Tag Archive | resin

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.

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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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Turquoise, the friendship gem

The sun is out and we’ve been breaking out our summer jewellery, one of the most fabulous summer jewels is turquoise which might seem a strange choice, but it’s an excellent summer stone as the bright colour gives a great fresh look to nearly every outfit and faux turquoise jewellery is frequently found on the high street during the summer season (ok we admit it’s also a great choice in winter too – amazing contrast against black and in fairness it is December’s birthstone, so let’s agree that it’s an all round jewel).

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Turquoise is an opaque gem which has been valued by people for thousands of years due to its colouring.  It can be traced back as far as the Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs and is thought to have been introduced to Europe through Turkey, and it’s believed that this is how it was given its name.  Given it’s age there’s no surprise that myths and beliefs surround this gem, in ancient times it was thought that it could have some prophylactic uses (!) and that it changed colour to reflect the health of the wearer.  Whilst it’s true that Turquoise does turn green with dehydration and chemical reactions or treatments can change the colour even more,  as far as we know this doesn’t actually link to the wearer’s health…  Turquoise has also at times been believed to protect the wearer, and  has been used as both a talisman and holy stone.

Double Headed Serpent Turquoise Mosaic, the British Museum Collection

Double Headed Serpent Turquoise Mosaic, the British Museum Collection

What is clear is wherever you go in the world you are likely to spot a fair amount of Turquoise in their museum pieces, turquoise was often inlaid into both jewellery as well as building decoration, bridles, swords to name but a few.  Turquoise was even found in Tutankhamun’s tomb in his burial mask amongst other items, and famously examples can be found in the British Museum such as Aztec death masks.

Turquoise Mask, the Turquoise Mosaics collection, the British Museum

Turquoise Mask, the Turquoise Mosaics collection, the British Museum

Much admired, but often under appreciated in modern society, Turquoise has been much copied throughout the ages.  It’s fairly surprising that it has stuck around so long, particularly preserved ancient pieces, as it’s not one of the more durable gems.  Even the best turquoise is fracturable and on the Mohs scale it’s just under 6 at it’s hardest, similar to glass.  It’s also a porous gem and can be affected by reactions with other chemicals.

Turquoise is generally known as a fairly low value gem in today’s society, due to the prevalence of fakes or synthetics, and variety of available treatments means that it can be hard to tell what is real and what is not.  This uncertainty affects the price, as does the large influx to the market that synthetics bring.  However, this has not always been the case and it used to be held in high esteem by the Apaches of North America.  It was thought of as a particularly useful gem giving authority, protection and if given (rather than bought) can bring good luck (particularly on a Saturday…) and preserve friendship.

Examples of our own Turquoise are below, despite it’s structure and nature it can be faceted, it also takes a great polish and there are some simply stunning examples of cabochon cut Turquoise.  One of our favourite Turquoise pieces at the moment is this gorgeous Astley Clarke friendship bracelet.

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Turquoise has distinguishing inclusions caused by other minerals and metals being within the gem, but rarely it can be found without these, which is known as sleeping beauty turquoise.

Treatments

There are lots of treatments which can be applied to turquoise, and it is often treated to enhance its durability as in its natural state it is not particularly hard and suffers from being highly porous.  Other treatments are used to change the colour of the gem and there are some great examples particularly of purple turquoise.  Be warned if you are bothered about your turquoise being treated, whilst a gemmologist may be able to test to ascertain they type and occurrence of treatment, such tests are likely to damage your stone.

Some of the more basic treatments are waxing and oiling turquoise which enhances the colour and lustre of the gem, whilst these add to the appearance of the stone it can result in some discolouration over time if the stones are exposed to too much heat or sun.

Some turquoise is “stabilised” by having resin or plastic inserted into the stone under high pressure, this treatment is more stable than wax or oil so has better long-term results and can lead to otherwise unusable turquoise being brought up to gem quality.

Other treatments are more radical, such as reconstitution or “block” turquoise which is formed by bonding small fragments of turquoise with resin, or gluing thin turquoise onto another material to reinforce it which is known as “backing”.

Care

Whilst it’s important to take care of all your gems, the nature of turquoise, even when treated, means that chemicals such as oils, perfume or sun cream could lead to discolouration or damage of your stone.  The gem can dehydrate so try to keep away from strong sunlight for prolonged periods and store in a breathable material.  Due to it’s softer nature it’s also preferable to keep your turquoise away from items that could scratch it so a special section of your jewellery box or a pouch is a good idea to try and protect it.  Also bear in mind that it can’t be cleaned with the majority of jewellery cleaners, so when you take it off try giving it a gentle rub with a lint free cloth to keep it looking at its best.