Understanding jewellery making – an unexplored path to creativity?

People express creativity in different ways. Some believe that creating art through drawings, paintings, sculptures and 3D works of art being displayed in exhibitions are the ultimate forms of art. What I’ve come to realise through my ventures into dressmaking is that anything and everything you see that is created by someone with their own hands are a form of art. How is the natural ability to see beauty in creating form and vision through artwork any different from acquiring skills to design beautiful items of clothing on paper then making them reality by putting fabric, thread and small adornments together to create a work of art you can wear and share with the world?

Since my announcement about my engagement, the hallmarks on my ring showed me how it adds character to the piece of jewellery you wear. You might not realise, but any precious metals above a certain weight must, by law, carry a hallmark. For example, sterling silver must carry a number to show its weighting in silver (925 of 1000 parts) to other alloys – this means the piece of jewellery is 92.5% pure silver mixed with other metals, which could include copper, argentium, zinc or platinium to name a few. I can hear a few people already wondering why precious metals, if they’re classed as ‘precious’ need to be alloyed with other metals? Because silver and gold are too soft to be used for pieces of jewellery that experience everyday wear and tear while palladium is needed to be heated at a higher temperature to be worked with and can’t be cut as easily as gold.

For fine jewellery designers and bigger commercial jewellery designers like Thomas Sabo and Stephen Webster, your piece of jewellery will also carry their signature hallmark (also known as the sponsor’s mark). This next photo will explain things in a bit more detail:

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Examples of hallmarks on precious metals. Source: Onlinesterling.com

As an example, one of my Thomas Sabo charms carries the 925 weighting hallmark which tells you this is 92.5% pure sterling silver as well as the Thomas Sabo logo and their designated sponsor’s mark:

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Thomas Sabo logo

As I explained before, not all items of precious metals (silver, gold, platinum and palladium) carry hallmarks, this depends on the actual weight of the metal itself. In trying to sort out some issues that I had with the defacing of the hallmarks during the polishing process when resizing my engagement ring, I developed an avid interest in how jewellery is made. Did you know that to class an item as ‘fine jewellery’, the setting you use for holding precious gemstones in place is important? This means the jewellery designer you buy your piece of fine jewellery from takes considerable time and care to ensure the setting they use to keep your gemstone in place is secure and there is no leeway for the stone to move, and as a result, come undone over time. The intricacies and care Lilia Nash used in creating the flower setting for my ring is nothing less than extraordinary when you look closely at the claws used to hold my pink sapphire in place.

The first step to understanding fine jewellery involving precious metals and gemstones, in my opinion, is to get an understanding of the process of applying hallmarks. If you did a search for Assay Offices in your area, you’re more than likely to find at lease one in you country. In the UK alone, there are 4 – Birmingham, Sheffield, London (also known as the Goldsmiths’) and Edinburgh Assay Offices. Source: British Hallmarking Council. I enrolled myself into the hallmarking seminar that is held twice a year at the Goldsmiths’ Assay Office in London.

Having thought about it, I had an interest in making my own jewellery when I was still in my teens, only because there were times when you were either paying a fortune for a designer piece of jewellery that’s unique and stylish, like Dior or Tiffany & Co. By attending jewellery making classes, you can learn how to make your own piece of sterling silver jewellery!

Until I spoke about it with a friend just yesterday, I began thinking about it more seriously: I’d really be keen to take a jewellery making class, working with silver. Little did I know, but on doing research for jewellery making classes, you can get Art Clay Silver which works exactly like clay, but on firing your final piece in the kiln, you’ll be amazed to see that you’ve created yourself a piece of 99.9% sterling silver piece which, if it is what is says on the package, you can even get this hallmarked at the Assay Office!

If you prefer to work with something different, there are plenty of retailers and bead shops – online and local stores around you – that I’m certain will offer jewellery making glasses, working with semi-precious gemstone, glass, crystal and plastic beads. You might find when going this venture solo, you’ll maybe need to get your own jewellery making tools.As far as taking classes goes, the best thing to do would be to check with your local bead shop or classes offered by your local council (for residents of Edinburgh, here’s the list of courses available with Edinburgh City Council in the term that’s passed. The brochure for courses available for the next term (Winter Term) should be available mid-August.

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