance. It also has a high luster (shiny), is very soft (scratches easily) and is quite malleable (can be hammered into different shapes).  When people discuss the “price of silver” or “spot price of silver” or “silver bullion prices” they are referring to pure elemental silver, or more exactly, 99.9% pure silver.

raw silver

Raw Natural SIlver with White Matrix

“Pure” metals, like elemental silver or elemental copper, are distinguished from metal alloys – which are metals made up of two “pure metals”. For example, brass is an alloy that is made up of copper and zinc. To make brass, copper and zinc are melted together. Likewise, one can make various silver alloys by combing silver with other elemental metals.

Silver jewelry can be made from near pure silver (99.9% silver known as “fine silver”) or one of any number of alloys. Fine silver (99.9%) jewelry is somewhat uncommon. The most common silver alloy used in jewelry today is “Sterling” silver, which consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% some other metal (often copper, but sometimes zinc). The majority of silver jewelry in the United States, and most developed nations, is made from “Sterling” (92.5%) or finer silver.

Fineness Marks and Hallmarks

Because different alloys of silver contain different percentages of pure silver, it is important to know which alloy was used to make a piece of jewelry. For several hundred years now, most major silver manufacturing countries use what are known as “fineness marks”, “hallmarks” or a combination of both.

A fineness mark is a mark put on a piece of jewelry to indicate the percentage of pure silver it contains. There are two common types of fineness marks for silver – word marks and numerical marks. The numerical marks usually represent the number of parts of pure silver out of 1000 contained in a piece of silver. For example, Sterling silver is 92.5% silver or 925 out of 1000 parts silver. This simply means that by weight, the piece is 925 parts silver and 75 parts some other metal. Therefore the “shorthand” mark “925” is used to indicate that something is sterling silver. Other common numerical marks include:

800  (80% silver or 800/1000)






830  (83%silver of 830/1000)





835  (83.5% silver or 835/1000)








900  (90% silver or 900/1000)

950  (95% silver or 950/1000)







980 (98% silver or 980/1000)






999  (99.9% silver or 999/1000)

As mentioned above, fineness can also be indicated by a word. The two most common words encountered in the United States are “Sterling” and “Coin”. Sterling is, as discussed above, 92.5% silver.PTDC0011






“Coin” means that the item is 90% silver. The term “Coin” is a reference to early coins which were made out of 90% silver. It is very unusual to see the mark “Coin” on pieces made after 1900. Some silver jewelry is marked just “Silver”. This is common on British territory (e.g. Chinese export silver) pieces and indicates “Sterling Silver”. Also, there are several abbreviations for Sterling Silver in use now or in the past including:

“SS” (this mark can be confusing because a lot of stainless steel is also marked SS)


“Stg. Sil.” (example photo below)






U.S. Law (and the law of most developed countries) prohibits the marking of any non-silver item with a silver purity mark. (See, for example, 15 U.S.C. 8 S. 296). However, a set of stamps to make these marks can be purchased online for about $20.00 —- by anyone. Therefore, the fineness mark can only be trusted as much as the person who put it there.

Hallmarks Distingushed

Unlike a fineness mark, a hallmark is a mark that indicates that an official (usually a local assayer) in a particular country guarantees that the item is made from a certain percentage of silver. While hallmarks can also be counterfeited, it is somewhat unusual.  Hallmarks usually consist of a picture or a combination of a picture and text. Pictures used are often of local or historically important animals, current or prior rulers / sovereigns and certain plants.

The United States does not use hallmarks. However, many countries with far greater histories of silversmithing employ or did employ at one time, a complex hallmarking system. There are a number of excellent guides available on the internet that can assist you in identifying a particular hallmark. Our favorite is Set forth  below is a common example of a hallmark previously used in Mexico and often encountered on vintage silver jewelry found at U.S. Fleamarkets, Yard Sales, and Estate Sales.






This Mexican Mark is meant to represent and Eagle. It really does not look anything like an eagle in most examples. Be weary of eagle head marks on Mexican Jewelry. Those are counterfeit marks and are quite common on tourist bangles.

If you encounter an item that is not marked with a fineness mark or hallmark, or an item that does have such a mark but you suspect is not silver, you will need to test the item  or have it tested by someone else. With experience, it will become less and less necessary to test such items. See our article on testing silver for more info (to be published on or about June 15,2014) or simply google “silver testing”.

 Silver Plate and Silver Filled Jewelry 

In addition to real silver jewelry, there are two common substitutes that use small amounts of silver to mimic the real thing: Silver Plated Jewelry and Silver Filled Jewelry. There is nothing wrong with this type of jewelry  – as long as it’s not marked or sold as real silver jewelry.

Silver Plated jewelry is NOT real silver. It is brass, copper or other metal jewelry that has a very thin layer of silver applied on the surface. There is no calculable value to the amount of silver in silver plated jewelry so it should be judged on its aesthetic, artistic and collectable qualities rather than its inherent metal value. Most silver plated jewelry in the marketplace today is electro-plated. Electroplating is a chemical process where a base metal item (e.g. a copper brooch) is placed in an electrolytic solution and connected to the “cathode” end of an electrical circuit (e.g. a large battery).  A piece of silver is connected to the “anode” end of the circuit and then placed in the solution apart from the copper piece. Electrical current carries tiny silver “cations” from the silver bar to the surface of the copper piece. With sufficient time, a thin layer of silver forms over the copper piece. Once the process is complete, the copper piece appears to be made from silver.

Silver Plated jewelry often does not have any mark on it anywhere that would indicate it was silver plated. Occasionally you will, however, see the following marks:

“SP” – meaning Silver Plate

“Plate” – more common on flatware and table pieces

“EP” – meaning electroplated

“Quadruple Plate” – allegedly meaning the piece went through electrolysis four times

“EPNS” – meaning electroplated nickel silver

“S80” – this is a mark that appears on a lot of Chinese silver colored jewelry that is often also marked 925. This is not silver jewelry. It is merely plated with “925” Sterling Silver.  S80 Silver is apparently a plating compound in many emerging market countries.

Sometimes the silver plate mark is confusingly blended with marks that look like hallmarks. This is especially common on pieces imported from Britain and Holland. Do not be fooled by these marks. An example appears below. Another confusing mark on silver plated pieces is the name of a manufacturer that includes the word “silver” such as “International Silver Co.” or “American Silver Co.”. These names do not mean that the item is silver. Rather if there is no mark indicating purity on the piece (e.g. 925 of “Sterling” or a hallmark), then the piece is almost certainly silver plated.


Example of the EP mark meaning “Electro Plated”






Silver Filled jewelry is jewelry that is made by taking two thin sheets of silver and pressing between them a sheet of brass, copper or other base metal. It is not very common. It is akin to “gold filled” jewelry. Silver Filled jewelry has a quantifiable amount of silver in it (often 1/5th by weight but also as low as 1/20th). Silver Filled jewelry goes in and out of use based on the spot price of silver. When silver becomes expensive, silver filled jewelry gets more popular. Common marks for silver filled jewelry are:

“Silver Filled”

“1/5th Sterling” (sometimes consisting of only one sheet of silver on top of brass, copper etc.).

“1/20th Sterling”

“Sterling Cap” (always consisting of only one sheet of silver on top of brass, copper etc.).

Nickel Silver

Nickel Silver goes by many names and often looks exactly like silver to the untrained eye. However, the one thing it’s not, is silver. Nickel Silver contains absolutely NO silver — zilch, zero, nada. It is a metal alloy formed by combining copper, nickel and metal. Except when newly polished, it has a luster and often “greens” (oxidizes) with age. It is very common in Mexican and Latin American tourist pieces where it is sometimes termed Alpaca.

Alpaca (Nickle SIlver) Cuff Bracelet

Alpaca (Nickle SIlver) Cuff Bracelet







Other common names and marks on Nickel Silver jewelry include:

German silver


EPNS (electroplated nickel silver)


There is nothing wrong with Nickel Silver jewelry and some of it is quite beautiful. However, it’s important to know you are buying nickel silver and not real silver. We are especially fond of early Mexican Alpaca jewelry that quite often features genuine gemstones. It has become a nice collectible in its own right and is much more affordable than silver jewelry.

Other Imitators

There exist countless other “silver” colored metals and even plastics that can be mistaken for real silver. When in doubt, have the items tested by a professional or learn to test silver yourself. In time, you will be able to distinguish all of these substitutes based solely on weight, look and feel. Please feel to free ask any questions or suggest additional details that might make this post more effective. Thanks as always for reading out blog!


Posted in Jewelry Guides | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments