We work on the basis that the more our friends and clients understand about jewellery and the process of jewellery-making, the more they will value the beautifully made pieces that we make for them. But we do not want to swamp you with excess information or blind with science. Here is a carefully selected compendium of resources and some useful links for further reading.
Our gold jewellery mostly uses 18 carat gold because 18 carat offers the best combination of colour, malleability and hardness. Pure gold – 24 carat – is too soft to be used for most modern jewellery, although it is still commonly found in Indian and the Middle Eastern jewellery. The addition of other metals – for example silver, copper or members of the platinum family – makes a harder, more durable but still workable alloy. 18 carat is 75 percent pure gold and 25 percent other metals. 9 carat gold is only around 37 percent gold. White gold is a commonly used term but is not always clearly explained. One can create a greyish yellow gold alloy by adding palladium, silver or nickel to gold but the bright silver sheen of white gold is created by plating the gold with rhodium – another member of the platinum family. This is not cheating – rhodium is actually more expensive than gold but only a small amount is used in the plating process. The plating process does have practical implications though. If the “white gold” jewellery is exposed to wear, then it will require replating at regular intervals to maintain its pure “white” appearance. This particularly applies to rings, where platinum is a better choice because it is more durable. For more about gold you might like to visit www.gold.org
Platinum is increasingly popular for jewellery because of its hardness and grey white colour without the practical drawbacks of white gold. Platinum is eleven percent more dense than gold (itself a very heavy metal). And platinum is also more expensive per gramme than gold. In other words the same design will cost considerably more in platinum, which is also more difficult to work, requiring high temperatures. This explains why platinum rings are common but platinum necklaces very rare. Other metals in the platinum family are now being used for jewellery. Rhodium is used to plate gold (and platinum) to create a bright “white” finish as explained above. Palladium now has a hallmark of its own. Osmium and Iridium – the heaviest of all – remain exotic rarities outside of space programmes but they are used occasionally to create distinctive jewellery. For more on the platinum family you might visit the platinum guild site or go to the international platinum group metals association
Silver may not be as immutable or valuable as gold but it remains a lovely metal with which to work. Young designer-makers almost always start with silver because it is less expensive than gold. This has the practical result that you can find some really exciting fresh work in the metal. And, of course, there is always the option of commissioning the same design in gold or even platinum. All our jewellery is in sterling or 925 silver – British and continental equivalents. This means nearly pure silver – 925 parts out of a 1000 – with other metals, normally copper, added to make a harder but still workable alloy, as is the case with gold. The best reference we have found on the web is, perhaps surprisingly, in Wikipedia
Diamonds – carbon in crystalline form – are arguably the most iconic gemstone because of their legendary hardness and beauty. No jewellery website or indeed jewellery boutique would be complete without an explanation of the four Cs: carat weight, colour, clarity and cut. But unfortunately when it comes to establishing value, this useful formula does not convey the complexity – perhaps a fifth c – of the interplay between the four elements. A big, opaque, flawed diamond is obviously going to be less attractive – and less valuable – than a big, clear, flawless diamond. But quality of cut can also have a major impact on the appearance and value of the stone. Even certificated diamonds – which you should consider for stones over a carat – are not an exact science. A certificate from a reliable laboratory can provide some reassurance but, as with fine wines, it takes an expert to make subjective choices about superficially similar stones and the experts do not always agree. Our, perhaps unconventional, advice is to think hard about why you are buying the diamond and what you want it to mean. For example, it is a truism that there is generally little point in buying a D colour flawless diamond for jewellery, as there is a big difference in price but little perceptible difference in appearance from a G colour, VVS diamond. But if you wanted to be able to say, romantically, that you were buying a flawless stone to celebrate a flawless love, then we could see how it could be worthwhile. Or perhaps you might simply want to treat yourself to the best there is, without compromise. Both choices – the flawless or the G VVS are equally valid. If you are buying a diamond for a friend, lover or partner, then ask yourself first what she or he would like the diamond to say. There are no absolutes. The Gemmological Association of Great Britain has a good guide. But it is also worthwhile checking out the website of the American equivalent, the Gemmological Institute of America. Finally, Wikipedia also has a good entry on diamond shapes and cuts
The traditional “precious” gemstones are ruby, sapphire and emerald. My father, ever the traditionalist, refuses to look at anything else. Selection of stone here is even more subjective than with diamonds. Most people admire even and deep colours combined with translucence but there are inconsistencies. Most emeralds, for example, have been treated in one way or another. Almost all emeralds are oiled to give a sheen. The most important thing is to understand the practical implications of the qualities of the stone you choose. All the coloured stones are less hard than diamonds and therefore less suited to every day wear. Emeralds are the least durable of the three. Do not think that this means I do not like them – my favourite ever ring is a gorgeous emerald – but they have to be worn with care.
Personally I absolutely love the explosion of new gemstones now available in beautiful settings, from beryl brooches to tanzanite tiaras. Rather than try to capture the full range of possibilities here, I strongly recommend the glossary of the – wait for it, banal name coming up – international coloured gemstone association. Designer-makers are being inspired by these great stones to create some of their most striking pieces. Let your imagination run riot as in this spectacular necklace made by Anthony Griffin.
Before man could cut gemstones into glittering facets, he could still recognise the exquisite organic beauty of the pearls he would occasionally discover in the oysters and other shellfish he harvested for food and so pearls were one of the most celebrated jewels of antiquity. In nature a pearl is the shellfish’s act of self preservation, a piece of grit or similar that has somehow found its way inside the shell, is gradually coated by nacre, mother or pearl. Almost all pearls available now are cultivated in a process first pioneered by Mikimoto – a small piece of material is placed carefully inside the shellfish by hand, stimulating the growth of a pearl around it. The cultivated pearl, without close scientific examination, is physically indistinguishable from its naturally occurring counterpart. The only real difference is the fact of the hand of man starting the process. Cultivated pearls differ staggeringly widely in appearance and in value, depending on size, colour, regularity of shape and origin. A string of medium sized fresh water pearls might be several hundreds of pounds; a string of large, regular, Tahitian pearls, up to tens of thousands. Both sets of pearls would have been cultivated in fundamentally the same way. Naturally occurring pearls can still be found of course but one would have to pay many times the price of the cultivated equivalent. But that is not to say that this could not be a valid choice for someone who wanted something truly unique. Simulated pearls are not pearls at all but plastic, resin or other materials. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this – we love costume jewellery – provided you know what you are getting. Pearl-guide.com is an excellent compilation of resources. You might also find useful material at the Cultured Pearl Association
We hope you find the superbly beautiful and individual bespoke fine jewellery that you are looking for through us. But if your tastes are different then you will find great designer-makers with a different aesthetic vision but equally strong professional skills in the directory of the Goldsmiths Company.
All real art and design has its roots in crafts – we always enjoy re-connecting with what is happening at the Crafts Council
If you are inspired by the work you see on these pages to seek a career in making beautiful things then there are worse places to start your research than the British Government’s careers advice service