Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Truth about Speaking Jewellery

Written by : Posted on January 29, 2011 : 3 Comments
Gold Necklace with Pink Tourmaline

Pink Tourmaline with powers of attraction…

The idea that jewellery speaks to you is what it’s all about.  Something happens between you and the creation; an inexplicable attraction.

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Understanding the Carat

Written by : Posted on January 26, 2011 : 4 Comments

Unique Gold Compass Pendant with Hallmark

Yellow and White Gold Compass Pendant (photo: Kiff Backhouse)


Since antiquity, the Carat (ct) has been a unit of measurement for precious stones. The term is derived from the kernel of the carob bean (from Greek keration). As such, the Carat – and therefore the price – of the stone being sold depended on the size of bean the vendor was using as his counterbalance!

These days, the Carat has gone metric and is now equivalent to 0.2g.

Beware, however, the folks boasting a large Carat gemstone; some stones may weigh a fair bit but have a lot of bulk just to boost the Carat. For example, a dark gemstone with steep sides may have an impressive Carat, but only the polished surface can be appreciated once it’s set into jewellery.


Karat is a term used by the goldsmith as a measure of quality.

It has no relation to the actual weight of the gold. Instead, it refers to the proportion of pure gold in the piece of jewellery. For example, 18 Karat gold is 75% pure gold and 9 Karat gold is 37.5% pure gold.

My jewellery creations are tested for purity at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London so you can always be assured of the quality of the metals used.


And now to the Carrot. This is a crunchy, orange vegetable that can evoke ghastly memories of school dinners and coleslaw.

Personally, I find it makes excellent soup!

Three Things I’ve Learned About Change

Written by : Posted on January 23, 2011 : 22 Comments
Jasper in the Garden.  Explorer, Adventurer and Puppy.  (Age: 9 weeks)

Jasper in the Garden. Explorer, Adventurer and Puppy. (Age: 9 weeks)

Change Happens

Jasper, my puppy, is already a companion in the workshop. Yesterday he heard me using the jeweller’s saw and didn’t much like the sound. The steel saw blade rasping against silver; a harsh, grating sound. A new experience.

I spoke to him, reassuringly. He settled down. I continued.

It’s all about learning. Learning what’s OK and what’s not.

He’s also growing – a type of change that just happens. He’s learning that he can reach further and leap higher. He’s learning that he can no longer fit underneath the unit that he could last week! He’s learning his place in the pack with our other dogs.

Belief Precedes Change

He also appears to believe that he’s invincible!

There are three small steps down into our garden. After only a moment’s hesitation, Jasper leapt from the top step – an excited, confident leap that would take him to another world.

He tumbled, rolled, picked himself up and had a shake. Sorted.

“Right, now what’s here for me to explore…?”

Next time, the steps were easier. He’d believed he could do it, tried it out, tumbled a little – but learned a lot.

We Grow with Change

In my experience, committing to change sometimes needs a leap of faith.

Acting on the decision to become a Goldsmith, to live in France, to do the things I’m doing – all this meant leaving various chunks of the future to chance. I didn’t feel completely ready, but have ended up discovering so much more than I’d ever imagined. I’ve dealt with some situations better than others, don’t we all?! I’ve felt more alive than ever before. I’ve grown.

Life is an adventure. For Jasper and for me!

What Everyone Should Know about Petrified Wood

Written by : Posted on January 19, 2011 : 4 Comments
Petrified Wood

From my Gemstone Collection: The Colourful Contours of Petrified Wood

The Truth about Petrified Wood

The truth about Petrified Wood is that, well, it’s not wood. Not wood at all.

I know, it’s a little disappointing isn’t it?

But not to worry, I think the real story of how Petrified Wood occurs is pretty neat.

The Life of the Tree

A tree takes root, grows, lives and dies. Trees that have died often wear away to nothing through erosion and weathering. They are reduced to dust, carried away on the wind.

Then there are other trees. Trees from as long as 200 million years ago, that were washed to their resting places by raging torrents of water, then covered by sediment.

Those trees, buried under 100s of metres of rock, then underwent a fantastic transformation.

Here comes the neat part. Are you ready?

How Petrified Wood Occurs

Those entombed trees decomposed. Their organic matter was slowly washed away by circulating waters, way down deep. Little by little, those same waters also carried minerals into the cavities they left behind.

This took a while. Over a period of around 100 years, minerals such as silicate, quartz or agate replaced the form and contours of the original trees. Layer by layer, their intricacies were replaced by minerals such that they were, quite literally, reincarnated in stone; petrified.

I do so like the story of a gemstone. Fascinating.

Looking at the timescales also kind of helps me to keep things in perspective.


Written by : Posted on January 15, 2011 : 9 Comments
Ocean Jasper Triangle

An Ocean Jasper amidst a Sea of Gemstones. Tempting & Triangular!


Some of today was spent spreading out gemstones, sketching jewellery designs and deciding on what I’ll be creating over the coming months. It’s been fabulous.

It’s a sort of beginning, so made me think about starting new things. About energy. About projects, tasks and challenges that are sometimes looking us squarely in the face saying,

“come on, get started!”

It made me think about keeping up momentum.

Ready, Set, Go

Starting out on a new project often requires a fair bit of effort. Especially if you’re standing still right now and planning to get up some speed in one direction or another.

Before you know it, though, things start to feel easier. You’ve got a bit of speed up, some momentum helping to drive you forward. Hey, sometimes there are are even downhill stretches where you can stop pedalling and start free-wheeling!

But watch out …

A friend once recounted how she’d hopped off her bike one day to push it; the hill she was cycling up was too steep. Soon, the road ahead flattened out and she could easily have begun pedalling again, but she just kept walking. It was effortless.

Then the road started to slope downhill and still she walked alongside her bike.

I’m so glad she snapped out of her trance-like state, cycled back and told me the story.

It made me think.  About starting.  About momentum.

Green Light for Blue Skies

Written by : Posted on January 11, 2011 : 10 Comments
Blue Sky in the Jewellery Workshop

View From the Jeweller's Bench: Blue Sky in the Workshop

New Space for Creating

Yesterday’s inaugural apéro evening for my new workshop took place last night! Several naughty but nice nibblies were served and a good time had by all. Great atmosphere. Auspicious.

From this day forward, my one of a kind silver and gold jewellery will be created in this new space.

Actually, I must admit that I began making a bracelet yesterday – the space was just calling me to get in there and get started! I couldn’t resist.

Blue Skies

One of the things that I’ve noticed about living in France is just how big the sky is here. The picture above shows you just how blue it was yesterday, too! If you were to sit at my jewellery workbench in its new position, the photo shows exactly what you’d see.

I’ve read so many great blog posts about the importance of getting your work environment right and, you know what, I think I’m on to something here. That’s a pretty good outlook.

Green Light

There’s nothing left to do – the green light is shining for me to go ahead. To create jewellery and compass pendants to my heart’s content.

And to the content and delight of others, too.

Am keeping in touch with the lady for whom I’m making this bracelet so that we get the length just right. I have really tiny wrists and know how annoying it can be when a bracelet is just that little bit too long.

Her custom made bracelet is going to be exactly the way she wants it to be.


Bend, Stretch … Adapt

Written by : Posted on January 10, 2011 : 4 Comments
jewellery workshop view

Doming Punches, Rolling Mill ... One View of my Jewellery Workshop


Here we are, 10 days into the New Year and I’m on track with my new workshop. I’m back in there properly today, starting work on an Golden Wedding Anniversary Bracelet – I can’t wait!

Was the journey straight forward?  No!   The proposed new location presented unexpected challenges and with so much custom jewellery to create, following that path would have taken too long.

So, I decided to adapt.

Adjust to New Conditions

I’m still going in exactly the same direction; the workshop will relocate in the future as planned. In the mean time, I’m being flexible. Bending the direct path into something that’s more achievable, stretching the timescales and enjoying the journey. Learning.

Seems to me, life is about constantly adjusting to new conditions. Whenever we set out in a new direction there’s a strong chance we’ll encounter surprises! The new location called for heaps more work than imagined and being without a jewellery workshop for so long just wouldn’t have worked.

So, I adapted. I adjusted to the new conditions.

Make it Suitable for Use

The workshop refit has made it wonderfully suitable for use.

More than that, it’s an enchanting space in which to create.

The heating is much better, the dust created while polishing is now contained and there’s an abundance of natural light in the design area. I’m truly delighted.

Being flexible and adapting to the situation has also given me the opportunity to try out ideas for the final layout. A bonus that I’d otherwise have missed.

Are you giving yourself enough of a chance for success? Bending, stretching and adapting?

The Glorious Opal

Written by : Posted on January 7, 2011 : 7 Comments
Boulder Opal

From my gemstone collection: A Beautiful Boulder Opal

Opal Colour

As the design area within my workshop evolves, I’m already salivating at the prospect poring over my collection of gemstones there.

For me, the opal is a sheer celebration of colour.

Opal Origins

Opal is amorphous, that is, without a crystal structure. Instead, it is made up of microscopically tiny spheres of silica – you need to magnify them 20,000 times to see them! Beams of light bend and split as they pass through the spheres to produce glorious patterns of coloured light.

It starts with the cracks and cavities left after bones and shells within ancient rocks have crumbled away with time. Through weathering and erosion, this silica gel makes its way into these cavities to form what we know as Opal, with its veritable fiery rainbow of colour within.

Opal Varieties

Opal is the birthstone for those born in October as well as being the traditional stone of choice for those celebrating their 14th wedding anniversary.

Boulder Opal

Here, Opal fills the hollows of pebble rock. There is often a fabulous play of colour against a dark base surface.

Opal Matrix

Bands or leaves of precious Opal are embedded in the matrix rock, the rock in which the opal is found. Often wonderfully decorative and colourful and allowing you to look deep into the opal.

Fire Opal

It is incorrect to assume that fiery red flashes of colour that occur in many opals means that it’s a fire opal. In fact, the orangey-red fire opal is usually a more translucent gem.

Doublets and Triplets

The opal doublet is where a slice of opal has been cemented to another material, sometimes glass, which can give it the appearance of a black opal. The opal layer can be a single slice of opal, or sometimes several opal fragments glued together.

An opal triplet is where the doublet has a top layer of colourless quartz which also serves to protect the opal layer.

Whilst these doublets and triplets do not occur naturally, they still have a natural opal element and can be extraordinarily beautiful.

Opal Care

Since the delicate opal is between 3% and 30% water, it makes a perfect pendant where it can safely enjoy the body’s natural humidity. Storing your opal with a little moisture is also a good idea.

Interestingly, the opal is traditionally thought to be a stone of happy dreams and changes.

House Warming with a Twist

Written by : Posted on January 5, 2011 : 11 Comments
jewellery workshop bench

Workshop Refit in Progress. Spirit level, masonry bits and tools still there!

Cold to Cosy

Our cold kitchen was made warm and cosy this morning by a lengthy session of making homemade muesli.   The aroma of grilled honey coated cereal and nuts wafting around the house is still being savoured!

It also made me think that, with the advent of my new workshop, perhaps I need to throw a house warming party!

Warming the Workshop

Actually, it will be more of a jewellery workshop warming party…

Given that the workshop has been designed around being a compact space for me to work in, I’m going to need to limit my numbers. To this end, I’m considering inviting the following lovely folk to join me.

Firstly, my husband, Kiff Backhouse, who is responsible for each and every photograph of my creations in my jewellery gallery. Extremely talented and patient, eh?! He’s also generally lovely but I think I’ve already said that elsewhere!

Next, my good friend Jennifer Greco who blogs beautifully about a taste of life in the South of France. She’s also a chef and cheese expert (addict?!), and I’m rather hoping she’ll bring something sensationally smelly along for the event!!

Although I’ve not yet met Katie Zeller, I’m enjoying Tweeting with her. She’s an American expat, restoring an old farmhouse in France; cooking, shopping, stumbling thru French life. Oh, and running a menu planning service for healthy eating! Anyway, she’s in France and she would be very welcome to join the workshop warming!

The Warmth of Friendship

There are many more of you I’d like to invite but my workshop space is limited! How about I work on a virtual tour of this special place for you in the future…?

Keep Warm.

Thinking Big

Written by : Posted on January 4, 2011 : 4 Comments
Green Tourmaline Earrings

Silver and Gold Earrings with Green Tourmaline (photo Kiff Backhouse)

How Big?

I’ve recently been working on a project around 100 times bigger than usual.

Instead of unique and intricate jewellery designs, I’ve been redesigning and rebuilding my workshop! Instead of using silver, gold and gemstones, I’ve been using wood, brackets, drills and a spirit level.

It’s been a great opportunity to take a fresh look at the workshop; a way to step back and see the bigger picture.

Actions Make a Difference

The way we think about our lives and the world we live in has a huge effect on how we feel. How we feel – happy, grumpy, motivated, sad – then influences our actions. Whether we like it or not, our actions are what make the difference between achieving what we’re striving for, and staying just as we are.

While all this appears to make sense, it seems that we need to work at maintaining a healthy attitude if we’re going to get where we want to be. Thankfully, there are talented professionals out there to inspire us…

Jim Connolly suggests that you are almost certainly more talented, admired and loved than you think you are. How about that for a great start to improving any element of your life or business?!

Julie Walraven describes how easy it is to get caught up in how the world seems to us at the minute, and how to avoid letting this get in the way of your job search.

These are just two examples of people who can clearly Think Big.

Bigger and Better

To me, Thinking Big is just one way to look at things differently, to spot improvements that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. To contemplate the ideas of others and consider alternatives.

My jewellery workshop is now even better than I’d originally imagined, too!