As a student studying art history at the British School in Rome many years ago, one of my favourite places to visit was Santa Maria in Trastevere. This beautiful basilica was begun in the 340s, and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The mosaics are later,dating from the C13th, and are a glorious explosion of colour and light at the end of the dimly lit nave. Once seen, never forgotten. At least, not by me!
Tucked at the back of my mind all these years has been the image of the Virgin with her elaborate headdress. When I was looking for a new direction with my jewellery, that image popped into my mind. Obviously, you’re not going to wear the complete crown and jewel encrusted robe combo to go to the supermarket, but the inspiration remained: the arches of Byzantine architecture, the use of of multiple dangles and looped chains.
This version of my Byzantine inspiration is made from silver and sodalite. Sodalite is a stone similar to lapis lazuli but often has a milky marbling running through it, a bit like a pair of washed Levi’s, that I think makes it prettier than the flat blue of lapis.
I couldn’t resist the pale pink of these crackle agate barrels and had to make an unashamedly romantic necklace. Crackle agate, also called fire crackle agate, has a crackled pattern in the stone like an old oil painting. Alongside the crackle agate I chose aventurine, picking out the palest of the pinks, and then added a sweet pink freshwater pearl or two to add some glossy opacity against the translucent agates and some small clear quartz crystal rondelles to add a discreet bit of sparkle. But if all the pale pink wasn’t enough, I decided to make it even more romantic with a handmade silver heart, set with a central cubic zirconia stone.
And just in case that wasn’t romantic enough, I made a couple of earring variations with little handmade silver hearts to complement the necklace:
I don’t know about you, but sometimes one needs a burst of sunshine. And if the weather won’t oblige then perhaps some citrine is in order. I love the sunny colours of citrine, from light lemon through to the richest of honeys. Here they’re teamed up with peach quartz and lemon quartz and together they’re supplying the sunshine. The markings on the handmade silver remind me of the patterns the waves leave in the sand at low tide.
These aquamarine and pearl earrings matched the model’s eyes exactly.
The aquamarines are beautiful AAA rated gemstones I bought from Jaipur, which is the largest gemstone cutting centre in the world. I put them with little baroque pearls – I like the combination of the perfect gems and the wonky shapes of the pearls. The gemstone underneath the aquamarine is apatite in a slightly deeper shade of pale blue turquoise.
These earrings combine some of my favourite themes: the silver coins I make myself, this time with a heart-shaped cut out for a little romance; the contrast between the dappled surface of the coin with the smooth gloss of the creamy white pearl; the toning colours of the apatite and aquamarine stones.
This image was an experiment using my new camera to try to take better close-up photographs. I find the photographing my jewellery the hardest part of being a maker, but the new camera – and the macro lens – has helped. My next task is to master – or at least become familiar with – Photoshop, which so far lies untouched on my computer. But until then, I shall have to keep pressing the button and hope it comes out well enough for me to get a good enough image to use.