If I say Zircon to you, what do you think of?
I'm guessing you would fall into one of two camps......1 ~ never heard of it......2 ~ isn't that cubic zirconia??
Zircon and Cubic Zirconia are very different. CZ is a lab created stone that is used as a diamond substitute along with Moissanite, whereas Zircon is a natural gemstone. Zircon has such similar properties to diamonds that the two were often confused.
Zircon comes in almost any colour you can think of, from white/colourless to pinks to blues to yellows to oranges to violets and everything in between! My personal favourite is Cognac Zircon, such a lovely rich colour. Green is the rarest and therefore very expensive.
An example of green Zircon can be seen in the George Pendant. This is a huge 43.79 carat natural green Zircon (virtually all Zircon is heat-treated to enhance the colour) from the Ratnapura mines in Sri Lanka, and was cut by George Cravoshay and set into this pendant by his wife, designer Paula Crevoshay. It's large size and the fact that it has not been treated makes it incredibly rare and currently sits in the Smithsonian.
The egg cup that my husband challenged me to make for his birthday/Christmas is complete! I don't normally take THIS long to finish a piece but with working on shows and commission pieces, I'm afraid this had to be worked on in my "spare" (!) time.
I really enjoyed this process, learning new techniques that I can transfer to my jewellery and seeing how much work goes into a piece like this. If we think back to a time, many many moons ago, where pretty much everything was made by hand, those silversmiths have my utmost respect.
Here are the photos from start......
....to finish! TA DA!!!! I left the texture left by all those thousands of hammer strikes as I love the effect on the cup and kept the base plain as a contrast, polishing the outside and giving the inside a matt finish.
Will I ever make an egg cup again? Unlikely, but never say never! I will definitely be using the techniques I've learnt to create new pieces of jewellery though.
Hope he likes it :-)
This Friday is "Black Friday".....originating in the USA, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and signifies the start of the Festive shopping season. Stores open in the early hours offering crazy discounts and this has come over to the UK in recent years.
BUT.......this year there is an alternative ~ INDIE FRIDAY!
This campaign has been created by the lovely people at Just A Card (click to go their website). Just A Card encourages people to buy from independent business, shops, galleries and designer/makers, that buying 'just a card' makes such a difference to these small businesses.
So instead of heading to the big shops this year, support a creative businesses....buy something beautiful and unique....shop small....buy independent.....make someone do a little happy dance when you buy "Just a Card"!
Anyone else feel like this?
I need a deadline for pretty much most things, I work better this way. Not just "work work" but in all aspects of my life.....no deadline and it doesn't get done. Can't decide if this is because I have too much to do that I need deadlines to prioritise.....or because I'm really good at procrastination!
Have you seen this beauty in the news this week?
This huge diamond started out as a 404.2 carat rough diamond mined in eastern Angola in February last year. It's now a 163.41 carat, flawless, D-colour, emerald cut stunner. It took six months to polish the diamond down after months of analysis, by master diamond cleaver 80 year old Ben Green, respected as the number one cleaver in the world.
The diamond was then set by a jewellers in Geneva called de Grisogono into this beautiful necklace, alongside emeralds and more diamonds and took over 1700 hours to create!
It's going to go under the hammer at Christie's in Geneva with a guide price of £23 million.....any takers?!
The challenge set by my husband continues! (Click here to read last weeks blog about this if you have no idea what I'm on about!)
The technique I used last week to get to the this.......
.....is called hollowing or sinking.....hammering in a circular pattern from the centre and moving outwards, causing the silver to sink down.
To bring those edges up further and go from a dish to and egg cup, I needed to learn anther technique called raising. This is the opposite to sinking although it looks like you're doing the exact same thing! Raising brings up the sides by hammering the outside this time and forming it on a stake. Hollowing, or sinking, was done with a wooden pear shaped hammer, raising is done with a metal hammer with a rectangular face with rounded edges.
It's not easy holding something this small! I really enjoyed this part, it happens so quickly. It looks like I've ruined it at this point! You can see from the picture above though that the diameter of the silver is getting smaller, working from the bottom up, and therefore gets taller too.
Now that looks more like an egg cup! I love the texture from all those hammer blows but I need to smooth them out. Next new technique is planishing! A planishing hammer has a flat face and again, working in a circular motion from the centre of the base, these light taps of the hammer gently smooths the silver, each one overlapping the one before.
I now need to decide on the base, finish smoothing and polishing the silver and it'll be finished! More next week!
And so we come to November! You lucky November babies have two stunners as your birthstones and this week it's the turn of........Topaz!
The most common colours of natural, untreated Topaz are pale yellow, brown and grey as well as pastel shades of green and pink. As these are pale, most Topaz are treated through irradiation and/or heat to produce those vivid colours we know and love! The most popular are the three stunning blues ~ a deep blue is known as "London Blue"; a highly saturated medium blue is known as "Swiss Blue"; and a bright light blue is called "Sky Blue"
Imperial Topaz, with its distinct peach, pink, orange or champagne hues, is the rarest topaz variety. It is mined in the Ouro Preto mines of Minas Gerais, Brazil and deposits were also found in the Urual Mountains in Russia. In fact Imperial Topaz was named in honour of the Russian Tsars of the 17th Century who prized its luxurious golden-sherry hues. Today Imperial Topaz is classified as a very rare gem!
It was discovered over 2500 years ago and has more folklore and legend surrounding it than any other gem. It is said to attract love and fortune, protect against enemies an is even thought to aid with willpower to lose weight when worn with moonstone!
The Greeks believed Topaz gave them strength, relieved insomnia and restored sanity ~ sounds perfect for today's hectic lifestyle! They also thought it had supernatural powers and could make it's wearer invisible
Topaz became a talisman of power in Ancient Egypt, protecting it's owner from harm. The Egyptians thought it received its colour from Ra, the Sun God.
Topaz is a great gem to wear in jewellery as it's strong and durable. It's also pleochroic, a fabulous term that describes the different colours you can see in a gemstone as it's moved in the light eg red topaz can show reds, pinks and even yellows. Get in touch if you would love to add Topaz to your jewellery collection!
So this week I have taken on a challenge set by my lovely husband! His birthday falls within days of Christmas so thinking of presents to cover both can be really tricky. Husband has always loved a boiled egg or two for breakfast so has tasked me with making him an egg cup for birthday/Christmas. This involves using skills that I don't yet possess so I have enlisted the help of someone who does!
And so we begin with a 75mm diameter disc of fine silver......fine silver is 99.9% pure and is softer than Sterling Silver (which is 92.5%) and therefore easier to shape. My two tools for the job are a wooden bossing hammer, this looks like a wooden pear, and numerous blocks of wood that have a circular bowl shape set into them of various sizes and depths. The silver disc is then hammered so the edges are bought up. It's a bit difficult to describe so hopefully the pictures below will help!
.......and this is where we're at so far! It doesn't look quite like an egg cup yet but it's getting there! I'll update again next week :-)
November....the month of Bonfire Night, Toffee Apples, stunning colours in the trees and frosty mornings! I love this time of year!
From a gemstone point of view, we have the lovely Topaz and Citrine as this month's birthstones. The poem above indicates that Topaz is an "amber hue" but the truth is that Topaz comes in many different colours including shades of blue and pink.
More to come on those beautiful gemstones over the coming month. If you are a November baby, or know someone who is, and would like to commission a special piece of jewellery featuring one of these lovelies, then drop me a line via the "Contact" page.
You lucky October babies not only get Opal as your birthstone but also Tourmaline
Tourmaline is one of those gemstones that has loads of different varieties. The name comes from the Singhalese word turamali meaning "gem pebbles". I quite like that :-) Why are they called gem pebbles I hear you cry! They're called this because the rocks in which they most often form are not as resistant to weathering as tourmaline is and so they can be found in gravel deposits as little gem pebbles.
So, let's get onto these different varieties. I'm going to introduce you to some of my favourites.
This is a Tourmaline you don't see very often and I have no idea why. It is colourless and known as an Achroite Tourmaline.
Next up is the gorgeous Rubellite Tourmaline ~ just look at that colour! Rubellite Tourmaline shades range from pale pink to shocking red.
This blue Tourmaline is known as Indicolite.
Now this has to be one of my all time favourites! Paraiba Tourmaline is quite new to the gem world. It's neon colour comes from the copper contained within it. Isn't it stunning?
This type of Tourmaline makes me smile every time I see it ~ Watermelon Tourmaline! Yes, this is completely natural and is known as colour-zoning. When these crystals are sliced across, you get a red or pink centre surrounded by a rim of green.
According to a survey last year of 10000 people, conducted by events company Chillisauce, the Winter months are the most popular for popping the question.
The results show that Christmas Eve is the most popular day, with 31% of the votes, followed by Valentines with 22% and New Year's Eve with 18% of the vote
What's The Best Day of the Year to Propose?
Now, I know there's a trend for proposing and then buying an engagement ring together but that breaks my heart!! I think it's so romantic to propose with a ring that you've spent time and effort over, whether it's an "off the shelf" ring or one that's been created especially for you. I'm hoping that if you're planning on proposing that you know your partner well enough to know whether something simple and beautiful or something blingy and over the top would be the right ring. Maybe something unusual or quirky would be appreciated more?
I created a ring with a rough diamond set in sterling silver that was perfect for one bride-to-be, chosen by her partner.
Rose cut diamonds have increased in popularity since Jennifer Aniston engagement ring. They are an old cut which look beautiful and give a nod to being a bit different while still being traditional.
Although "diamonds are forever", consider other gemstones....Diamond engagement rings first became popular in the 1930's, although diamonds were used in combination with other gemstones in Victorian times. Other beautiful gemstones include.....
Ring designs are something else to consider. While traditional designs are beautiful, is this something your future fiancee would like? Or would they prefer something a little quirkier?
If you want to commission a lovely ring that may be a little more unusual, don't hesitate to drop me a line via the contact page.
I've written about opal a few times now and, as we're in October and Opal is one of it's birthstones, I'd thought that I might tell you about one Opal in particular.
This Opal is called the Halley's Comet opal and no, it didn't come from a comet although when I heard about it, that's what I thought too! After all, Peridot has been found in asteroids so it wouldn't be too much of a stretch :-)
It's called Halley's Comet as it was found in November 1986 in Australia as the Comet was passing through the southern skies at the time it was discovered and is only visible every 75 years. Five Australian miner's known as the "Lunatic Hill Syndicate" found the gem, the largest uncut black opal in the world, at an open-cut mine near the famous Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. It weighs nearly 2.000 carats (!), is about the size of a man's fist and is thought to have formed around 20 million years ago, phew! The Syndicate was made up two brothers and a small company that provided earth-moving equipment. "Lunatic Hill" got it's name back when mining first started at the site. Opals could be found just a few feet below the surface in the shallow flats below the hill so that's where the most experienced prospectors stayed. Why would you need to go to the top of the hill? Only a madman would start up there, you'd have to dig for a very long time to find anything. But this is exactly what this syndicate did and the Halley's Comet Opal was found 20m below the surface! Just goes to show, just because someone thinks your're mad to do something, doesn't mean you're wrong!