The Goblin and I recently watched Beauty and the Beast for the first time in a few years, and you know what that means… Time for another Disney Designs post!
It’s not entirely clear in which historical period Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast is supposed to be set, but a quick Google suggests some time around the mid-to-late 18th century, so let’s go with that.
In the film, Belle is too busy swooning over the Beast’s gargantuan library (wahey) to wear very much jewellery, but you know who was around at this time who did? You guessed it: Marie Antoinette, the soon-to-be-headless Queen of France.
As it happens, Marie Antoinette’s jewellery collection was just auctioned at Sotheby’s in Geneva, after going on display for the first time in two centuries. The collection was sold alongside other royal gems from the Bourbon-Parma family, and the whole lot broke Sotheby’s records, going for a whopping £33.63 million!
Before the French Revolution broke, she saw the writing on the wall and shipped some of her jewels off to her nephew in Vienna, meaning that they avoided the dismantling which befell the pieces left behind… and, indeed, their owner!
So, let’s take a peak inside Marie Antoinette’s jewellery box… (Ok, that’s probably enough innuendo now…)
Image (c) Sotheby’s
Image (c) Sotheby’s
Image (c) Sotheby’s
Image (c) Sotheby’s
Image (c) Sotheby’s; yellow diamond added later.
Image (c) Sotheby’s
Image (c) Sotheby’s
It’s clear from first glance that this famous historical magpie was a BIG fan of both diamonds and pearls. Unlike today, where cultured pearls are plentiful and relatively affordable, in Marie Antoinette’s time, naturally-occurring pearls were very rare, and required many hours of life-threatening dives to obtain in any great number. Is it any surprise, then, that they were a favourite of this image-conscious royal?
Interestingly, some saved jewellery was later broken up and reset anyway. This was and continues to be common practice amongst aristocratic families when it comes to heirlooms, since the component gemstones are often more valued than the piece they’re set in. Thus, it’s not unusual to see particularly beautiful stones set and reset into more contemporary pieces over the centuries.
If you’re interested in the relationships between family members and gems, Sotheby’s have put together a handy family tree to show where each piece came from:
The most famous and anticipated piece sold at auction was this pendant, fashioned from an enormous natural pearl (26 x 18mm!), topped with a diamond bow and large solitaire diamond:
It’s a total the queen herself would likely have been proud of, although it is true that her lavish tastes were exaggerated by her contemporaries. After all, can you blame them? The opportunity to tie Marie Antoinette to 1784-5 scandal known as ‘The Affair of the Diamond Necklace’ was too good to resist amongst the anti-monarchy feeling of the day…despite the fact that poor old Marie Antoinette had nothing to do with it. But that’s a story for next week’s post…and it’s a banger!
It’s getting dark and autumnal and I love the knitwear-boots-hot-drinks vibe but I’m less keen on the greyness, so today I’m looking at things through rose-tinted glasses – or rather, rose-quartz-tinted glasses…
Sorry… But really, though, a bit of blush pink crystal is a nice way to brighten up a rainy day, so let’s take a look.
What even is rose quartz?
It’s a type of oxide mineral.
It’s the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust.
The name ‘quartz’ comes from the German for ‘hard’ (snigger snigger), and the ‘rose’ part is, of course, a reference to its pale pink hue.
It’s generally thought that rose quartz’s pink colour is due to trace amounts of titanium, iron, or manganese.
The colour is also photosensitive, so don’t leave your rose quartz pieces in direct sunlight for long periods of time if you want them to stay pink!
Myths, legends, and hidden meanings
From Ancient Egypt to modern crystal enthusiasts, rose quartz’s pretty pink colour and association with romance has created mystical ideas aplenty, but Ancient Greek and Roman myths are the most romantic.
The first is that rose quartz was the physical gift of love bestowed upon humans by Cupid/Eros, the Ancient Greek/Roman god of love. Alternatively, another Greek myth told that rose quartz gained its colour from the blood Aphrodite spilt trying to save her one true love, Adonis. Both lovers bled onto the stone, and this was meant to represent true love. Kinda gross, kinda romantic…
Either way, rose quartz has also been said over the years to have the properties of:
Bringing love into loveless situations
Signifying that a deal had been completed
Whether or not you believe in its special qualities, one thing that’s undeniable is rose quartz’s gorgeous blush pink colour, which has made it popular in designs throughout the centuries…
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.
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.
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…
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…).
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:
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…
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’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…
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:
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’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:
Available in the online store
Available in the online store
Another red month, with cardinal stone ruby and semi-precious carnelian for some fiery birthstone jewellery:
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!):
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…
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…
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…
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…
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!).Look 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.
Plus, I’m loving this lip colour (Illamasqua Magnetism)…
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…This 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…The 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.
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!
A 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!
As I mentioned in my New Year Goals post, a) I’m taking a stone-setting class to buff up (haha) my jewellery skills and b) my goal was to set one ring. When you say it like that it doesn’t sound that ambitious, but there are a few reasons why I may sound guilty of, well…
First of all, it turns out that before you can set stones, you need to grind your tools into shape on a cool grinding wheel that makes sparks and everything. That bit was very exciting initially, but it was also REALLY, REALLY SLOW, because there’s one grinding wheel and…more than one person in the class. Also, you have to grind your cutting tools to fit your hand, and if you have tiny elf hands like me, that’s a whole lot of metal to grind off!
Tools in hand, time to set a ring…right? Nope, because proper stone-setters do hardcore apprenticeships where they have to get used to tools, practise cutting, and learn to control to the drill before they’re even let near anything more interesting than brass plates. Luckily, it was only a few weeks of practice, but still, after one term I had not set a single ring, and I was a little disheartened. (Having missed 3 weeks for my honeymoon probably didn’t help either.)
I started this term aiming to set one whole ring and, lo and behold, I have set FOUR.
They’re not perfect and some of them need a bit of cleaning up, but those stones aren’t moving ANYWHERE. So far I’ve fully set:
1) A simple 3mm circular stone in a rubover setting (cubic zirconia in silver):
2) A 9-stone eternity ring (2mm cubic zirconia; this one was HARD, hence the mess!):
3) A four-claw oval ring (8x6mm; garnet and silver. These claws need more shaping but the stone is definitely not moving so I consider it set!):
4) A four-claw twisted circular ring (10mm; champagne cubic zirconia and silver. This one is NOT subtle!)
And finally, a moment of silence for the TWO castings of the same ring I destroyed. The first time, I’d done a lovely job with the claws and in tidying them up I scored all the way across the gorgeous, dark blue CZ I’d just set.
The second time, keen to avoid damaging the stone during clean-up, I filed the claws too enthusiastically…down to basically nothing. At some point I will reset this stone, but I think I need some time to forget first!
Next up is the smaller version of my GIANT twisted ring above. The aim with this one is to be a little steadier with my drill and not create a dimple that then needs to be very carefully got rid of to avoid damaging the claw it’s gouged out of… I also have some exciting square rings to set, which is a more complex operation (hence the brass rings and very cheap CZ stone – no point throwing good stones after experimental work!)
It might not look like I’ve made a huge amount of progress in two terms, but I feel like I’ve already learnt a lot, including:
1) Stone-setting is simultaneously REALLY hard and really simple. The principles themselves are just logic and physics really, but mastering the techniques to a high standard takes years.
2) Filing is an art of its own. Before this course I was fairly adept at filing down a soldered seam, but that was about it. Watching my tutor filing a perfectly-shaped claw as smooth as silk in a matter of seconds in one of the first sessions floored me.
3) I’m not naturally good at filing! So I guess what I have actually learnt here is to be patient…
4) Being a bit behind and therefore towards the bottom of the class is not the worst thing in the world (much as my perfectionism likes to mutter otherwise). Everyone is going at their own pace and there’s no exam – I just need to do as much as I can.
5) Homework doesn’t end when you finish formal education. Although we don’t have official homework, y own workshop doesn’t have a pendulum drill or grinding wheel, so the more rings I can prep between classes, the more time I have to actually set and benefit from the tutor’s expertise in class.
6) Practice absolutely does make perfect (I know, I didn’t want to hear it either!). My first claw ring took me 2 classes (5 hours) plus prep time outside class. My second was completed start to finish in one class, with a break in the middle to watch a demonstration of the next ring we’ll be attempting.
What’s your achievement of the week? Bonus points if it’s jewellery-related!