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Jewelry, My Passion…..Obsession

Kate Wilcox-Leigh First Earrings

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Jewelry, My Passion…..Obsession

I suppose I have always been interested in jewelry, even in my youth.  My parents tell me of a sleepwalking experience I had as a child.  I apparently woke up in the middle of the night and was knocking on their bedroom door exclaiming that I had to make sure Mom’s jewelry was okay and that I needed to see it.  I don’t actually remember this experience but I find it an interesting anecdote that sheds some light on my childhood.

I have always been intrigued by jewelry as long as I can remember.  Friend’s and I would go to the mall and buy multiple pieces of cheap jewelry because that was what we could afford.  I would pile it on and occasionally when a piece broke I would fix it (to the best of my ability).  Those parts that I could not fully repair, I would tuck away for future use.

I had quite a collection by the time I set foot in a bead store for the first time.  What I found there gave me the means to put some of these things back together. I was still interested in the jewelry I saw while looking in different stores but I found it frustrating when a piece wouldn’t fit me properly.  I also found my self critiquing different pieces and figuring out what I liked and didn’t like about the work.  I was thrilled when a jewelry making class was offered to me in high school.

Kate Wilcox-Leigh First Earrings
First Earrings

The first pair of earrings I made was a complimentary set.  As I look back they were actually pretty out of the ordinary.  I had been playing with the four letters that made up my name and I split the KA and the TE.  I cut them out of a sheet of nu-gold with a jewelers saw.  I filed the edges smooth and then I emery papered them to death (practically).  I had begun with an 18 gauge sheet of metal and ended up with two very sharp and thin earrings.  My desire to make them “perfect” was so strong that the strength of the pieces was compromised.

I remember being very frustrated in my inability to do what I had set out to do.  At that moment of time I HATED jewelry making and I wanted to drop the class. Well I guess the metal and the process got under my skin because not only did I complete the

Art Scholarship Alert Best Three Dimensional Piece by Kate Wilcox-Leigh
Best Three Dimensional Piece

semester but I went back for another and another still.  The third one was an independent study.  I also was a teacher’s aid for a class my jewelry teacher taught.

Art Scholarship Alert awarded me best three dimensional piece in my final year of high school. Since then I have acquired a BFA in Crafts focusing in Metals from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  I continue to seek more education today.


I love the power jewelry has as an art form.  Jewelry serves its function when it is worn and viewed by others. Jewelry has the ability to be a reminder to the wearer.  It can commemorate a special event in a person’s life.  It can serve as a talisman of an important person or religious figure to the wearer.  It can provoke emotions and ideas.  It has physical mass; it can be oppressive or light as a feather.  One can wear jewelry on the outside of clothing to be seen by others.  One could wear a pendant under cover to be there for the sole purpose of the wearer.  Body adornment has been a part of the human existence for a very long time because of its personal expressive nature.

Thank you for stepping into my world for a moment.  Hopefully we will meet again soon


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Custom Belt Buckle Part Two

The finish work is next in the process to complete the custom belt buckle

Here is a basic idea of my process

  • I filed the soldered joins to make sure the excess solder was removed.
  • Next the parts needed to be gone over with a few grits of wet/dry sand paper.

Papered and ready for polishing by Kate Wilcox-Leigh

Papered and Ready For Polishing

  • I then polished the pieces with Tripoli followed by Rouge
  • Final assembly was done once I was satisfied with the finish

  Finished Buckle by Kate Wilcox-Leigh

  Polished and Assembled

  • The “Finished Belt Blank” arrived needing holes and trimming
  • Once the leather work was done the buckle was put on the belt


Custom Buckle On Belt by Kate Wilcox-Leigh

Completed Buckle On Belt

I was quite pleased with the finished product and so was the customer!

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Custom Belt Buckle Part One

A customer approached me with a request to recreate a custom belt buckle they had unfortunately lost some time ago.

All custom pieces begin with a conversation.  Once the designer and the customer agree on the specifications work can begin.

  • I started out using straight round wire stock in the correct gauge.
  • I formed it into the circle then soldered it using the rosebud tip on my mini torch.
  • The next steps were to cut the bar, fit it and solder it in place.

Process Torch

Smith Little Torch with Rosebud melting tip used for soldering the buckle

  •  The tang was then formed from a smaller size stock.

Custom buckle placed on sketch







This is a photo of the soldered buckle placed over the sketch

Look for the next blog post about the finished piece coming soon!