Through the Loupe with…Helen Spendlove-Hilder & From The Tail Jewellery

Our next installment of “Through the Loupe” is with the creator of From the Tail Jewellery, Helen.  From The Tail create an amazing range of Horse hair jewellery, pet fur jewellery and cremation ashes jewellery and keepsakes.  For all the animal lovers amongst us jewellery fans this is an amazing way of creating a fabulous memory of your loved one.

Tell us a little about the jewellery you design

I make bracelets using several braid techniques and also resin combined with sterling silver and gold. I tend to try and keep to fairly traditional designs, with memorial jewellery being something  that the wearer will keep rather than discard after it goes out of fashion. 

 

[I really like this idea – I’m a big believer in jewellery not being a disposable commodity!]

Is it difficult dealing with such personalised jewellery – they must mean so much to individuals do you worry about getting it wrong?

In the early days I was always a little nervous with memorial jewellery, but as time has gone on and my experience has grown I don’t tend to worry now.  I am quite meticulous when it comes to keeping details with hair/ashes etc and the word seems to have spread .

[It certainly has – you can check out some of the testimonials on the FTT website here]

I can see you started making your jewellery following the rehoming of your own horse – did you design jewellery before this or was it a completely new experience?

Completely new, I had my own photography studio previously and really was unsure where to go after it closed.   Although at first it seemed to be a completely new experience I found a lot of what I had learned in  my photography/graphic design / retail days proved very useful to bring it all together.

A  lot of my friends were laughing at the fact I had even contemplated making jewellery for a living in a fairly saturated market. However, always up for the challenge I carried on, all costume jewellery to start with then after about 7 months I started using silver after learning some basic techniques to start with.

You have to accommodate really unusual items in your jewellery, not only hair, but teeth and ashes – how do you find ways of incorporating these into your jewellery?

Learning resin resin techniques meant I could incorporate ashes, teeth , pet fur into my products, I tend to stick with basic designs here as I don’t want anything  that will go out of fashion, especially as these are so personal they need to last for a very long time.  The most unusual things this year were a chickens feather and some quills from a pet hedgehog.

[aww a hedgehog how lovely!]

You’ve recently had a baby – how are you managing your new priorities alongside your business?

So far so good, I took very little leave, working until the week before she arrived and then back after 5 weeks. Currently its work as and when and any big plans will be put off, just ticking along for now.

One thing I was adamant about was that I would not close my business after having children, I am in my late 30s now so left it quite late and concentrated on work first. Its hard work but we are getting there.

Where do you make your jewellery?

I am home based at the moment which works very well with little one. My expansion was put off due to my recent pregnancy but hopefully that will be back on track next year and I’ll be on the hunt for a workshop.

[Many congratulations, I remain unbelievably impressed that you manage to work and look after a baby]

Do you make all your jewellery yourself or do you have help?

Just me, at Christmas time I rope in help for packing and other admin jobs. Again something that I hope to change within the next year and take on my first member of staff.

What did you do before you started FTTJ?

Photographer for quite a few years, unfortunately the industry is suffering and I felt it better to get out early. However my photography skills really help with FTTJ and some of the creative skills I learned over the years have come in very handy as previously mentioned.

You make such a variety of different types of jewellery, from the fabulous horse hair loop earrings (below) through to resin – what’s your favourite type of material to work with?

I would probably say resin, although at the start it was a love hate relationship. Resin is temperamental, and can really go wrong. I remember once running out of the house with a boiling pot of resin that overheated and was trying to combust! At that point I really did feel it might not be for me.

I got some help from a skilled resin cast maker and he turned it around for me and then made it so I could expand my products using that material.

Was it difficult to start your own business and do you have any tips for aspiring jewellery entrepreneurs?

I had my own business before so this was not a new experience. I think any tips I could give would be:

Don’t ignore good advice

Keep positive

And build your own brand, I see a lot of copying going on now and its sad, If someone got there first, try your own style.

Dont let bad experiences get you down, it’s easy to worry about one bad thing out of many good . Learn from it and move on.

[Great advice – particularly agree about the copying, there are so many unique ways of producing jewellery the joy is in the individuality]

What type of jewellery do you like to wear?

I don’t wear a lot of jewellery, more so because being around animals and now a baby I cant wear dangly things lol!  However I do wear my wedding ring, I made both my husband and I our rings and mine was the first horse shoe print ring I made.

[yep I know that feeling!!!]

What’s your favourite metal – gold, silver or something else?

 Silver, always has been. It complements the braids so well. Although I do make some gold jewellery I admit to being slow on the uptake as I personally prefer the silver.

Hair-looms of the future?!

I’ve always been slightly fascinated by mourning jewellery – a long standing fan of Jet, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Back in Victorian times mourning became very fashionable, the purpose being to display the loss of a loved one, to act as a memento and to demonstrate the status (and presumably financial position?) of the wearer.

A popular type of mourning jewellery incorporated the hair of the absent or deceased person, it’s durable, relatively easy to display and stands the test of time.

We tend to think of this as pretty gory now, but it’s definitely a jewellery style that’s not forgotten, partly because of the durability of the product.

There are lots of examples around, but my absolute favourite has to be this fabulous Georgian Mourning pin currently being offered for sale by Bliss on Ruby Lane (with an all round wonderful collection so do check her store out):

hair hairpin

 

I also love this amazingly detailed watch fob from Berts Bounty on Etsy:

SALE! Victorian Twisted Hair Mourning Jewelry Gold Watch Fob

 

However there are many many fabulous and original pieces out there just dying for a revival, another favourite is this amazing piece.  You may also like to check out this Pinterest Board if you’re really keen!

 

More importantly this is not simply the province of antique jewellery collectors, as this Stylist article shows there are more and more designers pushing at the potential of organic material in jewellery.  Daniela Cardillo has always pushed the boundaries with her use of material but this innovative reinterpretation of traditional hair weaving techniques really brings this into the 21st Century.

 

Daniela Cardillo is not alone, we love the extension of mourning jewellery into modern jewellery and particularly the memories captured by jewellery created by From The Tail, we’ve put a couple of our favourites below and we’ll be featuring From The Tail Jewellery in February’s “Through the Loupe” feature.

 

What’s in a name…

A while ago we featured a post about the history of “costume” jewellery, as promised we will now feature a few of the “names” from the costume jewellery era of the 20th century. There has been an upsurge of interest in all things Vintage in the last few years and jewellery is no exception. Much of the jewellery created during this period were of good production quality and design and have survived the test of time to become a big collectors area, they represent a slice of period life at a relatively affordable price when compared to jewels made from precious metals.

Signed jewellery are the most sort after examples of costume jewellery, as they can be researched and often dated to within a few years as a result of the marks displayed, prices depend on the name, dates, rarity, and materials used. Below we will look at just a few of the many collectable costume jewellery manufacturers.

Trifari

A highly successful and probably the best known costume jewellery designer whose pieces are still highly collectable today, they have designed jewellery that have been worn by countless high profile figures from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.

Gustavo Trifari was born in Naples in 1883, he trained as a goldsmith under his grandfather. He emigrated from Italy to New York and worked with his uncle making costume jewellery. In 1910 they set up Trifari & Trifari, but Gustavo went on to set up his own company Trifari in 1912.

The success of Trifari, and the reason for its collectability today, is often credited to the French designer Alfred Philippe, the company’s chief designer from 1930 until 1968. His use of invisible settings for stones, which he originally developed for Van clef and Arpels, added a level of craftsmanship and technique that had not previously been seen in costume jewellery.

Amongst Philippe’s many designs were the Trifari crown pins from the late 1930s to 1950s. The crowns were so popular that Trifari started to use a crown in its mark in about 1937. Authentic Trifari jewellery is typically marked with ‘jewels by Triafai’, ‘TKF’  (for Trifari, Krussman & Fishel) or ‘Trifari’ depending when it was made. Pieces made after 1952 bear the copyright symbol, as this is when the US government allowed jewellery designs to be protected by copyright.

Trifari Jelly Belly pins of seals, poodles, roosters, and other animal’s ‘belly’ consists of a solid Lucite ‘pearl’ with settings of sterling silver or gold plate. Jelly Belly’s are highly collectable and command a high price especially poodles – which are rare.

The company was sold to the Hallmark Corporation in 1975 and subsequently to Liz Claiborne Inc. in 2000.

Below is a Trifari brooch, with the visible mark – made after the copyright symbol was added in 1952.

 

 DSCN0342   DSCN0346 

 

Lisner


Only recently have vintage Lisner pieces become appreciated and collectable, they still have relatively low prices and the company’s cheaply made plastic leaves and baubles have a beauty of their own.

For nearly 30 years after it was founded in 1904, Lisner imported and sold Elsa Schiaparelli’s Parisian jewellery in the United States. In the 1930s the company finally started selling its own designs that employed Dupont’s new coloured acrylic plastic called Lucite, as well as clear and coloured rhinestones, chrome, plated and black japanned metal. The pieces produced were not of the calibre of some other designers but they reflected the design trends led by the high-end brands.

The company used “Lisner” mark in block capitals on its own pieces for the first time in 1935. In 1938 the “Lisner” mark in script was introduced. From 1959, “Lisner” in block capitals with an elongated “L”, was used. However some dies and molds were used later so the mark is not always a reliable indicator of the date in this case. The company ended production in 1979.

Below is an example of a necklace and earrings set, the marks visible including block lettering and the copyright symbol.

DSCN0531   DSCN0571    DSCN0535 

Coro & Corocraft

Coro, a partnership between Emanuel Cohn (the “Co”) and Gerald Rosenberg (the “ro”) began producing jewellery in New York in 1901 and continued through to the 1970s under the marks of Coro, Coro Craft (later Corocraft) and Vendome, amongst others. Although Vendome was the high end line, today some of the most collectable examples are Coro pieces.

The reason for much of its success was due to Adolph Katz, who became design director in 1924, and Gene Verri, who designed for Coro from 1933 until 1963.

Amongst the most collectable vintage Coro pieces today are the Coro Duettes from 1931 to the 1950s. The Duettes utilized a frame based on one designed by Cartier in 1927. Like the Cartier frame the Coro version had two openings in it, one for each pin which could be attached to the frame and worn together or separately.

Corocraft was the next step up in quality and price from Coro, under this brand they produced a line of Jelly Belly pins, that were similar to the those made by Trifari right down to the Lucite “belly”. Were Coro used metal frames Corocraft pins and bracelets were often made in sterling silver or gold plating. Vendome, was introduced in 1944 and replaced Corocraft in 1953 as the top of the Coro line.

The company ceased trading in the US in 1979, but Coro Inc. Continued production in Canada until the mid-1990s.

DSCN0550   DSCN0518

Monet

 DSCN0515 
Monocraft as it began, now known as Monet, was founded by brothers Jay and Michael Chernow , in 1929 in Providence, Rhode Island. The company started making metal monograms and then Art Deco style purse adornments progressing onto making costume jewellery after the Chernows hired designer Edmond Mario Granville in 1934. Edmond had a background in fine jewellery from working at Cartier. He remained sole designer until the late 1950s and was executive designer until his death in 1969. Producing simple gold and silver-tone designs, they developed a friction ear clip which made its earrings more comfortable to wear. From 1981, Monet produced jewellery for Yves Saint Laurent. It has continued to adapt to trends and changing fashions and remains successful to the present day.

Today, Monet is particularly prized by collectors for its quality, thanks to its triple-plating. It is not unusual for Monet pieces to last for decades without showing signs of wear to the finish, and as most of the jewellery is name marked, they will continue to be collectable.

DSCN0551   

So if you want to start buying vintage costume jewellery there are specialists shops and online stores, but I find it’s more fun having a look around markets and car boot fairs, where you can often find quality pieces at affordable prices. As with most things there are some fakes of the big names around, so beware, but if you buy what you like and at an affordable price, maybe you will end up with a fascinating piece of jewellery that could last another 60 years or more!

Cameos

We’ve all seen cameos (or similar) on the high street, and they’re thought of as pretty old fashioned now, but the original cameo is a real work of art so we thought you should know a bit about it!

The art of carving and engraving gemstones is called the glyphic art, a glyph being a channel or groove.  There are actually two types of ‘cameo,’ where designs are incised into the stone they are called intaglio, where the image appears in relief this is a cameo.

The earliest gemstone carving was in intaglio, and the design is carved in the negative below the flattened or domed surface of the gemstone.  This allowed the gem to be pressed into clay or sealing wax where it would leave a mirror image of the design in relief.  Engraved signet stones can be traced back to the Sumerian period in Mesopotamia and even to around 5000 BC in some parts of Asia.

 

2nd - 3rd Century Roman Gold Intaglio Ring - copyright of Trustees of the British Museum

2nd – 3rd Century Roman Gold Intaglio Ring – copyright of Trustees of the British Museum

 

In cameos the design is created by cutting away around the image and leaving the image in relief, and this type of carving did not begin until the late Hellenistic Greek period, when gemstone carving came to be appreciated for its artistic and ornamental value, rather than for the functional aspect of an intaglio seal.

Traditionally cameos feature a white figure on a dark background.  Greek cameos were often made of banded agate or sardonyx carved with the coloured layers of the stone running horizontal to the visible upper plane.  This meant that up to four levels of carving, each in a different colour, could be seen, such as in the cameo below.

 

The coloured layers are visible in this cameo carving

The coloured layers are visible in this cameo carving

 

In addition to agate or sardonyx practically all stones have been used for engraving.  Rare and expensive rubies, sapphires and emeralds have been fashioned into cameos in the past, although they are usually only small simple designs due to the hardness of these gems which make them difficult to carve.  Usually these rare and precious gems will feature in a Roman ring or occasionally in a simple 18th century gold setting.  In the late 19th century citrine and amethyst began to appear as carved gems in brooches, and then opals which are sometimes found in both rings and brooches.  Organic materials such as coral, ivory and jet became extensively used in the 18th and 19th centuries which were much cheaper and more widely available, although shell carving in jewellery has been around since the 16th century.

 

c. 1850 Diana at the hunt

c. 1850 Diana at the hunt

By the end of the 19th century the fashion for cameos had dwindled, there are 20th century cameos often set in nine carat gold or silver with marcasite highlights, more recently, in the 1930s to 1950s, glass, plastic and composite were used to produce cheaper varieties of cameo.  The lack of interest in the cameo means it is not a highly marketable piece and the modern day versions of these stunning carvings lack the charm and detail of earlier pieces, often on the mass production market.  However there are some good buys to be had both of vintage originals, and more unusual takes on the cameo idea, such at these resin brooches from the Maria Allen Boutique. and these cameo inspired rings by Hart and Bloom.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Becoming a Jewellery Maker…

Some of you will recall we were lucky enough to win a competition with Jewellery Maker and we received a lovely goody bag of treasures!  Regular readers will know that this blogging duo is made up of one accomplished jewellery maker…and one who is not so much (but she does shop with sheer brilliance!)

We thought the best way to really test out the goody bag would be for the non jewellery maker to give some crafting a go, and here’s what I ended up with:

DSC08625

…I was a little concerned when Debs showed up with more than one set of pliars…couldn’t work out why I would need more than one!

 

DSC08601

Ok so I had a little help – but only in terms of tools and guidance on how to use them I promise!

DSC08603

We had lots of organza ribbon so I was really keen to use this but couldn’t think of how to use it…so I made something up…I’m handy with a needle…

DSC08604

I took three different colours of organza and cut them to the same length and then threaded them with cotton and pulled

DSC08632

Finally I attached a brooch clasp on the reverse (sewn on) and this was my first piece – it’s a bit rosette-y but I do quite like the idea. I attached a gemstone bead to the centre.

 

 

So the first piece was just a little something I came up with on the hoof but what I really wanted to make was a necklace inspired by a friend’s Tiffany bracelet.  Now the Tiffany design was a little beyond me and I couldn’t work out how to get the spacing right so I added some rock crystal to help, but the theme was layers.

DSC08605

The process of laying out the beads for the necklace

 

DSC08609

DSC08611

Then I threaded these straight onto the wire

DSC08612

Learning how to add the findings 

DSC08619

You see I genuinely gemstone did do it all myself!

DSC08622

We got a couple of different fastenings in the goody bag but this is a great one as the wire is fairly delicate so I didn’t want anything too fiddly

DSC08623

Ta da! Not too shabby if I do say so myself

                          DSC08628  DSC08629

There were also some fab earring bits and I have left the right pieces of amethyst for those…but after two creations trying to work out how to get gems onto the earring pieces was too much, another time perhaps!

 

Disclosure:  The majority of items used to create these were provided by Jewellery Maker as a competition prize – thank you!

Through the Loupe with….Grant McSweeny

We’re really delighted to be able to bring you an interview with the brilliant and down to earth Grant McSweeny who very kindly spoke with us last year, and what with one thing or another it’s taken a while to get caught up and blogging again!

Grant is a gem setter and also makes his own jewellery, he comes from a family of gem setters so has a very good pedigree!

Tell us a bit about what you do and how you work

It all started in about 1985/86 my dad and uncle were both diamond setters and it just seemed like the natural thing to do.  Even before I left school I was always up in the workshop and would watch him work so when I left school I did a 5 year apprenticeship with my dad and that was how I found myself where I am today.  

[wow FIVE years!!!]

I started off with mundane tasks such as running errands to polishers and dealers.  I learned how to carry jewellery and gems and only then did I get to start practicing cutting, filing and using the tools.  I started out working with 9ct gold and then once I gained skills and confidence I moved onto more valuable metals.

Are there different processes depending on what you’re working with?

For some pieces it does make a difference what you’re working with, for example you would only set emeralds into softer metals, preferably yellow gold because it’s softer than white gold, because they are fragile and you try and reduce the risk of breaking the gemstone by working with the metal that will work better with the characteristics of any particular stone.  Similarly certain types of setting are better for certain stones.

[I had no idea there was any difference between yellow and white gold except for the colour!]

 

How involved do you get with the design process?

It varies, some people want an engagement ring and have no idea what they are looking for – I take them through books and put together a drawing of what I think they are after.  I also tend to send them away to look through jewellers windows so that they can get an idea of what sort of styles, shapes or colours they like.  Once they have an idea in their mind of what they like it makes it easier for me to incorporate that look into a design.

 

Unless the person has a gem they want setting I would then usually source the stones and show them to the customer before they’re set into jewellery because I think it’s more personal and you get to see what they really look like before they get set.

Do you have a favourite gemstone?

It would have to be diamond because of their natural beauty; I’ve seen some beautiful coloured stones but I just think diamonds are lovely whatever size they come in, but I had a 2.5 ct diamond recently and it was great to see because of it’s size.  I really like the fact that they’re just carbon and have been underground for years and years, then they get pulled out as a rough and suddenly after polishing you have a beautiful stone in front of you, and they look so amazing sat on someone’s finger.

I like lots of different cuts too, but my favourites are princess cut and trilliant, because you get so much light coming through them.  My favourite type of setting is a nice and simple calibre for princess cuts and squares because I like the look of it when it’s finished, you have to take your time and get it all level so that the light hits each stone as you turn it, it’s really satisfying when it’s finished.

Are there any gems you don’t like to work with?

Emeralds and fire opals are so fragile that they would probably did my least favourites!  You get taught not to break them and how to treat them but they can be difficult to work with and you have to explain to the owner the risks of working with them, fortunately it doesn’t tend to go wrong!  Tanzanite also marks very easily, so you do have to be more careful with them.

What’s your favourite piece of jewellery you ever made?

When I was working with my dad I did a suite of jewellery in emerald and diamond with tapered baguette cut and princess cut stones.  It was very art deco and the value at the time was around a quarter of a million pounds.  The centre emerald on the necklace was almost 8ct and that alone cost around £90,000!

[I am so jealous, that sounds like my idea of heaven]

It’s not just the joy of making great jewellery though I get real pleasure from seeing the person picking it up and seeing the finished item.  I made an engagement ring for a friend of a friend and when they saw it they said “wow” and when you have comments such as it looking nicer than the customer expected or once a customer burst into tears you just know they’re walking out of the door happy and that’s a great feeling.

 

Is it a long process to set a gem?

The large emerald and diamond suite I mentioned earlier took about 3 weeks, but that wasn’t working on it every day.  A straightforward six claw single stone can take as little as 10 minutes, but a pave set will take longer and depends upon the size of the stones.

In terms of time it does depend on the setting and the type of stone, so something more fragile or fiddly will take longer so they all have their own timescale really.  The process is very traditional, my workshop hasn’t changed much over the past 50 or so years and this sometime surprises people when they come to look.  I have some modern technology such as microscopes but the majority of handheld tools haven’t really changed.

How difficult was it to set up in business and do you have any tips?

I started out working with my dad which was helpful for my apprenticeship, but after that I moved out into my own business, my dad is still in the trade but does less setting now.  It is hard when you start, there are quite a few setters and getting your foot in the door with customers is hard because people have tried and tested setters that they work with and don’t want to risk giving their work to another person.  You have to keep trying to show them what you are capable of and persevere, it’s a lot of hard work and I think you just have to keep going…even up to the point where you start to irritate people so that they give you a chance!

Do you wear jewellery?

I do have a wedding ring and a bangle, I’ve noticed that more men now do go out and treat themselves, even down to cufflinks.

 

You can find out more about Grant’s work at his website http://www.mcsweeneyjewels.co.uk/our-work.php

 

If you would like to be featured on our regular “Through the Loupe” pieces do get in touch with us: adventuresthroughtheloupe@outlook.com,

Christmas break

Well what a year it’s been, thank you to all of you who have been reading our blog since it started earlier this year, we’re having a short break while we celebrate the holiday season but will be back with you in January with lots of exciting new posts.  More styling, more interviews and if you make jewellery or are involved in the jewellery industry and would like us to interview you or do a review of your products please do get in touch.

 

In the meantime we hope that your Christmas cracker was full of Asprey cheer!