Jewellery Just for You

Jewellery Just for You

Written by : Posted on December 2, 2010 : 14 Comments
Morgan Sweet Apple Pendant

Custom Made Jewellery: Morgan Sweet Apple Pendant (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

Bespoke Jewellery

A recent conversation with an American friend highlighted that the term “bespoke jewellery” isn’t always associated with custom made jewellery; that is, jewellery especially made to your design.

I was born in the UK, have been living in France for several years and have clients all over the world. Now that I know that there are many ways to refer to jewellery that’s made just for you, I thought I’d better elaborate!

Specially Commissioned Jewellery

This is when I work with a client to create something just for them – a fusion of their design ideas and my workmanship. Sometimes we start with a very clear idea of what is required. Other times, I sketch out some suggestions based on a feeling a get from a client and what I’ve gleaned from our conversations.

Getting a clear picture of what we’re heading for is really important. Exchanging, refining and perfecting the final jewellery design is truly a pleasure. Together, as a partnership, we arrive at something unique and valuable that is just for you. At the same time, I often get to see my clients discovering that they’re a lot more creative than they had imagined!

Custom Jewellery

Custom jewellery is another term. Many of my clients browse my gallery and contact me to request something based on a particular piece of jewellery they’ve seen there.

Others have very detailed specifications, for example this Morgan Sweet Apple Pendant. It represents the inside of a halved apple and was to celebrate the arrival of a baby daughter, Morgan. The “pips” in this apple are also the baby girl’s birthstone. This thoughtful gentleman, and proud father, asked me to make it especially for his wife.

Personalised Jewellery

Whether you call it bespoke jewellery, specially commissioned jewellery, custom made jewellery or personalised jewellery, this is what it means to me:

A fusion of your design ideas and my workmanship.

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.

Right?

Maybe.

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?

Preparing for Winter

Written by : Posted on October 28, 2010 : 7 Comments
Pile of Logs

The Log Pile : Stack of Logs for the Fire

Preparedness

Here in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, winter is cold. Seriously cold. When we moved here almost 7 years ago, we never imagined that winters would be so harsh. We had expected something milder, more temperate. In reality, winters here are mostly dry, with very low temperatures and a cold wind that cuts right through you.

However, our move here was a decision we took … and then acted on.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Here’s the thing. When you spend masses amount of time preparing for such-and-such an eventuality, there’s a chance that you’ll be paralysed by preparation. I am absolutely not suggesting that you don’t prepare.  Rather, it’s more that the search for every answer in advance of the event isn’t realistic. If you think that you’ll have covered every angle before taking the plunge, you’ll be kidding yourself.

Also, and very importantly, you could be missing out on a seriously exciting adventure.

Prepare to Adapt

When you decide to take the plunge and do something different, it is often partnered with adopting a new attitude. At least, the beginning of seeing things in a new light. For me, there was a shift from being very organised to becoming freer and easier. However, it didn’t happen overnight.

In new situations we need to be prepared to adapt. Give yourself permission to make some mistakes because that’s a great way to learn. Forgive those who criticise you when you slip up;  chances are, it’s their way of dealing with wishing they had your courage.

Be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself enough time and space to discover along the way. Enjoy the journey. Relish the adventure.

Embrace the Seasons

Winters may be cold here, but there’s almost always some sunshine.

Let’s get out there and stack the logs in preparation!

Dance with Life

Written by : Posted on October 26, 2010 : Comments Off on Dance with Life
Dancing Shoes

My Sparkly Dancing Shoes

Dance

When dance is a part of life there’s something special going on.

In the words of Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)

“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.”

The dancing shoes shown in the picture are my own, sporting a few scuffs from the delightful activity of dancing. Did you spot the undeniably fabulous sparkly band across the toe? Go on, take another peek!

Dipping in to Dance

As part of our immersion into French life when we moved here, Chris and I began dance lessons twice a week. Great exercise, fantastic for improving general balance and enormously fun. It also offered a whole new dimension on language acquisition as we were the only English speaking students.

Firstly, of course, the instructress was French. She was inspirational – boy oh boy could she move.

Secondly, the call to “décalez-vous” every five minutes meant moving round a place to dance with the next person in the circle! When you learn to dance, it’s good to be able to do so with someone you’re unused to. It’s a versatility thing.

Oh so very much more than just dipping your toe into French life!

Dance for Health

I love to dance. I can’t help but dance when the music starts. Some tunes appeal more than others, but I find a good rhythm irresistible.

If I’m feeling off colour or just a bit down, dancing gathers up the endorphins and helps me on the road to recovery. Really, it does.

Also, as the master of my own jewellery workshop, I can get up and dance whenever the impulse takes me! Mercifully, I’ve spared you a photo of that.

Dance with Life

We all express ourselves in different ways. Dancing is one of my favourites. Making compasses is another.