If you follow Tiding of Magpies on Instagram you may have seen a few stories about our exciting news, but for anyone who missed it, don’t worry – I’m about to fill you in on all the details!
This week, an exhibition called Stellar opens at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) Gallery right here in the Jewellery Quarter, and Tiding of Magpies jewellery is part of it! The exhibition, as the name suggests, has a celestial theme and is focused on all things sparkly – perfect for Tiding of Magpies’ aesthetic… The gallery describes the exhibition like this:
Inspired by the wonder and mystery of stars and space, this display is unashamedly focused on all things bright, twinkly and sparkly. It features jewellery in precious materials, ceramics with lustrous glazes, and textiles in plush fabrics. Every piece is hand-made by a designer-maker[…]
The gallery itself is a local gem, which overlooks St Paul’s Square in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, and hosts regularly-changing exhibitions, events & workshops. Not to mention that entry to the exhibitions is free! There are 3 floors of gorgeous artwork to explore, so make sure you check those out while you’re visiting Stellar…
It was hard to whittle my 75-ish designs down to just 15 for the display, but I focused on colours and shapes that fitted best with the theme of the exhibition. Moonstones, star shapes, and glittering, deep blue stones such as sapphire, iolite and lapis lazuli take centre stage.
Tiding of Magpies’ fifteen-piece exhibition collection includes new designs, old favourites, and a whole host of colours and stones. Naturally, moonstone and lapis lazuli make several appearances, as well as amethyst, garnet and sapphire, and a range of metal finishes.
The exhibition runs until 2nd February 2019, so you’ve got plenty of time to get down to the gallery, check out Stellar, and maybe do a little Christmas shopping or treat yourself to some sparkles! Plus, all gallery purchases come with an exclusive discount code which can be used at the Tiding of Magpies online store until August 2019.
I know, I know, it’s been a while. Lots of things have happened but the highlights are lots of illness, a holiday & new projects. It has been A TIME.
Anyhow, this week was the start of the new school term, and you know what that means? It’s also time for the new HOGWARTS school term. If, like me, your letter never arrived, don’t despair – you can still show your house colours and pretend it did.
Ready for the new year, I’ve created a line of barely-there Hogwarts house necklaces, for an oh-so-pretty and dainty nod to your dreams of becoming a wizard that won’t get you stared at on the tram…
Image (c) Tiding of Magpies
Image (c) Tiding of Magpies
Image (c) Tiding of Magpies
Image (c) Tiding of Magpies
Image (c) Tiding of Magpies
It was only a matter of time until I made some jewellery inspired by my childhood obsession, and designing these subtle house colours made me think about how much jewellery there is in the Harry Potter series. From Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem and Hermione’s gold time turner to Marvolo Gaunt’s tasteless ring (nobody giggle) and the horcrux locket, I think it’s safe to assume that the wizarding world is as full of magpies as the muggle one!
Because we all know plenty about these fictional magical trinkets (and because I’ve just discovered the And That’s Why We Drink podcast!), I thought I’d have a little look for some ‘real life’ gems with special powers. Here are three sinister sparklers and the mysteries behind them…
1. The ‘Atlantis Ring’
Supposedly magical jewellery tends to fall into two categories: amulets/talismans and cursed objects. Ring number one on our list is the former.
Allegedly found in 1860 by the Marquis d’Agrain in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, this clay ring with its strange markings seemed completely out of place amongst the hieroglyphs and imagery of its surroundings. Long story short, this led to the belief it was from the lost city of Atlantis (because, of course it did). And then it gets weirder…
Howard Carter, the archaeologist famous for leading the exhibition that found Pharoah Tutankhamun’s tomb, was so interested in this ring’s supposed protective properties (especially against mummies and their curses) that he had a copy made for himself. Years later, he became the only member of his expedition to die of natural causes… Hmmm.
2. The Hope Diamond
Possibly the most famous cursed gemstone in the world, the Hope Diamond has definitely seen its share of misfortune. Tales of its first owner being ripped apart by wild dogs started the rumour of a curse, although these proved to be false. Perhaps it wasn’t so cursed after all then? Not so fast; after adorning the doomed necks of various members of the French royal family, including Marie Antoinette, it made its way to England and then the USA following the French Revolution. Realising the ‘curse’ could be a selling point, Cartier obtained the diamond and sold it to socialite Evelyn Walsh McLean.
Not one to be cowed by curses, McLean showed the diamond off at every opportunity. However, bad luck began to plague her and her family. Her children both died, one in a car crash and the other from a drug overdose. Then her husband left her for another woman, bankrupted the family in the process, and eventually died of alcoholism-induced brain atrophy. Yikes. But wait, what about McLean herself? She died the year after her husband, her jewellery being sold to pay the family’s debts.
It now lives in the Smithsonian Museum, where the worst it does is doom the tourists who view it to the curse of being overcharged in taxis and losing their passports…
3. The Koh-i-Noor Diamond
In this case, it seems that diamonds really are a girl’s best friend. Or, at least, a boy’s worst enemy!
This whopping 105.6 carat stone passed through the hands of Delhi sultans, Persian shahs, and Mughal, Afghan & Sikh emperors, before being willed to a temple by its second-to-last owner, Ranjit Singh. Unfortunately, the East India Company had other ideas, and the stone was handed over to Queen Victoria in the Last Treaty of Lahore.
Because Disney’s Aladdin, it hadn’t come out yet, so people didn’t seem to realise that stealing stones from sacred places was a really bad idea…
After effectively nicking the diamond from the gods, British sailors faced the battle to get it home, coming up against cholera, attack, and gales.
However, because every previous male owner had lost his throne – and the stone – in unfortunate circumstances, the British royal family did take the ‘sensible’ precaution of making sure that only female royalty wore the stone. So far it’s been in a brooch, a circlet and a tiara, and is currently in the Queen Mum’s crown in the Tower of London.
Its ‘curse’ was the inspiration for Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, and it’s featured in an Agatha Christie novel and Assassin’s Creed since then!
Would you wear a supposedly cursed piece of jewellery? I don’t believe in curses but I’ve not been keen to risk it since reading Simon Raven’s The Roses of Picardie! Excellent book, but also quite scary… For now I’ll stick to my Ravenclaw necklace! What’s your Hogwarts house – Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw? Let me know in the comments.
This year, the British summer has lasted longer than a few days in May, and we’re all pretty shocked. The vitamin D, blue skies and bright light are fab; the sweaty air, less so…
Anyway, I’m sat in front of a fan with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio in hand and I’m ready to spread some extra sunshine in the form of sparkles (what else?!).
As long as humans have existed, the sun has been a source of fascination, an object of worship, and a muse for artwork, so it’s no wonder it features in jewellery across time and space. Here are five of my favourite pieces of sun-themed jewellery…
Medal Of The Qajar Order of Aftab, 19th Century CE
This beautiful, honorific badge is a gorgeous demonstration of how to mix materials. The central, painted enamel inlay bears the face of the female sun (aftab), which emanates platinum rays set with sparkling diamonds.
The Qajar Dynasty of Persia ruled from 1779-1924, and the Order of Aftab was introduced in 1873 by Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar, the King of Persia. It had two classes, the first for female sovereigns and the spouses of reigning kings, and the second for princesses, women of high rank, or others deemed worthy of special appreciation. The Shah created the order before embarking on a trip to visit foreign dignitaries around the world, which is why Queen Victoria of England was one of the first recipients of a first class order badge.
The first class badge was fashioned in platinum and diamonds, the second uses brilliants rather than diamonds, and is only a semi-circular sun rather than the full disc. Both were worn on a pink and green sash, and all badges were made to this design until the order changed in 1939 with a change of dynasty.
Gold brooch by Castellani, Rome, c.1860
This brooch was made around 1860 by the Castellani jewellery company, which specialised in archaeologically-inspired pieces to cater to the 19th Century CE trend for neo-classicism. It’s based on the Greek sun god, Helios, with both the rays and Helios’ hair executed using the popular but difficult ancient technique of granulation, and is approximately 3.25cm in diameter. It was inspired by a Hellenistic Greek ornament in the Campana collection.
Minoan gold brooch, 17th Century BCE
Found in a Minoan tomb in Mallia, on the island of Crete, this brooch features the sun’s disk, covered with granulation and held up by two bees, right at the centre of the the piece. The delicate and sophisticated work, particularly for the time in which it was made, involved in the piece is one of the reasons I love this brooch so much. It’s also interesting for its symbolism, because bees were believed to be messengers between the living world and the dead, as well as being the symbol of the Minoan-Mycenaean goddess Potnia. This explains both the work put into the piece and the fact it was found in a tomb – I love it when jewellery has a clear design inspiration!
Sunburst costume pendant, D’Orlan, Mid-20th Century CE
This piece was made by D’Orlan, a mid-century Canadian jewellery company, and I love it for its vibrant colours and mixed stones. Although it’s costume jewellery, fashioned in gold plating and imitation gemstones, the mixture of tones within the piece give it a fun, vintage charm. It has alternating pink, purple, blue and green rhinestones, turquoise and coral-coloured cabochons, and faux pearls, all channel-set into the cast gold-plated sunburst shape.
Silver suburst necklace, Graham Watling, 1973
This sunburst necklace is a little more abstract than the other designs on this list, and that’s exactly why I like it. The artfully-alternating lengths of silver seem to shimmer on the chain, designed to move with the wearer and create a sunny halo round their neck. The designer, Graham Watling, was part of the ‘Renaissance of British Silversmiths’ in the 1970s, and the epitome of the phrase ‘it’s never too late to try something new’ – after a military career and 17 years teaching Arts and Crafts, he completed a BA Hons in silversmithing and began designing and selling his creations!
As the title suggests, The Goblin and I popped up to Cannock Chase yesterday for a bit of fresh air and greenery. Despite not being hot weather types and nearly melting into a puddle of sunscreen and regret, we managed to have a lovely walk, look at some trees, and scoff down a picnic.
The beautiful, saturated colours of the sky and trees and flowers gave me all sorts of design inspiration, especially the pink Veronicas, which are the reason I’m seriously thinking about adding some tourmaline to my next collection. I need more bright pink in my life!
It did make me realise quite how many of my pieces are inspired by the shapes and colours of nature, which at first glance seems a bit counterintuitive from a designer based in Birmingham city centre. I’m not saying the city doesn’t inspire me too, because it definitely does, but nature makes designs spring to mind the fastest. What can I say, you can take the girl out of the countryside…
Fawning over florals
You can’t beat a good floral, so when I did my first capsule collection last Mothers’ Day, I came up with this little geranium pendant. I mean, when better to wear florals than March…?
A fool for foliage
From pendants to hoops, I love a foliage motif. There’s just something about the way leaves organically curl together to make interesting shapes and textures that looks so beautiful.
I absolutely love texture, and the grooves of tree bark are a jeweller’s dream when recreated on shining silver. One of my most popular designs, my tree bark thumb ring, was actually dreamt up after a trip to The Goblin’s homeland of rural mid-Wales, which is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I’ve also designed two other bark-based rings, a slim, simple band, and a wavy, lightning-strike design.
It’s been a busy week, so here’s a quick mini-blog to tide you over until my next full-length post later this week. In my various sparkly research I come across a lot of famous gems I squirrel away to look at at a later date, so here’s one of my favourites, made by French jewellery firm Van Cleef and Arpels…
Subtle this one is not, but that’s why I love it. I mean, look at this sparkle! The First Lady was famously fond of emeralds (as am I!), so her engagement ring features a 2.84 carat square-cut emerald and a 2.88 carat square-cut diamond within a beautiful open-halo setting of 12 marquise-cut diamonds, as well as numerous smaller round diamonds along the gold band. Phew – no wonder its estimated value today is an eye-watering £966,000!
Aside from the craftsmanship and sheer wow-factor of the ring, I love the two stand-out square-cut stones nestled together in their laurel-like surrounds. They’re the perfect pair, and a lovely representation of the promise of engagement – if only JFK hadn’t been such a rubbish, philandering husband, he and Jackie could have been the same! Still, at least she got this gorgeous sparkler out of him…
Let me know your favourite famous jewels in the comments – I love discovering exceptional pieces that I’ve never seen before!
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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)…
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…
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.
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.