Tag Archives: melanie dooley

There’s a reason why…

…I haven’t written much lately. It’s because I have:

  1. finished a job
  2. packed up our house
  3. sold our house
  4. moved interstate
  5. unpacked our house
  6. bought a car
  7. found a new job
  8. started working in a new job.

Today was the first day since I arrived here in Brisbane a few weeks ago that I’ve had a moment to stop and relax (though I spent the day doing last year’s tax return). The reason for this lull? A cyclone has been lurking up further north, which sent two days of torrential rain down our way. You can’t really go anywhere unless you want to get drenched or slip off the road.

That does not mean I haven’t stopped making things. Au contraire. The local post office doesn’t know what has hit it, with all my parcels of treasures coming in from France and around the world. Here is some of what I’ve made.

Joan of Arc Necklace 1

Antique Assemblage Necklace featuring a rare Joan of Arc book locket, Lorraine cross, medal, antique mother of pearl rosary beads and antique chain.

I’ve been collecting Joan of Arc bits and pieces for over a year new. They are hard to come by and this necklace is chock full of very rare pieces. In particular, the book locket that is the centrepiece is quite a rare design. The photos inside are in great condition and they portray the life of this revered and popular French saint.

Joan of Arc book locket

I made another Joan of Arc piece, this time a more simple necklace that features a beautiful rosary chain with hand cut beads, little medallions and a lovely Joan of Arc mirror locket.

Joan of Arc Mirror locket necklace

The centrepiece was once a brooch and features a blue enamelled brooch that has the Lorraine cross and two griffins either side. A lovely, ornate piece. Here’s a close-up of the mirror locket.

Joan of Arc mirror locket

Spoon Earrings

And what about these delightful spoon earrings? I originally bought the spoons thinking that they were full size, and I was going to cut the tops off to use in an earring design. When they arrived I found that they were quite small – salt spoons. So I kept them intact and used them in this design with a simple embellishment of garnets and pearls. Here’s a closeup of the tops:

Spoon earrings detail

I absolutely love this sweet necklace. The chain is very ornate but quite dainty. An original photo brooch has been featured as the centrepiece, and the necklace also includes the original fob and clasps from the chain.

SONY DSC Photo brooch necklace

When Art Nouveau and Art Deco Collide

Take a look at this necklace. I keep wanting to look at it, which is strange because some of the parts used in its design have been in my collection for over five years.


Nouveau Deco Necklace 3


There is a lot going on here and sometimes I amaze myself when I bring all these elements together and it looks like the design was always meant to be like that. It starts with an Art Deco French men’s pocket watch chain – something that is quite masculine but somehow works well with the other very feminine elements.

The rest of the chain is made from wire wrapped labradorite gemstone beads and a few links from an old rhinestone necklace.

The pendant section comprises a solid silver Art Nouveau necklace slide, an antique labradorite bracelet link and a fun and whimsical rhinestone ball bead.


Nouveau Deco Necklace 1




This necklace is what assemblage jewellery is all about. Disparate elements from different decades or even centuries that come together when the time is right to create a unique piece of wearable art.


Nouveau Deco Necklace 2


Crazy About Coral

If I was to choose a favourite material for my jewellery designs, and the jewellery I wear, it would have to be coral.

Despite the age of the pieces I own and use, the brilliant reds and oranges of the antique coral is still as bright as the day it was first set into a jewellery design.

Coral was very popular in the early part of the 19th century, and much of what I own comes from this era, and in particular from France. The ‘Empire’ style of jewellery was refined, classical and not overly ornate. Personal adornment took on a simpler, more refined style after the excesses of the lavish 18th century fashions.

Coral buckles

Above you can see three coral buckles or cuff links. They are in various states of completion, with the one on the left having only the coral frame. The centre one is missing its coral centrepiece and the one on the right is complete. It’s rare to find these with all of the coral framing beads intact. There are lots of possibilities with these pieces.


Another example of a coral buckle is shown above. This time the buckle has its mate, as they always came in a pair but it is so hard to find a complete pair these days. This set had a sweet little snake ‘S’ clasp joining the two together and they would have most likely been sewn onto a velvet or cloth belt that was worn just under the breast. This set also features mother of pearl discs that have been carved out on the underside to produce the starburst pattern you see here. This buckle set has been repurposed into earrings. I love the deep red of the coral beads.

Coral and diamond earrings

Dating to a good 50 years earlier than the buckle earrings, above is a pair of mid-18th century coral, silver and diamond earrings. The coral beads are quite big and of a deep rich salmon colour. The setting is silver, with rose cut diamonds. I think they could do with a clean!


Complete coral necklaces are hard to find, and when you do find one that has large beads, it will be very expensive. Upwards of $1000 for large beads on a long necklace. Coral is often sold by weight. Below is a much less expensive example of an early 19th century coral necklace, this time with numerous strands of coral seed beads. These are tiny little beads made from real coral, and hand cut and drilled. Despite the hours and hours that would have been employed to make this necklace, the coral weight is not substantial and thus the necklace is not overly pricey.


I do also occasionally see coral buckles with little faces cared into the coral. Coral cameos were popular in the late Georgian and Victoria eras, and cameos came in all styles. In the example below the cameo is a in gold plate brass, and is little Aztec style face. The piece came to me as one half of a buckle set – the other half was missing. To create the necklace you see here, I used a French ormolu coral tiara which was missing about half of its coral beads. I harvested the beads, then used the remaining tiara frame to form a collar style necklace. The Aztec cameo piece was affixed onto the collar, I added chain and voila! A very unique necklace made from extremely rare 200-year old elements.




More readily available are coral charms. These are also often sold by weight and therefore the price can vary according to the size of the piece. I like to use coral charms on a charm necklace with other antique elements such as little lockets and mini wax seals. Below is one such example which features a coral branch lucky charm, a carved coral hand charm, a small French wax seal and an 18th century vinaigrette locket. Coral and gold go so well together, and it’s a vary classic colour combination.

charm necklace

Another necklace I created features an unusual coral tassel. You do see a lot of antique beaded tassels with closed looping ends, not the open frayed ends common on most tassels. This lovely little necklace also features an antique wax seal and a tiny mourning locket with woven hair set behind glass  on the other side.


I tend to use coral quite sparingly in my designs – mainly because it can be expensive and is quite scarce. Antique coral is only going to get more valuable, so if you want to start collecting something that is not quite as pricey as gold, consider coral…antique of course!

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.

The Seasonal Rush

Coming into the Christmas season I keep busy stocking up my goods for the local markets. November and December markets are particularly  good and in the past I have often sold out of many lines, especially my antique assemblage designs. This year I am planning ahead a bit and have set off on a period of constant making. Each night I work on something and it’s gratifying to see a nice stock of goodies at the end of the week.


The hairy arm above is mine, and the bracelets are two that I made today using vintage brass stampings riveted onto my hammered copper cuffs. They’ll go up online in the next few days.


Don’t you love those little masks? They are handmade in porcelain by a lady who lives in England. I love her rustic, quirky components and use them a lot in my tribal designs. The hydrangea petal drops above are also by her. Those read and white earrings are a favourite of mine.


Further to the bracelet department I have recently created four new resin ephemera bracelets and a new tribal wrap bangle. Both types of bracelets sell out very quickly and I do love making them so it’s great when I can sit down and re-stock. The tribal bracelet has a great mix of beads including 2,000 year old Roman-era glass beads and 10,000+ year old mammoth bone beads. I work with a lot of old components, but those mammoth bone beads are the oldest thing I have ever touched. They have a lovely earthiness to them, which naturally they would after so long buried in the tundra of the Arctic regions.


I really really love making tribal style earrings but I am always stumped when it comes to necklaces for the range. This week I was able to overcome the ‘maker’s block’ and use these fantastic polymer clay pendants made by another lady from England, and create three rustic necklaces. The more rustic, dirty and old they look, the better!


I never forget my roots, and have been busy making a whole lot of assemblage necklaces, earrings and bracelets. I posted some of the earrings and bracelets a few weeks ago, and here are some new necklaces. Above is a very special Eiffel Tower Powder compact necklace. The pendant is paired Labradorite and saltwater keishi pearls, as well as some pretty silver pocket watch chain. It’s a bold design, not for the fainthearted.


The cross above was for sale in my supplies shop for a while, but nobody bought it. It wasn’t cheap and I suppose you’d have to have a special need or desire to invest so much in a cross. I thought it would look great in a Georgian-inspired design, so I used my remaining black freshwater pearls with some rough gold plated beads to make what you see above. It’s a little bit Gothic, but also a dedication to history, as the cross is 200 years old! The other design shown uses a favourite combination of elements – garnets and pearls.

Finally, I indulged and made a necklace for myself with a lovely old ermine mirror locket I’d been holding onto for what seemed like forever. I used Kasumi-like pearls and the locket – simple construction but it looks great on.  You can’t really see the pearls in the below photo, but you can see the little ermine dangle I attached to the clasp. The other necklace is a re-work of a very rare and special French ex-voto  have had for years. Previously it was on another necklace, but the design was a bit cumbersome and I found I was not wearing it. So I sat down and dedicated a few hours to wire wrapping lots and lots of tiny, buttery Ethiopian Welo opals into a double strand necklace for this lovely locket.

These ex voto heart lockets are so very much in demand at the moment and they command crazy prices – many sell for over 300 euros each. I can’t believe people are paying that much for them, as this little one (and the smaller ones are often the most expensive) cost around 50 euros in Paris about three years ago. I do have another, larger heart so I think I will list that one for sale in my supplies shop. Un-believable!!


Sneaky snakes, 18th century medals and pastel tones

I’ve been pretty busy doing some house organising over the past few days – moving things from one storage facility to another closer to home. That’s a lot of car trips and boxes to carry. We’re nearly there. Next stage is to get some proper storage built into our apartment, and some redecorating.

I did a lot of designing last week but only had a chance to photograph the items today. I noticed that there is a lot of blue in this batch of designs. I don’t know what that says about me or my mood at the moment, but usually blue reminds me of the sky and escaping. So maybe it’s time for a holiday.

I’m also going to share two pieces I have made for myself. One is a prototype for a design I will eventually sell but I need to perfect a few things with my soldering technique. The pendant is cast from an Art Nouveau button and it is the most intriguing button I’ve ever seen. I was first attracted to the button for the little bats that occupy the top left corner of the medallion. The word ‘crepuscule’ is engraved into the piece – this translates from French to mean ‘twilight’. So long before the Twilight we all know, the French were celebrating the end of the day with this beautiful button design. I adore this design – it is whimsical, mysterious and beautiful all at once.


The other gift to myself is a pair of earrings, made from antique French carved bone buttons. There are  little silver cherubs affixed to the front (original to the buttons) and I embellished this design with Art Deco crystal and silver connectors. The steely grey and jonquil yellow tones work really well together.


As for designs made to sell, I have a lot to offer as well. Firstly there is this leather cuff featuring a solid silver antique cherub brooch. The brooch is hallmarked and comes from France. It makes for a great cuff design and is very romantic and eye-catching.


Here are the necklaces I made, a few of which are already for sale in my shop and the others will be listed tonight.




I really like how this 1793 medallion necklace came together. The medallion is a carriage token from the city of Coventry. I buffed it a bit then sealed it so the patina remains as-is over time. A simple piece but very effective. The token is original, not a reproduction. It features Lady Godiva on one side and an elephant on the other.


Lastly, here is a little snake ring I will be offering in sterling silver or bronze. You can have it in gold if you like – but I expect most people will want it in sterling.


Upcoming Market Dates

My markets dates for May – July (confirmed so far) are:

22nd June (Saturday) – Rose Street Artist’s Market, 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy.

29th June (Saturday) – Rose Street Artist’s Market, 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy.

7th July (Sunday) – Hawthorn Craft Market, The Atrium, Swinburne University, 52 William Street, Hawthorn.


More dates to come soon!

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