Back in 2008 I spent a month in Europe where I worked in Germany for a few weeks, had a week holiday in Paris then a week holiday in Northern Ireland. I’d been to Ireland before and loved the well-worn mystical landscape, ancient monuments and dramatic scenery. Northern Ireland was no different and here are some photos from that trip.
I’d been hoarding this snake/dragon chain for over a year, not really knowing how to use it. This weekend I got a burst of inspiration and used it in a design that features the most unique and special book locket I have ever seen.
The book locket features a series of black and white photos of ‘everyday life in Paris’ around the turn of the century/1900. They are incredibly detailed pictures, showing things like a car accident (no gore, thankfully), people at a market, people using a bus. It’s quite delightful and luckily the photos are in very good condition.
This one goes into the ‘moi’ pile – for me.
Pour toi – for you – is this new design to be listed for sale later today. It features lovely plump citrine stones with an unusual ladder pocket watch chain and a beautiful whitby jet and shell cameo pendant.
These whitby jet pendants were made in the 19th century as mourning jewellery, and the ones with a bit of colour in them signified that the wearer was now in half mourning, having passed through the stage of full mourning when only black could be worn.
Whitby jet with shell cameo is one of my most loved combinations and I have a few pieces in my own collection with these materials. I love the deep yellow citrine stones with the black – it’s a powerful combination.
That’s about all now for a cold and rainy day which is hopefully one of the few left this winter.
In 2011 I went to France for a few weeks holiday and while there one of the things I did was visit the Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley. I’d long been wanting to go there as it is here that you can see little crowned salamanders carved into the walls and doors of the palace. The salamander appears on a lot of the costume jewellery I buy from France, and it was a thrill to see where he originated.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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