Tag Archive | ring

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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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.

 leaf

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:

traditional

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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Remembrance Day – is it time to upgrade your poppy?

Ok so maybe the title doesn’t say it all, but as Remembrance Day approaches we wanted to tell you how you could support the excellent work of the Royal British Legion.  The Royal British Legion is the nation’s “custodian of remembrance” as well as doing impressive work to support existing and former members of the armed forces and their families.

Like me you may only start thinking about Remembrance Day once the poppies start appearing on your local high street or station, for a number of years now I have sought out the poppy pin badges which vary from year to year as a more permanent way of commemorating the annual events, as I find I can get away with wearing them for many months whereas my paper poppy seems to cause me nothing but trouble (I am too incompetent to manage to pin one on so they tend to loiter around buttonholes…)

It may seem a little early, but I want to give you the chance to explore what alternative ways of supporting the cause are on offer, particularly in this year, the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Poppies have moved on a lot in recent years, and I’m not just talking pin badges and ceramic poppies at the Tower of London.  There’s an entire site dedicated to the poppy related accouterments produced in support of the Royal British Legion, from umbrellas to stationary, and (unsurprisingly since we’re talking about it on this blog!) jewellery.

The jewellery collections from the Poppy Shop span several ranges, and the variety available is immense, here are a few of our favourite items:

The real flower poppy heart range comprises a bangle, earrings and necklace made from real miniature poppies – we like these because the use of real flowers really interesting, it’s a trend that is becoming more and more popular and the variation of having a heart shaped feature on these is really nice.  It’s also a really nice way to wear the poppy, but would be suitable for the whole year round.

 

 

If you’re not such a fan of the heart they do similar designs in an oval shape on the website.

Ring

There are fabulous long drop earrings from the Falling Poppy collection,  they were created by British Royal Warrant holders, Toye, Kenning & Spencer, and at £10.49 they are an absolute bargain.  The matching necklace is under a tenner!  For a slightly more dramatic look though, we love the Poppy Cascade collection, these feature a similar design of poppy clustered with a silver poppy and an oak leaf.  Also created by Toye, Kenning and Spencer these have a longer drop (6cm) and are a real feature for any wardrobe.

 Falling necklace  Falling Earrings

For a more traditional approach to the poppy how about a Union Flag inspired poppy brooch.  You know we love a brooch and the personality in this one really shines out.

JW1091-Poppy-Collection-Union-Flag-Brooch

Finally a special mention for these First World War poppy cufflinks, because these really are an amazing piece of art.  To quote the website “they have been created from the solid brass of original artillery shell fuses found on First World War battlefields. The shells have been melted down and cast, using the traditional ‘lost wax’ method in which each and every poppy requires a wax version, into a hand sculpted poppy design.

The design is based on a 100 year old dried and flattened real poppy from Private Len Smith’s diary – Private Smith, a veteran who lived until 1974, plucked the poppy from No Man’s Land in 1915 and preserved it in his illustrated diary.”  There’s no point me trying to say anything as this speaks for itself – the ultimate form of upcycling, what a great way to Remember.  Additionally these are a beautiful, practical item which is sure to be good value for money at £79.99.

Poppy cufflinks

On the topic of cufflinks, do have a look at the fabulous spitfire cufflinks made from an actual spitfire…I kid you not, they are amazing.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post, please do remember the purpose behind Remembrance Day and bear in mind that the Poppy Shop is the official online store for the Royal British Legion, all profits go to support the charity.  Delivery charges may apply, please see the website for details.

 

 

The journey of a ring

I thought I would chart the process of making a simple ring using the casting process, there are many ways of making an item of jewellery, casting can be a useful technique and in this case it is used for making a one off piece, but it is most often used for making multiples of a item. You can make a master model in a base metal such as copper or brass and then cast it into silver or gold, but in this case I started off with a wax model as carving a master in wax allows for less wastage of precious metal and also allows for shapes and textures which would be more time consuming and difficult to create by other means.

This bock of wax comes with a hole to start you off sizing the ring to your requirements. Firstly a block larger than the design requirements is cut off using a jewellers saw fitted with a special spiral blade which can cut though the wax without clogging too much.

Wax

 

The outline of the design is carved into the wax, and the hole enlarged to the ring size needed, in this case I was making a men’s ring for a very large finger!

The block is cut down to slightly larger than required so it can be filed into shape later and the detail starts to be cut or carved into it.

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Although the weight of wax is substantially lighter than the metal you will find that taking away as much of the wax as possible will keep the weight down and also save money!  In this design inside the front of the ring was hollowed out so it would be more comfortable to wear due to its large size.

The wax model is then sent off to the casters, who, by using the lost wax casting process, will produce the design in whichever metal you have asked for, in this case silver.

In the lost wax casting process the wax model is mounted on a wax rod called a sprue and this is then mounted onto a ‘tree’ with other sprues, the central rod is secured into the base, and filled with a watertight section of pipe called a flask. A plaster like material is poured into the flask after it has set the base support is removed, the flask it placed into a kiln and the wax tree is melted away, leaving a negative space of the shape, molten metal is poured into the shapes, the plaster dissolves when the metal is quenched leaving the finished shape.

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The casting comes back in a rough unfinished state, so then the next task is to clean up the piece file back the excess metal which was used in securing the original model to the tree. Once the piece if filed back, it can then be polished to the required finish, shiny or matt.

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In this design, I then used an oxidising solution, which turns silver black in colour on contact, in order to emphasise the carved line detail on the sides and top to give the piece contrast and depth.

With the ring finished, it just has one more leg of its journey left, travelling to its new owner!

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Goldsmiths’ Fair – 2014

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For over 30 years the magnificent Goldsmiths’ Hall in the heart of London has been showcasing the very best in British design and craftsmanship in the precious metals.  The annual ‘Goldmiths’ Fair’ this year continues the tradition, but with a new approach to the concept and with many new  and exciting exhibitors.  The fair allows the public to purchase pieces direct from the designer-makers over the two week period – in perfect time for Christmas!  The event contains the latest collections from 170 leading designer-makers, each exhibiting for one week, selected by an expert judging panel assembled by the Goldsmiths Company.

The new look fair, feels fresher and more spacious, the clean lines of the white stands clearly define the individual spaces without looking cluttered and tight, the exhibitors are happy to talk about their pieces and to allow you to take a closer look & try things on!

 

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There are plenty of new exhibitors this year, including Clara Breen who’s colourful pieces caught my eye, Clara incorporates paper into her beautifully crafted pieces, including these ‘Fossil’ Earrings with removable part; Oxidised silver, vermeil, citrine and paper. (week one, stand 15)

 

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Other tempting week one exhibitors include Shivani Patel, Melissa Rigby, new exhibitors Amy Keeper  and Tanja Ufer.

 

A new feature of the fair this year has been Goldsmiths’ Fair Revels ‘Zaha Hadid Selects.’  For the first time the fair has invited an iconic figure from the design world to make a selection of her favourite pieces from the 170 exhibitors. The internationally renowned architect has selected 21 pieces of jewellery and silver which have been displayed together at the start of the fair. Her selection is bold and diverse and all are testimonies to cutting edge design and techniques – here are a couple of my favourites from her selection:

 

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Tom Rucker’s Ring GEO. AEGEANA – This artist goldsmith uses state of the art laser welding technology in conjunction with master goldsmith skills to create his unique pieces, skills which are supremely in evidence in this stunning ring, the intricate laser welding of the wire work and the rich combinations of colour, texture and materials makes this ring a work of art and craft. (week one, stand 78)

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Ute Decker’s – ‘In Praise o Shadows’ Earrings – reminiscent of folded pieces of paper these minimalist but tactile earrings are striking and substantial in size but look effortlessly wearable and have a pleasing fluidity to their overall sculptural appearance. (week one, stand 4)

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It’s all change in week two, and I’m looking forward to checking out the work of  Ornella Iannuzzi (week two stand 72) whose distinctive pieces include this stunning ring:

 

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“A l’Ere Glaciaire”

Also Chris Boland, and Charmian Harris who have both used a variety of interesting gemstones in their bold pieces.

‘Monolith rings’

‘Monolith rings’ by Chris Boland

 

Opal bracelet set with 22ct gold & diamonds by Chairman Harris

Opal bracelet set with 22ct gold & diamonds by Charmian Harris

 

As you can imagine with 170 exhibitors there are far too many dazzling pieces to mention here and as this is a jewellery blog I haven’t even began to feature the many outstanding pieces of silversmithing work on show at the fair as well, definitely worth a look if you manage to visit!

Dates for the Fair 2014

Week one Monday 22 September 2014 – Sunday 28 September
Week two Tuesday 30 September – Sunday 5 October
Closed on Monday 29 September for the change-over.

11am – 6.30pm daily
Thursdays open 8.30pm

 

The Goldsmiths’ Company are also offering a series of breakfast talks over the course of the fair – these feature experts from the jewellery world speaking about their area of specialty, there are some really exciting talks scheduled (for example this morning was Edward Johnson – the London Director of the GIA!) but these are booking up quickly so if you’re interested do have a look at the website for booking details.

Through the Loupe with…Genna Delaney

Regular readers will know that we like to take the opportunity every so often to get to know someone connected with the jewellery industry a little better!  This month we have the enormous pleasure of going “through the Loupe” with Genna Delaney of Genna Designs.  Genna has been super busy this year (including exhibiting every day at the Edinburgh Festival!) so we’re really pleased that this award winning designer had some time for us:

Have you found it difficult to start your own business, where did you go for help?

Setting up in business is hard work, to be a jeweller like me you need a lot of equipment so I had to write a very strong business plan so that I could get funding. I was lucky enough to get a studio space at WASPS, Meadow Mill, shortly after I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee. The cultural enterprise office were a great help with the start up of my business, as was Business Gateway. I got a loan and mentor for 3 years from PSYBT. They were also a massive help in my business.
 
[Feeling confident in the business side of the industry of one of the harder sides of being a jeweller, it’s really great to know that you got some great support from this great organisation.  You can hear Genna talking about starting up her business here]
 
Do you make your own jewellery?
 I design and make jewellery for all occasions including wedding and engagement rings, kiltpins, cufflinks. I enjoy taking on bespoke commissions and design something unique for each client. Everything is individually handmade.
 
Though I am currently experimenting with new technologies in my work using lasers and etching with my perspex collection and working with Cloud 9 to create a new 3d collection. I work from my studio at WASPS, Meadow Mill, Dundee. I love my studio.
[this is officially the first mention of kiltpins on our blog…we hope it’s not the last!]

 

Examples of Genna Designs beautiful perspex jewellery

Examples of Genna Designs beautiful perspex jewellery

You use some great stones and materials, but Perspex isn’t something we’re used to seeing in jewellery – what is it like to work with and what made you decide to try this out?
 
Perspex is a durable, lightweight and colourful material. It’s easy to file and sand and is much cheaper to use than precious metals and stones. I incorporated it into my work to add colour and to cut costs.

 

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Perspex cuff and pendant

 What are your influences?
 
Architecture, the Scottish landscape, the countryside, nature, the sea and natural rock formations.
 textured-collection-bracelets
 framelayerpendant - gold leaf - small
 
What’s your favourite gemstone?
 I love aquamarine and different types of quartz. I love using stones that are unusual shapes and have unique inclusions in each stone, such as dendritic quartz, rutile quartz, each piece is like a little picture, then I design around the stone and create unusual settings.
  GennaDesign-rutile quartz square ring angle
[This amazing rutile quartz ring is such a beautiful example of the raw natural beauty of the gem contrasted with the really unique setting of the ring – this piece is so beautiful and unusual it has to be one of our favourite items from Genna’s collection]
 
What are your aspirations for the future?
 
Would love to have my work in international galleries abroad, would love to gain high profile press coverage and would love a celebrity to wear my jewellery. One day I would like to have my own gallery and workshop.

Thank you so much to Genna for giving us an insight into your work – if there is anyone out there who can offer Genna some high profile press coverage we think you should jump at the opportunity before someone else gets there first!

Genna makes such a great mix of beautiful jewellery that we really hope you have enjoyed the post and will look out for her in the future, can we take the opportunity to highly recommend following up with visiting her YouTube page it’s really exciting to get a close up view of the creative process.  You can also find Genna on Pinterest, Twitter (@gennadesign) and Facebook.

 

If you are a designer, jewellery or work in any aspect of the jewellery or gemstone industry and fancy coming Through the Loupe with us please do get in touch at adventuresthroughtheloupe@outlook.com.