Monthly Archives: November 2010

Tips on Buying Jewellery: Gemstones

Written by : Posted on November 29, 2010 : 11 Comments
Beautiful Tanzanite Cabochon Gemstone

Beautiful Tanzanite Cabochon Gemstone - Stone with Inner Beauty

Flawless Gemstones

I recently saw a checklist of tips for buying jewellery for your loved one. One of the tips was to make sure that the gemstone is flawless, that it has no faults.

Understanding Gemstones

Firstly, one needs to have a good grasp of what a “fault” is.

The Tanzanite cabochon in the picture above has “inclusions”. This means that it is not 100% clear and uniform in colour; that it has visible “defects” or “faults”.

It is also, however, a stone with profound inner beauty.

The fact is, the visible structure and colour variants within this tanzanite occurred as part of its natural formation. It is an entirely sound gemstone and has a uniqueness accentuated by the signature of nature within. It is for this reason that I chose to add it to my collection of gemstones and I take enormous pleasure in looking at it!

Choosing Gemstones

A truly delicious aspect of being a Goldsmith is the continual search for gemstones. I create jewellery for my own gallery and also work to commission, creating customised jewellery to individual requirements. To this end, it is essential that I maintain a delightful collection of gemstones from which my clients can select.

Sitting down with a client as part of this process is a truly wonderful experience. To see just how much they enjoy it and how the stone of their choice emerges and speaks to them. It happens with friends and visitors, too, just for the pleasure of it.

For those choosing from my collection without a personal visit, I provide a number of photographs and have found this to be hugely successful with clients from all over the world.

I choose naturally beautiful gemstones.

The Last of the Gold

Written by : Posted on November 25, 2010 : 3 Comments
18ct Gold Pendant Smoky Quartz

18ct Yellow & Rose Gold Pendant with Smoky Quartz from the Lentille Collection (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

Autumn Gold

Here in the Languedoc region of France, our eyes savour the last of the autumn’s golden colours.

After a proliferation of reds and golds displayed in a glorious patchwork of vineyards, the last vestiges of gold are all that remain.

A Mix of Gold

The colour palette of autumn is irresistible. I don’t know how many photographs I have taken over the years, but I never grow tired of the variety of tones. The golden hues, patterns and textures have a mesmerising intensity. I save only the best photographs and the golden colours continue to speak to me from the album.

Rose Gold Jewellery

The rich golden, coppery bronzes in the yellow and rose gold pendant above were undoubtedly inspired by the autumn. An enticing warmth captured in gold that speaks to you and invites you to touch.

My jewellery creations are often a mix of golds … and a mix of textures. Each piece evolves uniquely; exact repeats are an impossibility. Maybe my ideas are romantic, but I believe that jewellery should try to be as special as you are. I’m a Goldsmith creating real opportunities for people to choose unique treasures.

Through the classical skills of traditional workmanship, I create jewellery for the individual.

Workshop Wonders: Pliers

Written by : Posted on November 23, 2010 : 6 Comments
Rack of Pliers on the Goldsmith's Bench

Rack of Pliers at this Goldsmith’s Work Bench

Pliers Poised for Action

Every so often, usually at the end of a creative project in the workshop, I have a serious tidy up.

The jewellery workshop is just that; a workshop.  A place of tools and equipment, metals and materials, filings and offcuts. As each project progresses, tools are plucked from their nests.  Some are immediately returned after use, but others find themselves close at hand on the workbench ready to be used again.

Purposeful Pliers

My rack of pliers shown in the picture is less than an arms length from me as I sit at my workbench. Each pair with its own purpose and function.  Racking them up again punctuates the creative process; it provides a time for reflection as well as organisation.

Pliers … are Personal

As someone who creates jewellery from the basic materials, pliers play a huge role in shaping, curving and bending gold and silver into the desired forms.

Since starting in this profession with a few treasured tools from the Master Craftsman who was my teacher, new pliers have been added to the collection. Since those days, however, the collection has adapted with me; grown with my ideas for design, the challenges I’ve faced, the outcomes I wish to achieve.

The jaws of many a pristine pair of pliers have been pressed against the abrasive wheel of the grinder. In a few noisy and grating seconds, a parallel edge has been eliminated … a uniquely tapered edge created. After final smoothing, they become a part of my world. Reaching for them with the knowledge of how they will perform becomes second nature.

Pliers for Precision

I know each pair of these pliers intimately. Using them for anything other than my creations in the jewellery workshop is out of the question.

Precision work requires precision tools. They’re precious.

The Sound of Quality

Written by : Posted on November 18, 2010 : 8 Comments
Silver and Gold Compass Bracelet with Citrine

Silver and Gold Compass Bracelet with Citrine (Photo by Kiff Backhouse)

How We Perceive Quality

I love boots. When choosing boots, I look for quality using various senses.

The manner in which the leather has been cut and shaped, and the way it has been stitched to the sole, is where the craftsmanship can be seen. The way the leather feels at my fingertips also tells me a great deal. Good quality leather also has an unmistakable smell. Through various senses, I perceive the resistance, quality and design of the boots.

Such quality is of paramount importance when I create jewellery, too.

The Look and Feel of Quality

The compass bracelet in the picture above includes a precision built compass. At first glance, this unique aspect of quality may not be obvious, visually. However, for me to be able to offer compass jewellery that I know will stand the test of time is vital. The north seeking, jewelled sapphire bearing compass inside is both accurate and of sound construction.

Encircled by a band of gold, the compass and other treasures move freely on the chain; a comfortable flow and rhythm of movement. An individually designed and hand made toggle closure safely secures the bracelet on the wrist. A visible Hallmark endorses the quality of the metals used.

The Sound of Quality

Jewellery also has it’s own sound. As you hold this bracelet in your hand and listen to the way it sounds when you move it against itself, it sounds … right.

It’s similar to when you let smooth pebbles tumble out of your hand, the sound they make as they fall together is full and mellow. A rich sound of quality as opposed to a shrill or light tinkling sound.

For me, the sound, the timbre, of a bracelet when it moves on the wrist is very much a part of the joy of wearing it. I only wish I could better describe it!

Traditional Workmanship of the Goldsmith

Written by : Posted on November 16, 2010 : 1 Comment
annealing gold

Annealing: Gee Preparing Gold in the Workshop (Photo by Kiff Backhouse)

Working with My Hands

Perhaps I was destined to work with my hands. Today, I work with my hands and my heart as well as my head.

The shape of my life has changed enormously. Although from a family of fine art dealers, my first career started in the world of Information Technology. Today, however, I am a Goldsmith living in France.

The Jewellery Workshop

The jewellery workshop is a place where I lose track of time. Creative ideas are realised in this special place.

Amply equipped, the workshop is home to a variety of tools; tools from the past, some newer, and some individually crafted to meet a particular need.  It also houses numerous discarded items that might one day be useful.  A veritable den.

The Goldsmiths’ tools are never lent or shared for there’s an intimate relationship between them. The way one uses a file, for example, is unique to the individual.  So, too, is the knowledge of its age, degree of abrasiveness and its idiosyncrasies; a dead area here, a nick there. A familiarity exists that’s key to knowing what to expect from a certain tool and how to achieve a particular outcome.

A Master Craftsman of Goldsmiths’ Hall was my teacher and I, his apprentice. An advocate of the classical skills of traditional workmanship, he’s a gentleman I’m privileged to have met. Creative and mechanically inclined, I remain fascinated by the challenges and rewards of the profession; of working directly with gold and silver.

Jewellery for the Individual

Working with my hands and my heart, as well as my head, continues to inspire me. Part of what makes my jewellery so special is that it is uniquely created using the classical skills of traditional workmanship.

Jewellery often makes the perfect gift. Individually hand made jewellery makes it unique.

The Business of Risk

Written by : Posted on November 6, 2010 : 4 Comments

Risico. The story of a barge on the Canal du Midi.

Risico Means Risk

Risico is the name a beautiful barge on the Canal du Midi that I was recently fortunate enough to be aboard. When I enquired about the name, Risico, the gentleman owner explained that it meant Risk and told me the story to accompany it.

A Time for Risk

In years gone by, the canals were the route by which goods were transported. Barges would navigate up and down the canals laden with their cargo and a crew. An apprentice would be watching and learning the ropes to become a captain.

From time to time, an apprentice would approach the owner about buying the barge for himself. The time would come where the apprentice wanted to take the risk and put everything he had into owning and running the barge.

Risk and Ownership

At the time of taking on the barge for himself, this new owner re-named the barge Risico. He gave the barge a name to suit the occasion, to celebrate and cement the commitment.

The Rarity of Risk

Not everyone acts on the decision to take on a new project and give it their all. I mean to take a real risk as part of changing their life for the better; to risk the security of the familiar, for the adventure of the unknown.

In fact, I think it’s something of a rarity.

However, I can’t help but admire those who do for their adventurous spirit.

How Serious an Adventurer Are You?

Written by : Posted on November 1, 2010 : 1 Comment
Dog Digging Mole Hole

Seriously Dedicated Adventurer & Pooch

If Only

How many times have you heard someone say how, if only they had such-and-such and opportunity, then they wouldn’t waste it? No indeed, they’d grab it by the horns and give it all they’ve got.



Yes But

When it comes to it, so many of us humans say one thing … but do another. Oh-so-often there’s some obstacle preventing us from grabbing that opportunity, checking it out, turning it upside down and looking at it from another angle. All this kind of attitude does is dilute the adventure. This kind of attitude waters the adventure down to some insipid, tasteless soup.

Yes but, I can’t because the kids are in school (how many times have I heard that one?!)

Yes but, it’s easy for you; life’s different for me.

Yes but, it’ll be a lot of hard work.

Yes but, what if it doesn’t work out?

Agreed, all of these “Yes Buts” are the stuff of responsible individuals.

However, the adventurers amongst you will move beyond the “Yes-Buts”.

The adventurers amongst you will choose your direction and explore ways of achieving it. Yes, I use the word explore as that’s exactly what’s required when it’s time to move out of your comfort zone and try something else.  Creativity is called for.

Can You Imagine?

Can you imagine how difficult it was to distract this little dog of mine away from the mole hill?

She was determined. Are you?