Well, that’s novel…

As the nights have drawn in, the rain’s got more frequent, and the temperature has dropped, the Goblin and I have spent a lot of time in a sofa nest, reading and drinking mulled wine. It’s great. I am truly living my best adult life.

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After finishing our History degrees, we’d been firmly stuck on non-fiction books for the last few years, but clearly 2018 required some escapism, and recently we’ve been all about the fiction!

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Because I can never quite switch off work mode, I started thinking about the three best novels I’ve read featuring jewellery or gemstones as a key plot point… Here are my recommendations for your own sofa nest reading material:

1. The Ruby in the Smoke – Philip Pullman

Although this book is technically aimed at a young adult audience, it’s one of the few books from my childhood that has lived up to my memory on rereading, which is saying something, because ya girl had some questionable literary taste! (One word: Twilight…)

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(c) Scholastic

Set in Victorian-era London, The Ruby in the Smoke tells the story of Sally Lockhart, a young women who gets drawn into the dangerous mystery of a stolen ruby following her father’s death. It’s tightly-plotted, well-written, and features a ton of opium – what’s not to like?

2. Mademoiselle de Scudéri – E.T.A. Hoffman

My final choice is technically a novella, but that just means it’s a quick read! As well as featuring a German Miss-Marple-style detective, the elderly poet known as Mme de Scudéri, this book also has a jeweller at its centre. René Cardillac is a renowned goldsmith whose pieces are so highly prized they’re being stolen, and who is also famous for liking his own creations so much he often refuses to part with them – I think all jewellers have been there after finishing something we’re particularly proud of!

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(c) Fantasy & Horror Classics

The story moves at quite a pace, and also sets the scene beautifully in 17th century Paris. I know a lot of people have to read this one for school, which could ruin it a bit for some, but since I’ve only read the English translation for fun, I’m recommending it!

3. The Roses of Picardie – Simon Raven

The Roses of Picardie is the only book on this list that actually features a piece of jewellery as opposed to a gemstone, because I’ve found from experience that most of the novels featuring jewellery as a main plot point are romance-based (no shade; just very much not my thing). Raven’s horror-mystery novel, on the other hand, is a deliciously dark tale featuring his staple horrible characters, cursed rubies, and a journey across Europe. Fun fact: a holiday I took around France in the summer of 2010 was directly inspired by this book, so it works as a travel guide, too!

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Simon Raven was a famously nasty person, who once replied to his wife’s telegraphed request for money to stop her and their child starving with the curt ‘No money; suggest eat baby.’ His unpleasantness and the unflinching awfulness of his characters are, to be honest, part of his appeal. However, the downside to The Roses of Picardie is that this goes further than in some of his other works (e.g. Alms For Oblivion), and there’s a vein of anti-Semitism and some liberal use of the ‘n’ word throughout. Obviously, it’s up to the individual whether that element outweighs enjoyment of the story or not for them personally. It’s definitely one of my problematic faves!

Even more jewellery-related books…

I also have quite a long jewellery-related TBR, which is mostly non-fiction and goes something like this…

  • The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins (I know, I know, I’ve just never got round to it…)
  • Jewels: A Secret History – Victoria Finlay
  • Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box – Madeleine Albright
  • Victorian Jewelry, Identity, and the Novel: Prisms of Culture – Jean Arnold
  • The Emperor’s Pearl – Robert van Gulik
  • Jewel: A Celebration of Earth’s Treasures – DK/Judith Miller

If you have any recommendations for novels featuring jewellery or jewels, please let me know in the comments! New ones are surprisingly difficult to find on Goodreads for some reason…

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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…

 

Crafting For Crazy People Part II: Craftpod review*

As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, I use crafts as a tool to manage my mental health conditions, as well as for the enjoyment of creating, so imagine my delight when my mum gave me a quarterly craft subscription box for my birthday.

Luckily I didn’t have long to wait to try out my new subscription, since it came the following week. Much more cheering post than the usual round of bills, credit card spam and pizza menus (although those are always fairly welcome…)!

This particular subscription box is called Craftpod, and each box is themed around the season it’s released during. This one couldn’t have come at a better time, with January being even colder and more miserable than usual this year, and the theme is all about cosiness and comfort. Perfect!

When I opened the box, I found: a letter explaining the box, all the equipment and instructions for an embroidery project, all the equipment and instructions for a stamp-making project, a cute woodland-patterned postcard, a sheet of wintry stickers, a black chai teabag, and a bar of Vivani chocolate.

I’ll tell you more about the craft projects below, but I just want to mention the extra touches first that made opening the box so enjoyable for me. I absolutely love the tea and chocolate element in the winter box; it feels very self-care-focused, which is exactly what I look for in craft projects, particularly at this time of year. From my mum, I also knew that there would be two craft projects and tea, but I wasn’t expecting the extra stationery bits, so they were a really nice surprise. All of the collateral is gorgeous as well, which is a lovely little touch that makes the box feel that bit more special and treat-like. The instructions are also super easy to follow and written in a friendly, approachable way that makes it feel a bit like Jo is crafting along with you!

I’ve not had time to get stuck into the stamp-making yet, but I’m absolutely loving my embroidery hoop. It’s really simple but has enough detail and different stitches/parts to it to still be engaging, which is a balance I sometimes struggle to find with embroidery projects, since I’m not a particularly accomplished embroiderer… It’s also just repetitive enough with all the berries to be quite meditative (as Jo points out in the instructions as well), so very relaxing to do in front of the TV of an evening.

The stamp-making project seems like a good contrast to the embroidery, since it’s a bit more active and (for me at least!) exotic. I also love making things that are useable, not just decorative, so it’s right up my street. I’ll come back and post pics when I’ve made my stamps so you can see how they turn out!

Overall, I would seriously recommend this box for anyone who enjoys crafting, particularly as a means of self-care. As I mentioned in my previous post, I sometimes feel pressure to finish projects quickly so I can have something to show for my efforts, so the frequency of this box is perfect for me. Two projects every three months is enough to have exciting and relaxing things to do, but not so many that it feels overwhelming and just wouldn’t get used. If the box was monthly, I think I’d feel a bit stressed by the number of projects that ‘needed’ doing, and it would deplete the enjoyment a little.

This box feels like it was made for me, which was my mum’s comment when she gave me the gift, so great work, Mum! If you want to learn more about Craftpod, you can visit the website, or search the #craftpod tag on Instagram to see makes from current subscribers.

*This is not a sponsored post (if ONLY I got paid to chat about crafting!); I’ve just really enjoyed my first Craftpod and wanted to share the recommendation. If you’re interested in receiving fun, themed craft projects for every season, or gifting that experience to a crafty loved one, you can head to the Craftpod website to subscribe.

The Top 3 Jewellery Trends from London Fashion Week SS18

It’s London Fashion Week again, and although shows have barely finished, the jewellery trends are already clear. Here are the top 3…

1) Mismatched/single earrings

Undoubtedly the runaway craze for designers this Spring/Summer Fashion Week, mismatched or single statement earrings have been everywhere on the London catwalks. From enormous, single works of ear-art at Fyodor Golan and Burberry to dainty mismatches at Simone Rocha and Mary Katrantzou, and large, graphic singles at Paula Knorr to Eudon Choi’s more delicate geometrics, this trend clearly isn’t going anywhere next season…

2) Minimal/no jewellery

This LFW, a lot of designers have chosen to forgo jewellery altogether (boo, hiss). Designers as different as Anya Hindmarch, Huishn Zhang, Chalayan, and Richard Malone had one thing in common: they kept the focus on the clothes with their stripped-back looks.

3) Chunky necklaces

A few designers have decided to buck the earrings-or-nothing trend with some serious statement necklaces. Topshop and Christopher Kane went with statement chokers, Roland Mouret with huge bone pendants, and Holly Fulton with bright, 70s-inspired beads.

Bonus list: my top 3 collections so far

Simone Rocha

Victoriana gorgeousness with some seriously fancy hairclips I’m definitely going to attempt to copy for work…

Temperly London

The whole collection looks like a 30s socialite would wear it on the French Riviera and I bloody love it. It’s full of embroidery, sequins, and tulle, three of my absolute faves. And, yes, this pick is may partly be because one of the dresses looks a loooot like my wedding dress!

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Fashion witch vibes + graphic tees + endless glitter = a no-brainer for my final top 3 choice. I mean, just look at this aesthetic:

I want this entire outfit immediately:

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That’s all on Fashion Week. Join me next week for a nostalgic one: the first in my new series exploring the jewellery in Disney films.

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Stoned by Aja Raden: a review

Anyone who follows me on Instagram might have noticed me posting a few pictures of Aja Raden’s ridiculously photogenic book, Stoned, over the past month. It’s taken me a bit longer and got me a few more weird looks on the train than I expected (without the dust jacket it just looks like a book about weed), but I loved it.

First things first, I really loved the format of the book; you can’t really go wrong with chapters focused on one object/story that fits into the wider theme. I just feel like it’s such a strong way to zoom in and out on a topic.

It’s hard to pick out one of the chapters as the best, but the one on emeralds was a winning combination of medieval exploration, science  and witty anecdotes. It was also probably the most interesting for me personally in terms of new knowledgefor example, did you know that emeralds are formed by the crashing together of continental plates?!

Another thing I seriously enjoyed was the amount of fun Raden had with the footnotes (special shout out to the giggly footnote on page 36 about ballsacks). It reminded me a bit of one of my all-time faves, The Princess Bride. Stoned was also scattered with puns, which I obviously adore. The only downside to the irreverent tone was that it sometimes strayed into sounding a little forced, but the multiple times I laughed aloud more than outweighed that.

Stoned was a really interesting blend of science, geopolitics, history and art, probably because Raden has a degree in Physics and Ancient History and is a jeweller herself. Obviously I read it because it was about jewellery, but I think it’s one of those books where you can pick out your interests and follow the threads throughout. I particularly enjoyed the historical commentary and healthy dose of gender politics (although I’d argue that the description of Catherine Howard as ‘empty-headed’, ‘moronic’ and a ‘young tart’ was a bit jarring and harsh, as well as an oversimplification of the historic context in which her marriage took place).

Overall, I thought Stoned was a fab balance of detail and broad pictures, and Raden had obviously done a ton of research. Her knowledge of jewellery design also made for some really fascinating descriptions and explanations of key pieces. I’d definitely recommend it, particularly to anyone who, like me, is busy and therefore has unpredictable amounts of time to read, because it’s pretty easy to dip in and out of without losing interest or focus.

Favourite quote: Hands down the point where Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain were described as ‘putting the ick in Catholic’ with their religious intolerance, although a close second was the description of ‘the United States spreading across the North American continent like a bloodstain’ during the 19th century.

Favourite new fact:  Engagement rings for both men and women were made mandatory for Catholics by Pope Innocent III in 1215 (mostly because of all the crusade-based shagging that was occurring), so fiancé and I aren’t being the hipster arseholes we thought we were, but are in fact being medievally Catholic…huh.

The Best Jewellery from AW17 Fashion Weeks

The latest Paris Fashion Week finished last week, which means all the major fashion houses have had their say on this year’s Autumn/Winter trends. Apparently duvet dressing is still in this season (thank you, Mulberry, Preen and Margiela), although I’m going to take a hard pass on the socks-with-sandals look…

Amidst all the furore about the clothes, jewellery design can sometimes get forgotten in the main news coverage of Fashion Week, so I’ve compiled my favourite jewellery collections from London, Milan and Paris, and found a few handmade Etsy versions as well.

London, 17-21 February: Mulberry

Old meets new with crystal ear cuffs and vintage-style brooches and cameos alongside tweed, checks and embroidery. Love, love, love this aesthetic, and it’s actually achievable off the catwalk, too: grab a patterned shirt and cardie and you’re good to go. Stand-out piece: that gorgeous be-ringed hand pendant.

Milan, 22-28 February: Dolce and Gabbana

The prints are cute, the jackets are cute, but let’s be real – the reason this was the runaway runway winner of Milan Fashion Week is the abundance of crowns. Sadly this look isn’t as doable in daily life (unless you work at Disneyland or you don’t mind getting some really weird looks at the Post Office), but how good would it be if you could actually wear a crown all day, every day? If, like me, you want a crown to wear around the house, Etsy’s bursting with choice. Most of them are ‘wedding’ crowns, but they’re surprisingly affordable, so I’m tempted to just buy one for myself. Sod the wedding! A couple of my favourites:

Paris, 28 February – 8 March: Dior

There are so many things to love about Dior’s AW17 collection, not least the fact it looks like high-fashion Beauxbatons uniforms. The delicate, layered necklaces in this collection are just gorgeous and, like the Mulberry stuff, easy to incorporate into your wardrobe. When it comes to subtle necklaces to layer up, Tiding of Magpies has you covered:

This one even comes pre-layered:

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I’m working on a new line of multistrand necklaces like the one above, so check back in a couple of weeks for more…

Edit: The first new design has dropped. Check it out here.