behind the scenes

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

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

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.

Eli Chang

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

 

 

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

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

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

What does Varoshe mean?

This is a question that I get asked a lot! It is an unusual word, and something that has no obvious meaning, so I thought I would explain...

A lot of children have trouble saying certain words when they are learning to talk. The word 'yellow' is one that seems to stump most of us when we are discovering the colours of the spectrum. The most common pronunciation would be 'lellow', but this wasn't the one that I went for, it was varoshe! 

When I was small, my Grandpa had a royal-blue Ford Escort, whereas my Dad had a bright-yellow Volkswagon Jetta. My description of the two cars was always, "Blue, Grandpa's car, varoshe, Daddy's car!" So it became a family description for the colour, yellow (especially the bright, Jetta yellow) was always called varoshe.

What was strange about my new name for the colour was that it didn't mean that it was my favourite. In fact when I was around four years old, I became completely intolerant of the colour, even to the point that I ended up changing the whole colour scheme of my second cousin's wedding. I was the flower girl and flatly refused to wear the beautiful pale yellow dress that had been chosen for me. Instead the wedding colours were changed and I ended up wearing a very sickly sweet peach coloured dress! 

Varoshe is pronounced va-rosh. I decided to add the ‘e’ to the spelling when I first used it as my design name back in 2000. I simply preferred the way the word looked. After all it is my word so I got to choose how I wanted to spell it!

When I completed my degree and started my career as a jewellery designer my Dad bought me my first domain name, www.varoshe.com. This is the one that we still use today, and as an homage to the original meaning of Varoshe, I decided to add small details of yellow around our website. It just felt right and I thought it was important to remember the little girl, in the varoshe dungerees, who came up with our name all those years ago.

Little Clare 2.jpg

This is a bit new...!

Hi there and thank you for checking in.

Well, this is a bit new! Apart from being the first Varoshe blog post, it is actually my first blog post FULLSTOP. It just goes to show that you really can learn something new every day?!

I thought I would start this blog to talk about what it has been like to start up our business, as well as to give interesting and useful facts about jewellery in general, so here goes...

Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Clare and I am the Director and Jewellery Designer here at Varoshe Ltd. This business has been a dream child of mine and my partner Paul's (who incidentally is also a jeweller / goldsmith / silversmith / gallery restorer / general all round handy bloke), and has been a VERY long time coming. We had talked about setting up on our own for years and finally made the decision to take the plunge.

In 2013 we started looking seriously at places to set up shop; West Malling being number one on our list. We just loved the atmosphere and the small town community. The independent shops were (and still are) beautiful and made such a change from the generic blue-chip filled towns of most High Streets. Unfortunately there was nowhere available in West Malling so we had to start looking elsewhere. Honestly though, nowhere else even came close, so the dream got temporarily shelved.

Fast forward to a Sunday afternoon in February 2015, when I was again searching online for suitable retail spaces, I came across an advert for an old Police office for sale in West Malling. It seemed too good to be true, so on Monday morning I made a phone call to the agent to set up an appointment. We made an offer in March 2015, and two years later it was ours! It seems crazy as I read that back, but it really did take that long! My advice to anyone thinking of buying a property from the Police or Council...DON'T! Unless of course you are in no hurry whatsoever, it will literally take years!!

Since we got the keys to 2 West Street, in March 2017, Paul has been feverishly restoring it. It has been quite upsetting to see the state that this lovely old building has been allowed to get in to, and it is for this reason that things are taking so long. Our original plan was to open in October, but unfortunately this is no longer going to be possible, there is just too much work still to be done. We have therefore decided to open in the spring of 2018. It seems like a long way off, but it will allow us to do things properly and restore this lovely old building back to how it should be. I have such a clear image of how our gallery is going to look, I really cannot wait to show it to everyone. For now though, I will just have to be patient.

Hope to see you all in West Malling soon.

Clare X