Charity begins at womb…

As some of you may have seen on Instagram, Tiding of Magpies has an exciting new design this week:

As well as being super cute, these earrings have another purpose. Everyone loves a feel-good, girl power design, but I wanted these hoops to do more than just look great. As the women we celebrated last weekend so eloquently put it:

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Source: warble.com

Feminism should be about action and change, and that’s why £1 from every pair of hoops sold is donated directly to Plan International UK. If you’re unfamiliar with this amazing organisation, here’s a brief summary of some of the important work they do:

  • Working to stop child marriage
  • Promoting the economic empowerment of women
  • Providing and supporting education for girls everywhere
  • Working to improve access to healthcare and clean water, particularly concerning sexual and menstrual health
  • Working to end FGM
  • Helping communities prepare for disasters and rebuild resources when natural disasters ocur
  • Helping women and girls gain the skills for environmentally sustainable work
  • Advocacy and helping shape policy

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Why Plan International UK ?

Plan International do a huge amount of important and varied work globally, but it’s their global scope and the fact they’re so aware of the need to tailor their help to the situation and culture of the women and girls they help that really struck a chord with me.

Let’s take their work around menstrual stigma and health as a prime example.

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Having your period is an experience the average woman has approximately 450 times in during her lifetime – a completely natural occurrence, yet one which is stigmatised, ill-provided for, and treated as if it doesn’t matter. As anyone who’s had one knows, periods are pretty miserable things, between the pain, mood swings, mess, expense… I could go on.

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Most women in the UK, EU and USA are lucky enough to have access to sanitary products (albeit after we’ve paid tax for the luxury of obtaining them). However, in many countries around the world, people menstruating are forced to resort to insufficient and unsafe methods to handle their periods, as well as facing stigma which includes being banned from school, events, or religious observance, or even confined to their home.

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But that doesn’t mean menstrual stigma doesn’t exist in the UK, too. Rather naively, I only recently realised the scale of the issue here. For example, did you know that 10% of girls have been unable to afford sanitary products, often leading to them missing school, and almost 70% report not being allowed to use the school toilets during lessons, meaning they can’t manage their periods safely and comfortably?

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So, that’s why I chose Plan International UK as the beneficiary of this design, because they work globally on the myriad issues and challenges facing women and girls, understanding and tackling the complexity and importance of topics like menstruation, sexual health, education, FGM & child marriage.

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As the business grows, I’m looking forward to more charity designs and being able to give more back. In the meantime, check out the new hoop design, which I STILL haven’t taken off since I designed it…

*Disclaimer: I don’t look that good now, I’m currently on the sofa looking like this (but wearing some adorable Venus hoops)…

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Jet-setter

 

One of the best things about running this business is that I get to create beautiful things that become a treasured part of my customers’ lives, and I get to do that by stretching my design wings. I recently undertook a commission which was heartfelt, exciting and challenging, and I thought I’d share it with you…

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My client was Suzanne*, a lovely woman who owned a treasured but somewhat battered piece of Whitby jet which had been passed down to her by her grandmother. The piece of jet had an extra-special meaning to Suzanne, because her grandma played a big role in raising her, and she wanted it turned into a wearable piece of jewellery so she could carry the gift with her everyday. She was also concerned about the potential to develop arthritis in the future, so she wanted the ring to be adjustable.

As well as being delighted that Suzanne had entrusted this piece of jet with such sentimental meaning to me, I will admit I was a little nervous! Jet is notoriously difficult to set, being quite a flaky and fragile stone. However, the challenge was exciting, and I explored a number of different design options to set this stone into a silver ring, since, after some discussions with Suzanne, it became clear that she favoured rings over other types of jewellery.

I knew as soon as I saw the jet that I wanted to make a design feature of the missing corner rather than crafting a setting to hide it. After all, this jet is a piece of Suzanne’s life story, and life has its imperfections as well. I wanted to embrace the history of the 150-year-old stone, and Suzanne was also excited about this idea, so it was full-steam ahead! We decided to go with the double-band design, and Suzanne absolutely loved it.

After receiving the ring, she sent me a lovely email telling me that she plans to pass the jet down to her own daughter in the future – I could not have been happier or more touched.

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Side view – this is how I achieved the adjustable ring. It can be altered by gently squeezing the sides, and the rounded ends allow a comfortable fit.

I also love the way the design turned out, and the whole process was one of the best commissions I’ve ever had. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually get to do this job!

*Not her real name; I like to maintain my clients’ privacy unless they wish to be a part of blog posts etc.

It’s my birthday and I’ll sparkle if I want to!

This weekend we’re throwing it back all the way to primary school with some good old birthstone chat. Later on we can play MASH and maybe a bit of Red Rover…

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My oldest school friend turned 26 last week, and for one of her gifts I designed her a silver and emerald earring and necklace set. As well as being one of her favourite stones, emerald is also her birthstone, which is something we were VERY excited about back in junior school (along with birth flowers, star signs, and any other vaguely mystical identifiers we could find…).

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All this birthstone nostalgia made me wonder where birthstones even came from. I mean, it’s a fairly niche idea when you think about it. Star signs, the Chinese zodiac, all of those identifiers are based on astrology, but birthstones? Whose idea was that?

The birth of birthstones

Surprisingly, it seems like it was Aaron’s. Not as in Aaron Burr, but as in the High Priest Aaron, Moses’ brother. In Exodus 28, when Aaron is being fitted for a new breastplate, Moses decrees it should carry 12 gemstones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. Historians have since argued that these stones were also linked to the months of the year and the signs of the Zodiac. Because names of gemstones have changed over time and translation, nobody is quite sure which stones Aaron was sporting, but a commonly-accepted list is as follows:

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Source: peacefulmind.com

As you can see below, some of these stones or close alternates still appear on today’s lists…

However, the practice of wearing your birth month’s stone only appeared in Europe a few hundred years ago; before that, it was customary (presumably only among those who could afford it!) to keep one of each stone and wear it during its month. However, by the 20th century, birthstones were such a popular (and lucrative) concept that both the American National Association of Jewelers and the British National Association of Goldsmiths created their own ‘official’ list of birthstones.

Let’s get stoned

Ever wonder what your own birthstone is? Well, wonder no longer – I’m about to take you through the official (British NAG) list of birthstones. Some of them are pricier than others, but the NAG have thoughtfully provided alternatives on some months. I also have a couple of suggestions for budget-friendly dupes for some of the more expensive stones…

January: Garnet

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, I bloody love garnet. If only my mum had held onto me a solid month past my due date this stone could have been mine… The gorgeous dark red colour is perfectly set off by faceting, and it looks lovely in a gold or silver setting.

 

February: Amethyst

February’s stone is amethyst, a lovely violet-coloured form of quartz. Fun fact about amethyst: its name comes from the Ancient Greek for the words ‘not’ and ‘intoxicate’. This belief that amethyst protected you from drunkenness (and, indeed, hangovers!) led to lots of drinking vessels carved from or inlaid with the stone, as well as charms:

 

Maybe I’ll try wearing amethyst charms on my next night out and see how my head is the next day…

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Available here

March: Aquamarine/Bloodstone

Two quite different stones for March – perhaps March babies are meant to be more indecisive? Bloodstone sounds – and looks! – a bit emo, whilst aquamarine is delicate and classic:

 

If you don’t fancy either of these, March’s birth colours are white and light blue, so you could always consider substituting a pearl or a moonstone for the two ‘official’ options…

April: Diamond/Rock crystal

One of the most expensive months of the year is April, with diamond as its main stone. Luckily, a more affordable alternative, rock crystal, is given, and you could also substitute crystal quartz:

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Available here

May: Emerald/Chrysoprase

If only I’d be born in May… Emeralds speak for themselves, and luckily chrysoprase makes a nice, affordable substitute for emerald. Chrysoprase also has some lovely marble-esque inclusions which adds a bit of interest:

 

June: Pearl/Moonstone

June’s stones of pearl or moonstone give some lovely, neutral-coloured options for birthstone jewellery, but the benefit of pearls is they also come in different colours to suit all tastes and styles, and rainbow moonstones also produce lovely colours when the light hits them:

 

July: Ruby/Carnelian

Another red month, with cardinal stone ruby and semi-precious carnelian for some fiery birthstone jewellery:

 

August: Peridot/Sardonyx

Leaving aside the fact that Sardonyx sounds like me as a Pokemon, it’s also quite different from the better-known August birthstone of peridot. August babies have tons of colours and patterns to choose from with sardonyx, as well as a light green sparkler with periot. I think I prefer the sardonyx for its variety (and name!), but peridot isn’t too shabby either:

 

September: Sapphire/Lapis Lazuli

Yet another month I’m jealous of; more for the lapis lazuli than the sapphire, actually. I just love its gold flecks and historical appeal. That being said, you can’t go too far wrong with a sapphire, and they come in a bunch of different colours as well, so you can choose your favourite or sport a rainbow birthstone piece (if you’ve the budget for it!):

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October: Opal

Opals have come back in in a big way in the past couple of years, so lucky October babies! Opals were extremely rare before the 19th century discovery of huge opal deposits in Australia, and appear in the treasuries of many European royal houses. Like many of the stones on this list, opals come in a range of colours and styles…

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November: Topaz/Citrine

November is the only month with predominantly yellow stones, perhaps to make up for the lack of sunshine the UK during these babies’ birthdays… Topaz does, of course, come in blues, greens and pinks as well as yellows, whilst citrine (as the name suggests) is just yellow. According to British superstition, Topaz also cures ‘lunacy’, so take from that what you will…

 

December: Turquoise/Tanzanite

I love turquoise now, but when I was little, it did feel a little like they’d just run out of stones by the time they got to my birth month. I mean, turquoise isn’t even sparkly! Gorgeous, purply-blue tanzanite is, but I didn’t know about it back then. Tanzanite is also a lot more expensive; turquoise is definitely the affordable December stone, but it does have the advantage of a huge range of variations in colour and inclusions (the speckly bits)…

 

What’s your birthstone, and, more importantly, do you like it? If your month has two stones, what do you prefer? Let me know in the comments…

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Disney Designs 4: Dun(broch) mind if I do

Time for another Disney Designs post! This week we’re going to run, fly, chase the wind, touch the sky…and take a look at Queen Elinor’s necklace.

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Ok, maybe just that last one, then…

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If you’ve not seen the film, Queen Elinor of Clan Dunbroch (above) is the mother of Merida, the flame-haired archer princess who is Brave‘s protagonist. Also, if you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. Although a bit short on songs for my taste, it makes up for it with its focus on Merida and Elinor’s relationship, its lowkey, dry humour, and Merida being a generally cool but also realistic 16-year-old. I won’t spoil it for you if you’ve not seen it, but there is an excellent bit with an archery competition…

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To get back to the point of this blog, when it comes jewellery, as well as her gleaming green circlet, Elinor also has a bear pendant which she gives to Merida before the ill-fated suitor contest:

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….aaaand then Merida trades it to a witch. Ouch.

Anyhow, Elinor’s necklace is in a recognisably Celtic style, which makes sense given the story’s 10th century Scottish setting, but I wondered how it compared to what people might really have been wearing at the time.

 

Circular pendants and brooches with interlocking patterns were certainly popular in 10th century Scotland, but it seems there were more abstract than animal motifs. The never-ending circle motif was everywhere, just as it is on the walls of Merida’s castle:

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The three-animals-in-a-continuous-circle motif was widespread in Far East Asia, along the Silk Road, and in the Middle East, in the form of three hares rather than three bears. Although it’s uncertain when exactly the symbol travelled to Western Europe, it does not seem to appear consistently before the 13th century ,so Brave is a little early on that one.

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13th century Iranian tray depicting the Three Hares. Photo by Chris Chapman.

However, animal heads as part of the triskele motif were found in Scotland and Ireland from the 5th-6th century:

 

I didn’t find any examples with bears from the period when Brave is set, but bears’ teeth were popular amongst those with slightly more hardcore tastes…

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9th – 11th century CE

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And if anyone fancies channelling Merida? Well, I’ve made a new design: a Celtic-inspired shield necklace just for you…

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Just don’t go trading it with witches, now!

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#collaborationovercompetition

I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with some wonderful artists for two exciting photoshoots, and the edits are back! Here’s a selection of the final images showcasing Tiding of Magpies jewellery…

Shoot 1: Festival Fashion

The first shoot was a fun and colourful romp through a bunch of different festival looks modelled by Kitty Devereux, with hair and make-up by Alia-Michelle, photography by Adrian G, and jewellery by Tiding of Magpies.

This first look featured a simple white tee to highlight Kitty’s gorgeous ink, topped off with fun and bouncy curls, a shimmery make-up look (using the Naked II palette) and metallic wayfarers. The necklace will be on sale at Tiding of Magpies VERY soon, and is a gold version of this piece, featuring gold-filled stars, discs and leaves, as well as amethyst, moonstone and crystal quartz drops. The hoops (which look fab through Kitty’s stretcher!) can be found here, with a smaller version here.

I love this look because it’s effortless festival cool that allows the model’s individuality to shine through (and would be pretty low-maintenance even when knee-deep in mud!).Kitty-31Look 2 has more country vibe with it, complete with plaid shirt and hat. More pared-down jewellery works perfectly with this look, so my classic silver chevron necklace and silver-wrapped amethyst teardrop earrings complement the look beautifully.Kitty-95

Plus, I’m loving this lip colour (Illamasqua Magnetism)…Kitty-125

The final look is my absolute favourite. Alia used two chunky glitters by Festival Face and a finer one by Stargazer.

As a magpie, I fully endorse all glitter, all the time! And I NEED more glitter roots in my life…Kitty-185This adorable flowery ensemble and awesome make-up really highlights the bluey-purple and rose gold tones in the coin pearl lariat necklace Kitty is rocking. My rose gold filled mini star hoops add a bit of extra sparkle to complete the look…Kitty-154The coin pearl lariat was a wedding jewellery design, so I was absolutely thrilled that Alia chose to show its versatility when styling this shoot!

Shoot 2: Soft summer style

The second shoot by Adrian G, with hair and make-up by Alia-Michelle, had a softer, more classic vibe, featuring the stunning Lilly Graham in a series of clean, simple spring and summer looks, all created with the Naked II palette.

My rose quartz and rose gold teardrop earrings look beautiful with the flawless skin and strong brows Alia created, picking out the pinker tones in Lilly’s hair wonderfully. I also want Alia to come and do my eyebrows for me for the rest of my life…Lilly-11Look number two featured my simple rose gold filled circle necklace and the same hammered disc hoops from the festival shoot.

 

The final look featured a gorgeously summery look, complete with a soft, floral hairstyle and my amethyst earrings making another appearance.

I love how many pieces were used for different looks on these shoots – it just goes to show that a good design can be really versatile. From festival to picnic, and work to date night, Tiding of Magpies has got you covered with beautiful jewellery, all handmade with love in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter!
Lilly-240A huge thanks goes out to Alia-Michelle, Adrian, Kitty and Lilly for being your fab and talented selves! I’ve loved being a part of these shoots…here’s to the next one!

 

Advice from a jewellery designer: how to pick your bridal jewellery

This week’s post is an exciting collab post over on Rowton Castle’s site. I got married at Rowton last year and can’t recommend the venue enough, so I was delighted to write another blog post for them. Check it out here…

And for gorgeous, elegant jewellery for brides, bridesmaids and members of the wedding party, head to the wedding section of the Tiding of Magpies shop!

If you’re interested in reading the first post I wrote for the castle, all about designing my own wedding, you can take a look at it here.

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Photo by Suzy Wimbourne Photography

 

Not just a ‘shiny piece of coal’ – the jewellery of Hamilton

Last week, after almost 3 years of having the soundtrack on repeat, I FINALLY got to be in the room where it happens at Hamilton in London, along with The Goblin and a whole bunch of family and friends. I cried. A lot.

 

And I have A LOT of feelings about the show, the top 3 being:

1) How amazing Jamael Westman & Rachelle Ann Go are as the Hamiltons

2) How I will never be satisfied with a Washington who isn’t Christopher Jackson

3) How It’s Quiet Uptown will never not make me cry (especially when sung by the divine Rachel John).giphy (3).gif

I also have a lot of feelings about the gorgeous costuming, which Paul Tazewell, acclaimed Broadway costume designer, created as a modern, minimalist version of 18th century silhouettes. It’s a combination of old and new right after my own heart*, all in a palette of lush colours.

 

The minimalism doesn’t just stop at the clothing, with the only jewellery in the show being the main female characters’ delicate drop earrings (aside from King George’s bling, of course!). They’re a gorgeous example of minimal styling, because they add a little sparkle without taking away from the incredible vocals and rich dresses.

 

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Like the costumes, the Hamilton ladies’ jewellery is a stripped-back version of what women of the Schuylers’ status would have worn during this period of history (although not that stripped back; in late eighteenth century America, less jewellery was definitely more). Hair adornments and brooches were the accessories of choice at this time. Necklaces, when worn, tended to be of a choker style, and earrings were relatively simple (albeit expensive) gemstone drops.

 

Following the Revolution, at the start of the nineteenth century, American jewellery manufacture briefly boomed at home, as well as there being expanded import options. The Neo-classical trend in Europe carried across to the States, with pearl, topaz and amethyst designs gaining popularity.

 

However, from their portraits, it seems the real-life Schuyler sisters were even simpler in their tastes than the styles of the time:

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Angelica (by John Trumbull)
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Eliza (by Ralph Earl)
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And Peggy! (by James Peale)

I, of course, made myself some Hamilton-themed gems to wear to the show, focusing on the star motif….

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These may make their way into the Tiding of Magpies store one day…
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Loving wearing my long threader earrings through multiple piercings at the moment for a different look…

Judging by the costumes and the historical jewels, perhaps I should have worn a pair of my gemstone drop earrings instead so I could pretend I was a Schuyler sister! Come to think of it, maybe I’ll do this tomorrow – I just need to find an orangey-pink outfit to go with my rose quartz drops…

 

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Some interesting articles on the costume design process:

http://tyrannyofstyle.com/costume-design-hamilton-broadway

https://www.thecut.com/2016/06/see-the-original-sketches-of-hamilton-costumes/slideshow/2016/06/09/hamilton_sketches/

Also, shout out to this blog for providing endless portraits of 18th and 19th century American women – https://b-womeninamericanhistory18.blogspot.co.uk/

 

*Maria Reynolds aside, because, come on now, this show is better than that stereotypical ‘vampy’ red…