Hand forging a brass cigar ring - a behind the scenes look with Julie Cooper August 14, 2015 18:03

She makes it look so easy

Metalsmith Julie Cooper makes it look easy, but those of us who have tried real jewelry making know that it is an art, and one that takes dedication.  Watching Julie create her popular Brass Cigar Ring before my eyes was exciting enough, but the fact that she kept her 9-year-old busy, greeted customers with a smile and continued forging the ring all at the same time was fascinating.  

As she worked, she was continually interrupted by customers and passers-by who just pop in to say hi and see what she's working on.  And still, she continued to heat, solder, hand-form and hammer that little sucker into a beautiful work of art in less than two hours.  "Expert" might not be the right word to describe her.... there might some magic at work in that little studio on SE Clinton Street.

So if you're feeling brave...

Here's your shot.  Within this blog post you'll find a step-by-step guide to make one of Julie Cooper's most popular metal jewelry designs, the Brass Cigar Ring.


Supply List for making a Brass Cigar Ring

As with any creative project, Julie starts the process by organizing her tools and supplies.  For her handmade Brass Cigar Band Ring, here is her supply list:

  1. Steel Block
  2. Flux
  3. Gold Solder
  4. Brush
  5. File
  6. Wire cutter & pliers
  7. Ring Mandrel
  8. Sharpie (wait til you see what she does with this!)
  9. Hammer
  10. Steel Wool
  11. Fire Brick
  12. Raw brass strip
  13. Lighter
  14. Fire brick
  15. Metal stamps
  16.  Ruler
  17. Propane torch


Start Making!

The process of forging a Brass Cigar Ring starts with a simple raw brass strip which Julie will heat until it reaches a temperature that allows her to bend and form the metal by hand.  She recognizes that the brass strip is hot enough when it reaches a glowing red color.  This process takes a few minutes with a propane torch.  Watch as Julie heats the raw brass strip to a glowing red color:




Cool the heated brass in water

After the metal is heated to her desired temperature, Julie submerges it in water.  This cools the metal to a point where she's able to handle it with her bare hands.

Measure Twice, Cut Once.

It's an old rule, but a good one.  Take a few extra beats to take your measurements twice and save yourself a lot of grief!

In this photo, Julie measures her heated brass strip (twice) to create a "size 8" finished ring. 


"Some jewelry artisans will use a saw for this part.  I prefer keeping the metal in my hands as much as possible. I also don't buy tools and supplies that I really don't need.  Keeping it simple seems to work best for me."

After the cut, you'll be left with a lightly jagged and short piece of brass, which will eventually be filed to create a nice flush area when the ends are joined together.  Julie uses wire cutters to cut the brass down to size for her hand forged ring.

Before hand shaping the strip into a loop, Julie takes a moment to handstamp her signature "J" on the inside of the strip.


Next, file the ends to create a flush seam


Hammer & shape your strip into a loop

The next step is to bend and shape the brass strip into a loop and start the makings of a ring.  Julie forms the loop with her hands and pliers, and finally around a mandrill.

Time to solder

It's time to take those nice flush edges and solder them together.  For this process, Julie points out that her brush is "nothing but a 'nub' but still works great."  

She cuts tiny slivers of gold off of her 'gold solder' and lets them drop to the table.  Then with her brush, she dips into the Flux and then picks up a piece or two of the gold solder.  Gently and with precision, she places them exactly where she knows they'll melt beautifully into the seam.

Once the solder is in place exactly where she wants it, she begins heating it up with her propane torch.  The gold solder bubbles and melts beautifully into the seam of the ring.


Pull the solder through the seam with your torch

Julie grabs her pliers and expertly flips the ring onto its side, using her torch to guide the solder to fill every microscopic air pocket in that seam.  She knows the sign of an expert metalsmith is not being able to tell where the seam once was.

 Again, FIZZ!  Into the water for cooling.

Time to texturize and make it an original

Julie starts adding personality to the ring by using a dremel to smooth some areas and create texture in others.  The process of making the look of this ring one-of-a-kind has begun.

For this particular cigar ring, Julie is going to create a hammered texture.  She puts the ring back on the mandrel adds texture as she rotates the ring.

And if you were wondering what she does with the Sharpie...

Buff & shine it up to your liking

Using steel wool, Julie removes some of the "paint" and leaves a beautiful textured look in it's place.

Now, the final test.

"For a ring with this much texture, you can definitely 'cheat' and not put much emphasis on hiding the seam.  Typically the texture will cover it up anyway.  But the perfectionist in me doesn't allow it.  If I can see the seam in a piece, even if no one else can, that piece typically won't end up for sale."

Take a spin around this Brass Cigar Ring that Julie just made.  Can you see the seam?


The Finished Product.


Julie teaches young "Dreamers" to make handmade jewelry July 23, 2015 10:07

Three "Dreamers" from the "I Have a Dream, Oregon" program joined us at Lucky No. 3 Arts Boutique, home of Julie Cooper Designs last week.  Two of the three young women shadowed Julie as they created the new "Dreamer Cuff" bracelet from raw brass, and the third Dreamer shadowed Amy Vining and documented the event in pictures.  This is the result!

It was an amazing day at the studio... we made some great art, giggled a bunch and hopefully inspired some talented young ladies to be artists and entrepreneurs.  (They certainly inspired us.)  Thank you, Dreamers!!!

Photos by Amy of AVP and by Evelyn of "I Have a Dream, Oregon."

A beautiful day on SE Clinton Street!

Here are our artists.... Class '10 Dreamers!

Getting started by shaping and filing the raw brass into something resembling a bracelet:

Julie started the tutorial by shaping a simple piece of raw brass into a rough form of a loop, and then teaches the girls how to solder the ends together.

Soldering the ends together, seamlessly...

WARNING:  Measure twice, at least!

Things are starting to shape up...

Hammer time.

Julie gives a few tips on hammering before handing the tools over the girls to create their own one-of-a-kind texture.

Making each bracelet unique.

Julie offers each of her styles to many customers, and each one really is it's own unique work of art.  Julie taught the girls how these small details are so important, from making sure that the seam does not show, to creating a texture that speaks to their own personal style.

The finishing touches.

Julie instructed the girls on one more way of making their creations unique, and that is to shine the piece to your liking.  Julie's creations include everything from the shiniest metal bling to more antiqued and vintage looks, and she creates those looks through the simple technique of buffing the metal with steal wool.  

The finished product.  Introducing the new "Dreamer Cuff."

Jules Hoops - the earrings that started the craze July 10, 2015 14:53

These are the earrings that started the Julie Cooper craze in the Pacific Northwest.  A non-traditional take on the traditional hoop earring, Julie wanted to make an everyday piece of jewelrythat was the "go-to" in every woman's jewelry box.  In Recycled Sterling Silver or Brass, they are a trademark earring for us, and for you.
  • Recycled Sterling Silver
  • Made in Portland, Oregon by Julie Cooper
  • 3 sizes



    Julie Cooper and Tiffany Bean collaboration July 3, 2015 18:04

    Last week we were lucky to team up with Tiffany Bean, owner of Mabel & Zora and one of Portland's best-loved designers to create some fun looks for summer.  

    Right outside her boutique of designer clothing (including her own label, Tiffany Bean Designs) is a beautiful location for photos.  We took advantage of the overcast weather to get shots of the all-new Shila Collection, styled with some of Mabel & Zora's cutest stuff for summer.

    The Shila Collection is made up of bronze handmade 'arrowheads' embellished by turquoise beads.  Inspired by the gorgeous Oregon Summer, Julie created a line of earrings and necklaces that are versatile and adjustable, perfect for summer weddings & travels.

    Our model, Rachael, was fast and professional... it was a whirlwind shoot and we got some great stuff.  Thank you, Rachael and Tiffany Bean!

    Shown in this photo shoot:

    Shila Sunbeam Necklace, handmade by Julie Cooper

    Raw brass cuffs, handmade by Julie Cooper

    Everyday Brass Bangle, handmade by Julie Cooper

    The Frances dress by Tiffany Bean Designs 

    Featured Collection - "Flock Together" June 22, 2015 18:18

    Our "Flock Together" collection is inspired by nature.  We've included three different earrings and a necklace made from recycled sterling silver and brass.  They're light and feminine, and perfectly stackable with our "Birds of a Feather" Collection.

    Flock Together Double-Dangle Earrings and necklace:

    Flock Together Necklace, Sterling Silver Cigar Ring, Geo-Stack Rings, Everyday brass bangle, Flyaway sterling silver bangles:

    How to wear your new 'Everyday Brass Cuff' by Julie Cooper June 18, 2015 09:28

    The Everyday Brass Cuff is meant to be just that  -  your everyday piece of jewelry that goes with everything.  You can dress it up, dress it down, wear it alone or stacked with other pieces.  It's truly unique.

    When you first receive your new brass cuff you may be wondering, "How in the name of all that is holy do I get this thing on and off?"  Well, we're here to help.  

    As you know, Julie's jewelry is completely hand made.  The Everyday Brass Cuff is hand formed and hammered.  It is meant to be adjusted to your own arm if you like.  What we DON'T want you to do is make the mistake of bending and twisting your cuff so much that it starts to take a tole on the integrity of the piece.  So, here's your tutorial.  Learn it, practice it, love it.

    First, let's look at the wrong way.

    Your first reaction when you try to put on your new hand-formed & hammered brass bracelet will be to pull it from side to side to make room for your adorable wrist to fit into the cuff.  Stop right there, partner.  This is NOT how we do it.


    Pull the cuff apart, like so, just wide enough to make room for your supple little wrist to slide in there,

    Like so:

    Seal the deal

    After you've donned your new wrist candy, give it a little pinch to put it back to it's original form, and OILA!  Your new brass cuff is your new best everyday friend.  She'll always be there for you if you're nice to her, we promise.

    She's confident on her own but occasionally likes to socialize.

    This pretty piece of jewelry is certainly a statement on her own.  But she does occasionally get lonely for other bangles and bracelets to show off with her.   Don't be afraid to stack it up, Cooper style.

    Get your stack on with Julie Cooper's Everyday Brass Cuff, here.  

    Get your Everyday Brass Cuff here


    It's all in the details June 16, 2015 10:46

    Julie Cooper puts everything into making even the tiniest details of her jewelry special, and here's proof.

    Luna earrings are made from raw brass sheets and stamped into crescents by hand.  After adding pattern and oxidation to the crescents, Julie adds sterling silver chain and black spinel details.  

    Shop Luna >>

    The Piper earring, a best seller of Julie's and for good reason.  Made entirely of brass, these babies will make a statement from afar and attract intrigued closeup gawkers.

    Shop Piper>>

    Julie's Wisdom earrings are a labor of love.  Each and every little bead or gem is attached to that pretty little sterling silver chain by Julie's own fingers.  Some say they look like grapes on the vine, some say icicles.  Wisdom earrings are made from recycled sterling silver, turquoise, black spinel, green garnet, and natural zircon.

    Shop Wisdom>>

    I dare you to find two of Julie's Antiqued Brass Stacking Bangles that are the same.  Each one is a reflection of the mood of the artist in the moment she hammered and texturized each one by hand.

    Shop Antiqued Brass Bangles>>

    Bellatrix earrings.  Antiqued brass hand-stamped leaves with brass chain and natural zircon for sparkle.

    Shop Bellatrix>>

    The Birds of a Feather Collection is a new favorite.  Check out the detail in each and every inch of this gorgeous necklace.  This is an example of Julie's attention to detail as a jewelry artist.  Try pairing the Birds of a Feather collection with our Flock Together Collection.  

    Shop Birds of a Feather or Flock Together>>

    'Simplicity' earrings might be simple, but they are anything but plain.  Check out the loop detail at the top of the earring... these are the little differences that make Julie's stuff extraordinary, even on her simplest designs.

    Shop Simplicity>>

    The Across the Universe earring is classic Julie Cooper design.  Are they planets?  Saturn's Rings?

    Shop Across the Universe>>

    "My BFF" collection from Julie Cooper.  Hammered, hand-formed and soldered in Julie's SE Clinton Street workshop in Portland, Oregon.

    Shop My BFF>>

    Shop bracelets>>

    The Bohemian Rhapsody Earring.  Talk about drama.

    Shop Bohemian Rhapsody>>

    Cigar Band rings are available in antiqued brass and sterling silver.  Every one is completely unique.

    Shop rings>>

    The Bianca Collection, of brass and sterling silver chain.  Eat your heart out, Greek  Godesses.

    Shop Bianca>>

    Press Release: Portland metal jewelry artisan launches long-anticipated online shop June 9, 2015 14:30

    Jewelry lovers across the U.S. can now access Julie Cooper's popular stackable jewelry, made right here in Southeast Portland.

    Portland, Oregon - June 15, 2015

    Julie Cooper, designer of the wildly popular "Jules Hoops" launched her online store to women across the country today.  Previously available only to those of us living in or visiting Portland, Oregon, artistic jewelry lovers outside Portland will now have access to the Julie Cooper experience.

    Julie's storefront in the historic Clinton Street Neighborhood has been a favorite of women for many years.  Her popularity spread quickly at the introduction of her "Jules Hoops" earrings, a handmade textured take on the traditional hoop earrings we all have in our jewelry collection.

    Julie's non-traditional take on traditional styles, as well as the "one of a kind" feeling of each handmade piece is what resonates with her clients.  She consults with every customer that walks in the door to find a piece that will really fit their personal style.

    "I've always enjoyed the interaction with my customers.  The right piece of jewelry always finds the right person.  It's serendipity."

    When Julie's phone started blowing up with out-of-state orders, she knew it was time to take the leap to online sales. She hired a marketing director and web designer to create, and followed that with a professional photo shoot showing her own clients wearing her jewelry.

    "My dream is to one day travel the world, picking out metals and gems with which to make my creations.  Taking my business online to a national marketplace is the next step in reaching that goal."

    Julie Cooper lives in her hometown of Estacada, Oregon and operates the Lucky No. 3 Art Studio in SE Portland where she makes and sells her jewelry.  Her all-new website, is OPEN.

    How to care for your sterling silver jewelry June 9, 2015 14:07

    Your sterling silver jewelry from Julie Cooper will naturally tarnish over time.  Air, perfumes & lotions, chlorinated water and household cleaners are just some of the products that can tarnish or damage your sterling silver jewelry.

    It's your thang

    Some people really like the tarnished, antiqued look of a well-worn piece of jewelry.  Still, from time to time you may want to give your jewelry some shine, and this can be accomplished very easily.

    Jewelry Cleaning Supplies

    Using a jewelry cleaning cloth will allow you to shine up your sterling silver jewelry by buffing it out gradually until you achieve the shine level that you prefer.  Just follow the instructions that come with the jewelry cloth.

    If you want a polished silver look, any liquid jewelry cleaner will work.  Again, follow the instructions on the jewelry cleaner that you purchase.

    Dos & don'ts of cleaning your metal jewelry

    • Do use liquid jewelry cleaner on the sterling silver area of your jewelry to add extra shine
    • Don't use jewelry cleaner or cleaning cloths on porous stones such as turquoise or pearls.  It may ruin the luster and color of the stone.
    • Do look for home cleaning recipes on places like Pinterest, etc.

    Here are some products we recommend for cleaning your metal jewelry:


    Julie Cooper and "I Have a Dream, Oregon" June 8, 2015 10:58

    I Have a  Dream, OregonWe're thrilled to announce our mentorship program with "I Have a Dream, Oregon!"  

    "I Have a Dream" Oregon was founded in 1990 to help low-income students succeed in school, college and career.  They help launch a generation of students on a determined path to college, career and contribution to the community.

    Each month, two students from the Dreamer Program will visit us at our workshop/retail store on SE Clinton Street in Portland, Oregon.  Students will be able to choose from a selection of metals, gems and stones to work with.  Julie will help them from concept and design through the final process of hammering. soldering and assembling their piece of art.  

    After each class we'll feature the kids' designs here on our blog and our social media pages, so get ready or some amazing stuff from these kids.  They will probably teach US a thing or two!

    Julie Cooper Jewelry Designs

    Behind the scenes - a Julie Cooper jewelry photo shoot June 2, 2015 15:38

    On Monday, May 15 at Lucky No. 3 Art Studio, a group of women and one very small man gathered for a creative playdate to shoot the JULIE COOPER catalog, soon to be seen on our all-new online store.  Here are the players:

    • Kate & Morgan from Siren Salon
    • Amy from Amy Vining Photography
    • Sylvia - model
    • Persia - model (and also Sylvia's daughter)
    • Silas - 8 months old and teething, young Silas was such a trooper!
    • Angie - Runner, comedienne, caterer, and all-around support person
    • Julie Cooper - Designer of amazing sterling silver and brass jewelry for the cool chicks.

    Our day lasted from about 10 a.m. until, well, dinner.  That's all I know.  We were hungry when we were done.  REALLY hungry.

    Somehow, in one day we were able to photograph the majority of the JULIE COOPER line of jewelry, with Julie literally making jewelry as we were shooting.  We hope you'll enjoy our little collection of behind-the-scenes pics.  We had such a fun day.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!

    The day started with two amazing makeup artists turning the Lucky No. 3 Art Studio into their own little salon.  Kate and Morgan took our original ideas and made them their own.  These girls are true artists.Silas is 8 months old, busting a new tooth and still smiling.  However, he was surrounded by a fleet of mothers and grandmothers in the room... that might have had something to do with it.Persia, Silas' mom was the picture of grace while she sat in a makeup chair for more than an hour and modeled for us the entire day all while caring for her sweet little baby.  Sylvia's pretty digits getting outfitted by Julie for a layered look.Julie tries to swoop in and out of the scene and make changes without being caught on camera.  It's going to be a challenge, but someday I'll be able to be more than her profile or hands in a photo!  She's fast!Julie's shop is located directly across from the historic Clinton Street Theater, and we took advantage of the view for a couple shots.She's not even modeling in this pic, and look at the beauty of this kid.  Gorgeous!