Tag Archive | gold

Adventures through the Jewellery box…with Jo from Slummy Single Mummy

We’re delighted to bring you the first in our new series of posts “Adventures through the jewellery box” where we look at someone’s favourite item of jewellery.  What makes this even more exciting is that our first contributor is the fabulous Jo of the Slummy Single Mummy blog.  I am really grateful to Jo for agreeing to take part, hers was the first blog I ever read and after reading a LOT of blogs it remains one of my favourites.  No surprise really given Jo’s extensive experience as a pro blogger!  Well enough from me, let’s hear from Jo about her favouite piece of jewellery:

My favourite piece of jewellery is something I’ve had for 12 years now and I wear it every single day. It’s made of 22 carat gold and is actually the only thing I specifically name in my will; not because it is of any particular monetary value, but because it has huge sentimental value and I want to be sure that it passes to my eldest daughter when I die.

Here it is:

  SSM Wedding ring

 

It’s my Gran’s wedding ring. My mum gave it to me at my Gran’s funeral in 2003, in a small velvet bag as it had come from the funeral director. It fitted perfectly on my wedding finger but not being married, (and not wanting to put off potential suitors), I had it made slightly bigger to fit on the ring finger of my right hand.

 

The ring is important to me because my Gran was always such an important part of our family. We have always been a very matriarchal family and my Gran was always the head. She loved her family, and when my first daughter, Bee, was born, nearly twenty years ago now, she was smitten.

 

This photo shows Bee as a baby, sat on my Gran’s lap. My mum is on the left, I am on the right, and my sister is sat on the floor. (She will hate me for sharing this picture!)

 

SSM family 

We moved around a fair bit when I was little, my parents divorced when I was about 12, and so, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I look back now and realise how important both sets of grandparents were to me – they were both married for decades and provided a really solid presence in our lives – a constant that we always knew we could rely on. Although the feistiest of the four, my Gran surprised us by being the first to die. I still miss her now and wearing her ring makes me feel like she is looking out for me.

Thank you again to Jo for taking us through her Jewellery box – it’s so nice to see a piece of genuine heirloom jewellery.  Don’t forget to check out the Slummy Single Mummy blog – it’s not just for parents, and you can find Jo on Twitter, Facebook and a whole host of other social media sites.  She is also a super expert on all things blog, social media and offers training on these so do

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Through the Loupe with…Karen Elizabeth Donovan

For March’s edition of “through the Loupe”  we’re joined by Karen Donovan, award-winning jeweller we discovered through New Designers and are so delighted to be able to showcase Karen’s beautiful and unusual jewellery.  With stunning detail Karen has recently created some jewellery with fantastic volume and a great use of colour, we’re really excited to see what else the future holds for this talented lady and hope you will follow her journey with us!

 

 

Tell us a bit about the jewellery you design:

 

I try to design jewellery that speaks to my experiences in life.  I moved to Scotland to do my postgraduate degree because I fell in love with Britain when I was younger.  My experiences here, including the people, the landscape and my interactions with the history formed a conversation that I could answer with my jewellery.  I have found the plants of Scotland to be completely different to those at home, and incredibly potent to the people here.  Once I had focused on these plants, namely Heather, the jewellery became easier to design.  I love stories, so when trying to find forms for my jewellery to take I looked into the social history of plants and the history of Britain’s jewels.  I think that stories are universally connecting – everyone loves a story.

  
[That’s really interesting because one of the reasons I love this necklace, above, is that it reminds me of the story of sleeping beauty and the forest that sprang up around her whilst she slept, I can just imagine the Prince cutting through the tangle of interwoven foliage when I look at it! Lovely]
 
How did you get into jewellery designing?
I took a class. I had been collecting earrings for ages, so when I saw a class on offer over the summer at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, I decided to try making jewellery, and it stuck.
 
Have you found it difficult to start your own business?  Was there anywhere you went for help?
I have thankfully found excellent guidance through the University of Edinburgh’s Launch.ed programme.  I work with a business advisor who finds excellent opportunities for me and I can ask anything pertaining to my business. I have also found some great opportunities and workshops with Creative Scotland and the Cultural Enterprise Office.
 
Do you make your own jewellery?
I make all of my designs by hand. I am currently an Artist in Residence at Edinburgh College of Art, which is a great opportunity to get some teaching experience under my belt and it comes with access to the extensive facilities in the department. Like many creatives though, my bench is an absolute mess no matter where it is.
[That’s fantastic news, as someone who is completely daunted by the thought of having to teach anyone anything it’s really inspiring that you’re taking the opportunity to pass on to a new collection of future creatives, but it must make you extremely busy!]
  
 
Who are your influences?
 
William Morris has always influenced me in some way. Whether through his writings or his designs, his life forms a large part of my philosophy toward designing and creating. My advisor at Skidmore College, David Peterson, has influenced me greatly and I often ask myself what would David say about this?
But my most important influence is my parents.  Through my upbringing I have been taught to appreciate art but also to be well-rounded and rational, and I could never have gotten to where I am without their support.
[That’s a really nice thing to say – I am sure your parents are very proud of what you have achieved.]
 
What inspires you?
 
Stories. Books. Like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, I read too much. But I think that experience lends a kind of significance to everyday scenes. Classical music is essential for that as well. There is nothing like a bit of Beethoven to make a situation seem more important. But hopefully what really comes out in my jewellery is that Scotland is incredibly inspirational. Take a good book and a few great classical recordings out to the Scottish islands and I am a very happy, inspired lady.
[I’m a massive reader too – I don’t think it’s possible to read too much!  Not a massive classical music fan though…maybe that’s why I’m not very creative!]
 
What sort of jewellery do you like to wear?
 
Rings. I find them strangely empowering.
 
What’s your favourite gemstone?
 
Citrine.
 
What are your aspirations for the future?
To continue to love what I do.
[Very wise words.]
 
Where did you train and how did you find the training process?
 
I did my Bachelor’s at Skidmore College in New York and my Master’s at Edinburgh College of Art. I enjoyed the diversity in the teaching between the two programmes. They provided different aspects to my training. I have tried as
much as possible during my education to get as much experience from as many teachers as possible in as many studios as I could, abroad and at home. I think that the most important part to any training process is that you put
your all in and take away as much as you can. Students should be as responsible or more than their teachers for their own learning.
 
Tell us about your connection with New Designers
 
New Designers was simply what everyone did after their degree at ECA. I never really thought about not going. Now that I have experienced it I value the platform it has created in my field, there is nothing I know of quite like it in the United States. It was a great chance to meet my peers across the UK as well as galleries and companies and people who could represent me and push me forward. I was presented with the New Designers’ Goldsmiths’ Company Jewellery award in 2014 which has helped my confidence and has pushed me into the business more thoroughly than I could have achieved without it. The main prize was a week’s work experience with Paul York at the Goldsmiths’ Centre which I did back in September. I was lucky to get to work with Paul, he is incredibly knowledgeable at what he
does and I learned so much from him.
 
What do you like to do when you’re not doing this?
 
Read, drink tea, go for walks in the rain, sing, play and listen to music, and most of all I love to solve puzzles of all kinds.
 
White gold or yellow gold…or something else?
 
Titanium. It is wonderful to work with in every way. Its combination of properties creates a very challenging and unique material. I am not one to turn down a challenge, particularly when beautiful things come out of it. Although as far as gold goes: yellow gold. It has an unparalleled warmth, and is absolutely amazing to work with, there is nothing quite like gold.
 
[I’m so glad you said Titanium!  It really does add something extra special to see jewellery in this unusual metal, I think it adds something different in particular because of its weight, what you get when you pick it up is different from what you perhaps expected.]

 

K Donavan chain 1

 

 

STOP PRESS:  We’ve just found out that Karen is adding even more to her collection of awards!  We’re delighted to hear that Karen has recently been awarded the Goldsmiths Craft & Design Council Gold Award Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers Award 2015!  Also a Commendation in the Precious Metals, Gold, Platinum and Palladium category – what great news and many many congratulations to Karen on very well deserved recognition.

 

Thank you to Karen for coming through the loupe with us – you can find Karen on lots of social media outlets including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter (and don’t forget to join us on all of those too!)

 

The origins of the engagement ring….history or mystery?

We’ve all heard the rumour about engagement rings being worn on the third picture of the left hand because this was thought to be a direct connection to the heart; but where does the tradition really come from?  We thought with the number of engagements which traditionally take place today, Valentines day would be a great opportunity to have another look at my wedding photos a look at the history of the engagement ring:  

Wedding rings 

It is widely accepted that the concept of the engagement ring dates back to the Egyptians, around 2800BC.  As part of their burial customs they were often buried wearing rings, of a single strand of gold or silver wire on the third finger on their left hands, which was believed to be symbolic and a direction connection to the heart of the wearer. The history of the engagement ring can only be traced back reliably to ancient Rome; according to Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century AD, the groom gave the bride first a gold ring to wear during the ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home.  The first documented use of an engagement ring goes back to Pope Nicolas I in 866 AD.  Pope Nicolas had an entirely conservative opinion on the intuition of marriage and he wrote that when a man becomes engaged to a woman, he gives her a “ring of faith”.  In these early days ‘rings’ of rushes and grasses were used as they were readily available, however over the centuries rings were made of a variety of materials. Some research shows that during the 19th century, during the Protestant Reformation a bride-to-be sometimes received a sewing thimble.  After the wedding, the man would cut off the cup of the thimble thus symbolizing that the young woman’s sewing was over and any dowry was complete.  The rim was then worn as a ring. Most researchers and historians agree that the first engagement ring, in the form we would be familiar with today, was given by Archduke Maximilian of Austria when he proposed to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The ring was a simple yellow gold band set with thin flat slices of diamond in the shape of an “M”.  Since then, the designs and the value of the materials used have changed to reflect the times, but other aspects, such as how they are worn, have remained constant. Our tradition vision of a diamond engagement ring dates back primarily to the Victorian era, when diamond mines began producing vast quantities of stones, however, they were still perceived to be the domain of the noble and aristocratic, many still preferring to use simpler bands.   

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In 1938, the diamond cartel De Beers began a marketing campaign that would have a major impact on engagement rings even to the present day. The price of diamonds had collapsed during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and research showed that engagement rings were going out of fashion.  As part of their campaign, De Beers began to ‘educate’ the public about the 4 Cs (cut, carats, colour, and clarity).  And in 1947 the slogan “a diamond is forever” was introduced.  They wanted to persuade consumers that only a diamond set ring should be used for something as important as an engagement ring and that it would last a lifetime.  Their campaign was hugely successful, when they began only a small percent of engagement rings had diamonds – today, well, only a very small percentage do not!   We’ve ‘ahem’ suggested some of our favourites below, tell us about your engagement ring!  Please also do have a look at the Pretty Thrifty Budget Wedding blog which has some great suggestions for alternatives to the traditional diamond.

We say when it comes to engagement rings never be afraid to go for something unusual like this stunning cluster from Jewellerywebsite.co.uk, as well as bridal sets they have a great selection of unusual rings

We say when it comes to engagement rings never be afraid to go for something unusual like this stunning cluster from Jewellerywebsite.co.uk, as well as bridal sets they have a great selection of unusual rings

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Speaking of non-diamond engagement rings we’re so delighted to find this stunning collection from Pamela Dickinson with matching sculpted wedding band. If you like the look of this do check out her work as there’s a fantastic variety, and you can also find it featured in the Ringleaders collection at http://www.pyramidgallery.com/ the Pyramid Gallery in York

If anyone has a spare $56,500 I wouldn’t mind this landing under my Christmas tree either!  Tiffany is a classic for engagement rings.

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.

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.

 

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Travels in Turkey

We’ve told you a bit about our travels in Morocco so now we thought we’d share some of the wonders we found on a trip to Turkey earlier this year.  I am a regular traveller to Turkey and generally play it very safe, gold is BIG in Turkey, items are purchased by the weight with very little regard to the detail or design involved.  Jewellery in Turkey is often bought as an investment, but to say simply that is to deny some of the stunning design and work that goes into some of the designs that can be found.  Here are some of my favourites:

 

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You can see the type of displays they generally have in the jewellery quarter – lots of gold and no prices!  The centrepiece of the above picture is this absolutely stunning leaf with butterfly and flower detail.  My photographs really don’t do it justice, definitely my favourite item this year.

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Traditional designs seem to have come to the fore recently, but I was surprised at the modern designs I found too this year, in particular the display below seemed to feature the best of both worlds:

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The above three pieces are all so different, the centerpiece was a stunning large gem with a traditional look and modern twist, to it’s right is this fabulous fish skeleton design, really unusual!

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To the left is this much more traditional design, but again it definitely has the look of the modern in it:

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Whilst yellow gold has been the staple of Turkish design there is a definite move over the last couple of years towards white gold.

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I adore this simple but really effective design – what you can’t see well from the picture is the stunning effect from all the diamonds making up the flowers…yes it was diamond…it was way out of my budget…
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I think this was the first time I saw any real rose gold either too, the three tactile bangles below would look fab all stacked up together!

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I am really fond of the use of traditional shapes and tessellating patterns which can be found in Turkish (and other!) jewellery, the bangles below were a fabulous example of this:

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I also found this unusual ring – I am not convinced it would be the most comfortable thing to wear but what a great look!

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Last but not least was my absolute favourite, featuring both earrings and pendant I very nearly invested a months wages in this necklace, I love the simple look but with traditional detailing, very classic.

  

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From Egypt to Hollywood, the evolution of costume jewellery

The term ‘costume jewellery’ was initially used in the early 20th century to describe imitation jewels and gems that fashion designers would create to complement their clothes, hence costume jewellery.

They were made from inexpensive materials such as glass, base metals and plastic. Although thought of a modern invention due to their mass production, this type of inexpensive jewellery can be traced back through to ancient times, from the Egyptians, through the middle ages, and medieval times.

In the early 18th century there was a greater prosperity within the middle classes who wanted to dress to impress, diamonds were, however, extremely expensive and relatively scarce.  The solution was a new glass imitation – paste. This hard brilliant glass could be cut and polished to produce ‘gems’ with a convincing sparkle. The most stylish pieces were bold and extravagant, some jewels were spring mounted and swayed when you moved. Examples of which can be found in the jewel room at the V&A quivering as you walk past!

1950s paste & faux pearl necklace

1950s paste & faux pearl necklace

 

Around 1720 ‘Pinchbeck’ (named after Christopher Pinchbeck) came into being an alloy of copper and zinc that successfully mimicked gold, and retained its colour without tarnish, it could also be worked and decorated in the same way as gold. The formula was widely imitated by other manufacturers and it remained popular until it gradually became replaced by rolled gold and other gilt metals.

These early discoveries led onto other technological advances and over the centuries a number of jewellery styles emerged which embraced the costume jewellery ethos. Unlike much of the costume jewellery available today these pieces were exquisitely made by highly skilled craftsmen.  They were often quality pieces which despite their intrinsic value stood the test of time and are still valuable and fashionable today!

When the United States entered World War II, base metals such as brass were rationed which led many of these costume jewellery manufacturers to start using sterling silver in their ranges.  An example of this is below in this 1940s brooch and earring set by American brand VanDell.

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In the 1940s and 1950s Hollywood glamour came to town and a number of costume jewellery brands began making mass market statement pieces, early examples often imitating precious Art Deco jewels, this heralded the era of the ‘cocktail style’ and we still use the term ‘cocktail ring’ to describe a big, bold, bling ring; usually inexpensively made.

 

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A number of jewellery manufacturers from this era are now highly collectable names in the vintage jewellery market, and we will look at a few of these designers in a future post…