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

 

Design diaries: Winter 2017

There was no post last week, but I do have an excuse, because I’ve been working on a whole bunch of lovely new designs for you all! After a crazy weekend where my workbench looked like this –

– I have some new pieces I’m really proud to share with you! I’ll also go into a tiny bit of the inspiration behind them and give you my top picks from the collection, because I definitely have a few favourites among my new babies…

Pretty in pink

Rose gold is the trend that shows no sign of shifting – and I, for one, am thrilled! The delicate pink tint adds interest to simple pieces and offers different possibilities with colour and shape. For the first time ever at Tiding of Magpies, we now have some 14-carat rose gold fill pieces available!

(Side note, I’m loving rose gold and gold fill – much more staying power and less tarnishing than gold plating, but a way smaller price tag than pure red or yellow gold. Gold-filled metals have pure gold pressure-bonded to another, cheaper metal, whereas gold-plated metals just have the gold on top, where it can rub off upon skin contact etc.)

Top pick: the rose gold circle necklace. Oh-so-simple but sure to get compliments – mine has already!

Hoop-la

Hoops are another long-term trend that seems to be enduring the past few seasons, so I made myself some prototype designs a couple of months ago and haven’t stopped wearing them since. Because it’s a Tiding of Magpies design and I can’t resist a bit of extra sparkle, all of my hoops have charms or gemstones on them:

Top pick: I love them all and wear all the prototypes constantly, but if I had to pick I’d probably go with the small gold hoops with hammered discs – can’t beat a bit of texture on simple shapes.

Lovely lariats

Ever since I made my friend Sami’s bridesmaids’ jewellery, I’ve been a tiny bit obsessed with lariat (or ‘Y’) necklaces.

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I even made some for my own bridesmaids:

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Photo by Suzy Wimbourne Photography

That design (perfect for bridesmaids, as you can see!) is available now in sterling silver, gold fill and rose gold fill (like my maids wore):

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But I didn’t stop there, oh no… inspired by the different stones and metals on my workbench, I came up with another 6 lariats in lapis lazuli, freshwater coin pearl, garnet, turquoise, yellow topaz, and haematite:

Top pick: We all know how I feel about a bit of haematite…

Knot too shabby

Another design from my own wedding (because the best artists are self-referential…right?):

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Photo by Suzy Wimbourne Photography

This is also the only design which I’ve made in 9ct yellow gold for something a little luxe (although it comes in sterling silver too for a more purse-friendly option):

Top pick: The gold – can’t argue with sentimental value!

Thready to go

My popular pearl threader earrings were worn by both my mum and my maids at the wedding (in silver and rose gold, respectively), and I thought it was about time to see what other shapes and stones worked. I ended up with a few really varied designs:

Top pick: Probably the haematite cubes. What can I say? I’m just really into haematite!

All wrapped up

The originals of this design were a present for my best friend/bridesmaid/Girl Friday, Beth, but the design was too good not to expand upon… One manic weekend later and they’re available in the original lapis lazuli, as well as amethyst, rose quartz, black spinel, turquoise, and chalcedony, with silver, rose gold or gold wire. Phew!

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Top pick: These earrings are all about the combinations, so it would have to be rose quartz with rose gold, black spinel with gold, or turquoise with silver…

Stone cold rocks

I also experimented with a bunch of other stones in different shapes and sizes, and I got really side-tracked by the beautiful blood-red of some faceted marquise-shaped garnets:

I also worked with emeralds for the first time (such excitement!), and amber as well. I’ve definitely fallen in love with rough-cut stones for adding interest and texture to my pieces:

Since getting back from Central Asia, I also have a minor obsession with lapis lazuli, and when I found these gorgeous, geometric slices, I knew they’d be perfect for a simple design:

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Top pick: Impossible to choose! I love the emeralds for the ombré effect, the amber for colour, and the lapis for the vibrant blue and interesting shape. Guess I’ll have to make myself one of each…

What’s your favourite piece? Let me know in the comments!

With this ring…

When our lovely photographers, Suzy and Alex, worked some super speedy magic to give us a selection of sneak peaks of our wedding pictures less than 24 hours after the wedding even finished (?!), I knew I had do another wedding-themed post this week. And, because this is Tiding of Magpies, I’m sharing all the photos of the wedding jewellery…

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So the other week I wrote about the jewellery I was going to wear, and this is what I ended up in:

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My mum’s pearl and haematite bracelet
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Wedding rings made by us
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Headpiece by Ayansi Wedding Designs on Etsy
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Delicate, gold love-knot ring, Tiding of Magpies

As you can see, I decided against the cluster ring I originally made to wear on the day, since I was worried it would look a bit fussy when combined with dress and flowers. This design is an adaptation of my popular love-knot stud earrings, and will be available online just in time for Christmas, so watch this space… (I also wore the heirloom butterfly brooch on my bouquet – I’ll add a picture when we have the full wedding album, as I know Suzy took the accessories for a photoshoot while I was getting ready!

I also made the jewellery for my gorgeous bridesmaids (but of course): rose gold lariat necklaces with amusingly-named pearl potato beads (unevenly-shaped rather than perfectly round), and a rose-gold version of my pearl chain threader earrings:

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You can also see my mum’s earrings here (something borrowed!)

I couldn’t leave the mums out of the wedding party jewellery bonanza, so I made sure they had thematically-matching pearl jewellery of their own. For my mum, pearl threader earrings in the original silver, and for The Goblin’s mum, a pearl brooch, since she doesn’t wear earrings and already had a string of pearls she wanted to wear:

I’m sure I’ll post more about the wedding at some point, but for now I’m just enjoying lying on the sofa and doing honeymoon prep with a glass of prosecco in hand, so I’ll leave you with one of my favourite shots from the day so far…

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Who says rain on your wedding day is a bad thing?

What, where, who?

Photography: All wedding photos by the lovely and very talented Suzy and Alex of Suzy Wimbourne Photography (if any brides-to-be are looking for a photographer I can’t recommend these guys highly enough)

Dress: Starlit Gown, Needle and Thread

Bouquet and buttonholes: Silk flowers and berries, bought individually online and hand-arranged by me

Suit: Ted Baker

Tie and pocket square: Etsy

Bridesmaids’ dresses: Phase Eight

Mum’s earrings and bracelet: Cellini, Cambridge (many years ago)

Wedding ring and love-knot ring: By me @ Tiding of Magpies

Bridesmaids’ jewellery: By me @ Tiding of Magpies

Bridal hairpiece: Ayansi Wedding Designs, Etsy

Ceremony: Shrewsbury Catholic Cathedral

Reception venue: Rowton Castle

How to choose your bridal jewellery in 5 easy steps

It’s an undeniable fact of life that weddings in the Western world are overwhelmingly focused around the appearance of the bride and, let’s face it, that’s a lot of pressure. There are so many things to consider, and that’s before you start looking at wedding magazines or websites for inspiration. When you’re busy obsessing over every aspect of your dress/makeup/bouquet/hair/shoes, it’s easiest to leave the jewellery till last.

I’ve done exactly this, and only just chosen what I’m going to wear, although my wedding is in just over three weeks. Like a lot of brides, I had a couple of family/sentimental pieces in mind early on, but then I got stuck making it work as a whole ‘look’. (To be fair, it probably didn’t help that I changed my mind about my wedding dress three months before the wedding and had to find one to exchange it for… More on that in a different post, probably.)

Anyway, now I’ve (pretty much) finalised what jewellery I’m going to sport on the Big Day™, I’ve got five quick tips for any other brides-to-be who find themselves in similar circumstances…

1) Consider the style of your dress

This sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying anyway. The dress is, naturally, the focal point of your appearance, and it will look better in photos if the jewellery works well with the dress. For example, my dress has a relatively high neck and a very embellished bodice, so I’m not having a necklace because it would be too much, and would get lost in the beading. If your dress is in a vintage style, it might also be worth considering jewellery (real or replica) which suits the era you’re wearing.

2) Stay true to your own tastes and dress sense

If there’s a style or piece of jewellery you see cropping up on wedding blogs or Pinterest, it’s easy to start thinking ‘well perhaps I should wear something like that, too’, but if you wouldn’t wear something similar in every day life, think twice about whether it’s right for you. Of course, I don’t mean if you wouldn’t wear a huge tiara every day you shouldn’t wear one for your wedding, but if, say, the tiara is heavily jewelled and you usually favour clean, simple lines, look for a tiara that fits those tastes.

3) Consider wearing jewellery for sentimental reasons…

‘Jewellery reigns over clothing not because it is absolutely precious but because it plays a crucial role in making clothing mean something.’ –  Roland Barthes

Because jewellery is valuable, it’s often handed down through the generations, imbuing it with memories and emotions, so it’s no wonder many brides wear at least one piece that has sentimental value. I’m mixing old with new for my wedding by wearing three sentimental items combined with a new ring I’ve made myself, and a hairpiece I sourced from another Etsy seller.

If you’re struggling to pull your pieces into a cohesive look, consider choosing one material, style or era to make things go without having to be matchy-matchy. For example, I’ve decided to feature pearls in many of the pieces I’m wearing in order to tie the different styles together. I’m also wearing an heirloom brooch on my bouquet because it doesn’t match the wedding colours; including a piece you like but which doesn’t go with your dress on your bouquet is a great way to wear your treasured pieces without compromising on your style.

4) …but don’t feel bound by tradition if you want a shiny new set of jewels

Conversely, if you’re determined for your look to come together seamlessly, or want to create new heirlooms and memories with some brand new pieces, don’t feel you have to wear something old just because it’s ‘expected’ of you. (Let’s face it, there are enough expectations around you as a bride without adhering to tiny ones like this…) This tip is kind of an extension of point 2; essentially, you do you.

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(Source: pedestrian.tv)

5) Try not to obsess over it

I feel this should be the last point on any wedding advice list, and it’s one I’m terrible at following, but it’s so important. Your wedding outfit will never be perfect (especially in years to come when you look back and your gorgeous mermaid gown looks like those puffy-sleeved 80s monstrosities do now), but you should be so happy on the day itself that it won’t bloody matter. The best you can do is to make the choice you’re happy with now, and then try and forget about it (she says, with incredible hypocrisy).

And what am I wearing, after all that? Well…

  • My mum’s pearl and haematite earring and bracelet set (from Cellini)
  • A new diamanté and pearl hairpiece from this Etsy store
  • A new ring I’ve made to match my bouquet, with an asymmetrical setting of two garnets, a pearl and a cubic zirconia
  • A brooch The Goblin gave me when he proposed (an actual goblin family heirloom, which doubles as my ‘something blue’ and my ‘something old’)
  • My wedding ring, which I also made

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Yes, these are my actual wedding flowers (Goblin with allergies= silk all the way)
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The iridescent blue is from the butterfly wing behind the glass

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Of course, true to indecisive form, I’m thinking of swapping out the garnet ring I made with the one The Goblin gave me for our first anniversary (what a lovely Goblin he is):

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Like I mentioned earlier, the dress is seriously embellished, so it’s got to be one or the other. Any ideas? Let me know in the comments…

Busman’s Holiday: Making our own wedding rings

You may not know this, but I’m getting married in three months. I mean, I never talk about it in minute detail, because it’s definitely not a huge logistical undertaking I should be allowed to put on my CV to show my organisational skills…

Since we got engaged last year, I knew I wanted to make our wedding rings. There was just one problem: I’m a silversmith, and we wanted gold rings. Silver and gold don’t behave that differently, so I did consider just giving it a go, but there’s one big problem with gold compared to silver: it’s a lot more expensive if you mess it up.

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Imagine the scene: ‘Honey, I’m home! Say, what’s that melted lump on your workbench?’ ‘Oh, that? That’s the £300 of gold that was going to be your wedding ring – oopsy-daisy!’ Not ideal. The Goblin is also the fussiest human alive, and the risk of him having hitherto-unknown very strong feelings about the particular hammer pattern I’d used once the ring was done wasn’t really worth it.

Luckily for us, the JQ struck again in the form of The Quarterworkshop, where couples can make their own rings under the supervision of a professional jeweller, Victoria Delaney. I also thought it would be cool for The Goblin to see what I do and have a go himself (and hammer his own ring to his liking – wahey).

The first thing to do was decide on colour and size for our wedding rings, as well as come up with ideas for styles. Our engagement rings are cheap (albeit much-loved) place-holders for the real thing…and it shows. They’re 9ct white gold, with mine measuring in at 3mm wide and The Goblin’s at 5mm. Because of the composition of the metal, they were seriously dinged about within the first month of wearing, so we knew we needed to go with something a bit more permanent and lasting for our wedding rings (how appropriate!).

I decided to slim my ring down to 2mm whilst The Goblin stuck with 5. We both liked the D-shaped profiles of our current rings, so those stayed, meaning that when we got to Victoria’s (adorable!) workshop, this is what was waiting for us:

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Seriously, though, how cute is this workshop space?!

After some coffee and a chat about designs, we got stuck into annealing, cutting and shaping – all just another day for me but really fun to have an experienced goldsmith directing the process and giving hints and tips.

Victoria also introduced me to a method of shaping and cutting through the seam (the bit where you make the ends of the ring line up so you can join them together) which was waaaay simpler and quicker than the one I was taught. Definitely going to be using that on my pieces in future! The Goblin had a lovely time shaping, soldering and filing his ring, and took it all very seriously. Look at this concentration:

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Then came the really fun bit: playing with hammers. The Goblin knew he wanted a subtle hammered effect, but I was torn between hammering and engraving, so we both spent a fair while whacking aluminium with the huge range of hammers in the workshop to find the right pattern.

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I decided to go with engraving in the end and am having a bramble pattern engraved on mine, so I started polishing it ready for engraving whilst The Goblin started beating his up with great glee.

After a lot of hammering (probably The Goblin’s favourite part of the day) and getting covered in polish, we admired our creations:

The rings are now off to be hallmarked with the Brum Assay Office anchor mark, which we love – wherever we move in the future, we’ll always be wearing a bit of the JQ! I can’t wait to see mine once it’s all hallmarked and engraved (I’ll post an update picture here when it arrives). We had a lush day making our rings and would definitely recommend it to anyone else looking for something a bit different for their rings. As The Goblin’s ring shows, no prior knowledge is necessary!

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All pictures are by Victoria Delaney © The Quarterworkshop, apart from the ones of our engagement rings.

Update: the rings are ready! How amazing is the engraving on mine – I would kill for that level of skill…

Bespoke bridesmaids: inside the design process of a commission

So I recently received my first commission, and it’s a special one. Sami, one of my best friends, a uni housemate and fellow 2017-bride-to-be, asked me to design some bespoke jewellery for her bridesmaids and flower girls. Being part of Sami’s wedding by getting creative and designing her the perfect bridesmaid gifts? #jewellergoals right there…

Since it’s my first custom order, I thought I’d share a little bit about the process, which is pretty excellent so far.

The first time Sami mentioned the idea of me designing her bridesmaids’ jewellery was over (several) glühweins at the Leeds Christkindelmarkt, and I leapt at the idea. Not literally; I was a bit pissed and full of doughnuts.

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After a party nap on the train home, we started batting Pinterest boards and ideas back and forward to get started on the right track. Luckily the wedding’s not till May, so we had plenty of time. With weddings, two key considerations are colour schemes and overall theming, so we started there. The wedding is going to be set up as an afternoon tea party (so lush!), and Sami’s bridesmaids will be wearing full length gowns in a pretty, soft blue:

 

Once I had some of Sami’s ideas locked down, I got to work. For me, the design process involves playing with a lot of different materials at my workbench, chain-drinking nice coffee and (poorly) sketching almost anything that comes into my head.

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It was clear fairly early on that both Sami and I were drawn to the idea of an elegant lariat necklace, so the final winner was the bottom left design in my sketchbook. I also always knew I wanted to draw the blue of the dresses into the jewellery, so I had a great time one day last week fiddling about with a range of blue beads and stones.

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The simple Swarovski pear-shaped drop worked best for the design; in fact, Sami liked it so much she agreed that putting the crystals into drop earrings rather than the originally-planned studs was the best idea. With this integral part of the set decided, I started putting together some prototypes.

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Unsurprisingly, communication has turned out to be an essential part of designing custom jewellery, so I was live-texting Sami the design process above. It was at this point that she mentioned she had also been wondering about getting something designed for her flower girls, who are 3 and 5, but wasn’t sure what would work for them; did I have any ideas?

I haven’t made jewellery for children since I was one myself, and my 90s designs do lack a bit of finesse, so this proposition was an interesting challenge. Now, when I was little, I absolutely idolised any older girls I knew, and wanted to copy everything they did. That got me thinking about how to make the flower girls’ jewellery work with the adult bridesmaids’ pieces whilst being comfortable and age-appropriate for little ones on a long day.

I didn’t realise the amount of practicalities involved in making bespoke jewellery before this project, but I’ve found that making designs that work perfectly for the wearers and the situation is some real logistical fun. For the flower girls, bracelets seemed like the obvious choice: comfy, stretchy and pretty. I chose beads rather than chain for the body of the bracelet for flexibility and to minimise the potential for snag-related accidents. The flower girls’ dresses are these adorable ivory numbers, so I settled on faux pearls for the main beading.

 

I also wanted the girls to have pieces that echoed the jewellery worn by the ‘big girl bridesmaids’, so I added the same Swarovski drop bead in a simpler setting: rather than wire-wrapping the crystal, I’ve attached it with a simple silver fixing. Add in a little personalisation with heart-shaped initial charms, and hopefully these bracelets are something the girls will keep, treasure, and wear again.

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Too. Cute.

So, with 75 days to go until Sami ties the knot, all that’s left now is to get cracking and try not to think about just how many bridesmaids she has! Check back in May for some shots of the girls wearing their gems (and at least one or two of Sami being a ridiculously stunning bride).