Where are the numbers?

One of the comments I get most often online about my math jewelry is that, even if they like the piece, people "don't understand what [I] do with the numbers." This is an unfortunate reality of being primarily a digitally-based operation; when I explain the work to people in real life, it's very easy to tactilely and visually explain the math. It's much more difficult to do in text! So I whipped up a quick visual guide to my math jewelry.

The First Variant: Beads

Quick, what are the digits of pi? If you can't remember, I included the first few in the guide. But I think everyone remembers the first few: 3.14159265... and on it goes forever.

Now, in this bracelet (in progress), the digits of pi are represented by the round beads. The super cute little faceted briolettes (the teardrop shaped ones) are not numbers. They are the "break" between the digits. Casually, I refer to them as "spacers."

Because the first digit of pi is 3, first I have three round beads. Then, I put a spacer. The next digit is 1, so I have one small mother-of-pearl bead, and then another spacer. After that comes 4, represented by four round beads. Then a spacer. There's another 1, so one more small round bead, then another spacer. The next number is 5, but the beads got cut off in the photo.

I could generate an explanatory picture (like the one above) for each piece of jewelry I make, but each item is truly one of a kind. I would be making one for each item I sold on Etsy! Hopefully this catch-all blanket explanation will suffice instead. Here's how to "interpret" any and every piece of numbers jewelry I make:

1. I always incorporate the name of a number in the title of a piece. I also include the actual digits of the numbers (and a brief explanation of their history and use) in the item description. Either way, that's the first step: knowing what number it is.

2. The second step is to figure out which beads you count and which you don't. I try to make the spacer beads as obvious and unique as possible (here, for example, they're the faceted tear-drop shape instead of round). Usually I accomplish this with a drastic difference in:

  • size
  • shape
  • material
  • color
  • two or more of the above.

Sometimes the "spacer" bead is actually a pattern of three beads, too. If I ever think a design isn't entirely self-explanatory, I will make it clear in the description.

3. After that, it's a simple matter of counting to make sure I "spelled" the number right!

And if that isn't abundantly clear, let me know and I'll try to explain again!

Sometimes I work with the digits vertically, and they look like this instead (also pi):

Other times I string the digits together in clumps, like this (also pi):

The Second Variant: Strands

Sometimes if I feel like making something a bit more bold, I'll count strands instead of beads. There are no spacer beads in this model; instead different digits are indicated by different sections of strands, usually with different kinds of beads or chains. This time the number of beads is wholly irrelevant. The following sample is, again, pi (3.1415...).

The Third Variant: Length

Right what it says on the tin: each section has a length in inches equal to that of a digit. Take, for example, this cuff:

Each section of black glass seed beads represents a digit of Avogadro's number (6.022140857 x 10^23, though I always omit the scientific notation). So, starting from the right end, there's a 6" section of black, then a Swarovski crystal. Then another Swarovski crystal, because the next section should be 0". Then a 2" section of black beads, followed by a Swarovski crystal, then another 2" black section, and so on. If you pay careful attention, you'll note that this bracelet omits the last 7" section. I didn't have enough beads and I just couldn't wait to finish it, so I went ahead and truncated. And yes, I'm a bad scientist and used imperial units: I'm an American and even though I'm not intimidated by centimeters or kilograms, I still think in inches and pounds. ;)

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