Monday, February 27, 2012


Is there anything not fabulous about Bollywood jewellery?  It has everything you could possibly want: colour, glitz, dangles, layers, matching sets, enamel... jewels as far as the eye can see.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Let us not be too particular. It is better to have old second-hand diamonds than none at all.  
Mark Twain 
Antique diamond necklace circa 1880, from the Blanche Thebom collection.  Via Alain Truong.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jewellery renovation: 'stained glass' look earrings

I have had a fresh surge of drive this year to get started on making jewellery.  One of the things I've found myself doing is looking at my own collection of jewellery with fresh eyes.  I think part of it is seeking to understand what it is about the design of a particular piece that draws me to it, or how might I do things differently if I designed that piece myself.
This particular pair of earrings have troubled me for some time.  I bought them for something like $5 from one of those big costume jewellery chain stores that have sprung up in Australian shopping centres (like Diva and Equip).  I loved them on sight.  I love green yet have very little of it in my wardrobe. Most of my jewellery is silver rather than gold toned.  They were curly and ornate and big.  They appeared to be perfect for me.

Yet every time I tried them on, I invariably discarded them in favour of other pieces.  I didn't want to get rid of them because they were oh so scrolly and green and gold and fabulous, but I just didn't wear them.  Eventually I concluded that they weren't for me and put them in a bag of things to ship out.  They languished in that bag for a few months, then in January I tried to sell them in a lot of earrings on eBay: no nibbles.

Then it struck me - I'm a jeweller.  I can do whatever I want with any piece of jewellery in my possession.  So why not see how I can improve them?

The first thing I noticed was that the paler green panels were not really my colour.  As I inspected them more closely, I discovered that the enamel or stained glass effect was really just plastic, which popped out of the frame fairly easily when pushed with a centre punch tool. So I proceeded to spend 15 minutes or so popping out little pieces of plastic, holding up the earrings to the light to check that the new design was balanced and pleasing to the eye.

When I was done, all that was left were some of the darker, more intense green pieces. The filigree of the frame was much more evident.  I concluded my renovations by bending the whole frame slightly from the centre outwards, giving them a more leaf-like structure. 

I wore them out the very next day.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The beginning of a love affair

I'm not entirely sure how I decided to become a jeweller, only that it happened sometime in the last 2 years.  There wasn't a single moment that I can remember. No lightbulb flashing into luminescence over my overworked head.  The clouds didn't part and halo me in a beam of light.

I saw bloggers writing lists of things to do before their next birthday (matching the numbers in the list to the numbers of their years), and 'make a piece of jewellery' was one of the first items onto mine.  Still, I hesitated.

In the midst of a leadership course, digging myself deeper still into my work in the human services and community sector, I had a handful of sessions with a career coach.  I tried to find something else to talk about, use it to 'work on my work', but inevitably it became about how I keep coming back to this feeling, of heaviness, of burnout, of not being able to carry on, of having no room left in me for other people's stories.  In the past I've alleviated it by changing jobs, by starting again.  But the gap between the new and the nosedive is shrinking.  Now I start feeling the itch after a few months.  It's so hard to stay.

I came out of the session with a list.  My goal was no longer 'stop feeling burned out', but 'I want to love my work'.  Thankfully, the coach recognised that trying to make my existing work more love-able (the usual solution proffered) would only be a temporary answer at best.

Later that month I enrolled in a silver jewellery night course at my local community college.  I trekked into the CBD to buy my supplies.  Soldering wire, sterling silver sheet, pliers with different shapes, saw blades so fine they could snap in my bag.

I remember chattering - somewhat shyly - to a salesman over a bench of pliers and solder picks and other tools I couldn't yet name, saying that I was doing this course and if it worked out, I was going to pursue a career as a jeweller.  He asked if I could boil an egg.  Confused, I said 'yes'.  He smiled and said, 'well then, you can make jewellery'.

I'm surprised I didn't figure it out sooner.  It's been there all along.  As a child I swooned over the bejewelled slippers my grandmother brought me from her international travels.  At 4 or 5 I swanned around the house in my long pink frilled nightgown, imagining I was a princess festooned with royal jewels.  I've always been fascinated by the idea of overflowing treasure chests, spilling ropes of pearls and gemstones.  At 8 and 9 I spent hours painstakingly cutting gemstones out of generic jewellery catalogues, super excited when there was a closeup of a ring so the paper gemstone would be big.

Now I have permission (my own, though I didn't know I needed it) to buy books of vintage art nouveau jewellery and huddle over them on the couch for happy hours.  To meander in bead stores gathering up tiny treasures to add to my tidy collection (better still, to use them).  To sigh lustily over stumbled-across websites of artisans specialising in jewellery techniques, like Russian filigree or mokume gane.

This will be a catalogue of my discoveries and hopes, eventually my creations, and above all a love affair with jewellery.

Edward Oakes vintage floral brooch
Victoria Landsford's 'Curves in the Right Places II'
Steve Midgett's 'Shell Form Brooch'