I am not really sure when I made my first piece of jewelry using Gold, early on I truly could not afford to purchase gold of any karat, I did a few of the first gold pieces in 14K and found that it is extremely difficult to work when compared to sterling silver. After the first few pieces I started using strictly 18K and more recently 22K so most of the pieces you see below were made using 18K gold.

14K gold Sugilite and Diamond Necklace

Back in the early 80's when Sugilite first hit the market, they were calling it Lavulite and Royal Azel back then. I found myself at the Tucson show with a good friend, he told me that he'd buy some rough if I'd make something out of it, I said ok.

We were outside of this particular show sitting at a table having something to drink, I was admiring the piece of rough and talking about making beads from it. Someone in the background made the comment, nice stone but nearly impossible to polish ......... little did I know that this was a true statement.

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14K gold Sugilite and Diamond Necklace Daniel Lopacki

When I first made the beads for this necklace I strung them up in a similar manner and then made what was a pretty ugly pendant with the center stone surrounded by diamonds facing straight up ......... Really was an ugly pendant. After some years the friend that had purchased the necklace for resale sold it back to me. I took the necklace apart and started from scratch on the new pendant. Seeing as though I'd learned more about design and how to produce a much more pleasing look the results I came up with seemed to work very well and the end product was no longer ugly.

The Sugilite used in this piece was very nice but definitely not "gem", being similar to Lapis I had a pretty good idea of how to polish it and seeing as though I facet cut the center stone and polished it as you would any facet cut stone with diamond on a flat lap, I came up with the idea of polishing the beads on a home made wheel made of pine using diamond powder. This worked like a dream and from this point forward I've polished most everything I make using this same technique.

The gold in this piece is 14K, if I remember correctly the pendant is fabricated from sheet and not cast, the clasp is an off the shelf manufactured finding. You can see the diamonds sticking out on the side of the pendant, these were very nice diamonds and they went all the way around the pendant.

Black Jade Florentine Stain Glass Design Necklace

I have an old book with stain glass designs, when I first purchased the book I fell in love with a design of a flower, I like it so much I think I've done the design in mosaic at least five different times. The earliest piece was done in the very early 80's in sliver. I did this piece sometime in the mid 80's and it was one of the first pieces I used 14K gold on.

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Black Jade Florentine Stain Glass Design Necklace Daniel Lopacki

The Jade used in this necklace was sold to me as coming from Arizona, it is some of the best true black stone I've ever owned (still have a little), not really sure it is Jade but is seems to have the toughness that is common in all Jade. The other stone used in this piece Green Nephrite Jade, Morenci Water Web Turquoise, Lapis, Orange Coral and the center stone Opal.

Sorry the Green Jade is not that visible but this is the best image I have of this piece.

Best Fish Shell

I made my first mosaic over a shell in 1978. One early inspiration was the art of the Mimbres Indians of south western New Mexico. Seems funny this many years later I am now living almost on top of the heart of Mimbres country. The shell below was produced in 1984 after I had taken a sabbatical from inlay shells for about four years.

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Mosaic Fish Shell Nevada Fox Turquoise, Red Coral, White Coral and Lapis with an Opal eye set in 14K Gold Daniel Lopacki

I wanted to make something very visual with a limited pallet of color and feel the finished piece speaks for itself. I also had in mind accomplishing the feat of hand making true ball beads, which I pulled off with the use of dial calipers and plenty of patience and perseverance. I never made round beads again because some people thought I'd purchased the beads, if they'd thought about their statement they would have realized you can't buy round beads that have a true taper from top to bottom of the strand.

I used Nevada Fox Turquoise as the main color with complement colors in Lapis, Red Coral, White Coral and an Opal eye, metal used 14K gold. This is one of the few gold projects I've done that I purchased the material from a supply house as it was prior to the time I alloyed my own gold.


Sometime in the early 1980's I was helping a friend run his silver jewelry manufracturing company for about one month. One of his employes Ernest Benally made a Y style necklace for the company. I so liked the idea that I never forgot that his or the owners idea worked very well.

In the late 1980's I started the first of many high end necklaces I'd make over the years to come. Using the design inspired by the Y-necklace and refining it, I started this piece prior to my involvement in Chinese turquoise, thank God I put it on the back burner when I had not even finished the gold work and took off for China. After I decided I liked the bench better than traveling, I had accumulated a very nice collection of very high grade Chinese turquoise, what better to start with than the Y-necklace and all of this new stone.

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14K Y-necklace Chinese spider web Turquoise Orville Jack Faustite Yellow Damele turquoise Sugilite Lapis red petrified wood Daniel Lopacki

All the gold in this project was alloyed from fine gold to 14K and then processed by hand into the needed sheet, round and square wire to make the piece. Once I had the main body of the necklace finished I then needed to decide what stone to use to make a true statement.

All blue Turquoise in the piece is Chinese, the lime green is Orville Jack faustite the yellow Damele turquoise both from Nevada. I also used Sugilite, Lapis and finally the red is petrified wood. The center inlay on the bottom bead also has a few bars of 14K as accent.

3 strand Chinese Faustite Necklace

The necklace below was made in the early to mid 90's. I had purchased two pieces of Chinese faustite during my China travels in the late 80's and did not have the heart to cut up the one kilo specimen I had collected. I did cut the smaller piece and this is the major statement I made using this stone as the color basis for the design.

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3 strand Chinese Faustite Necklace Chinese Faustite, Lapis, Sugilite and Orange coral Daniel Lopacki

All the gold in this project was alloyed from a fine gold Krugerrand to 18K. Once alloyed and poured into an ingot it was rolled out into sheet, all metal components are entirely hand made, with the clasp alone containing approximately 21 separate pieces.

All beads and inlay again are done by hand. The stone used in this piece Chinese Faustite, Lapis, Sugilite and Orange coral.

18K Optical Illusion Ear Ring and Pin Set

The design below has been one of my favorites over the years, I'm not sure how many times I have done it in inlay but its quite a few. I even use a modified version for my diamond tool company logo.

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18K gold Optical Illusion Ear Ring and Pin Set Lapis, Chinese Turquoise, Red Coral Orange Coral Daniel Lopacki

The stone used in this design are all gem and include Lapis, sugilite, two types of Chinese Turquoise, Red Coral and Orange Coral. The gold work is 18K alloyed from a fine gold maple leaf that has been cast into an ingot and then run through the rolling mill to make it into sheet, each piece has been fabricated by hand, the ear ring backs are "Omega clips" which provide comfort when wearing heavy ear rings.

6 strand Coral Necklace

The necklace below was made in the early to mid 90's. I got the idea for this necklace when I walked into the local jewelry supply company and saw roughly 15 strands of wormy poorly cut coral beads, I asked how much per strand and heard a price I could live with so I bought all of the strands.

I took the strands apart and separated out the wormy beads, I then re-cut the good beads into the shape I was after. I then chose stone in colors that I thought worked well with the coral and cut beads of the same shape from this material.

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6 strand Coral Necklace Red Coral, Sugilite and Blue and Green Turquoise  Daniel Lopacki

All the gold in this project was alloyed from a fine gold Maple Leaf to 18K. Once alloyed and poured into an ingot it was rolled out into sheet and drawn into round and square wire, all metal components are entirely hand made, with the clasp alone containing approximately 30 separate pieces.
All beads and inlay again are done by hand. The stone used in this piece Red Coral, Sugilite and Blue and Green Turquoise. All the inlay on this piece has been hammer set, there is no glue used in the entire piece.

First major Opal necklace

Around 1989 I was attending the Tucson show, a friend came up to me and told me he had met someone with Opal that I should see. Seeing as though one material I was in search of was Opal I made it a point to get together with this person ............ Buyer beware!!

I purchased a 4,000 dollar parcel from this person with the intention of making a strand of solely Opal beads, I'd made one strand of Opal beads for a friend prior to this and was very disappointed with the results as the quality of the Opal was not so good. The parcel I'd just purchased was extremely bright and very colorful, little did I know that once I cut it up and started to make beads most of the Opal would crack, I ended up with 14 inches of Opal beads, not long enough for a strand .......... What to do now.

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Opal necklace red Pyrope garnet, green and blue Tourmaline, Amethyst and Citrine Daniel Lopacki

The first thing I did was decide what gem material would work well with the Opal beads I had. I chose red Pyrope garnet, green and blue Tourmaline, Amethyst and Citrine. When I finished making the accent beads and got them strung up, I was disappointed with what I saw.

At the next Tucson show I purchased an already cut Opal cabochon that nearly matched the Opal in the beads. Sitting down at the bench I designed the pendent and then carved it out of wax, as I did not want a smooth finish on the gold I textured it with a burr prior to casting it. The center stone in the pendent is held in place from behind with small pieces of gold wire the accent cabs around the center stone are hammer set. This is one of the few pieces I've ever made that I did not cut all of the stone in the piece.

Sorry for the poor quality of the photograph, this was prior to the time I finally figured out how to shoot an excellent image of Opal and had a "professional" do the photography. It truly does not show the many colors that were in each Opal bead.

Flawless Green Tourmaline Necklace

In the early 90's I had a desire to make a flawless tourmaline strand of beads. I'd never worked much Tourmaline prior to this but I felt that if I could come up with the right parcel of Tourmaline I'd surly have a winner. Well I found a 100 gram parcel, the problem being the cost was 80.00 dollars a gram, not having the 8,000 dollars what to do know. A good friend Keith Wallace told me he would loan me the funds, so I dove in on the project.

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Flawless Green Tourmaline Necklace 18K gold flawless tourmaline Daniel Lopacki

Once I had the beads made I felt that just the strand of beads left a lot to be desired. I sat down at the bench and drew what I thought would be an appropriate pendant. I then carved the pendant from wax without the channels for the diamonds. Once I had the wax I cast it in 18K gold, I cleaned the casting and then made a rubber mold of it just in case I ever wanted to use this style pendant again.

The stone cabochons in the pendant again are flawless and as they work toward the middle of the piece they progressively increase in height, they are polished both front and back to allow the light to pass through clearly. The cabochons are sitting in a dovetail and only the center stone is held in place by two small gold wires on the back.

Once I was finished with the pendant I felt the it still needed a little more kick. Why not channel set flawless diamonds, having never before channel set diamonds, I said to myself "what the heck". Using high speed steel burrs I sat down and free hand cut the two channels into the finished gold work and then learned how to channel set diamonds, wasn't all that difficult and it came out very clean.

This and pretty much every piece I was making at this time also came in a wooden box branded with LOPACKI that I custom made for each piece. With the piece ready to sell I took it over to Ornament in Santa Fe with confidence that it would sell in no time .......... It never sold.

This is the one and only high end piece I ever made that did not sell. Money was always tight at this time in my life and I could never seem to get Keith his money back. A few years later I got the necklace back walked into Keith's store handed him the necklace and asked him if he'd take it for the 8,000 he'd loaned me, Keith wisely said yes and to this day he owns the necklace. I don't think Keith would take 25,000 for it and I don't blame him.......... Thanks Keith for putting me in the position to fulfill one of my dreams.

18K Solderless Inlay Ball Beads

Some years after I made the Y necklace while I was making things like mad for the Santa Fe market, I had the thought that it would be nice to make a carnival strand of just the ball beads that had been part of the Y necklace.

At this time in my career I was exploring all avenues for making what looked like inlay without the use of glue. I'd already started to do hammer set stones in all of the bracelets I was doing, the thing I needed to figure out was how do you make an inlay look bead with no glue. After giving it some thought I made a few tools that would allow me to hand make the beads below.

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18K Solder less Inlay Ball Beads Daniel Lopacki

The gold has been alloyed from a fine gold maple leaf, cast into an ingot and rolled out into sheet. Using a disc cutter I cut all the required discs in two sizes, one size for the all gold beads and clasp(which are soldered), the other size for the caps that are on each side of the stone in the inlay look beads. I'm not saying more about all that is involved in the process because if your curious enough and want to make something like this you should be able to figure it out.

All of the Turquoise in this strand is Chinese that I collected over the nine months I spent in China chasing high grade turquoise, the Turquoise in this strand is some of the finest ever to come out of the ground, other stones include, Lapis, Sugilite, Red Coral and Orange Coral. The finished size of the beads 8.5mm .33 inch.

Anna's Opal Necklace with 18K Pendant

Back in 1976 the first stone I ever bought and then cut and polished was Opal, this piece crazed and cracked over the years but it was the start of a long and lasting love affair with this most amazing stone. I think I am one of the worst Opalholics on the planet to this day.

Over the years I had the blessing of becoming friends and sometimes business associates with some of the top buyers out of Australia. The necklace below was a commission from Emmanuel Christionos (sp) one of these buyers, at the time he was very active at both Mintabie and Coober Pedy mining and purchasing Opal rough.

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Opal Necklace with 18K Pendant Daniel Lopacki

Emmanuel gave me a parcel of 11 ounces of Mintabie seam Opal and asked me to make whatever beads I could out of the parcel, the material was delightful and I wish I had a better image of the finished piece.

The first thing I did with the parcel was clean all of the sand and waste material off of the rough. I clearly remember showing Suzi a jar with the waste in it and telling her that if I had purchased the parcel this waste would have cost us 3,000.

Once I had the material cleaned I proceeded to cut it into the largest bead pieces I could, I did set aside the pieces that were the best as I did not want to cut them into tiny pieces. When I got the beads done I had two distinct strands, one that I left as a strand with no pendant, on the best strand I used a pendant design I had made a rubber mold for and cast the pendant in 18K. I then used the remaining large stones and cut the 7 center cabochon pieces, the pieces set into a dovetail with the center stone being held in place from behind by small pieces of wire soldered on the back.

30 Inch Lapis Necklace

Having always been a Lapis lover I found myself in the position to make this necklace when in 1990 I had the opportunity to purchase four kilos of the finest Lapis I've ever seen, truly a once in a lifetime buy.

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30 Inch Lapis Necklace 18K gold Daniel Lopacki

All the gold in this project was alloyed from a fine gold Maple Leaf to 18K. As I wanted to make more of a statement than just another strand of Lapis beads, I had to decide what to do once the beads were finished. The solution I came up with was to make accent 18K bump out inlay beads. Largest solid bead is approximately 5/8 inch 16 mm, again all work on this necklace is 100% hand done.

30 Inch Lapis Necklace 18K gold Daniel Lopacki

18K Gold Knitted Necklace

In the mid 90's while perusing through my book "Jewelry concepts and technology" by Oppi Untracht, in my opinion the best book ever written on metal smithing techniques, I came across a technique for pegged ring-knit wire tubes. Using this technique I made the first tube from sterling silver and liked the results so much I then made the 18K tube chain on the necklace below.

For the older crowd out there the pegged ring is similar to the thing we used when little kids to make yarn tubes, these pegged rings were usually made from an empty spool of thread with finishing nails around the edge of the hole.

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18K Gold Knitted Necklace Sugilite Facet Cut Amethyst Daniel Lopacki

Using the above technique you start out with wire on a roll and basically make a loop over each peg, then when you come back to the first peg you lift the loop off of the peg and slip the wire through the loop and pull another loop over the peg. You continue to do this until you reach the desired length, the chain comes out of the bottom of the fixture. The best thing about this technique is you end up with a chain that has no solder what so ever.

I made a draw plate from oak and when the chain was finished, I annealed it and drew it through a series of holes in the plate that get progressively smaller, as this is done the chain is made a little smaller as it is formed into a perfect tube.

I had faceted the Amethyst (7.5 cts) center stone some years prior to making the chain and thought it would be a great center piece for a pendant, I carved the pendant from wax, when I placed the facet stone in the wax I could tell that the pendant needed more to it. I carved the channel holes in the pendant and then textured it, I liked what I saw so I cast it.

The Amethyst is set with small balls that were soldered around the edge of the hole and then hammered over the edge of the Amethyst. The accent Sugilite stones are set from the back and held in place with small pieces of wire that were soldered in place.

Debbie's Bracelet

While at the height of my involvement in the "ART" market in Santa Fe, two good friends went to Santa Fe for a wedding. While there they of course spent some of their time going from Gallery to Gallery. If you have never been to Santa Fe the galleries are great and there is something to see for every eye and every taste.

When they got home George gave me call and said Debbie had seen a bracelet in Santa Fe and asked me if I'd make a bracelet for her. Well seeing as though George was a great friend and my last boss prior to going out on my own as a jeweler, I thought I'd do my best to make Debbie a heirloom masterpiece.

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18K gold Bracelet with Sugilite Opal Pyrope Garnet and Tourmaline Daniel Lopacki

I first carved a wax, you cannot see in the image but the sides have small flat faced steps down the sides. The narrowest ends of the channels are only 1/16 inch 1.5 mm wide. Once I had the wax carved it was cast in 18K gold and then hand finished to a matte finish. After this was done I made a rubber mold in case I ever wanted to do this style bracelet again.

George told me that Debbie wanted Opal and Sugilite to be in the bracelet and she would also like red and green if possible. The stone I chose, the best gem grade Sugilite I've ever owned, the best Opal, flawless green Tourmaline and flawless Pyrope Garnet. All stone is dovetailed and slid into the dovetail channel with the last center stone in each channel being held in place by hammering the gold into place against the stone. Also as the stones work their way toward the center they progressively get taller.

I was very pleased with the results of this bracelet and to this day I feel that it is probably the finest bracelet I've made. I sent it out to George, Debbie wore it for a short while, I get a call from George, Debbie thinks the bracelet is too fancy and doesn't really like it, can you make something more simple ............... Go figure.

Debbie's Bracelet #2

After getting over the disappointment from hearing that the first bracelet I made for Debbie was too fancy and talking to George as to exactly what she was after, I made the bracelet below in hopes that this would be understated enough to fulfill her wishes.

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18K gold Bracelet with Sugilite Opal Orville Jack Faustite and Red Coral Daniel Lopacki

I carved a very simple bracelet from wax and then cast it in 18K gold, once cast I cleaned the casting to finish and again made a rubber mold for future use. As Debbie wanted a simple smooth faced bracelet I needed to come up with the colors she wanted. The stone used in this bracelet gem Opal, Sugilite, Red Coral and the best Orville Jack Faustite.

Sent the bracelet out to George, seems Debbie liked it much more, but to this day I'm not sure if she wears it much or not.

Tony's 22K Logo Buckle

The buckle below was a gift I made for a friend that has had a very strong influence in my life, I would not be near where I am today in my business and personal life if I'd never met Tony Wong.

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22K gold Belt Buckle Finest Crystal Opal Flawless Diamonds Daniel Lopacki

I first met my friend Tony Wong at the Tucson gem and mineral show in 1993 when he and some other friends were amongst the thirty five vendors at the new GJX show. A good friend Tim Crooks knew Tony and had been purchasing rough Opal from him in Australia to resell here in the U.S., Tim was also selling rough Opal for Tony as part of his business.

Tim was tragically killed in an automobile accident when returning from a fishing trip in Mexico in 1995 leaving Tony in somewhat of a quandary,as he had a pretty large inventory of Opal consigned to Tim for sale. Tony contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in marketing rough Opal for him. I told Tony I'd do it but there was no way I was going to go on the road as Tim did almost full time,mainly because of the fact that road travel could put you in danger and I had a pretty good business going making and selling my jewelry. Tony agreed with my terms and this was the start of a very long and wonderful friendship that continues to this day.

To give you an idea of the type person Tony is, after Tim died Tony told me to sell all of the white based Opal that was at Tim's and give the money to Tim's widow, truly a compassionate and generous human being.

In order to make the buckle the first thing I did was melt and alloy two Krugerrands (always fun to melt killer gold coins). Once I had the ingot made I used the rolling mill to make 18 gauge sheet. As I wanted the buckle to be rounded on the outer edges I took a small jade slab and ground it on three edges to give me the radius I was after, I then cut the final size I was after from the sheet and then using a rawhide mallet I hammered the sheet over the edge of the jade, this gave me the perfect edge I was after.

Once the main body of the buckle was ready I used square and half round draw plates to make the wire I needed to finish the inlay area and put the outside design in place. Once I had all of the front ready I then made the pieces for the buckle back from 18K for strength, got them soldered in place and was ready to finish things off.

Now to do something I'd never done before, as I rarely, almost never use diamonds, how do I set the three diamonds so that they complement the logo. Nothing to do but dive in, I drilled the holes and used a setting burr for the diamond seats, once this was done I used a graver to cut and roll the star pattern around each diamond, in rolling the metal you have a small curl of metal left at the end of the gouge, if your very careful the curl stays, I took a small prong setting tool that has a round impression in the end and lightly hammered all of the curls into tiny balls that hold the diamonds in place. Now came the most difficult part, inlay the logo so it looked like one piece of Opal, believe it or not there are 11 separate pieces inlaid into the logo.

Needless to say when I saw Tony at the Tucson show the following year and gave him his gift, he was thrilled.

22K gold Belt Buckle Finest Crystal Opal Flawless Diamonds Daniel Lopacki
Buckle Back

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