Tag Archives: talaru

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.

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A peek into my production process

For a few years now I have been making these delightful fine silver earrings.

The finished earrings.

They are entirely hand fabricated, starting with the moulds – which I made from old buttons – through to the casting of the metal and the finishing of the final piece. I sell the earrings for $45 a pair, which I think is pretty good for something that takes two days to finish and is a unique design exclusive to L’Atelier de Talaru.

I thought I’d let you in on my production process so you can see (and appreciate) just what goes into these little wonders.

It starts with silver clay. Yes, clay. Not molten silver poured into a mould, but tacky clay pressed into a mould, removed and then allowed to dry.

Here are the moulds I used for the current batch:

Moulds

They are made with two-part silicone moulding putty. I press the buttons into the putty and when it sets, it is flexible but it holds the pattern. Here are some of the buttons I made moulds from:

Buttons for moulds

The silver clay looks fairly innocuous – it’s just greyish, sticky clay. It does dry out very quickly so you need to work fast.

Silver clay

I take out a little bit at a time and press the clay into oiled moulds:

Clay in moulds

There is no waiting time. The flexible moulds can be twisted a bit and the piece falls out.

Freshly cast silver clay.

I used a whole 50 gram packet of clay today and here is everything I made from it. I added little fine silver eyelets for hanging. The eyelets are gently pressed into the clay and as the clay fires, it shrinks a bit and holds tight to the eyelet.

A batch of fine silver clay pieces with eyelets

The clay pieces need to be completely dry before you can fire them. You could leave them overnight in a warm spot, or do what I do and put them on a baking tray in the oven on a very low heat for an hour or so. Once dry they can be sanded, filed, drilled and placed into the kiln.

Pieces in the kiln

The kiln heats up to 1800 degrees fahrenheit. There are all sorts of rules and measures for ramping up the heat etc – I just turn it on and come back two hours later and they are done. I never have any problems with this method.

Once fired the pieces will shrink a bit – maybe 10% – which makes it tricky if you are making something that is measured, like a ring. They will also be white, as there is a residue from the binding agent in the clay that remains, but which can be brushed off – I use a brass brush.

Fired pieces

Using the brass brush, I scrubbed a few pieces so you can see the difference. The clay fuses in the firing process and all that remains is 100% fine silver. It is bright and shiny.

Brushed pieces

In order to shine them up and strengthen them, I put them all into the tumbler for a few hours. I link them all up with brass wire, as the little eyelets are so small that they will often get a bit of the tumbling shot stuck in the hole, which is a bugger to get out.

Pieces in the tumbler.

Now they will tumble for a while and once done, you are left with these bright solid fine silver charms.

Raw pieces from the tumbler

To finish the design I oxidise the metal so that the detail in the pattern can be brought out as a darker oxidised surface. After oxidising I sand them back and add a coat of sealant so that the metal does not oxidise any further. Once I add ear wires, you end up with what is shown in the first photo at the top.

Finished pieces that have been oxidised

In case you were thinking of setting yourself up to make your own fine silver jewellery in this way, be prepared for a high initial outlay:

  • kiln – shipped from the USA around $500-600 USD for the smallest of electric kilns
  • internal trays, fireproof tiles to protect your surface and other tools about $200 USD
  • step down transformer to protect the kiln from Aust voltage – about $100
  • tumbler and shot – about $200 AUD
  • silver clay – varies from $100-$125 US for a 50 gram bag depending on the market price for silver plus shipping
  • moulding putty – about $35 US with shipping from the States
  • other bits and pieces like eyelets, gemstones, settings, tools etc about $100 USD

So it’s pretty pricey, and only something you would invest in if you are really keen to start up and produce work to sell. You can learn torch-fired silver clay, which works well for small designs, however the kiln set up gives more flexibility.

So there you go – if you would like to buy any of my fine silver designs, if still available they will be for sale at L’Atelier de Talaru


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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!


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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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