Pearls: an update on a classic

“I always think of pearls as something my Nan would wear”, said a customer last week. She then went on to choose a pair of (you guessed it) pearl earrings! The fact is that pearls are no longer just that classic necklace that everyone has seen in the period dramas on the BBC. Nowadays they are being used in much more contemporary designs and the colours and shapes which once were seen as less desirable are now taking centre stage.

Orbit Necklace, by CARA TONKIN

Orbit Necklace, by CARA TONKIN

Even the ‘classic’ pearl earring is seeing a revival, with designs incorporating removal sections, mismatched pairs or just streamlined fittings to make for a sophisticated, uncomplicated look. Pearls are the perfect accessory to take you from day to night.

Featured designs by Cara Tonkin, Victoria Sackwild and Raw Pearls

Recently we have been asked to make a few 30th (pearl) anniversary presents as well as birthday presents to incorporate a pearl (which is June’s birthstone). Far from the classic, single row necklaces of old, these commissions have been fun and modern; from simple chains with a few scattered coloured pearl details…

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…to a classic stud with a removable drop which hangs behind the ear…

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…the designs are far more unusual and perfect for those of us who are not traditional ‘pearl people’! ;)

 So, what if you have some old pearls that you never wear? Apart from giving them a clean and a restring, there’s nothing much that can be done, right? I really don’t agree! As a jewellery designer, I always think that it is better to use some of a piece than none at all (with a few exceptions, of course).  Why not consider using some of the pearls to make something more wearable?  If it is an inherited piece, you could even give a few pearls to other members of your family so that you can all have a part of its story. Whether they’re used as a detail within a larger design, as a simple, elegant pendant, or an enhancer to add a bit of colour or glamour to an existing piece, pearls will always be a timeless classic, suitable for any occasion. 

“Pearls are always appropriate.” – Jackie Kennedy

As always, if you have any jewellery questions, are looking to have that perfect piece made, or have a once-loved item which could do with a bit of TLC, then please do get in touch, we are only too happy to try and help.

 

Clare X

Silver & gold jewellery; what are the rules for mismatching colours?

I have heard the same sort of sentence a few times recently; “I love that, but I only wear silver” or “I was given a silver necklace which I love but I can’t wear it because it won’t go with all my gold jewellery”. It got me thinking, firstly, who says you can’t mix and match metals, and secondly, why restrict yourself to what you can and can’t like? The only one who is making these rules is you and as more and more people start to look at what suits their skin tone, rather than what we are ‘supposed’ to be wearing, the options suddenly open up and you are no longer restricted by what the fashion industry says is in vogue!

A few years ago I couldn’t have given away a yellow or rose gold wedding ring, but now I can honestly say that the split is about 50/50 between white metals and coloured metals. Sometimes we are even asked to make a coloured gold wedding ring to go with a white gold engagement ring, which is a sure sign that the rule book has well and truly been thrown out of the window!

Just for a minute have a think about how many times you have changed your hair or clothes style over the years. It would be completely ridiculous to wear exactly the same style all the way through your life, but for some reason people think they have to do this with their jewellery, regardless of whether they still like it or not. It has always puzzled me, and as someone who mixes my metals (I generally wear a silver ring on one hand, a yellow gold ring on the other, and a white and rose gold bangle every day) I would hate the thought of feeling restricted by what jewellery I can wear.

The beauty of so much jewellery nowadays is that you don’t have to choose, the designer makes the decision for you by using different colours in a single piece…

But what if (as I was told on Sunday) you were given a gold pendant and chain and you only wear silver coloured jewellery? The first option could be to plate it with rhodium. Rhodium is part of the platinum family and would make the piece look like white gold like the rest of your jewellery. But, the second option could be as simple as changing the chain for a white gold or silver one and keeping the pendant yellow gold. Suddenly you are incorporating your silver jewellery but adding a splash of colour with the gold. As you begin to wear more and more ‘mismatched’ jewellery, suddenly it just becomes ‘your jewellery’ and not the forgotten pieces at the bottom of your jewellery box which are loved but don’t quite go with anything else…

Do you have pieces of jewellery that are the wrong colour? Can a chain be changed or a setting be plated to start your mismatched jewellery collection? If you have pieces that you love but don’t quite ‘fit’, then why not bring them in to us to see how we can make them become your next favourite piece of jewellery!

As always, if you have any jewellery questions then please do get in touch, we are only too happy to try and help.

I hope to see you in West Malling soon.

Clare X

 

Memorial Jewellery: pour your story in to your jewellery

Jewellery is often bought or commissioned to mark life’s happy milestones; a wedding, a birthday or an anniversary, but what about those moments that are not so happy, the difficult times in our lives which define who we are?

I’ve said it before, but I am an incredibly empathic person. (I’ve been known to cry at adverts! Do you remember the Yellow Pages one, J. R.Hartley, or am I just giving away my age…?) I have always loved to help people and often a design consultation ends up being more of a counselling session, as I listen to the stories that have led a person to our door. I find it hard to stay detached when someone lets me in to their most private moments, and always feel privileged that someone would trust me enough to share their stories.

You may not want to share your story and that’s fine, what is important is that you feel that the space we have created is safe enough for you to share if you want to.

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So what is memorial jewellery? Usually it is jewellery that commemorates a person who has died, but it can stand for whatever you want it to; the end of a relationship, overcoming an illness, or the start of a new chapter in your life.  Sometimes you just need something physical as a reminder. We have also been told by more than one person that the process of having something made or redesigned has a sort of healing effect. By encapsulating your thoughts and feelings in to a physical thing means that they no longer have to fill your head space as much.

But, what if you don’t know what you want to have made? Firstly, don’t worry, that is what we’re here for. The biggest step is starting the conversation, to see if you like the way we work and if you trust us to make this precious commission. It can be anything you want it to be; a ring made out of your Dad’s bracelet, earrings set with stones from your grandmother’s brooch, a pendant made to hold some ashes/a lock of hair, or even just a simple band ring. You know what it stands for and that’s all that matters. What is definite is that it will be unique to you, just like your experiences.

“You are unique, your jewellery should be too!”

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If you would like to read more about having something made at Varoshe then you can read our blog posts ‘How can I have something bespoke made?’, ‘Why should I have something bespoke made?’ or ‘A Case Study: Rob & Valeries engagement ring’

Still unsure? Feel free to get in touch, we are only too happy to answer any questions you might have.

I hope to see you in West Malling soon.

 Clare X

The Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship & Design Awards

Every February a special event is held at the Goldsmiths’ Hall in London, which is noted in the diary of every jeweller and metalsmith: The Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship & Design Awards. These prestigious awards are also called “The Jewellery Oscars” within the trade and are a celebration of all things metal; from the design to the finish piece, and all the processes in between.

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This year’s award has been especially close to our hearts because it was the year that Paul was invited to be a judge. It was a great honour, and I for one was very proud that Paul was asked.

In January Paul travelled up to London, to the Goldsmiths’ Centre, to look through this year’s entries along with his fellow judges. It was so interesting to see the awards from the inside because up until then we had only ever experienced them from the outside as entrants. I have always wondered how the awards were chosen so it was fascinating to hear about Paul’s experience…

Paul was judging the 3D Finished Pieces: Silversmiths, which included some impressive work. Each piece was laid out in one room for the judges to study and determine which, if any, were worthy of the award. All of the pieces were anonymous and the judges had to ask questions if they wanted to confirm any of the manufacturing details. The entries showed a variety of skills, including chasing, raising and box making. After a few hours of deliberation, the pieces that were to be given the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards were chosen. All that was left to do was to wait for the ceremony (which took place on Monday).

The awards are testament to the hours of hard work that go in to every design, every piece of jewellery or objet d’art, every stone that is set and every panel that is enamelled. The incredible skill that is evident within our trade always amazes me and the fact that I am a part of it makes me very proud. Every year I think about entering the competition again (it has been quite a few years), to see if I can win another award for one of my designs, and I know that Paul feels the same after his monumental win of the prestigious Jacques Cartier Memorial Award in 2009. (You can read more about Paul’s impressive, award winning model by clicking here.)

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Along with the usual award categories there are also special presentations which are given at the discretion of the Goldsmiths’ Council for their high standard of design or craftsmanship. The Jacques Cartier Award is one of these, another is the Goldsmiths’ Company Award, which this year was presented to the very talented John Moore (one of our lovely jewellers on display here at Varoshe). John’s incredible ‘Lacewing Verto Necklace’, is typical of his beautifully fluid and engineered style. His designs are stunning and I couldn’t be more proud to show his work in our little gallery!

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With Paul judging and John winning his very well deserved award, it has relit a spark in me, so much so that maybe 2020 will be the year that I enter the competition again…

If you want to read more about this year’s winners, then take a look at the 2019 brochure of the awards by clicking here

As always if you have any jewellery related questions please do get in touch, we are only too happy to try and help. You can find out how to contact us here.

Looking forward to seeing you in West Malling soon.

Clare X

Hallmarking - What does it mean?

I have always been fascinated by the hallmarks on jewellery and silverware, often looking them up to see how old something is. When we registered our own mark, it was a lovely feeling, as we joined the Register of Makers which spans back centuries. Every time we have something hallmarked I feel really proud that our little mark will be on that piece of jewellery forever, signifying that it was made by Varoshe long after we are all gone.

But what exactly is a hallmark? This month I decided that I would delve in to the history of our trusted hallmark and explain why it is such an important part of every piece that is made in the UK.

THE HALLMARK EXPLAINED

Metals used in jewellery (silver and gold for example) are often alloyed to make them more durable and easier to work with. (An alloy is a metal made up of a mix of metals.) Although there are some colour differences between the gold alloys, and weight differences between each type of metal, it is impossible to know for sure through sight and touch. Therefore, since 1757 it has been a legal requirement for all jewellers and silversmiths to have their work tested and hallmarked by an Assay Office.

There are four (main) Assay Offices in the UK today; London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. Most jewellers/silversmiths register with their nearest Assay Office, but in theory you could use any of them. Each assay office has its own mark to signify where the hallmark has been struck.

Leopard’s Head = London / Anchor = Birmingham / Rose = Sheffield / Castle = Edinburgh

Leopard’s Head = London / Anchor = Birmingham / Rose = Sheffield / Castle = Edinburgh

If a piece of jewellery weighs under the legal requirement for each metal then it does not need to be hallmarked. These weights are different for each metal…

Silver 7.78 grams

Gold and Palladium 1.00 gram

Platinum 0.50 gram

The UK Hallmarking Act (1973) meant that it is an offence to describe an unhallmarked item as being made from precious metal. For example, you would be required to describe a piece as precious white metal instead of sterling silver, if over the 7.78 gram weight limit and not hallmarked.

It is also a requirement for all ‘dealers’ (those who are in the business of making, supplying or selling precious metal articles) to display the statutory notice. Ours can be found on display in our showroom.

It is also a requirement for all ‘dealers’ (those who are in the business of making, supplying or selling precious metal articles) to display the statutory notice. Ours can be found on display in our showroom.

A Hallmark must legally show a minimum of three marks: A Sponsor’s Mark (identifying the maker of the piece), a Millesimal Fineness Mark (dictating the type and carat or fineness of the metal) and the Assay Office mark (identifying which Assay Office has struck the mark). These marks are either punched or more recently lasered in to the surface of the metal. You can have a look at the different types of mark by clicking on the Statutory Notice above.

In addition to these three marks, the London Assay Office also include two other marks as standard: The Date Letter Mark (indicating the year in which the item was struck) and a Traditional Fineness Mark (indicating the type of metal).

From left to right:  Maker’s Mark (Varoshe), Traditional Fineness Mark (silver), Millesimal Fineness Mark (sterling silver, 92.5% pure silver), Assay Office Mark (London), Date Mark (2018).

From left to right:

Maker’s Mark (Varoshe), Traditional Fineness Mark (silver), Millesimal Fineness Mark (sterling silver, 92.5% pure silver), Assay Office Mark (London), Date Mark (2018).

The UK hallmark is an institution full of history which dates back centuries. Here are just some of the major historical events that have happened since its inception in 1238…

HISTORY OF THE HALLMARK

1238 - Henry III passed an order, commanding the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London to choose six goldsmiths to oversee the craft. During this time the standards of gold and silver where stipulated to try and regulate the alloys used.

1300 - Edward I passed a statute to prevent frauds committed by goldsmiths when making their wares. The ‘Guardians of the Craft’ travelled from ‘shop to shop’ to stamp the leopard’s head mark in to pieces. Silver had to be of sterling standard (92.5% pure silver) and gold had to be of the ‘touch of Paris’ (19.2 carats).

1363 - Edward III decreed that a maker’s mark was to be struck next to the leopard’s head to show the which ‘smith had made the piece.

1478 - The gold standard was lowered to 18 carat and the Goldsmiths’ Company was made responsible for the ‘Keeper of the Touch’. As the Company was now liable for fines for any wrongful marking the date letter stamp was introduced, which was to be changed every year and identified the Touch Warden responsible for the mark.

It was from this point that the Goldsmiths’ Hall in London became the permanent home of the Assay Office, which some believe is the reason we use the term ‘Hallmark’.

1576 - The gold standard is raised to 22 carat and silver is confirmed as sterling.

1739 - The marker’s mark was standardised. All old marks were to be destroyed and all goldsmiths were to register new marks. These were to be of the maker’s initials and were made in a new style of lettering.

1757 - Counterfeiting hallmarks became illegal and was punishable by death!

1773 - Assay Offices in Birmingham and Sheffield were opened.

1798 - 18 carat gold was reintroduced as an additional standard alongside 22 carat.

1854 - 15, 12 and 9 carats were introduced, indicated by marks denoting their actual fineness. For example 9 carat was denoted with the number 375 which was to signify the 37.5% of gold in the alloy.

1855 - Gold wedding rings were made liable for hallmarking for the first time.

1932 - 15 and 12 carat gold standard were cancelled and were substituted for 14 carat, which is predominantly used outside of the UK today.

1973 - Royal Assent was given to pass the UK Hallmarking Act which consolidated all the existing measures for regulating the hallmark.

1975 - The platinum mark was introduced.

2006 - Satellite Assay Offices were opened in Greville Street, in Hatton Garden, Heathrow Airport (2008); and Graff Diamonds, in London (2015), which was the first office to be set up in a retail space.

If you are interested in reading more on the history or methods of marking a hallmark, why not have a look at the London Assay Office website (www.assayofficelondon.co.uk)?

As always if you have any jewellery related questions (like identifying the hallmark in your favourite piece of jewellery) please do get in touch, we are only too happy to try and help. You can find out how to contact us here.

Looking forward to seeing you in West Malling soon.

Clare X

2018 ~ what a year !

2019; how did that happen?! If you’re anything like me you still think of the millennium as only a few years ago, so it doesn’t quite compute that we are only a year away from the (roaring) twenty- twenties!

2018 has certainly been a bit of a whirlwind. This time last year I was writing a ‘2018 round-up’ blog post, detailing the restoration project, when sitting in our finished shop still felt like an age away. Now, eight months on from our grand opening I can’t remember what our lives were like before Varoshe. Don’t get me wrong it has definitely had its challenges, but the whole experience of starting our business has been incredible and well worth any sleepless nights that may have been involved.

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The last year has been a year filled with a lot of firsts; our first jeweller collaboration, our first Varoshe customer and our first Varoshe commission, but as the months rolled on we started to get in to the swing of things and our ‘first’ soon became our second, third, fourth…

We now display the work of fourteen independent jewellers and small businesses in our showroom, with more to join us in 2019. It has been a lovely experience to champion the people behind the jewellery, to shine a light on some of the incredibly talented designer/makers out there, and get to know them personally. By showcasing this type of jewellery we are not only helping to promote these creative people, but it means we can offer our customers something a little different, something a little special, something made with love and soul.

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The other side of our business is the bespoke design, and we have been overwhelmed by the customers who have trusted us to undertake the most sentimental of commissions.  We have remounted some inherited stones in to a new suite of jewellery, made engagement rings, ‘birth of a child’ presents, and even bereavement jewellery.

The stories that we have poured in to our customer’s jewellery this year have been beautiful, happy and sad, and have been such a privilege to be a part of. I always feel that the journey starts as customer and designer/ jeweller and ends as so much more; I don’t think you can share that sort of experience without building a relationship and that is why I love what we do.

With our first Christmas under our belts, we are looking forward to the year ahead. I am sure I will write many more blog post like this one, looking back at the year that was, and although I know that each will be incredible and exciting in its own right,  2018 will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the year that Varoshe was born and our dream became a reality.

Thank you to each and every one of you for making our first eight months so memorable!

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Looking forward to seeing you in West Malling soon.

 Clare X

Spotlight ~ a look at our designers

I am often asked if we make everything that is on display in our showroom. I guess it is an obvious question, but my answer is always the same, “No, but let me tell you why…”

I am a jewellery designer, a fact I am very proud of, and I can interpret your ideas in to that perfect piece of jewellery for you, BUT, I also have my own style, my own way of working and my own ideas of what makes jewellery beautiful. This is the style and aesthetic that I pull from when I design a collection for the shop or for myself and it may not suit everyone. So, owning a jewellers, how do we get around this? We showcase work from other designer/makers! It’s simple really, not only are we able to show different styles, and price points, but we can also champion the work of other jewellers. Those people that love their craft as much as we do!

With this in mind, I thought I would write about two of our designers to show you why I wanted to show their beautiful work in our showroom. (You can see a full list of all our jewellers by clicking here, although I am sure to share another Spotlight post on the blog in the coming months.)

ALICE BARNES

I first came across Alice on Instagram (I just love IG for looking at jewellery and making connections), and after several chats and double-taps we finally met up in at a London trade fair. I just love her style of work, and actually own a pair of earrings myself, so I knew I wanted to showcase her jewellery at Varoshe.

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Alice’s work is beautifully soft with its satin finish and ‘folded’ design; it really is lovely when the light hits it. Her collections are influenced by folded paper art, which is clear to see, especially in the paper plane design, which is just perfect for your first anniversary! (HINT: it’s paper!)

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"My collections originate from a playful exercise in which I limited my materials to small squares of silver sheet. By carefully piercing, forming and sometimes combining squares, I realised that just as in origami there were endless possibilities… My latest collection ‘Pleated’ continues to be inspired by paper, but to get the sharp folds and weighty quality I wanted to achieve, I decided to turn to wax carving and the ancient lost wax process. I carefully hand carve each section front and back to create elegant pieces with a touch of art deco sophistication.” – Alice Barnes

 

JOHN MOORE

John has been with us since the beginning. His work always receives stacks of attention and is definitely a showstopper collection. If you’ve been passed the shop in the last six months, you will definitely have seen his jewellery, you just can’t miss it!

We have two collections of John’s work here at Varoshe; Flight and Elytra. Both are predominantly made of anodised aluminium, which John dyes in different ways, depending on the collection…

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The Flight designs are especially eye catching, as they are dyed in layers to create the distinctive texturing of colours. The more you look at each piece the more you discover, and no two pieces are the same. Even the back of each ‘feather’ is coloured differently, giving a wonderful surprise element when viewed from behind.

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Elytra is made up of over lapping shapes to create a beautiful sense of movement. The individual ‘wings’ are made from sheets of aluminium, which is repeatedly dipped into baths of dye to create seamless, graduated colour. These sheets are then cut out, finished and formed by hand. The true beauty of the collection is that each piece is reversible, giving you a number of ways to wear it, depending on your mood.

 “Beyond the limits of traditional jewellery there is a world of possibility for self-expression.” – John Moore

I love all of our designer’s jewellery collections, but for very different reasons. Whether it is the feminine elegance of Jacks Turner’s work, or the unusual, playful designs by Cara Tonkin, they are all so contrasting in style that it will be hard not to find something that you like, and that’s the point! By showcasing our jewellery alongside that of other makers there is bound to be something to catch your eye.

If you would like to read more about our designers, you can do so here.

Hope to see in West Malling soon.

Clare X

How can I have something bespoke made?

This is a question we often get asked, and I know it can be daunting for some people…

~ How will you know what I want?

~ How much will it cost?

~ What will I end up with?

Don’t worry, we are here to help guide you through the whole process (and we’re really nice, honest).

The first thing to do is to come and see us. The process starts with a simple chat, usually over a cup of tea or coffee, where we ask a few questions to try and hone down your thoughts and ideas. Don’t worry if you haven’t a clue what you want, it is our job to ask the right questions so we can find out for you. The simplest way to do this is just to get to know you.

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We discuss your likes and dislikes, your main aim for the commission, your deadline (if you have one) and of course your budget. Whether you want to make something with a pearl, for a 30th wedding anniversary, or you want to use the diamonds from your Grandmother’s ring to make something that is ‘more you’, we are here to help guide you so that you can design your perfect piece of jewellery.

Once we have an idea of the sort of thing you would like (sometimes this can take 10 minutes, sometimes an hour) you would leave us to draw up some designs for you. This is a great way of showing you the options and variations that are possible, and means that you can add special details which will be unique to you. I always think this is so important, as this really is the whole reason to have something bespoke made: you get to add those little finishing touches to make this piece uniquely yours.

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At this point, we may also source stones for you to view, so you can choose your actual diamond or gemstone before we make the mount. This means you can choose the exact colour, quality and size of your stone. We can also mount a stone you already have, whether it be an inherited piece, or something you bought on holiday. Remember this is your experience, we are just here to bring your ideas to life.

The next step would be to come back in to look through and discuss the drawings. Sometimes one will jump straight out at you, other times we will continue to refine the details until we reach the perfect design, either way the process is always guided by you.

We would also usually give you a more formal estimate at this stage, sometimes showing you the cost differences between the various options, meaning you are in complete control of your budget at all times.

Once you are happy with the design (which can be as short or long a process as you want it to be), and have agreed the estimate, a 50% deposit would be paid in order for us to commence work in our workshop.

The making of your piece of jewellery usually takes between four and six weeks, but this is obviously dependent on the design complexity. We would advise you of the expected finish date and would always try to accommodate any personal deadlines you may have.

Once your piece of jewellery is ready we will notify you. The piece will be presented in a gift box and upon collection, the balance of the cost would be paid. For items over £1,000 a complimentary insurance valuation schedule would also be included.

We also offer gift vouchers so that you can give the whole experience to your loved one. (Don’t worry though, we will make sure we discuss the budget with you first!)

So you see, it really is that simple! The experience is completely designed around you, and you can be as involved (or not) as you want to be. Just give us a call, or pop in to start your bespoke commission.

Still not sure?  Go over to our testimonials page to read a few of the lovely comments we have had from our customers, or read our blog post about why I think it is so special to have something bespoke made.

Hope to see in West Malling soon.

Clare X

Valuations; are you up to date?

I have had a few customers in the shop this month asking about valuations. It is such a minefield that I thought I would write a little about it to try and help those of you who may be confused.

Firstly, I must tell you that it's not ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to valuations. Unfortunately there are lots of different prices depending on what you are using the valuation for. I will go through the main ones to try and give a broad overview, but if you are in any doubt then please do give us a call, I am more than happy to talk things through.

Insurance

This is also known as a value for replacement. It is used for obtaining insurance cover so that lost or damaged items can be replaced or repaired. The value in an insurance valuation will typically be higher than all other types of valuation, and should not be used as a guide of the resale value. The price will be based on what a broadly similar item would cost to replace in the unfortunate event of a loss or theft.

Most insurance companies require you to have an insurance valuation dated within the last three years, so make sure you keep yours up to date. During times when the bullion price is high, and the GBP is weak against the USD it is especially important to have regular updates. In 2008, when the crash happened, the price of gold and diamonds rose daily, so within a few months most people were severely under insured. Now, a lot of insurance companies took the crash in to consideration when calculating replacement values, but not all of them were so kind. It is always better to check your valuations rather than to find out the hard way, after a loss.

It is also useful to note that some insurance companies stipulate that your settings are checked annually to avoid any losses due to wear and tear. Think of it like an MOT. A lot of insurance companies won’t cover wear and tear so even if they don’t require you to get your jewellery checked it is best to bear it in mind, especially for pieces that are worn daily or that have a high value. If you are worried then feel free to bring your jewellery in for us to check.

Division

This type of valuation is used when dividing property between partners, for example during a divorce. The value stated will typically be a resale value, i.e. the amount you would hope to achieve if you sold your jewellery in the open market. This type of valuation should not be used to obtain insurance cover, not only will you be hugely under insured but you may jeopardise the rest of the settlement amount in the event of a claim.

Probate

This type of valuation is used in the calculation of inheritance tax and to obtain probate of a will after someone has died. Like a value for division, the value stated will typically be a resale value. It is worth checking to see the minimum value that needs to be stated on the valuation as some inexpensive pieces may not need to be itemised. If you are in any doubt then please bring everything in so that we can go through it with you.

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At Varoshe we carry out our valuations on the premises, giving you peace of mind when leaving your most precious items with us. Smaller valuations (1-2 pieces) can usually be completed within a week, depending on our work load at the time, but it is always best to give us a call to check. We price our valuations per item, as we feel it is the fairest way to do it (for our current prices please contact us). During the valuation service we will check all the settings and general condition of each piece, as well as to give your jewellery a complimentary ultrasonic clean.

If you have any questions then feel free to give us a call or send us an email, we are always more than happy to chat things through. And, if you want to understand a little more about the terminology used within a valuation, you can read our blog post which explains the ‘foreign language’ used by jewellers, by clicking here!

We look forward to seeing you in West Malling soon!

Clare X

Finding the perfect wedding ring, why compromise?

So you’re getting married, congratulations! Now it’s time to start planning; the venue, the food, the music, the rings… ”oh the rings, what do we choose?! There are so many options out there and we don’t want the same as everyone else…”!

Chances are, if your betrothed is a traditional romantic, you won’t have had any input in your engagement ring (hopefully it’s just perfect though). However, the wedding ring is a different matter. You can go nuts (budget depending) and have the ring you’ve always wanted! But there’s a snag, nothing you’ve seen so far is just right; it is either too wide, or too plain, or just doesn’t sit with your engagement ring. You know it must be out there somewhere, but you’ve only got six months to go and you’re running out of time…! Don’t panic, just breathe! That’s where we come in because we can make anything your heart desires!

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Seriously though, it can be stressful looking for the perfect rings; knowing what you want and what is possible, what won’t break the bank, as well as what will ‘go’ with the beautiful ring you already have, without making it look too much or detracting from it in anyway. A wedding ring should not only enhance your engagement ring but should also look great on its own, and with the little details we can add (the secret engraving, or the stones to signify the years you were together before you got married) you can make your ring truly yours.

The same goes if you don’t have an engagement ring. Why compromise? If you want to add a little detail, some stones, or a texture then why not? After all it's your ring, why settle for what other people think you should have?!

Wedding rings are one of my favourite things to design, the love and emotion that goes in to them is really special and I feel so privileged every time a couple commission us to make their bands. So, how do you do it? Well, it starts with a simple chat, normally over a cup of coffee (or glass of water if it is as hot as last week), where we discuss your thoughts and ideas and I get to know your likes and dislikes. We have loads of sample rings for you to try on, to give you an idea of what is possible, and once you have decided on the vague design the real fun can begin. We can start incorporating the details which will make the rings uniquely yours; the song lyrics written inside the bands, the tiny birthstone of your child, the engraving that only makes sense when both rings are together, did you know that we can even add your fingerprints on to the metal?

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A wedding ring doesn’t always need to be ‘jazzy’ (as my grandmother used to say), it can be a simple, elegant band, which can say enough without adding anything else. Sometimes it’s all that you or your engagement ring needs, but until you try some different styles on how will you know?

Whatever you choose, make it yours, after all this is an important decision. You will be looking at that little ring for the rest of your life, as it quietly reminds you of the day when you both said ‘I do!’

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Ready to come and have a chat? Head over to our Contact Us page to find out how you can get in touch. If you’re still not sure, you can read my blog posts about an engagement ring commission (by clicking here) and why I think it is so special to have something bespoke made (by clicking here).

If you have any questions then feel free to give us a call or send us an email, we are always more than happy to chat things through.

Look forward to seeing you in West Malling soon!

 Clare X

 

 

New Designers 2018

So it’s that time of year again, when all of the graduates from all of the art schools in the UK exhibit their degree shows at the renowned New Designers Exhibition. I love it, and actually closed the shop for the day to make sure I could go. It brings back so many memories of when I exhibited there as a fresh-faced graduate of Edinburgh Collage of Art, umm…let's just say, quite a few years ago.

2018 is the first year I have visited the show as a gallery owner and it was a lovely feeling to talk to all of the students, knowing that some of them may be displaying their work with me in the future. It really is a place to discover the next ‘big thing’ and the atmosphere at the show is palpable.

At last year’s show I spoke with Sonya Chauhan and Monique Jeffrey-Jones, who both now display their jewellery at Varoshe.

Sonya Chauhan ~ 'BURNT OUT', silver threader earrings

Monique Jeffrey-Jones ~ 'HAWKS TOR', silver gilt ring with garnet

The work on display is so different and exciting, and often has a sort of sculptural feel to it. There is a real sense of playfulness at New Designers, which I find so inspiring. Sometimes it is just what I need to wake me up from my summer stupor!

At this year’s show, I had the pleasure of talking with Eli Chang, a graduate of Sheffield Hallam University, whose work was beautifully sculptural. I especially loved his clever LED drop earrings, which light up when they swing in the wearer’s ear.

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Another designer that stood out was Anna Peake, a graduate from the UCA, Farnham. Her use of layers and mixed materials gave an incredible sense of depth to her work. Maybe not the most practical of pieces to wear daily, but it is so fun to see the possibilities and the broad scope that the word ‘jewellery’ encapsulates.

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It is definitely a show that I would recommend that you put in your diary, and is well worth the trip up to London. If nothing else, it is nice to support the new and up-and-coming designer/makers of the future! Unfortunately the first week has now finished (Textiles & Fashion, Costume Design, Surface Pattern Design, Ceramic, Glass, Jewellery and Contemporary Design Crafts), but the second week is about to start on Wednesday (Product Design, Industrial Design, Furniture Design, Spatial Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Animation Motion and Digital Arts). If this sounds up your street then you can find out more on the New Designers website, www.newdesigners.com.

Watch this space to see which ‘New Designers’ will be showing their work at Varoshe later in the year!

I look forward to seeing you in West Malling soon!

 

Clare X

 

 

Colour in your jewellery

As we are fast approaching the summer and starting to move away from those drab, grey, winter months (once the thunderstorms are out of the way), we can finally start getting those summer palettes out of the wardrobe, and what better way to accessorise that summer outfit than with a gorgeous gemstone? Whether it be the cool blue of an aquamarine, the soft pink of a kunzite, or the vibrant green of a peridot with the array of stunning colour choices out there, there is bound to be one just for you...

Blues: aquamarine, lapis lazuli, sapphire, topaz, zircon…

Blue is still by far the most popular of all the colours, suiting every skin tone without exception. With Meghan Markle wearing that incredible aquamarine ring on her wedding day, I am sure it is a trend that will continue.

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 Yellows and Oranges: amber, citrine, diamond, opal, sapphire…

A firm favourite for the summer months and a colour which always looks good on tanned skin. The use of mixed coloured metals can also add a little twist to a yellow stone design, enabling it to be worn with other pieces, no matter what they are made from.

Pinks and Reds: kunzite, morganite, ruby, sapphire, tourmaline…

Red is a difficult colour sometimes, and one that can look wrong on some skin tones (mine included). However with the rise in popularity of rose gold, the pink stones such a morganite are being used more and more in jewellery design. The neutral tone that a pink stone set in rose gold can achieve is simply beautiful and one that suits most skin tones.  

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Greens: emerald, jade, peridot, tourmaline, tsavorite…

Depending on your skin tone, some greens will look better than others. Set in white metal green stones will exhibit more of a cool tone, whereas in yellow, their warmer tones with be more dominant. It is with this knowledge of how colours can ‘pull each other’ that jewellery designers can manipulate a stone’s hue to suit you.

Purples: alexandrite, amethyst, iolite, sapphire, tanzanite…

Another colourway with plenty of tonal difference, is purple. The warm purple of an amethyst looks amazing on darker skin tones, while the cool indigo of a tanzanite suits a slightly paler skin. Generally purple stones look great in white metal, but sometimes the warmer shades are made to look even richer in a yellow or rose gold setting.

Of course, gemstones aren’t the only way to add a bit of colour to your jewellery. These incredible earrings by one of our designers, John Moore, are made from anodised aluminium, and there is no getting away from the fact that his colour combinations are awesome, especially when the sunlight hits them!

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If you are a little magpie, like me, and love a bit of sparkle then why not come and have a chat about adding some colour to your jewellery box? After all, “you are unique, your jewellery should be too!”

Look forward to seeing you in West Malling soon!

 

 Clare X

The grand opening edition

Before I started to write this month’s blog, I re-read April’s post for some inspiration. In the last paragraph, I had written, “I can’t wait to be sitting in my shop, at my desk, looking around at all the cabinets and showcases. It will be a dream come true…”, and that is exactly what I am doing, because Varoshe ~ bespoke jewellery is now open! I still can’t quite believe it. We have been open for just over a week and things are going really well so far. Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive, we’ve been inundated with cards and flowers; it’s been lovely!

The showroom is everything I wanted it to be, Paul has done an absolutely amazing job renovating our little premises. The attention to detail, love and care that he has put in to this project has been inspiring, I don't think anyone can believe the amount of work that he has done. When I think back to last year and the state our poor little building was in, it does not seem possible that we would get it all done. To say the last few weeks have been stressful, is a huge understatement. If it wasn’t for the incredible help and support of our friends and family, I don't think we would have been able to open on the 21st. I will be eternally grateful to each and every one of you for everything you have done for us.

Even though we have only been open for a few days, the Grand Opening already seems a like a distant memory, for which I blame the sleep deprivation and perhaps the prosecco! It was such a great day! We were absolutely packed, so the atmosphere was amazing. I am sure the superb weather had something to do with it, it was beautifully timed, especially considering how miserable the weather is at the moment. The day was a huge success, we really couldn’t have asked for more. I would actually love to do it all over again (perhaps without the sleepless nights though). Maybe we will have to organise another event later in the year…

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Over the next few weeks we will try to get back to normal. On Sunday, Paul and I had our first day-off in two years; it was amazing and so nice to spend some time away from the shop. Now that we are actually sleeping again my design brain is starting to wake up too, which is good as we have already taken on a couple of commissions. It is so nice to be able to draw again, I didn’t realise how much I have missed it over the last few weeks. I can’t wait to start designing some stock pieces too!

Now we are open, feel free to pop in and say hi! We will be here Monday -Saturday, 9:30am - 5:00pm, and will also be open on Farmer’s Market Day. If you are passing West Malling then be sure to come and see what we have done with the place.

Look forward to seeing you soon!

 Clare X

 

The Restoration Story

Well how did that happen?! April, already! So I guess that means that the opening is this month...

I can't quite believe it, after over three years we will be finally opening our doors. I am not sure it will feel real until I am sitting behind my desk and the excitement of the opening has died down. The last few years have been filled with planning, organising and researching, I am not sure what I will do with myself after the 21st!

As this is my last blog post before we open our new showroom, I thought I would have a look back at the work we have done over the last year, restoring our beautiful building in West Street.

To say it has been a huge effort is a complete understatement. I cannot believe the amount of work that Paul has done. He has been absolutely incredible, working every weekend and every evening, whilst still holding down his full time job. I am amazed, every single day at his dedication to our little shop and the faith that he has in me to make it a success; I couldn’t do it without him. With a lot of help from Lewis, Paul has literally rebuilt our, soon to be, jewellery showroom.

Although we knew that the building would take a lot of restoring, I don’t think that any of us appreciated just how much, and obviously before you can rebuild, you have to demolish! This stage actually didn’t take too long, the building was back to bare brick with a mud floor within the first month. However, putting it back together has taken a year! We have had to replace rotten joists, floorboards, and all of the plasterboards because they had water running down the back of them! If we had known just how much work the restoration would take, I am not sure we would done it, but I am so glad that we did!

Once the building was watertight and dry, we could start replacing the floor plates, all of the joists and floor boards, re-battening the walls, insulating and installing the new plasterboard. All of this took nine months, which blew our original completion date out of the water! After a small debate, the Grand Opening date was finally set: Saturday, 21 April. This gave us a deadline to work to, but it did cause a few sleepless nights. Even though it cranked up the stress levels, we definitely needed to do it because this mammoth project could easily have taken another year. I am sure there will still be plenty of jobs to do after we open but the majority of the work will be done, one way or another.

On Friday, whilst I am sure most of you were enjoying the start of your long weekend, we were at the shop, painting the walls and cleaning up the beams in the roof. The final wall colour is now on (although Lewis thinks it still looks white) and the skirting was fitted yesterday.

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With only three weeks to go until we open, it is all noses to the grind stone. I even relined one of our antique cabinets at 7.30 yesterday morning! Writing this, I realise that it sounds like I am moaning, and I’m not. We love it, because it is ours. I can’t wait to be sitting in my shop, at my desk, looking around at all the cabinets and showcases. It will be a dream come true, and then the really hard work will begin; running our bespoke jewellery business.

I know that we will be a success, how can we not be when we are this committed!

I look forward to seeing you in West Malling, later this month!

 Clare X

A case study ~ Rob & Valerie's engagement ring

I have helped lots of people create their engagement rings over the years. It is such a privilege and one that I will never tire of. It is incredible to think that once I have designed the ring I will be part of its story forever more. I have created pieces for such amazingly open people and have made several friends along the way. For me, as it is such an emotional journey to create a piece of bespoke jewellery, I think it is hard to not be left with some sort of connection.

With this in mind, I thought it would be nice to share one of these journeys with you (with permission from the owner of course)...

Rob contacted me in July 2017, asking to discuss the possibility of having an engagement ring made for his girlfriend, Valerie. We arranged a consultation and chatted over a coffee about what he wanted and what he thought Valerie might like. It was going to be a complete surprise so it was imperative that I got to know as much as possible about the kind of couple Rob and Valerie were, as well as the sort of ring they were looking for.

Rob had decided that he wanted a blue stone, as "...Val has blue eyes." (I love little details like this, it truly makes the design unique to you and every little element that we add tells the story of who you are as a couple. It can be something as simple as adding a birthstone or a favourite colour, it doesn't really matter, what is important is that the meaning behind it is yours.)

I asked about the rest of Valerie's jewellery to try and get a feel for her style.  Rob explained that it was all quite unusual, and that she didn't like "...standard designs". I drew out a few (very rough) sketches to show Rob the kind of thing we could make. He liked one of the sketches and so we agreed that I would draw up some options for him to view and source some stones, including a blue sapphire.

After completing the designs, Rob and I met for a second time. We had another chat and talked about Rob's plan to take Valerie away to Paris for their anniversary in September. He had decided that this was going to be the perfect opportunity to 'pop the question'. (It is these conversations that make my job such a privilege. At that moment there were only two people on the planet that knew of Rob's intention of asking Valerie to marry him, and Rob had decided that second person was to be me!)

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Rob chose an asymmetric design that was to encorporate a single, central stone, with smaller stones in the shoulders of the ring. As I had promised I had sourced a blue sapphire for Rob to view, as well as a couple of wildcards; a blue diamond and a white diamond. Although Rob had originally wanted a blue sapphire, he changed his mind after seeing the diamonds and so we adjusted the design to add the blue sapphire colour in to the shoulders. It was truly going to be a one of a kind ring!

Rob picked up the completed ring, along with a surprise booklet that I had made, documenting the ring's journey, from the initial consultation, through all of the manufacturing processes, to the finished piece. It was just a little extra for Valerie, to show how much love and thought had gone in to this very special present.

I wished him luck for his surprise trip to Paris and asked that he let me know how it all went.

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A few weeks later, I received this (which is why I do what I do)...

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Dear Clare and all at Varoshe,

Just a small note to say thanks for all your hard work in making our (Valerie’s) ring.

I came to you with little idea really of what I wanted, just with an idea of budget and of a deadline, and you were able to meet both, which helped alleviate a lot of stress.  I can easily imagine the whole situation getting a bit tense, but there really was no danger of that.

As well as being very happy with the final ring (she loves it by the way!), she is also in love with the other small touches.  She even loves the box the ring came in!  And as for the little book, she basically carries it round with her everywhere and will happily show anyone who shows even the slightest interest.

Most importantly of all, we feel like we have a unique story to tell.  I don't know if I told you but we were foreign exchange students together over a decade ago and met up again years later by pure chance.  I hate the idea that after all that story, I’d have ended up getting down on one knee with something I’d just picked up from a High Street shop, that had been made in a factory and of which there are a thousand copies.

Our story is one-of-a-kind and now, thanks to you, so is Valerie’s ring.

Thank you so, so much for all your help in making this possible; thank you for always being so prompt to respond when I was worried; and thank you for the beautiful ring.  Needless to say she said yes!

We’ll be sure to send you some photos from the big day in June!

Best Wishes,

Rob (and Valerie)

If you want to create your own unique engagement ring, or start your jewellery story, then you can get in touch here. Not sure if it is for you? I have written a blog post about why you should have something bespoke made, you can read it here.

Our showroom opens in April, so we hope to see you in West Malling soon.

Clare x

Jewellery wear and tear; what to expect

The jewellery that we wear every day can take a bit of a battering. We tend not to think about what we put it through; it’s made of metal and it will last forever, right? Unfortunately this is not the case. Jewellery, like all things, needs to be looked after and cared for, and certain pieces will need to be looked after more than others.

Rings

Rings are automatically susceptible to hard wear just because of where they are worn. Our hands are constantly being knocked and therefore our rings are too. It is imperative that the settings of your rings, especially pieces that are worn daily, are checked regularly. Stones can easily be knocked loose and can begin moving in their settings. If you notice a stone moving or spinning, then get it checked straight away, it could be a sign that your setting is worn or has had a knock.

Certain setting styles, like claws, are particularly delicate and should be checked by a jeweller at least once a year. Worn claws can be rebuilt, so keep an eye to see if your claws begin to feel very flat. You should expect to have to ‘re-tip’ your claws every three to five years if a ring is worn regularly. If your ring is older than this, it is probably time to get it checked. When a claw is new you can easily feel it when rubbing your finger over it. As the claw begins to wear away, it will appear less prominent until there is nothing but a fine layer of metal left. Ultimately this will break away leaving your stone exposed and at a risk of dropping out of the setting. Always get your rings checked if you are worried.

Bracelets

Bracelets, like rings, are more prone to wear, as they too get pulled around a lot. The links nearest to the clasp are always the first ones to wear out, so be sure to have these checked regularly. I know that a lot of our customers like to wear their jewellery all of the time, but this is not good for it. When we sleep we tend to move around, our jewellery, especially bracelets, can be pulled and stretched which will weaken the links and ultimately wear out the piece of jewellery more quickly. It is always better to take your bracelets off before going to bed to keep them wearable for longer.

Earrings

Whilst earrings aren’t susceptible to the same wear as rings or bracelets, the fittings can become weak. Butterflies are normally held on by tension; the older the butterfly, the weaker the hold. Sometimes these can be reshaped to make them tight again, but if not, a new pair of butterflies is much simpler than trying to replace one earring!

Drop earrings can cause problems as they can easily be hooked out of the ear. This is especially a problem in the winter months, when we tend to wear scarfs and big collars. An easy way to prevent this is to simply pop a butterfly or plastic stay on to the hook of the earring, and push it round to sit at the back of the ear.

Necklaces

Like earrings, pendants are not as prone to wear as rings or bracelets. However, the loop (the piece of the pendant that holds it on to the chain) can become worn over time. The loop can usually be built up again or replaced so it is always better to have it checked if you notice that the loop is looking misshapen or dented by the chain.

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Obviously there is a lot more to jewellery upkeep than these simple points, so if you have any specific questions then why not get in touch here. If in doubt it is always better to take your jewellery to a professional so that it can be checked.

Looking forward to seeing you in West Malling really soon.

 Clare X

2017 ~ What a year!

What a busy year 2017 has been, and I know I am not alone in saying that the last twelve months have just flown by! As we are now at the start of 2018 (which I know will be one of the most amazing, terrifying and exciting years of my life) I thought I would look back over 2017 to see how far we have come in the journey of building our business.

Back in January 2017 opening our shop still seemed like a distant dream. We were fast approaching the second anniversary of our initial purchase offer. Our lives seemed like they were in limbo, constantly waiting for the go ahead from the solicitors. It seemed never ending, but we had invested so much time and effort that we felt we couldn’t just walk away. I have to admit that there were times that Paul and I did consider whether we were doing the right thing, but I am so glad we stuck with it, because on 12 March 2017, we collected the keys to our (soon to be) shop.

I remember the first day we walked in to 2 West Street; it was so surreal! We had visited many times over the course of the two years, but to think it was finally ours was very strange. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I believe it, even now. I don’t think it will really sink in until it is actually happening, until I have packed up my day job and we open the doors to Varoshe ~ Bespoke Jewellery.

We started work the very first day, changing the locks and starting to demolish the police counter. I think Paul was so keen to get started after two long years of planning and waiting. At last, our dream was one step closer, but little did we know just how much work was still to come…

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We always knew the building was ‘in a state’, the surveyor had hinted as much, but until we started removing the old, rotten wall and floor coverings we didn’t realise the extent of the neglect. Most of the plaster boarding crumbled off the walls, and the floor joists were completely rotten. You could literally break them apart with your fingertips! The more we uncovered, the more decay was revealed. Although Paul didn’t seem phased by any of it, I have to admit that I was shocked at the state of things. I guess, more than anything, I was upset that this once beautiful building was just locked up and left to slowly crumble.

Once all of the rotten, damp and broken materials were removed (around 250 rubble sacks full), the rebuild could begin. Over the course of the next six months, the walls and floors would be dried out, the rotten materials would be replaced, the back wall would be re-rendered and the old wiring and pipe work would be upgraded. Things did take longer than we would have liked, but if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right!

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Our original opening date of October came and went and still the restoration continued. This mammoth project has been a real labour of love, trying to juggle full-time jobs, with every spare waking moment spent building (either literally, or on the computer concentrating on the business side of things). Last night I asked Paul, “If you had known just how much work there was to do, would you still have wanted to go for it?” His response, “Of course, I love it, and I know it will be great once it’s finished!”

After all the incredible restoration work that has been done so far, we are still a little way off completion, but I am pleased to say that there is finally light at the end of the tunnel; we have actually started selecting paint colours! As we slowly work our way down the to-do list, things should start to fall in to place. This morning we wrote the ‘Final List’, trying to prioritise the jobs still left to do as we come in to the home stretch of the build. Over the next few weeks you will probably start to see things being moved in to the (soon to be) Varoshe showroom; whether it be gallons and gallons of paint, an array of lights, an eclectic mix of display cabinets, or the copious amount of hand tools which Paul insists he ‘needs’. 2018 is sure to be a busy one, and if it is anything like the last twelve months it is bound to be amazing.

Looking forward to seeing you in West Malling really soon.

 Clare X

What is it like to be a jewellery designer?

When someone asks what I do for a living, and I reveal that I am a jewellery designer, I generally get one of two reactions;

1) “Oh, wow! I would love to do something creative like that. I’m just not artistic at all! It must be such a glamourous lifestyle, tell me more…”

2) “That’s nice.” [End of conversation.]

Once, I was even told (with a slight sigh), “What a waste!”  I was temping at the time, for a solicitors office, trying to make some money over the summer whilst I studied for my degree in (you’ve guessed it) jewellery design and making. That was quite some time ago, but it has always stuck with me, it hurt and it almost tainted the career path I had chosen. It was honestly his view that as an intelligent young woman, studying at university, I was wasting my time being a creative. As I have got older I have come to realise that I am not ashamed of being creative, that it does not mean I am ‘playing’ at having a career. I love my job! I get to meet and work with amazing people every day and have the privilege to be involved in some of their life's most precious moments. I wonder how many people can say that, and with the opening of our new showroom next year, it means I can work in my very own space and will not be stuck in a stuffy office, without a window (like the solicitor who thought I was wasting my time).

With this in mind I thought I would describe what it is like to be a jewellery designer (for those of you who would answer like person number 1).

I always start a commission in the same way; with a simple chat, usually over a cup of tea or coffee. In order for me to design something which truly connects to someone I need to get to know them first. I need to understand their style, their reason for having something made, as well as to understand how they want to wear the piece. What I mean by this is that if you are someone who never takes your jewellery off, it is no good for me to design something super delicate, which will need to be worn with great care, it just will not be suitable for you. I believe that my main aim as a designer is to interpret what the customer wants, not what I want to give them. Obviously my designs will always be in my unique style, but I have met so many designers over the years who design what they want to design and so the customer ends up with what they are given, rather than what they truly wanted. If you want a piece that is in a particular designer’s style then that is absolutely fine, but if you want something that is yours, truly yours, with all the symbolism and meaning that makes you unique, then that is why you should come to a designer like me. What people never understand is that not everything I design is necessarily to my taste, but that doesn’t matter! What is important is that my client ends up with their perfect piece of jewellery, which speaks to them, and each commission will be slightly different depending on the individual’s wants or needs.

"You are unique, your jewellery should be too!"

After the initial chat, I start to draw up some design options. I like to hand draw and render the designs, not only because I enjoy it, but also I think that it makes it slightly more personal, that someone has drawn this specifically for you. It is all part of the process and I honestly believe that this part of the commission is just as important as the final jewellery piece. In a world where online shopping is so instant (and cold), I think we are losing the actual experience of shopping, and the emotional connection that talking to an actual person can provide. Sometimes the true fun in buying something is the process before the actual purchase; the trying-on, the comparing, the researching. In truth I think it is this excitement building service and experience which we offer to our customers that will set us apart from others, especially our internet competition.

“the journey is often more important than the destination.”

Depending on the initial conversation, the number of designs I will do can be anything from a single drawing, just to confirm everything we spoke about, to a selection of sketches to show the various options and tweaks that can be made around a theme. At this point I would also source the stones, if the design includes them. Sometimes this won’t be necessary, as a lot of my clients provide their own; for example from an inherited piece of jewellery or a gemstone they have bought on holiday.

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Once the drawings are finished I would usually invite the client back for another chat. I always find this a much better way of working, as I can explain and discuss the different options, rather than just ‘coldly’ sending the images by email.  I can get a much clearer reading from a face-to-face chat of whether we are on the right track or whether some further refinement is needed. Upon deciding on the final design and choosing the perfect stone, the piece would then be passed over to the workshop to be made. It all seems so quick when I write it down like this, but sometimes this ‘simple’ process can take months. I remember one client who spent over six months choosing the perfect sapphire for her engagement ring. Now, this is very extreme, and I am pretty sure that she actually ended up going back to the very first stone that I showed her, but it goes to show that everyone’s ‘jewellery journey’ will be unique.

The actual making of the piece is incredible, I love watching Paul in the workshop. He makes it seem so effortless, and I am always amazed at the intricate detail he can achieve even with his huge sausage fingers. I promise I will write another post about how something is made, it is fascinating.

When the metalwork has been completed, the stones have been set and the hallmark has been struck, the finished piece can be collected. I always get butterflies in my stomach at this stage. I guess because so much of myself is in every piece that I design, I want it to be loved (which of course it always is)! If I have done my job correctly, the piece we have made will be perfect, with every detail unique to you, to symbolise the moment that made you say...

“I would like to have something bespoke made.”

We will be opening our showroom, in West Malling in 2018, but in the meantime if you would like to get in touch about a commission, feel free to send me an email here. You can also keep up to date with our news on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

Looking forward to seeing you in West Malling soon.

Clare X

Why should I have something bespoke made?

I am an emotional person. I always cry at sad films, I over think everything, and the most important thing in my life is my family (in which I include my closest friends). I will find the emotional connection in anything (I will often refer to an object as a ‘him’ rather than an ‘it'), and I think jewellery is the epitome of an emotional purchase.

Every piece of jewellery I own, without exception, has a story behind it. Whether it be a pair of earrings that I bought while I was on holiday, or a ring that I made out of some old gold that my Gran gave to me a few years before she died. I can honestly say that every piece has a story and marks some period, or memory in my life.

I do not think I am unique in this either. Since I have begun this journey of building our business I have often asked friends about the jewellery they are wearing and the story behind it. I am yet to come across anyone who doesn’t have some sort of a background story, setting the scene of how they acquired the certain piece that they are wearing. I find it fascinating; the reasons that we are attracted and connected to our jewellery like nothing else we own. If this holds true with everyone, then imagine the symbolism and emotional connection that could be achieved if a piece of jewellery is made specifically for us, rather than just bought off the shelf.  As every milestone or significant event in our life is unique to us, so every piece of jewellery should be unique too.

I believe that this is the true beauty of having something bespoke made; we can actually incorporate these memories or special occasions in to the design. I have often added small details in to a piece of jewellery to signify something important; from an engraved message, a hidden birthstone, or even an infinity symbol in to the bezel of a ring. I think it is so important to add these little touches, especially in to a symbolic piece being made to mark a special occasion. Why have a piece of generic jewellery which everyone else has, when you can have something which is uniquely yours?

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Over the years I have seen the impact and delight that these little details can give. The simple act of placing your child’s birth stone in to an eternity ring, or redesigning a family heirloom, instantly creates an emotional connection and will make the piece even more treasured.

“You are unique, your jewellery should be too!”

Want to find out how you can tell your story through your jewellery? Go to our Contact Us page to get in touch, or visit us at our showroom in West Malling, opening in 2018.

Clare X

Jewellery as a foreign language.

Jewellery terms can be like a foreign language. Sometimes it can be hard to follow what a designer or maker is saying. In order for you to understand what on earth we are going on about, here is a list of a few of the more common terms... 

ABRADED ~ A term to describe the wear on a gemstone, often meaning the facets have been worn away leaving a pitted, matte finish to the exposed portion of a stone.

BACK HOLE ~ The hole/holes in a mount, underneath a stone, to allow for light and/or cleaning.

BAROQUE ~ A term used to describe the organic/irregular shape of a pearl.

BASKET ~ The wire or frame work of a setting/head.

BEZEL ~ 1) A part of a setting/collet. There is often more than one bezel within a collet; typically one to support the gemstone and one to support the base of the collet (to sit on the skin of the wearer). Sometimes more bezels are added as a design feature.

 2) A style of setting, in which a gemstone is held in place by a ‘tube’, with metal supporting every edge of the stone’s girdle. (Sometimes called a rub-over setting.)

CARAT ~ 1) A unit of weight for precious stones, sometimes abbreviated to ‘ct’. (One of the 4 c’s of diamond grading.) 1.00 carat is equivalent to 0.2 grams.

2) A measure of the purity of gold (pure gold being 24 carats).

CHENIER ~ A small piece of tube, often used on-end to give details to settings and shanks.

CLARITY ~ Used when describing the quality of diamonds in terms of the existence and visual appearance of internal characteristics. (One of the 4 c’s of diamond grading.) The size, position, number and characteristics of the inclusions determine the clarity grade of a diamond. The clarity of a diamond can affect the brilliance of the stone, as well as the stability of its structure.

CLAW ~ A stone setting style, in which a small wire holds a gemstone in place.

COLLET ~ A term to describe the whole setting that holds a single gemstone.

COLOUR (grade) ~ 1) The classification of body colour of coloured gemstones, expressed in terms of hue, tone and saturation.

 2) The classification of body colour of cut diamonds. (One of the 4 c’s of diamond grading.) There are several colour grading scales used throughout the world. The G.I.A (Gemological Institute of America) categorise the grades from colourless (D) to yellow, brown or grey (Z), beyond this is termed Fancy.

CROWN ~ The upper portion of a gemstone that begins just above the girdle.

CUT ~ 1) In gemstone terms, a fashioned stone opposed to a rough or uncut stone.

2) The shape of a stone.

3) The proportions to which a gemstone is polished. (One of the 4 c’s of diamond grading.)

CULET ~ The point at the bottom of a gemstone. Sometimes (especially in antique stones) the culet is polished flat, to sit parallel to the table.

DAYLIGHT ~ The gap between two bezels in a stone setting (also called a gallery).

FACET ~ One of the polished planes of a cut gemstone. Different cuts of stones have different amounts of facets.

GALLERY ~ 1) The gap between two bezels in a stone setting (also called a daylight).

2) The detail underneath the setting/head.

GIRDLE ~ The widest point of the circumference of a gemstone. It is the perimeter of the stone which separates the gem’s crown from its pavilion.

GRUB SETTING ~ Also called a flush setting, in which a gemstone is set flat (flush) into a piece of metal.

HALLMARK ~ A mark stamped or lasered on to articles of gold, silver or platinum by the British Assay Offices. A hallmark will include the maker’s mark (the person/company who manufactured the article), the alloy purity (the carat of gold, standard of silver etc), the Assay Office mark (the location of the office) and the year of manufacture.

HEAD ~ The setting of a ring, holding more than one stone.

INCLUSION ~ Marks/imperfections within a diamond. Internal marks are called inclusions and surface defects are called blemishes.

KNIFE EDGE ~ A facetted metal bar or shank, with a triangular cross section, often used an illusion to make the body of metal look slimmer.

LOOP ~ The part of a pendant which allows the chain to slide through. Sometimes called a bail.

LUSTRE ~ The soft glow/sheen used to describe the surface of a pearl.

MILLGRAIN~ A finish given to a setting edge, which gives a beaded effect. More commonly seen in antique or vintage style jewellery.

MOUNT ~ 1) (noun) The metal body of a piece of jewellery.

2) (verb) The act of creating a metal body for a gemstone to be set in to.

PAVE ~ A setting style, in which the gemstones are seated in to a flat piece of metal and small beads are cut up around the stone to hold it in place. Used when small stones are to be set over a large area or when the design is such where the individual stones are to be ‘hidden’ within the mount to create a sparkly effect.

PAVALLION ~ The lower portion of a gemstone that begins just below the girdle.

POINT ~ Another unit to describe the weight of a gemstone. 1 carat is the equivalent to 100 points.

RUB-OVER ~ A setting style, in which a gemstone is held in place by a ‘tube’, with metal supporting every edge of the stone’s girdle. (Sometimes called a bezel setting.)

SETTING ~ 1) (noun) The metal which holds a gemstone in place.

2) (verb) The act of putting a gemstone in to a mount.

SHANK ~ The part of a ring that goes around the finger, excluding the settings/collets/head.

SHOULDER ~ The part of the shank which is connected to the setting/collet/head of a ring.

SPECTACLE SETTING ~ A setting style, in which a gemstone is only held around its girdle, with no further bezels/metal work.

STAMPED ~ The term used when an article is not hallmarked, instead stating an abbreviated metal standard/description (i.e PLAT, 18K). Often used in items of foreign manufacture.

TABLE ~ The largest facet of a cut stone; the flat surface on the top.

THREAD & GRAIN ~ A setting style, similar to pave, in which the gemstones are seated in to a flat piece of metal and small beads are cut up around the stone to hold it in place. Used when the stones are to be set in a continuous line, like an eternity ring.

 

There are obviously hundreds of other words and terms, but you should never be afraid to ask if you do not understand something. Our job as designer/makers is to guide you through your jewellery commission or repair, so it is important to us that you understand every aspect of the journey. If you have any jewellery questions, then why not get in touch, we are here to help.

Clare X