Tag Archives: jewellery

March Birthstone-Aquamarine-Sea life through blue tinted stones

The bluey-green Aquamarine gets its name from the Latin for ‘water of the sea’. Lucky March born children have this brittle, sensitive gem as their birthstone and personalities that reportedly range from friendly and boisterous to vibrant and colourful (like this beautiful stone). Its a gemstone symbolic of health and hope -so perfectly matched to springy feelings.

Aquamarine is part of the Beryl family which includes Emerald and gets its colour from its iron content, with the dark blue shade has always been the most desirable. So what would you do if these stones were given to you (apart from saying thank you kindly)? These jewellers are here to show you some wildly different ways of handling Aquamarine’s watery depths.

Massimo Izzo heads to the rock pool for an epic splash of decadence with this Aquamarine, Diamond, Yellow Gold ring, representing sea life-starfish, seahorse and shells.

Here Rosanne Pugliese heads to the other extreme with a lovely minimal setting, using a delicate Gold frame to clasp a sheet of Aquamarine in place.

Art Nouveau master Rene Lalique does delicacy and abundance in one piece with this dragonfly and grasshopper necklace.

On a smaller scale in this very wearable ring, set with Aquamarine, blue topaz and diamonds by Melanie Casey.

Finally Regine Schwarzer shows us how to pick a boldly-coloured stone (like the bottom of the ocean this Aquamarine potentially has its own thoughts and feelings it’s so deep) and make a piece all about beautiful shade and texture by avoiding traditional faceting.

 

Spring hasn’t totally sprung but it’s never too early to jump into one of our lovely classes.

 

 

Not Just Castings – how lost wax casting works and more

At the beginning of 2016 I undertook a placement with Just Castings in Hatton Garden. This was part of the two week intensive Advanced Diploma in Creative Jewellery Making (see previous blog entry about how great this was) which I had completed the previous summer.

Their premises have since moved to a spangly new home next door at 19 Cross Street, where their knowledgeable and patient team can answer all of your silly questions (as they still answer mine on a regular basis) about their services. These services go far beyond just casting to CAD design, 3D printing, plating and finishing. However, the moulding and casting process will remain forever the most fascinating to me.

I was privileged to spend two days learning the mould making and casting processes. I gained an overview of the CAD, 3D printing, finishing and plating, which can be done there behind the scenes, whilst two of my own wax pieces took their own journey into silver and brass.

I returned for two afternoons of finishing these pieces. This involved de-sprueing – the sprue is the entry point for the metal into the piece (before my placement I called this a spout) and polishing a silver ring, also finishing and rose-gold plating a brick bead for a necklace with Chris and Adrian at the studios just down the street. There was a  professional setter working away in the same studio, so I got to take a peek at this fiddly precise work too.

My illustration of the casting process, complete with spelling mistake and bunnies which were cast from pasta shapes.

I took a lovely little refresher tour with Theo recently, for a helpful reminder of the time I spent learning the ways of JC.  The process used is called lost wax casting. Lost wax casting is an ancient technique, but this centrifugal, mechanical process is the most accurate way of achieving intricate results. This modern way of casting has its roots in dentistry. To my delight I discovered gold tooth caps on the casting trees whilst on my placement – it’s nice when traditions are upheld. Items can be brought in three different ways to be transformed into a range of metals, but at some stage they need to be a wax. You could bring in a hand-carved wax piece, a model or master to have a mould made to then make waxes or a 3D design, which can be printed or milled from sheet wax.

It’s a positive to negative to positive process. The mould making stage is to create waxes from existing objects or multiples from the same original wax and allows for more types of items to be cast. These moulds are custom made to the size of the piece from a latex mixture.

Bespoke cold moulds setting in their frames

Once these are set and the piece from within is expertly cut out by hand, the moulds are ready to make waxes using the vacuum wax injector. The hot wax cools into shape in the rubber mould and the wax is removed and another can then be made in the same way shortly after.

Wax made using a cold mould

These waxes are then skillfully arranged on specific trees in accordance to their requirements, which metal, how delicate the piece is etc. Cast in place pieces (a technique where stones can be cast within a wax piece) go separately, as they need to be in a different oven set to a different temperature. The trees go into flasks, the holes of the metal flasks are taped up and the investment (a type of plaster, made up in the vacuum mixing machine) is mixed and poured into the canisters with the wax trees inside, then left to set. The next step is for the canisters to go into the de-waxing chamber for the majority of the wax to be steamed away. This leaves just a film of wax on the impression that will eventually be filled with metal, before going into the oven overnight to melt away the remaining wax and strengthen the investment plaster. There are three ovens running on 24 hour cycles, to allow for processes like casting in place and also so that all of the casting eggs are not in one hot basket.

Vasco creating wax trees

Once out of the oven, the canister full of negative impressions left by the wax goes into one of three casting machines. The largest being the vacuum centrifugal machine. This will spin the canister while a crucible will dispense the required molten metal into the voids to reach the hollows of the end of each branch of the tree.

 


Centrifugal casting machine

Back in the day I am told this was done by sling shot, so a traditional caster would be super strong from swinging their castings around their head, pretty cool stuff!

These are then cleaned with a high-pressure washer (this part reminds me of the opening credits of The Simpsons when Homer is at work) to clean off the investment plaster.

The metal tree, free from its canister and most of the plaster then goes into acid to get cleaner and get rid of any oxidisation.

Metal tree fresh from the canister

Pieces are then cut down from the trees and prepared for collection.

Wax giraffe and metal giraffe made from a pasta piece using a cold mould and lost wax casting process

This is where the process usually stops on the casting side of Just Castings, but as you will recall, they don’t do just casting! For me I take whatever silly thing I have decided to turn into metal this time and pop off to try and make it wearable (sometimes returning to get something plated), but there is still a whole separate underground grotto of finishing down the street. If decide you would like your pieces finishing, polishing, plating or stones setting these guys have got you covered there too.

Adrian finishing a ring in the workshop

So give casting a try, it’s magical, but don’t take it lightly that even if your brother ain’t that heavy you may want an estimate before you get him cast in platinum. For a really enlightening look at their processes, Just Casting have this lovely video ,and there is a handy FAQ’s section on the website too. But if in doubt just ask, they are a delight, see:

Lil Adams is the London Jewellery School Sundays Studio Manager. Lil studied Fine Art in Leeds and lived in Melbourne before travelling about and settling in London. She now works at the British Architectural Library and enjoys making jewellery with found and natural objects and is shamelessly addicted to casting (as you can see!)


Fancy giving wax carving a try? We have some classes at the London Jewellery School and online at Jewellery School Online as well as a starter kit available.

In London

We have lots of wax carving classes at the London Jewellery School for beginners and advanced learners including an evening taster class, a five-week evening class and day classes so do check out our courses and available dates on our website.

 

 

 

Online courses

We have a FREE wax carved ring making online course with tutor Sophie Arnott. You will learn to apply your designs to your wax piece, remove excess wax and create a full 3D design of your choosing. Following that, Sophie will show you how to file your wax piece into shape, remove any file marks and sand and refine the piece ready for casting. You will also learn how to create a ring to size and some recommendations on casters to use.

beginners-wax-carving-rebecca-steiner-jewellery-school-onlineIf you enjoy that course then consider our more comprehensive beginners wax carving online course which covers ring making, pendant making. The course launches on 26th March 2018 and is currently available at a pre-sale price of 50% off. CLICK HERE FOR 50% OFF – VALID UNTIL 26TH MARCH 2018 ONLY

 

 

 

Kits

At the London Jewellery School we are also selling wax carving toolkits which have everything you need to get started! The cost is £100 and includes UK postage (for postage outside the UK please email us at info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk for a postage quote)

Click here to see what you get in the kit and to purchase

We also have a set of three wax ring blanks for sale for £12.99 plus postage, perfect if you want to get started with rings straight away!

 

All prices are correct at time of blog publication but please note that they are subject to change

 

 

 

 

Jewel Day-All that glitters

Often in life it’s the genuine article, the purest and most natural, which we value most. All gemstones have a special month to shine, see ‘Birthstones’. So it’s worth exploring the joys of the unreal, underappreciated or synthetic of the jewellery world on Jewel day.

 

Let’s first take a look at the useful, synthetic, Cubic Zirconia (aka CZ). CZ may not be the product of the forces of nature but it’s no fake and has much to recommend it for use in jewellery making. Low cost, durable and flawless, these faceted beauts can be made in many colours. And Cubic Zirconia is up there with diamond in strength, measuring 8 ½ to a diamond’s 10 on the Mohs* scale.

Next, let’s turn our starry-eyed attention to the Druzy. Druzy is a crystal coating on top of a colourful mineral. These crystals can vary in size and are commonly found on quartz, but also garnet, calcite, malachite and dolomite. Usually found where rocks have contact with water that can evaporate, the crystal finish is the last layer of growth. These are naturally occurring gems, but they have the tendency to look manufactured due to the overly glittery appearance of the crystals and that the stones can be coloured. London Jewellery School tutor Amy Keeper often utilises Druzy stones in her work.

Jeweller Nikki Couppee experiments with different combinations of synthetic materials and resins in the making of her flamboyant hologem pieces. She uses everyday materials like silver foil to replicate the appearance and lustre of gemstones with an astonishing variety of results.

Couppee’s work may be shiny and pretty on the surface but its meanings run deep and reflect on themes of jewellery’s role in society and the psychology behind adornment. Her early jewellery making experiments were products of a hurricane that destroyed the area of Florida where she lived in. Leaving a plethora of materials broken from the houses that were swept away, young Couppee would create jewellery from these pieces built up like mosaics. It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it. Also (unrelated), some of her pieces glow in the dark!

Whether your gems be real or fake, we have a number of courses that can inspire you to shine with them.

*Moh’s scale is named after Frederick Moh who invented a scale for hardness based on the ability for minerals to scratch each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Book Day-1st March

Never judge a book by its cover they say and certainly not on World Book Day. And especially when investigating the work of Jeremy May. Here, beneath what is bound,  a ring, a bangle or a necklace could be found.

May uses a top-secret lamination technique to create bespoke pieces from a bookkeeping the original binding as a beautiful box too. You could probably still get the gist of the story reading around one of his luxury adornments.

Here’s a nice little video about his process and you don’t have to read between the lines for the booky puns.

If this inspires you to pick up a book, your tools or take back your library books have a wonderful World Book Day.

Pantone Colour of 2018-Ultra Violet-will purple reign again?

Said to communicate originality and visionary thinking towards the future, Ultra-Violet makes a welcome entrance to kick start 2018- a bit of forward thinking is just what we need. Take a look at how these jewellers have also taken to this shade to inspire your own creations this year.

Jewellers have many a purple shade of stone they can turn to in celebration of this announcement from Pantone, such as types of Sapphire, Tanzanite, Tourmaline and of course Amethyst. Though there are many who have favoured alternative materials to celebrate the colour purple too.

Tara Locklear uses materials away from their natural environment to create bright and beautiful pieces. Her work often exposes the colourful layers of recycled skateboard decks in her bold pieces, as with this cheeky pair of earrings.

Here we see a paler shade of concrete tinged with gold for a neckpiece of intriguing forms.

All colours seem to naturally resonate with Britta Boeckmann’s work in wood and resin including including this bold shade.

 

You might feel you want to go all out with Ultra Violet this year, change your world, paint a feature wall. Or you could take a splodge from Xenia Walschikow’s palette and put your paint to a portable decorative use.  These experiments in the colour of the moment are the makings of what will become statement neckpieces and bold gestural earrings.

Our pal purple pops up again to offset these strong, yet light and flexible neck art pieces by Walschikow.

There is always room to ‘kick it old skool’ with a twist when working with a strong colour. As we see with this pink topaz in its unusual contrasting yellow lozenge setting.

Whatever medium you favour in your making, maybe try letting in some purple tones to guide your future this year with Ultra Violet.

January Birthstones-Garnet-Give me strength

Weary or rested from celebrating or resting over the December break, January may feel like a rough month to have a birthday. But these January folks are not down-hearted. They are ambitious leaders, who love to learn new things and take living seriously. They also have a cracking birthstone in garnet to back them up, thought to bring strength, good health and prosperity.

This beautiful rock can be found in many colours but most commonly in the red of almandine and pyrope garnets. Iron and magnesium cause the colour differences in these stones.

Garnet has been used in digit decoration from Romans times, with these simple styles still holding their own in contemporary adornment as we see here in this mercury ring by Astley Clarke.

It is thought that the name garnet derives from the Latin for pomegranate ‘granatum’, due to the similarities of colour of the fruity innards. This is a possibility explored in detail by ‘Winged Lion‘ jeweller Sergey Zhiboedov with their garnet pomegranate pieces.

 

Another fruity offering comes from Alison Maclead with this ring that suggests a cluster of berries or grapes.

 

London Jewellery School tutor Helen Walls often illustrates the point that a single gem against silver is a winning combination and proves this again with a simple blood-red garnet droplet from a textured hoop.

So if it’s a little or a lot of your birthstone you wish to pin down to your crown. Have no fear to start the year, take the lead and get some inspiration in one of our classes.

Birthstone for September-Sapphire-Barnacles of Bling

Sapphire is the birthstone for September and is famous for its deep blue colour, caused by the presence of iron and titanium. But these stones can be found in almost every colour and when non-blueness occurs they are termed ‘fancy’. A nice compliment, although it makes the gemstones less valuable.

It’s tough to write about sapphires without mentioning ‘that ring’ (you know, the one that now belongs to Kate). However, I intend to sidestep it to not seem like a big fawning royalist and just say it’s iconic. (Iconic enough that my American brother-in-law thought it might be mandatory to propose to British ladies with a blue-stoned ring. He didn’t, but I like the story.)

If you are born in September you are graced with the qualities of tolerance and wisdom. You are also inspirational. The thing is with these gemstones, they do lend themselves to be used in significant pieces of jewellery on account of their value. So they may be better for inspiration rather than aspiration for now.

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Even this little skeleton merperson brooch by Lydia Courteille has an indicator of once being a marine monarch in its dinky crown.

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Yet jeweller Polly Wales has left no stone un-cast in these two examples of her signature technique of casting stones in place rather than setting. The skull encrusted with sapphires of different sizes could be the remnants of an underwater pirating accident producing a facial of sparkling barnacles of bling.

Maybe Leo wouldn’t have come to such a sticky end if (the other) Kate’s blue diamond necklace had been a sapphire instead. That ‘heart of the ocean’ could have gone for a light dip in a pool with a parrot rather than being brutally chucked into the waves by old lady Kate.

Anyhow, all’s well that ends well. And even if it’s not your birthday, don’t get the blues. Give yourself a present and join us on one of our stone setting courses and learn techniques to bring your own inspiration to the nation.

Stone setting in silver (2 days)

Intermediate stone setting

Channel setting in silver

Collet setting in silver

Grain setting in silver

Stone setting in metal clay

Introduction to gemstones (evening taster class)

Lil Adams is the London Jewellery School Sundays Studio Manager. Lil studied Fine Art in Leeds and lived in Melbourne before travelling about and settling in London. She now works at the British Architectural Library and enjoys making jewellery with found and natural objects and is shamelessly addicted to casting.

Power of Flowers – flowers in jewellery design

By definition the flower power of the late sixties and seventies was about non-violent protest and the use of flowers in this way became a symbol of a peaceful approach.

Flowers are often seen in a whimsical light, not implying strength. However their omnipresence in fashion indicates that these natural beauties are a force to be reckoned with. They may appear small on their own but massed together they have real power.

This season there is no room for wallflowers or shrinking violets in our florals. Loewe models we’re sporting bold leather lily cuffs in a range of colours.

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Delpozo had literal armfuls of blooms on lightweight gloves (a big statement but still ‘armless fun for wearability).

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Delpozo model getting an earful from these artificial green blooms

Many of my most admired jewellers have a flowery muse. Christopher Thompson-Royds with his flattened, hand painted pieces on precious metals is enough to make you dust off your childhood flower pressing skills and practice some dainty watercolours. The kinetic delights of Victoria Walker are also inspired by natural forms and happily mirror the movements of plants and flowers.

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Floral themes are here to stay and are commanding our attention.

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Heng Lee creates these pixelated embroidery in silver that appear like florals of the future.

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Rosa Pietschs’ laser cut nouveau neckpiece has a chunky clout but keeps a delicate visual.

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Slawa Tchorzewska  is here to take you on a walk on the wild side with these organic sproutings.

Five faves for finding flowers in the big smoke

St James’s Park-a trundle around the grounds of one of London’s free public garden can blow out the cobwebs and let in some colourful ideas this summer.

Kew– Kew has amazing architecture, plants, flowers and a high walk to recommend it.

Barbican conservatory-for the all-weather plant lover. These brutally beautiful surroundings never fail to disappoint. Open Sundays 12-5pm. Free.

Chelsea Physic Garden, opening times vary with some late hours in the summer. This often hidden treasure is ticketed treat.

Tell us what ideas and projects do you have blossoming right now?

And if you are looking for a class to help nip your ideas in the bud take a look at our website.

Lil Adams is the London Jewellery School Sundays Studio Manager. Lil studied Fine Art in Leeds and lived in Melbourne before travelling about and settling in London. She now works at the British Architectural Library and enjoys making jewellery with found and natural objects and is shamelessly addicted to casting.

Who needs beads? The (w)hole of civilisation

It is National Beading Week so we have been taking a look at how beads have been used in contemporary jewellery designs

A bead can be anything threadable. The first pieces of jewellery were beads made from shells, while the trading of beads was one of the first forms of currency leading to the development of language. Oh yeah and they are pretty too.

It’s worth keeping your beady eye on the graduates spilling out of this year’s degree shows. They are fresh and dynamic and completely varied. Some of the bright young things of Central Saint Martins have favoured using beads this year and are creating some great examples of the potential for striking results that can be achieved. Rosanna Batt uses delicate threads of shimmering beads to trace the outlines of the body to create garments that challenge traditional ideas of function in clothing and jewellery as decoration.

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Rosanna Batt

Bead counting toys have been a traditional sight in the doctor or dentist waiting room aiding the development of fine motor skills in children. Also used as the inspiration for Dani Lane’s Abacus Maximus rings, a delight for any kidult stuck in a dull meeting.

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Dani Lane

Teri Howes takes simple bead threading to another level with her knitted and crochet fine jewellery pieces.

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Terri Howes

The tiny beads on Just Rocks and Coral’s yellow waterfall necklace work as a team to make for a bold statement and a cool cascade of colour for the summer.

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Just rocks and coral

Words can’t explain the staggering potential of the humble concept of these items of adornment, but it may be thanks to them that we can use language to attempt it.

Take a look at this video by our founder/director Jessica Rose explaining a simple and effective way of making a quartz crystal bead necklace that can be used for any type of bead.

Inspired? Take a look at our beading classes run at our London studios and our free online course with Jewellery School Online

 

 

 

Sac magique! – Bumbags to brighten your summer trading

So the summer is here and if you are thinking about taking the product of your jewellery making out and about to spread their joys to the punters at markets you had better get organised about it. Assuming that you have the nitty gritty sorted I have a top tip for a hands-free fun time as you vend.

Get yourself a great bumbag!

Earlier in the year I invested in a fabulous yellow number from Mika Bon Bon, with the excuse of travelling. Mr.Bum has the odd night out as well, and generally delights all that he meets. Others have found that these endearing characters deserve a name too, like jet setting jeweller Akiko Ban aka Mystic Forms. Her metallic companion Jeff Goldbum is often by her side as she models her own bold and bright jewels in various exotic locations.

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Mika Bon Bon

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Mysticforms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Brighton based Beksie’s boutique is rustling up spangly, tassled, themed bum bags that equip you for wild festival times or brighten any hall or field you are setting up your stand in.

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Beksies Boutique

And not to put the trusty market traders’ pouch in the shadows, these practical belts can be customised for your brand or adorned with your own patch plethora or simple brooch. Needless to say, once you go fanny pack you’ll never go back.

Do tell us your tips for trading at fairs and markets.

Lil Adams is the London Jewellery School Sundays Studio Manager. Lil studied Fine Art in Leeds and lived in Melbourne before travelling about and settling in London. She now works at the British Architectural Library and enjoys making jewellery with found and natural objects and is shamelessly addicted to casting.