How we design and create handmade silver jewellery
We often get asked where our jewellery is made, if it’s Sterling Silver, if we have certain pieces in stock, if we can make something in a different size or colour...
So I thought it might be good to explain how exactly we work. We, that is my husband Ross and I, live and work in Worthing in the south of England. We have our jewellery workshop here, where we do pretty much everything from start to finish. We have one brilliant helper, Hannah, who works on the bench with us and a couple of part time marketing/PR ladies, Chloe and Nicola.
We usually release two new handmade jewellery collections per year, one in spring and one in autumn. It is quite a journey designing a new collection, which is always a bit daunting at the beginning, but eventually as our ideas take shape it becomes very exciting.
Conjuring up collection ideas
First we decide on a theme for a new collection. If one of us has a really good idea there will normally be a bit of banter about who thought of it first but after Ross has accepted that it was my idea we can move on... Ross and I find inspiration in everything that surrounds us, especially the cute and funny things. I love art and craft, children’s books and animals, living by the sea and cruising round TK Maxx. Take a look here at some of the things that make me smile.
We carry out some research and begin sketching until we have a few ideas for what the new pieces could look like.
Creating wax models for handmade silver jewellery
Carving our ideas in wax is my favourite part of the process. Our jewellery collections usually involve little creatures, so I have a look online for images of whatever I am about to carve.
Assembling our animal jewellery
When the waxes are finished, we send them off to be cast. Lost wax casting is one of the few things we are not doing ourselves as we don’t have the space or time for it. It takes a few days to get our silver castings and it is always very exciting to unpack them because even though they are identical to the waxes, they still somehow appear different once they are made of silver. If we are happy with these first silver castings, we turn them into masters, meaning we add jumprings or whatever is necessary, polish them and solder a sprue on (the sprue is a rod which, during the casting process, becomes a tunnel for the molten metal to flow into). Then they go back to the caster who makes a mould of it, so we can have multiples made.
When we get these multiple castings back we clean them up with files and emery paper, assemble them and turn them into necklaces and rings and earrings, always making sure everything looks just right. Our sparrows need to sit at just the right angle on top of the rings, two earrings need to be identical mirror images of each other, our JR tags need to be facing outwards on the necklaces and so on.
Once the jewellery is assembled, everything gets polished by hand as we love perfect finishes. Polishing is quite a messy business and it needs a lot of skill. Most of our polishing is done by Ross and Hannah. I usually make sure to look busy with something else whenever there’s a whole lot of polishing to do.
Some of our pieces are set with gem stones like rubies, black diamonds or green sapphires. Stone setting is Ross’s job. He learnt how to set from the different people he worked with in the trade and he's been perfecting his technique ever since.
Sterling silver jewellery with gold plating
All our jewellery is made by hand in Sterling Silver and we also offer gold plated versions. The plating is also done by us in our Worthing workshop. It is at least two microns of hard gold plating which usually lasts quite a while on necklaces and earrings. Rings and any pieces that are worn every day will need to be re-plated from time to time.
Once we have a collection finished, Ross photographs all the pieces and I calculate the prices. We then upload everything to our website, send out mail shots, post on social media, exhibit at shows and do whatever else we can manage to help spread the word.
Leadtimes for handmade silver jewellery
If we have a bit of time, which doesn’t happen very often, then we make a few pieces for stock, but most of the time we make everything to order. Urgent orders we turn around in a day, everything else in a few days. Bespoke orders or bigger gallery orders for our handmade jewellery collections usually take about four weeks.
We are very happy to accommodate all our customers’ wishes, making a piece in a different finish, on a longer chain, set with different stones or creating something different all together, so if there is something specific that you fancy, please do ask. If you can’t find what you are after on our website, do get in touch! Chances are we can make it for you.