I took my first “metals” course at the University of Illinois in the fall of 1984. After a couple of technique exercises it was time to make a first piece. I went to a pawn shop and purchased a wide band 14k gold wedding ring. I also went to a jewelry store that sold some loose stones and bought an amethyst gemstone. I sawed the ring and flattened it out, planned how to use all of the material by sawing it up and forming the parts and soldering them together to be a completely different design. Side note: all the other students worked in copper or brass.
A few weeks after I had the opportunity to show my parents what I had made, my parents found themselves in the company of, among others, my high school art teacher and mentor. My mom reportedly said, “I don’t understand Rachel. She buys her clothes at Salvation Army and she’s making gold jewelry!” My dad responded to her dilemma, “She knows how to budget.”
Most of the work I did throughout my college career was in silver and often included gemstones. As that was a long time ago, this is my memory of the time period. A few pieces from that time still reside with me, although archived.