When I first saw Diane and her boyfriend, Ronnie's unusual jewelry, I thought the focal beads were agate slices. They are not gemstones but cross-sections of discarded deer antlers found in New Hampshire woods. They make and sell deer antler jewelry in their combined ArtFire store, DS Photography.

Ronnie and his friend are the ones who actually go "shed hunting" - looking for antlers in the woods. There were so many finds these began to take up too much space. So Diane and Ronnie started to brainstorm and came up with some ideas of what to do with them.

Some of the creative ideas they are working on include making buttons out of the antler sheds. Diane sews and quilts so she sees a possible niche market there. Ronnie is making antler drawer pulls for sale. But they make the jewelry together.

Holes are drilled through the slices to make them into beads. These are lightly sanded and polished to enhance the natural beauty of the antlers. Some are deliberately hollowed out like the pendant necklace above to showcase the gemstones added. How cool is that?

The antlers are probably from white-tailed deer common in New Hampshire - it is also the state animal. The males grow and shed their antlers every year. How long and how many branches a male has is genetically determined and can be influenced by the quality of its diet. While not precise, the rough age of a buck can be estimated by the number of branch points.

Male white-tailed deer

Antler growth is very rapid beginning in late spring - as much as 1 inch a day! By the fall, the antlers have become calcified and hard. This comes in handy during the rut when the bucks compete for mates. The antlers are shed or broken off in December and January.

I didn't know antler shed hunting was such a popular past time until I checked out Youtube. The videos there gave me some idea of how people find the antlers.

Shed hunting requires patience, good eyes and some knowledge of where deer normally forage. Perhaps there is even an element of danger as you can see from this shed hunting video by 4EverHunting. The hunter (below) is looking for fresh sheds, preferably sets - the bigger the better. He also comes across "rubs" - trees which have been damaged by the deer rubbing foreheads and antlers against them. They do this to remove the velvet from newly grown antlers or leave a scent from their sweat glands during rutting season.

It's winter time, so the hunter wears snow shoes while hiking. Towards the end of the video, he comes across evidence of a cougar's kill and follows the trail!

Before you go :
For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips

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