Today’s blog is a little different from my usual topics, but I wanted to write about this as I find it fascinating. From my work, you will already know how much I love the forest ~ it inspires almost all of my pieces. My social media accounts are overflowing with images of the forest at different times of the year, from the first new leaves of Spring, to the dappled sunlight pouring through the trees on an early Summer’s morning, to the stunning colours of Autumn, to the stark contrast in Winter. And I’ve also found walking to be a great way to clear the mind, just putting one foot in front of the other can become quite meditative. I’ve done this since I was a teenager, it helped with exam stress although then I didn’t know why. I would just announce after a few hours of studying that I was “going for a walk”. I thought I just needed to get away from the books, get some fresh air and maybe that was part of it. I never had a route planned in my head, I just walked til I felt it was time to go home. I’m lucky that I live in an area of the country that is filled with green open spaces, lots of trees and fields.
How many of you feel refreshed...energised...clear-headed….relaxed….happier….after going for a walk? I don’t mean marching the kids to school or racing to work! I’m talking about those times when you’re away from those pressures, whether on holiday, or after that huge Sunday lunch….
It turns out that in Japan they have a name for this ~ Shrinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”. The phrase was coined in the 1980’s after researchers in Japan and South Korea conducted studies on the benefits of spending time amongst the trees. Every study so far has shown a reduction in stress levels, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness. Blood pressure drops and concentration and mental clarity improve from just 15 minutes. This has now become a cornerstone of preventative medicine and healing in Japanese medicine, with 44 accredited Shrinrin-yoku forests in Japan.
Some of the these studies show a boosted immune system, improved mood and a quicker recovery from illness. My mental health has definitely improved over the last few years since having the dogs….I walk every day in the forest and on those days when my husband decides it’s his turn, there is a difference in how I feel.
I love being in the forest, I find it relaxing and energising all at the same time….and inspires me to do the work I love!
What is hallmarking?
A hallmark is a minimum of three marks that are struck into a piece made of precious metal, whether that be silver, gold, platinum and palladium. These marks tell us who made the piece (the “Makers” mark), the purity of the precious metal and the place where it was tested (the Assay Office)
Where does hallmarking take place?
Hallmarking takes place in an Assay Office, of which there are four in the UK, each has their own mark that is stamped onto the piece ~ London (leopard’s head), Birmingham (an anchor), Sheffield (a rose) and Edinburgh (a castle)
When did this start?
This has been going on for over 700 years!! Back in 1300, a Statute of Edward I instituted the testing (assaying) and testing of precious metals.
Why is hallmarking important?
In the natural state, precious metals are too soft to be used in the creation of jewellery and silverware so have to be “mixed” with other metals to form an alloy, giving them the strength they need. Because silver, gold, platinum and palladium are so expensive, larger profits could be made by reducing the amount of precious metal in the alloy or plating base metal with a thin coat of precious metal. You can’t tell by touch or feel what the content of precious metal is, even an expert wouldn’t be able to. Hallmarking guarantees that the piece conforms to the legal standard of purity
Do other countries use hallmarks?
In 1972, the UK has been a signatory to the International Convention of Hallmarks. This means that the Assay offices here in the UK can apply the Common Control Mark that is recognised by the other members of the Convention and vice versa. Some of the other member countries are Austria, Finland, The Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway.
Other countries may have their own version of hallmarking and some rely on the maker to apply the correct purity stamp. This may mean that the alloy may not conform to the UK purity standards.
So this is a little bit about hallmarking, why it’s important and why you should always check that your precious metal pieces are hallmarked.
This coming Sunday will be my first event of 2018, I will be at the beautiful Chateau Impney for The West Midlands Luxury Wedding Show!
This week on the bench you will find samples for some new pieces, including two new necklets. These are quite simple, one with a little texture that I think I might show with a selection of simple pendants that can be inter-changed. I will, of course, be taking my "Entwined" necklace which always gets A LOT of attention, along with the matching earrings and cuff.
The show is on from 10am til 4pm and I hope to see some of you there!
While researching for this blog post, I came across something I didn't know and is really unusual. I know Garnets are found in a variety of colours and I know that most gemstone colours are due to the presence of certain minerals. What I didn't know is that Garnet is not a single species but several species and varieties and that you cannot get a "pure" Garnet (they all have the same crystalline structure which makes them all Garnets) ~ you really do learn something new everyday!
The colour of the Garnet depends on the blend of varieties, these are:
Almandine is the most common type of Garnet and comes in a wide range of colours. The purest found was 80% almandine
Andradite is very rare and has more fire than a diamond! This has been found at 95% pure.
Grossular are rarely dark or red but are light to medium in tone. They come in every colour including colourless but never blue. The purest found was 80% grossular.
Hydrogrossular are usually blueish-green but sometimes pink, white or grey and always opaque (there is some debate as to whether hydrogrossular can be classed as a garnet)
Pyrope is a red that rivals ruby although it is very dark. The purest found was 80% pyrope, 15% almandine and 2% other garnet
Spessartite comes in a range of oranges and is quite rare. One of my favourites! This has been found at 95% pure
Uvarovite is the rarest in the Garnet family and is a beautiful green that rivals Emeralds
Rhodolite Garnets are distinctly purplish and are a blend of pyrope and almandine, while Malaia is a blend of spessartite and pyrope. One that was discovered in 2007 in Madagascar is an almandine and pyrope mix but this one changes colour in artificial light ~ blue that change to red with flashes of purple!
In the last 50 years, new blends have been discovered in East Africa and there's no reason to believe that there will be more to come. Exciting news for the gem world, jewellers.....and January babies!
Normally Wednesday's are when I show you what I've been up to in the workshop in the past week. This time of year is a little different, you'll find me curled up with my laptop, coloured pens and a note book, planning the upcoming year....what shows do I want to do and apply for, what direction do I want to take the business, what new things do I want to learn etc etc
This year, I'm using a planner from The Design Trust called DreamPlanDo to really focus on where I want to go and it's fabulous! No, I'm not getting paid to say that, I really do love this book! It is specifically for creative businesses, ideal as most creatives are great at having an idea and running with that until another idea pops into their head ~ then they drop the original one without completing it and run with the new one! Just me?? :-D
So while everyone in the house is still sleeping, I creep downstairs, grab a mug of tea and my coloured pens (I do love coloured pens) and begin....and I love how it's going so far. Did you know that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down? Even more if you share these goals with like-minded people.....
Best keep writing then!
January the 1st....have you set any New Year Resolutions?
Did you know that this tradition started over 4000 years ago with the Ancient Babylonians? Their New Year didn't start in January but in Mid-March when the crops were planted nad they celebrated with a 12 day festival called Akitu.....a new King was crowned and they made promises ti their Gods that they would pay their debts and return borrowed items to their owners. By doing this, the Gods would reward them in the coming year.
Moving forward to 46BC, the Romans changed New Years Day to January the 1st after Julius Caesar added a few more months to the calendar! January was named after a two-faced God called Janus. Symbolically, the Romans believed that Janus could look back to the past year and towards the new year to come and so made promises of good conduct to him.
These days, we don't tend to make these promises in a religious way but more to ourselves although our success rate may be significantly different!
My New Years Resolutions this year are more like reminders.....focus on the moment.....make time for the small things....always look forward
What about you? Do you make New Years Resolutions?
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.