To market I go

I have been feverishly making jewellery for a huge market I have on at the end of next week. This two day event attracts tens of thousands of shoppers and is the biggest maker’s market in Australia. I will be in the Vintage Emporium taking my work to a whole new audience.

I made a batch of ephemera bracelets for the event. Each bracelet has hand cut regional antique papers – such as stamps, letters, invoices and other documents. I seal each piece with plastic tape then set it into a bracelet and pour resin over the top. From the cutting stage to the resin hardening, it takes about 4 days. Any that are left over from the market will be offered here on Etsy – they do sell quick!

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Wear one, wear a few. I love making these and love watching my customers as they carefully look at each one before choosing a favourite.

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Elsewhere in the studio I’ve put together a few ‘Archaeology’ necklaces, using artefacts from domestic digs and elsewhere. Most of my parts are sourced from Eastern Europe – there seems to be a plethora of sellers coming up with these beautifully grungy, patina’d elements that can be artfully worked into designs.

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I particularly love this one, as I hammered away at that piece of copper for the necklace for ages. It came up pretty well, I think.

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I have also been working on a few antique assemblage pieces, and need to make a few more bracelets before the market. Tim wis quickly running out.

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This Queen Victoria Jubilee necklace uses an 1887 medal which is a souvenir of the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign. I love the grossular garnets used in the necklace chain – it’s unusual to see garnets in these autumnal shades.

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I’m not sure that I will get time to photograph more pieces tomorrow, so anything left over from the market will be listed in my shop in the next few weeks.

 


Some old designs…revamped

I like to look through my collection of jewellery and fix up designs I am not wearing much anymore. Sometimes they have broken, or need a little adjustment to make them wear easier. One of my most precious designs is this necklace made with one of the finest enamel brooches I have ever seen.

emanel brooch necklace 1

Most of the design is hand painted, and the detail achieved in the hair and face is incredible. The helmet and shoulder armour is hand chased in the metal of the brooch, so this piece offers an unusual variety of techniques to achieve the design. The base of the brooch is silver and there is a grill type edge that you can’t see, where I have attached the brooch to the necklace chain.

enamel brooch necklace 2

 

I’ve used gemstones in colours that are complementary to the colours in the brooch – London Blue Topaz, big fat Rubies and creamy pearls. The chain is antique French chain in silver.


In Absentia

I’m guilty of about the longest gap in my blogging since I started blogging. I am always disappointed when I look at blogs I follow and see that there have been no new posts for weeks and months – and now I have become one of those bloggers. It’s unusual for me, but probably understandable. I’m nearing the end of my 2nd last semester of study and I have so much work to do. Well, it’s all done now but the past month has been very busy writing essays, researching case studies, doing tests, writing and giving presentations. I hope it all results in good marks!

I did have the idea to write a blog post about a topic, rather than just put up photos of what I’ve been making. I decided to write about old silver because I found myself wearing a lot of it lately, and I wondered what it was about old silver that is so appealing.

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Some of my silver necklaces

There is something mystical about old silver. I’m not talking about teapots and grand tureens. I am talking about the sort of silver that was worn and cherished, given as a token of love and affection or valued as a memento of an important event. The dark patina of old silver hints at stories, journeys and adventures. Whether it was worn close to the heart or stored away for its intrinsic value, old silver is as coveted today as it was hundreds of years ago.

When I get a piece of old silver I look at how a slight polish might bring out some of the decorative detail. I will sand it lightly with the finest grade steel wool, then buff it with Renaissance Wax to ensure its present state of shine and patina will not change over time.

 

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Marriage Medal Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette (front)

One of the oldest pieces of silver I have is very special indeed. It’s a 1770 marriage medal from France. I’ve seen plenty of marriage medals dating to the 19th century but few are available from the 18th century. This one is particularly special because it is the marriage medal for Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Surprisingly, such medals are not overly valuable, and by that I mean you might find one for around 200-300 Euros. The solid gold versions are worth a lot more.

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Marriage Medal Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette (back)

What I love about this particular medal is that in 1790 another couple by the name of Lefebvre were married and had their names and wedding date engraved around the rim of this medal. It seems significant to me as the French Revolution took place in 1789 and by the time this Lefebvre couple married, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI would have been incarcerated. I choose to interpret this act by the Lefebvre couple as a nod to royalty and a show of support for their King and Queen.

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Side view showing engraving from 1790 

Another piece of 18th century silver I have and love to wear is this English Georgian wax seal.  Wax seals are very personal things, and often had the owner’s initials or symbol engraved into them. This one is simple, and the style of it is fairly common for wax seals of that era. I like the start simplicity of this piece and it wears particularly well on this antique French silver sautoir chain. It’s a great layering necklace, especially when worn with other silver pieces.

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 Something I had been coveting for many years, is a silver heart shaped vesta.  Such pieces were usually part of a chatelaine and this one came with an ornate chatelaine hook, a silver and ivory aide de memoire and a sweet tiny silver pocket knife. Sometimes chatelaine adornments were decorative but more often they were practical. You might find a sewing chatelaine with thimble holder, pin holder and a little pair of scissors. I wear this heart vesta on a simple chain, also original to the chatelaine. I feel that such a decorative piece does not need any further embellishment, though I might make a nice black pearl choker for it in case I want to wear it out to a special event.

Heart vesta

These earrings are in fact made from elements that came from a stunning 19th century French chatelaine. The chatelaine had a pocket watch case and these little pieces were originally for the watch key and a little tool used to prise the lid of the watch open. I sawed off the practical parts and was left with these absolutely stunning Neoclassical styled dangles that were just screaming out to be made into earrings.

Neoclassical earrings

Earrings made from silver decorative elements off a chatelaine

Old silver tassels are very collectible and increasingly, hard to find. Having a pair for earrings is on my current wish list, though a single tassel on a nice chain makes for a lovely necklace with a great antique vibe.

silver tassel necklace

I’ve seen some amazing silver cuff bracelets come out of France over the past few years. Some are incredibly ornate, but this one appealed to me the most because the decoration is entirely hand chased. The maker would have hammered the patterns into the silver using different tools that were patterned or shaped to make a particular mark on the metal. It is a work of great skill and though not characterised by flourishes, swirls and other fancy decorations, this design seems somehow much more personal.

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Antique French chased silver bangle (19th century)

Probably one of the most amazing elements I use in my designs is old silver chain. The workmanship in this old chain is unmatched in anything modern I have seen. Much of the chain was handmade and would have taken ages to make. It can be pricier than new chain, coming in at around $80 per 150cm, but the aesthetics of the intricate and rare designs is worth the cost. Here are some samples from chains that I have used for pieces in my private collection.

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Antique silver chains and clasps

A surprising but delightful silver element to use in jewellery designs is old baby’s rattles. I am not sure why they were made from silver, but these rattles (which come in a startling array of designs, styles and patterns) make wonderful pendants and charms. The two pictured below are quite small, maybe only being 10-15mm across. One still has its rattle and it makes a delightful sing-song noise when you pick it up.

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Antique silver baby rattles

Silver was very popular in the 18th century, and many clothing adornments were made with silver and paste stones. Paste stones are a leaded glass that was used to replicate diamonds for those who could not afford them, which was just about everyone in the 18th century. Jewellers of the time had many tricks to make the paste stones look more like diamonds, such as foiling the back of the stone or painting a black dot on the bottom of the stone so it looked like the cool centre of a real diamond. Buttons and buckles are very handy for repurposing into new designs, and this 18th century shoe buckle is no exception.

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18th century French silver and paste shoe buckle

So there you have it, a journey through the centuries thanks to that everlasting metal – silver. There really is no substitute for old silver. Once you get to know it you can spot it a mile away, as you can a pretender. It takes a lot of care, and I am probably the worst at cleaning my old silver. I love the dark patina when it shows up detail and pattern, but otherwise a I will occasionally get out my fine steel wool and give my old silver a light polish. Hi-ho silver…and awaaaaaaaaay.


Life speeds up

I’m sure I have used the heading ‘Life speeds up’ for a post in the past, but again, it happens that there is so much going on that I’m having to be hyper-organised in order to get everything done that I want to do.

I will always make time for jewellery designing and antiques – and I took this Friday off work just to catch up on a few things. I had a fun day of making things yesterday, and I have also re-stocked by antique supply shop with some stunning new pieces. I am taking a new direction with my antiques and focussing on rare and high quality pieces. There are plenty of new players selling cheapie stuff and I can’t compete with them, so why try?

I don’t usually put up photos of my antiques on my blog but here are some for sale at La Comtesse de Talaru.

My new approach is working well and customers are loving the time and effort I put into sourcing these amazing pieces. It’s hard not to want to keep it all!

I’ve made some jewellery for sale, and also some for myself.

Ermine mirror locket necklace

My favourite little critter, the ermine, features on this mirror locket necklace. I used lots of amazing treasures to create the chain, including antique silver George V coin chain and antique mother of pearl beads. This piece is for sale at L’Atelier de Talaru.

The cherub chatelaine watch case pictured above was from a chatelaine that I pulled apart to also get the pieces to make myself a divine Neoclassical earring and necklace set. I could never part with these pieces, they are so rare and would have to be my favourite elements to have ever worked with.

Neoclassical earrings Neoclassical pearl necklace

I also made for sale a long necklace with an antique pocket watch as the pendant (the stones are lovely labradorite and green garnets) and also an Art Deco rhinestone dress clip necklace with beautiful vintage glass beads.

Pocket watch necklace

Art deco necklace

I forgot to mention above this amazing horse chain I found. It has since sold to a regular customer, but you should zoom the photo and look at  the outstanding detail in this piece.

Horse chain

I’ve revisited an old favourite with this necklace. The original design had a different pendant and wasn’t selling, so I took it off and put on this simple French medal. I think it looks better and hope someone will fall in love with it. It’s for sale at L’Atelier de Talaru


Mon coeur est à Paris

And my mind, or so it would seem after looking at my latest creations. There is a distinctly Parisian theme, and there are still more ‘City of Lights’ pieces partially constructed, sitting on my work bench.

I am not sure what brought about this unintended theme – maybe it’s that I have not been to Paris for a few years now. I used to go at least every 2nd year, for ages, but now my last visit was 2011. Not an age, I know, but long enough to get me wondering about the streets and alleys, cafes and shops and general vibe that is Paris. Must be time to go back soon.

It’s a dilemma, because now that I am back working in the travel industry there are so many options available for our next holiday, it really is difficult to decide. Cuba is looking good, as is Colombia. Then again I’d love to travel to the Hebrides islands of Scotland, or cruise around Greenland. Russia would be great, as would the USA. Hardly life-altering decisions here, but still, on a quiet and lazy day my mind does wander to places further afield.

My hands have been wandering to all the bits and pieces that have a Paris theme and this is what I made this weekend.

These two bracelets are made with links from another antique bracelet that was a souvenir of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. This date, 1889, also coincides with the opening of the Eiffel Tower. There are two bracelets, one showing the Eiffel Tower and the other showing the Bastille.

Eiffel Tower Bracelet

Bastille Bracelet

I also re-used a Paris souvenir book locket from another necklace that didn’t sell and put it into a new design. This book locket opens to reveal a concertina of small black and white photos of Paris landmarks. These book lockets are getting so scarce – I have not seen one for sale for a long time.

Book locket 2 Book locket 1

Then there are these lovely mid-century glass pearl earrings, with a little bit of faded bling from the old rhinestones. It’s unusual for such tassels to last this long, some 70+ years and they seem to be in quite good condition. Great for a party or for softening a work suit.

Tassel earrings

I’m lucky enough to have another book locket to work with at the moment. This one is a rare purse locket, this time a souvenir of St. Etienne. I used to live fairly close to St. Etienne, when I lived in France back in the 1990s. St. Etienne was the nearest town to the farm I lived on. This little purse locket opens to reveal pictures of St. Etienne’s monuments. The necklace also has orange garnets, blue Tanzanite, antique chain and beautiful aged mother of pearl.

St Etienne necklace 2 St Etienne necklace 1

I used Baltic amber, black pearls and brass beads to make this lovely piece in Fall Colours. The pendant is in fact an old button that I bought in Melbourne. There is a great shop in Fitzroy called Provencal (I think) and it sells amazing French furniture and odds and ends.

Amber and Brass necklace

And continuing the Paris theme here is a pair of earrings made with Paris bracelet links, mother of pearl, old rhinestones and rubies.

Eiffel tower earrings

I added a few tribal/rustic pieces to my other range. I won’t show them all now but I do particularly like these earrings and this necklace. The earrings are so fantastic I may even make a pair for myself. The use vintage Naga shell beads and handmade rustic glass ball pins, along with blue Roman glass.

Naga shell earrings Quizzical necklace


Getting my groove back

It’s been a while since I last made some antique assemblage designs. Far too long.

I really love working in the tribal style and the challenge that comes from using materials and techniques that are new to me.

Eventually I return to the source and today I made two antique assemblage necklaces that I think are amongst the best I have ever made. They are true to the style and genre of antique assemblage and contain heaps of lush gemstones and antique treasures.

The first features a very rare and quite expensive French ex-voto sacred heart pendant. I did have this pendant for sale in my supply shop for some time but nobody bought it, which is great for me since I get to use it in a design. Inspiration struck today and here is the result.

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Here’s a close-up.

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The chain is made from kyanite, garnet and gold plated pyrite. There is a brass hook clasp with a handmade ring.

The other design to come out of today’s endeavours is a silvery blue sensation. This design features an Art Nouveau mirror locket depicting the huntress Diana on the front. It’s quite a handy piece to wear as you can use the mirror to check your appearance when you are out.

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Silver and blue are such a wonderful combination and this design is chock full of lots of beautiful contrasting textures and colours.

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In the past few weeks I have been busy on some tribal designs and I have delved into the realm of archaeology, using bit and pieces dug up from the ground, cleaned and repurposed.

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The focal piece for this design might once have been some door hardware, but with a little embellishment on the bottom and a 19th century tintype, it becomes an intriguing pendant. This next design combines an old gear and a button from Russia.

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And this lovely textured design using handmade ceramic beads in nice earthy colours.

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I found a stockist of lovely decorative Japanese sliding door pulls. They really are quite lovely, and the plain ones form great bezels…like used on this cuff bracelet below.

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I’ve got a few more treasures to work with over the coming week, including some delicious peachy pink/orange Ethiopian opals and some blingy Art Deco rhinetones. I’m back at school next week so will have less time to making, but I always manage to fit in some making here and there.


A lesson in customer service

I think I’ve just experienced the worst ever customer service known to humankind.

I ordered some 2 part epoxy clay that you can mould, texture and impress with a pattern and it will then harden without having to fire it in a kiln. It is expensive and I needed black coloured clay for my designs. So I order 100 grams of black clay (50g black, 50g hardener – US$30 incl. shipping) from this seller in the USA and it arrives within a week. Great!

Only, it is a mustard/glittery colour – not black. I wrote and asked the seller if it will turn black after curing, or if I was in fact sent the wrong colour.

What happened afterwards was a nearly 1700 word to-and-fro debacle textbook case of poor customer service, where the seller tried to:

1)      blame the manufacturer for putting the wrong colour product in the packet that she then on-sold to me.

2)      suggest I was fortunate that she undercharged me $2.33 postage on the original package and she would waive that amount if I agreed to buy another lot of clay from her, in the right colour. Then trying to guilt trip me by saying other customers have agreed to pay the shipping shortfall in the past, as they would not expect that she should have to pay it even if it is her own error.

3)      suggest I should calm down and not talk to her until I had done so

4)      she then offered that I can return the wrong colour part (it’s a 2-part product) and she will then send the right colour part, but only after she gets the wrong part back first, AND I have to send the return by tracking post ($20 cost to me for an item worth about $10) so she knows I really have sent it. She reminded me that she was only agreeing to send out the correct colour to ensure I send the wrong colour part back to her. (WTF?)

5)      Accuses me of being difficult and demanding, and saying she thinks I believe she sent me the wrong item on purpose (double WTF?).

6)      The seller asks ‘do I want to be responsible for her being upset about not being able to sell to Australia anymore because of the high cost of sending things here? (triple WTF?)

7)      The seller says ‘do you know what other people sell this product for?’ implying that her prices are low and I should not be any trouble because of that.

Phew! I’m tired already.

So the facts are:

1)      the item comes in a clear plastic Ziploc bag – you can see the colour of the product without even opening the packet, and it is not labelled any particular colour on the pack. If the wrong colour is sent, it is because the seller did not check what she was sending me.

2)      I paid the shipping cost in the listing, $10.50, and assumed the seller charged me the correct shipping- it’s a product she sells a lot of and should know the shipping cost. If she miscalculated by $2.33, sorry, that’s not my fault and unless you agree with the buyer to cover the difference BEFORE the item is shipped, you are being really cheeky to ask for it later on and use it as a bargaining chip to cover your own mistake.

3)      A disappointed customer who is getting nowhere with a seller who does not admit an obvious error and offer a solution does not need to be told to calm down and ‘come back to this discussion when you are calm’.

4)      I asked her to send me the right colour and offered to return the wrong colour by regular post at my expense. I said I will not pay for tracked post as it costs twice as much as the item is worth.

5)      I was sympathetic and stated that people do make mistakes and that is fine, but it’s how they deal with them that matters.

This is not normal, is it?

And the unfortunate thing is that I was planning to make some prototype products which, if they take off, I will need to buy a whole lot more of the product.

In the end I agreed to pay the shipping to send a whole new lot of product, in the right colour, and she will not charge me for the product or ask for a return of the wrong colour. All she needed to do is offer this in the first place and I would have thought she was the greatest and left glowing feedback for her.

 


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