My quest to acquire the perfect stolen ring wasn’t as long and crazy as my quest for the perfect skull ring, but I’m also not entirely sure it’s over just yet. Jack’s stolen ring is probably my second favorite of his rings after the skull ring, and one that I’d feel comfortable wearing on a regular basis (the dragon ring ranks pretty high up there, too). Like all of the pieces for my costume, I wanted to find the stolen ring that was “just right” rather than go with a stand-in ring until something better came along. After looking at lots of photos I decided the Skinny Dog ring once sold at the Disney theme parks was the way to go, and I patiently waited for one in the right size to turn up on eBay. Eventually one did just that, and since the price was right I went ahead and made the purchase.
(Disneyland Stolen Ring)
This was quite a nice ring, good color and a decent stone, but one thing I noticed right away when it arrived was that it was a bit on the small side. Not in terms of my finger size, but in the overall shape of the ring. It was a ring that would look fine with the costume, but not one I’d really want to wear around just for the hell of it. Still, I was satisfied that I’d found the best ring available and tucked it away with my Master Replicas button ring to be worn when I was in full Captain Jack get up.
As so often seems to be the case with these things the story didn’t end there. Just a couple months after acquiring the Disneyland ring a new stolen ring turned up on eBay that seemed to blow the other right out of the water. ACME Brand, famous for their Jack Sparrow hats, baldrics, and buckles (as well as the skull ring I currently own) released a new version of the stolen ring. Now here was a fine ring indeed, made of solid brass and sporting the proper “huge” look I was after. So up on eBay my Disneyland ring went, and I was soon the proud honor of the ACME Brand stolen ring!
(ACME Brand Stolen Ring)
The stone on the ACME ring is made of resin and has a much darker look than the bright purple rhinestone look of the Disneyland ring. It almost looks black in the above picture, but don’t let the photo fool you. The stone has a nice purple tint with reds and blues that really pop in the right light. It seemed I had finally stumbled across the best stolen ring on the market.
In all reality I likely did stumbled across the best stolen ring on the market. Unfortunately it, too, is not without its shortcomings. The biggest downside to the ring is its brass construction. Sure, that makes it big and sturdy, but on the down side brass is a metal that will quickly turn dull and leave your finger green. This may not be a big deal if you only use the ring when dressing up as Jack Sparrow, but it doesn’t make for a ring you’d want to wear all the time just for the heck of it. The high polish brass does give the ring the right “gold” look out of the box, but wear it for a few hours and the oils in your skin turn it a dull gun metal gray color. Interestingly ACME even acknowledges this in their eBay listing by saying “Now made of solid Brass and buffed to a brilliant finish which will patina nicely after you wear it out several times.” The problem with this is of course that real gold doesn’t tarnish, and Jack’s ring is meant to be made of gold. Too be fair a quick rinse in some dish soap will bring the brass back to a shiny finish again, but don’t expect it to last long if you plan on wearing the ring for more than a few moments at a time. Both the photo above and the photo below were taken after I’d worn the ring a couple of times and washed it in the kitchen sink. I had worn it one day while working on my haunted house back in October, and after sweating with it on all day it had practically turned black. When I washed it before taking the photos I used a scrubbing pad on it, and that left some scratches on the surface of the brass that can be seen below.
So while ACME has in fact produced the best stolen ring out there in terms of look and size (although the stone could be a bid more elongated, but that’s a minor point), it isn’t one that works well as a piece of daily jewelry. To be fair the oils in everyone’s skin are not all the same, some people are more acidic than others and some more alkali, so there are people out there who might wear the ring and never have a problem at all. Unfortunately I’m not one of them, and the ring tarnished pretty rapidly on me every time I put it on. Still, I wasn’t ready to write this ring off as a loss quite yet, and a possible solution seemed to be just around the corner.
The first thing I attempted to slow the tarnishing process down was to apply a thin layer of clear nail polish to the ring. This is a trick I’ve often heard to use with costume jewelry to keep it from turning your skin green. While it did work to some degree the ring would still patina to a gun metal gray color if I wore it for any real length of time.
But then one day a friend of mine posted a message on a local swap & barter page on Facebook that seemed to be the perfect solution. They had started doing gold plating, and could gold plate just about any metal surface! They even posted a photo of a lever-action Winchester-style rifle of which they had gold plated the barrel! I quickly got in contact with him and told him about my ring to see if he could help me out.
About a week later I had the ring back, now with a 24 karat gold plated finish, and it looked better than ever!
There was one minor side effect after having the ring gold plated, though. The resin stone had lost its luster and now had a rather dull finish that made it look less like a stone and more like the hard plastic that it really is. But not to worry. My friend had shown the ring to a jeweler friend of his and the jeweler promised he could polish the stone right up for me for a couple bucks. So first chance I got I took the ring to the jeweler and left it for him to polish.
The jeweler was a jolly fellow, and I couldn’t wait to see the ring once he was finished. He said polishing it up would be easy enough, and I even talked to him about possibly replacing the stone in my emerald skull ring. (The ACME skull ring comes with a glass stone which looks pretty good, but I had accidentally nicked it up a bit while building the haunted house). Unfortunately, polishing the stone on my ring was so easy in fact that it didn’t seem to be much of a priority for the jeweler. I’d stop in every few days to see if he’d gotten around to it, and finally after about a month I finally had it back. Luckily it only cost me $5, and too be honest I liked the guy well enough that I didn’t really mind the wait. After all, I wasn’t in any kind of real hurry. In the end I still look forward to doing future business with him and will likely have the stone in my emerald skull ring switched out sometime in the near future.
So now I had my stolen ring back, and with a nice shiny polished stone and a proper golden look!
I’d like to say the story ends there, but I’d be lying. Naturally I wanted to sport my new shiny ring and show it off, so I wore it a few times. As it turns out, the gold plating didn’t completely eradicate the problem of tarnishing, and the ring still turned a dull color and turned my finger green. So to be completely honest I’m now at a bit of a loss. Is the gold plating rubbing off, or is the patina from the brass just coming through the gold plating to the surface?
The great irony in all this is that when it comes to Jack Sparrow’s costume (as with most period style costumes) the way to get the desired look of the character isn’t to have your costume look pristine and new but rather to beat the hell out of it, weather and age it until it looks old and lived in. And yet the stolen ring is one of the few items I feel should look shiny and new because it is supposed to be made of gold with an amethyst stone; both things that shouldn’t really tarnish or age.
So where do I go from here? The way I see it I really have two options:
Option #1: My friend who gold plated the ring told me to bring it back and he would redo it if for some reason it didn’t take or if the tarnish came back. Also, the jeweler who polished the stone told me he had plenty of amethyst on hand and that he could easily make a real amethyst cabochon to set in the ring. Obviously a real stone would look better than the resin stone, but would the gold plating take better the second time around? I’ve read that when gold plating on brass you should have a plate of nickel first as a barrier, so that may be the solution, but at what point will I have spent far more on this ring than it’s worth?
Option #2: In speaking with the jeweler he seems like he would be down for making me some cool rings for my Captain McAnen character, so I’d be willing to bet he’d be up for making me a new stolen ring from scratch. I’d still go for gold plating, as a solid gold ring would cost a small fortune, but if he made the ring from scratch he could start with a metal that the gold plating would easily adhere to. And as mentioned above he has already said that making me a cabochon stone out of real amethyst would be easy enough. A great plus to this option would be that I could show him photos of the screen used rings and have him match the size as closely as possible, elongating the top of the ring and using a longer oval stone. As I’m writing this I’m thinking this will likely be my best course of action, so I will probably go to the jewelry store and talk to him about price very soon. Who knows, if it comes out well enough it may even be something other Jack’s would be interested in ordering if he’d be down for making more.
At this point I think I should state that while I have been critical of the ACME stolen ring throughout this blog post I am in no way displeased with ACME Brand at all. They offer some truly amazing products that I hope to order in the very near future, and for the money their stolen ring is easily the best one out there at the moment. If I didn’t think so I wouldn’t have ordered it in the first place. That said, I do think there is some room for improvement, and it’s possible that a better version might be just around the corner. And if a better version does come along it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were ACME Brand who makes it! I’ll happily be one of the first ones to buy it if they do.
(Wrist Wrap – Unweathered)
I’ve already discussed my wrist wrap from Yordreem Creations in a previous post, but I wanted to take a quick moment to give an update on it here. Much like the rings it is an item I’ve happily worn for the past several months on a daily basis, and it has weathered quite nicely. One thing I did do was soak it in some brown Rit dye to tone down the yellow and pink colors of the yarn.
(Wrist Wrap – Weathered)
The Yordreem wrist wrap is definitely one of those “close enough” items, and it looks better than others I’ve seen on eBay. But that said I may have found an even better one, and I hope to order it very soon. I was steered in the right direction by a fellow Jack Sparrow on Facebook, but more on that in a future post.
I have one other quick item to share with you that isn’t necessarily a part of Jack Sparrow’s garb, but it is never-the-less another iconic prop from the Pirates of the Caribbean films: Davy Jones Key.
Much like the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, the key of Davy Jones plays a crucial part in the plot to 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” Everyone in the movie wants it because they need it to open the chest which contains the still beating heart of Davy Jones. Several scenes in the film revolve around the key and it’s location (one of my personal favorites being the scene in which Will Turner sneaks into the cabin of a sleeping Davy Jones and has to steal the key away from one of Jones’ face tentacles!).
The key was made by the now defunct Master Replicas, who also produced replicas of the Aztec gold coins from “Curse of the Black Pearl,” and that wonderful chest which the key itself unlocks. The chests now sell on eBay for upwards of $400-$500, but who knows, maybe someday I’ll even get my hands on one of them.
(Master Replicas Davy Jones Key)
As always, my Jack Sparrow costuming adventures are still far from over, so there are plenty more blog posts on the way. I’m also venturing off into a couple of other fun costuming projects that I may discuss here, or I may even start a separate blog where I showcase them. Either way there are definitely some fun new things coming up over the next few months.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I acquired a brand new laptop computer, and now that I’ve finally gotten the hang of Windows 8 I’ve dipped in and purchased the video editing software I’ve been wanting for months. That means videos for the blog are finally just over the horizon! I’ll be shooting them on my smart phone for now (I mean, why not? it shoots 1080 video!), but a new video camera is something I hope to obtain in the near future as well. There’s gonna be a bit of a learning curve for the editing software because it’s about 8 generations newer and better than my previous software ( I had Vegas Movie Studio 4.0 and the new software is Movie Studio 12!), but I have the utmost faith that I will figure it all out just as soon as I have the time.
Speaking of which, free time is something I’m going to have less of now, but in exchange I’m going to have more money because I’ve recently reentered the world of the working! Yep, I gave in and got a “regular” job again, which is actually pretty big news, but I’m super excited about it and am looking forward to adding to my Jack Sparrow costume at a much faster rate than before. The new job is working at the front desk of a hotel, but it’s awesome because I’m working with friends I’ve known for years and I’m only working there 4 days a week, which leaves me plenty of time to continue selling stuff on eBay and doing the other odd jobs I was doing before. Things are really coming back together for me this year and continuing to look up, so I couldn’t be more thrilled. Having the new job will afford me the ability to get back on track with things I’ve had to put on hold, and of course will make assembling my costume all the more easy.
I also recently joined a 24-hour gym which is going to make getting back in shape much easier (if I can just stop eating so many cheeseburgers), so I’ll likely be posting some videos and blogs about my progress with that as well.
All in all it looks like 2013 might just be the year I finally make my dreams of becoming Jack Sparrow a reality, and in perfect time, too, as we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the movie that started it all: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
It’s a pirate’s life for me!
My first item of 2013 has arrived, and it’s something I’ve wanted for almost 10 years now: the cursed Aztec gold medallion from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
While technically not a part of Captain Jack’s costume, it is still an iconic prop and one that is instantly recognized by all who see it. The one I recently acquired may just be the most accurate pirate medallion out there, but it certainly wasn’t my first. In 2008 while attending the Texas Renaissance Festival I picked up a cheap but passable coin for like $5. It isn’t made of gold and has a huge loop at the top for a necklace to go through. It was also a bit too “shiny”, but I recently fixed that with some acrylic paint (one of my favorite things to use for weathering props). For the past 4 years it has sat inside a treasure chest with other assorted doubloons, but after my new gold coin arrived I decided the old one would make a great keychain, so now I carry it with me all the time.
Years ago I also bought my kid sister the Master Replicas Elizabeth Swann necklace, but I never purchase one for myself because the “gold” finish quickly wore off of hers and left the necklace and medallion looking like copper instead of gold. She eventually gave it too a friend. Then last year we found a 24 karat gold plated version of the necklace on eBay from a seller in China, and my sister now has one of them and is quite happy with it. I also aged it with some acrylic paint to make the designs stand out more, but it is a decent enough copy of the pirate medallion necklace.
But the version of the coin I’ve wanted for years was the Master Replicas Cursed Aztec Gold Coin Set. It features two 24 karat gold plated versions of the famous medallion: one with the skull and Aztec calendar design on the front and a maze-like pattern on the back (like most versions of the coin that are available), and the other with the skull and calendar design on both sides.
And now I finally have it!
The detail on the coins is fantastic, and they came in a collectible box with a Certificate of Authenticity. Master Replicas went out of business years ago, and as such this set hasn’t been available for a long time so they are incredibly hard to come by. I stumbled upon mine by luck on eBay. A seller had it listed as part of a lot that included 4 Master Replicas .45 scale lightsabers, and I won the auction for just $45! After it arrived I put the lightsabers up on eBay as individual auctions, so once they sold I had the pirate coins and even turned a profit!
I am truly convinced that these are the best versions of the Aztec gold coins that have ever been available, and I’ve been searching the internet for them for a very long time. I even had a minor fiasco a few years ago when I found them on a website and placed an order, only they never arrived and the merchant told me they’d been out of stock for years. Then the merchant tried to refuse me a refund by claiming it was my own fault for ordering a discontinued product from their website. Luckily I had placed the order via Paypal so I was eventually able to file a claim and get my money back. I later found out that the merchant had a lot of bad reviews. It turned out that many other customers had had similar problems placing orders from them only to find their items never arrived. and having little luck getting responses when they would message the seller to check on their orders. Unfortunately I no longer remember the name of the website, so I can only hope they’ve since gone out of business and are no longer mistreating customers.
Anyway, I am absolutely thrilled to finally have my hands on these amazing props, and they are proudly displayed on a shelf in my room. There was a time when Master Replicas was a leader in movie prop replicas, and this is quite possibly one of the greatest items they ever produced. I definitely won’t be letting these go.
I may only now be getting off to a slow start with my costuming adventures for 2013, but I still have several items to share with you that I acquired toward the end of 2012. Some, like the ones below, are relatively small and insignificant, and yet they are still an integral part in making a completed Jack Sparrow costume come to life.
One of these is Jack’s trophy lace, a long strip of lace that Jack has worn tied around his left wrist since “Dead Man’s Chest.” We find out in “On Stranger Tides” that Jack took this memento from Angelica while to two were on the island of La Martinique. This would be an easy enough piece of the costume to make myself as a strip from any old off-white lace would do, but I took the lazy way out and bought mine from a seller on eBay. It still needs to be weathered, but it looks pretty good.
The reason I decided to buy this particular bit of lace on eBay was because the seller had it listed with another small item: Jack’s black spot wrap from “Dead Man’s Chest”. In the movie Jack grabs a bit of old cloth to wrap around his left hand after Bootstrap Bill places the dreaded black spot upon Jack’s palm.
I’m not really blown away by this particular piece, it really should be longer and was definitely a case of something looking much better in the photo, but once I dirty it up a bit and weather it it’ll work fine. After all. it’s not a necessary piece for the costume, and really I purchased it more for the trophy lace than for the black spot wrap. In the end I feel like I helped out a fellow Captain Jack by buying from him, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.
Now I really need to get busy and make more stuff to list on eBay and Etsy because I’m ready to start adding the bigger, more expensive pieces to my Jack Sparrow costume, and that takes money. Lots and lots of money. Costuming definitely isn’t a cheap hobby, but it sure is a lot of fun.
So I’m curious: what fun creative ways have you come up with for making extra money to spend on your costume?
Leave your answers in the comments section below, and I will see you all next time!
When I set out to create my Captain McAnen costume back in 2008 one of the hardest items to come by was a sash. Sure, there are some websites that offer pirate sashes, but they usually tend to be really shiny, made of man-made fabric like rayon, and have tassels or fringe at the end. Depending on the look you’re going for these can work just fine, but I wanted something more beaten up and weathered. I really liked Jack Sparrow’s sash, so originally I set out to find some sort of fabric that would be similar to his but with blue or purple stripes instead of red. Most of the fabrics I found were calico prints so they only had the stripes on one side, and I wanted a cloth that had an older, more hand-woven feel. Eventually I settled on a greenish-tan checkered fabric that I felt was fitting for the Irish origins of the character. It wasn’t what I went searching for originally, but I got about 3 yards of the stuff for like $5 at Hobby Lobby, so I wasn’t complaining. My girlfriend at the time took on the task of making the sash for me. The sash is 12 feet long and about 9 inches wide, and the fabric is doubled over and sewn together to make the sash nice and durable. I had previously purchased a sash from an online vendor that wound up being a shiny blue rayon fabric with gold fringe (it didn’t match the photo on the website I ordered from), so we just used it as a template for making the new sash. Once the sewing was done I bleached it, beat it in dirt, and left it out in the sun for a nice aged look. I wore it for Halloween ’08 and to the Texas Renaissance Festival, and have been using it ever since. The older and more beaten up it gets the better it looks.
In 2010 I designed, built, and ran a haunted house called the Haunted Dungeon in Marble Falls, TX, and the day after Halloween we went shopping at all the Halloween stores in Austin to get a bunch of supplies at a great discount to use the following year. At one store I purchased a bunch of scrap material that had been a circus tent display inside the store. It was a ratty tan fabric with blue stripes, and I thought it would make a great sash. When our haunted house ended in 2011 and we were taking it down I cut a nice long strip out of the fabric and it became my second Captain McAnen sash. I still haven’t found that perfect fabric that I’ve been searching for, but it is fun to have a couple of different sashes so I can change up the look of my costume from time to time. It’s also handy to have multiples for when I need to dress up another pirate for a gig or event. Without a doubt I’ll probably stumble upon other fabrics I like and end up with a few more sashes along the way.
(Captain McAnen’s sashes – on the left is the circus tent sash, on the right is my original Captain McAnen sash)
When I started putting together my Jack Sparrow costume I knew the sash was one of the first items I wanted to check off my list. After reading about various available sashes on the message boards and searching the internet for the best possible version of Jack’s sash I went with one offered by eBay seller Empire-Worldwide. They offer several Jack Sparrow costume pieces. Some are really good, some are really bad, and some are just way over-priced pieces out of children’s dress up kits that can be found at costume stores. On the message boards at keeptothecode.com and brethrencourt.net there is quite a bit of mixed opinion about the business dealings of Empire-Worldwide, but it was agreed by many that their sash was one of the better items they offer. Since I didn’t see any better sashes offered by anyone else (many Jack Sparrow cosplayers actually make their sashes out of curtains from IKEA), I took the plunge and ordered from Empire-Worldwide on eBay. My sash shipped extremely fast and I had it in just a couple of days.
(Jack Sparrow sash – new)
The material is thinner than that of Jack’s sash, but I expected as much considering the movie sashes were made from handwoven textiles out of Turkey. The stripe pattern is a great match to that used in “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End”, which is the look I’m going for (the IKEA sashes generally work better for a “Curse of the Black Pearl” look), and the fabric seems to weather quite nicely without being a wrinkled mess. All in all I’m quite happy with the sash.
After it arrived I ran it through the washing machine to loosen up the fabric, then sat and cut off all the loose strings that unraveled along the edges in the wash. Unlike my Captain McAnen sash which is doubled over and has a finished seam Jack’s sash is simply cut straight from the fabric so the edges do fray, but that just adds to the rugged look of it. I also brewed a giant pot of extremely strong, dark black tea and soaked the sash in it over low heat on the stove for a couple of hours to give it a dingier, duller quality. After it dried I made a few rips in the ends and along the edges and poked it through with a pair of scissors in a few places to give it an even more worn out look. Somewhere down the line I may even give it a dye bath in some water with just a few drops of brown Rit dye to dingy it up a bit more, and I’ll likely beat it up and stain it even more as time goes by. My only real complaint is that the stripes are a paler red than those on the movie worn sash, but most people will never notice.
(Jack Sparrow sash – weathered)
Part of my plan for putting together my Jack Sparrow costume is to find the best items available and take my time buying them so that I don’t feel the need to change and upgrade them later on. This way I will save money in the long run because I’m not buying items just to “get by”, I’m buying ones I plan to keep for good. It’ll take a little longer to put the complete costume together this way, but in the end I will only have to put together one version of the finished outfit. The sash is no exception. It’s possible a better, more accurate sash will come along somewhere down the road, but out of all the ones available at the moment I feel like I snagged the best one for the look I’m going for.
The next item I grabbed was a little different story…
Jack wears an interesting little wrap around his right wrist throughout the movies. It’s one of those random items that adds to the unique and quirky look of what is otherwise a rather typical pirate costume. When you look at the basics of Jack’s outfit: the shirt, pants, sash, waistcoat, jacket, bandana, and hat, it’s all pretty standard pirate garb. But it’s the little flourishes like his rings and all those beads and coins in his dreadlocked hair that really give Jack his signature look and make him stand out amongst all the other buccaneers in the Pirates films. Exactly what the wrist wrap is made from and where it might have come from are a bit of a mystery, but no Jack Sparrow costume would be complete without it.
Many Jack Sparrow enthusiasts make their own out of black burlap and yarn, but I’m lazy enough that I just wanted to snag one that was ready to wear. There are plenty out there that are passable, and a few homemade ones I’ve seen look really good, but I was having a tough time finding one available that looked as accurate as I wanted. In the end I zeroed in on the wrist wrap offered by Yordreem Creations (yordreem.com). Yordreem makes many incredible Jack Sparrow items including his waistcoat, frock coat, and possibly the best wig on the market, so it naturally seemed like their wrist wrap would be pretty awesome, too. It certainly looked pretty sweet in the photograph on their website. I especially liked that it wasn’t made out of stiff burlap like so many of the ones I’d seen on eBay.
When it arrived I was a bit bummed to find that the weave pattern of the yarn isn’t quite as accurate as I had hoped, but I am still quite happy with it. Most people would never notice that there is anything wrong with it, but cosplayers tend to have a sharp eye for detail and are often irrationally bothered by little things that aren’t quite right. I modified the wrap ever so slightly and gave it a light tea-dye bath to dull it up a bit, but what you see below is pretty much what it looks like. I wish the yarn was a little darker so I’ll no doubt darken it with dye at some point, but I really like the look and feel of the black material. I’ve heard some Jack’s refer to a fabric called monk’s cloth, but I’m not sure if that’s what this is or not. Even though it is not as accurate as I’d hoped it would be I still think it looks pretty good and have even been wearing it with my street clothes.
This is an item I will likely replace if a better version comes along, but for now it’ll do just fine. It certainly saved me the trouble of trying to make something myself, and for the money it’s not a bad little item at all.
(Jack Sparrow wrist wrap)
I’ve got an Anna Maria belt on its way from Captain McCool, and I’ll likely be ordering the manky pelts to dangle from my sun belt very soon. It won’t be long and I’ll have to start ordering the bigger pieces of the costume. Sometime in the next couple of months I would like to order a waistcoat from Yordreem Creations, and I hope to have one of their wigs by the end of the year. It really all just comes down to when I have the extra money to spent at this point, but no matter what my Jack Sparrow costuming adventure will continue.
So until next time, “take what you can. Give nothing back!”