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).