Monthly Archives: May 2013

To mark or not to mark….. that is the question……

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Today’s blog is all about hallmarking. I’m sure most of you have seen those tiny little imprints on the inside of your ring bands – they’re the hallmarks and they have a purpose!

Hallmarking was first introduced in 1300 under Edward I – and the basic concept hasn’t really changed today. Can you tell by simply looking at a piece of jewellery whether it’s made of gold, or silver? Could you be sure that the gold piece was 18C or only 9C? And is that lovely piece of silver really sterling silver or only silver plated?

Hallmarking is there for the protection of customers. A hallmark can only be applied if the assay office have tested the piece to check that it is indeed made of what you’re claiming it to be made of. There is a legal requirement for hallmarking too! I’m going to talk about silver from now on as that is what I work with, but the hallmarking act applies to all precious metals.

Any piece of silver over 7.78grams MUST be hallmarked before sale if it is to be advertised and sold as being silver rather than white metal. Up until recently all my pieces came in under this weight so I didn’t need to comply, but lately I have been working on several larger pieces that needed to be hallmarked so I took the plunge and registered with the Birmingham Assay Office for my very own sponsor’s mark and recently received back my first batch of hallmarked items.

You’ll forgive me if I do a little excited dance here – it really is quite something to see your own mark applied to a piece of work! So my first batch of hallmarking came back marked like this:

hallmark 1

hallmark 2

It really is quite small and the camera hasn’t picked up the detail very well so I’ve done a little sketch for you all to see (don’t laugh!)

my maker's mark

For any of you who don’t know (and that included me until quite recently) a legal hallmark is made up of three parts. The sponsor’s mark, the fineness (or purity) mark and the assay office mark. The sponsor’s mark is a design containing the sponsor (or maker’s) initials which is registered with one of the four UK assay offices. It’s a bit like an artist signing a painting – any piece can be traced back to the maker from this mark. The fineness mark tells you what your piece is made of. For silver this can be 800, 925, 958 or 999. This tells you how pure the silver is; for example 999 is 99.9% silver and is known as fine silver, whereas 925 is only 92.5% silver and known as sterling silver. The assay office mark tells you which of the assay offices have tested and marked the piece.

uk-hallmarks

So here’s how it all works! I make my piece of jewellery and carefully pack it up ready to send to the Assay Office, filling in all the paperwork required and putting it into the parcel. I then post the package at my local post office. When the packet arrives at the Assay Office, it is checked in, tested and stamped before being re-packed and sent back to me.

Hallmarking isn’t an option for those of us making and selling our jewellery, it is a legal requiement, but that doesn’t stop people from flouting the regulation. So next time you are buying jewellery, ask the seller about hallmarking or look for the Dealer’s Notice in their shop or on their website. This is what you’re looking for:

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And you can see it on my own website at www.moonriverjewellery.co.uk/hallmarking

Hallmarking does add a cost to my jewellery, but I feel happier knowing that I am complying with the law. All of my heavier pieces will now be sent off to the Birmingham Assay Office for hallmarking and some of my smaller pieces as well.

You can find out more about hallmarking from the British Hallmarking Council at http://www.bis.gov.uk/britishhallmarkingcouncil/about/explained

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I see the Moon and the Moon sees me….. Folksy Friday

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Yes, it’s true – I love the moon! Isn’t it just about the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? I love the fact it changes, that it marks the passing of time. I love being out on a night with a really bright moon and seeing the shadows cast in the moonlight. I love looking at it through a telescope with my daughter and watching her face as she sees all the fantastic detail revealed. And of course, the moon features heavily in one of my favourite picture books……

I wanted to blog today about some of the wonderful items I’ve found on Folksy and chose the marvelous moon as a theme – I hope you enjoy looking a them as mush as I did.

SummerIsle

£18 by SummerIsle on Folksy

Angel Mosaics

£15 by Angel Mosaics on Folksy

Enlightened Cushions

£32 by Enlightened Cushions on Folksy

FizzStudio

£12 by Fizzstudio on Folksy

peony and thistle

£4.50 by Peony and Thistle on Folksy

Silver Fingerprint Moon and Star Locket 2

£95 by MoonRiver on Folksy

Mauve Magpie

£8 by Mauve Magpie on Folksy

And yes – my favourite picture book is Guess How Much I Love You, so to both my children:

“I love you to the moon…..and back.”

You can see more of my moonlit wanderings around Folksy on my Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/moonriversilver/i-see-the-moon-and-the-moon-sees-me-folksy/


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The story of a beech leaf………

Beech leaves

“A copse which had worn it’s firs all the year round seemed old and dowdy now beside the new green lace which the beeches had put on so prettily.” – A.A.Milne, Winnie the Pooh

It feels as though spring has finally sprung in my small corner of Gloucestershire. Everywhere the trees are bursting into leaf and almost overnight there is blossom everywhere. For those of you who know me, or have read any of my other blog posts, you’ll know that I have a thing for trees and leaves. And so it will come as no surprise to you all that I came over all creative when I saw my parent’s beech hedge just starting to throw open its new delicate buds in a vivid splash of almost lime green.

I took just a few leaves away with me to see if I could turn them into silver. I thought you all might be interested in the stages a leaf goes through from tree to a finished piece of jewellery – so here goes……..

Firstly it’s important to choose the right leaves for your purpose – I recently found a perfect heart-shaped ivy leaf that was just crying out to become a pendant – so I usually sort through them to choose the ones that will work best. I wanted to make a pendant and a set of earrings and so I chose three leaves.

The perfect shape for a pendant.

The perfect shape for a pendant.

After being washed, the leaves are painted with thin layers of a paste form of precious metal clay. I recycle all the left over clay in my workshop into paste I can use like this, so the end product is really rather green! Between each layer the leaves must be left to dry. How many layers depends on how thick I want the finished piece to be – usually around ten, but I always lose count!

How many layers? I've lost count.

How many layers? I’ve lost count.

When the last layer is dry I roll out a piece of silver clay and cut a rectangle to make a bail on the back of the pendant, I prefer this to drilling a hole through the finished leaf. Look at my glamorous piece of kit, the drinking straw! I always drill my earrings after firing as I find they work better this way.

A ball of clay about to be rolled out.

A ball of clay about to be rolled out.

This has to be left to dry overnight before sanding and smoothing and filling and finishing it to perfection.

Waiting to be sanded and filled to perfection.

Waiting to be sanded and filled to perfection.

Then I fire the piece by hand using a butane torch. The original leaf itself burns away leaving pure silver behind with the impression of the leaf print. The pieces are always white straight after firing – this is the pure silver in its unpolished form.

No - this isn't a leaf but there was no one around to hold the camera at the time!

No – this isn’t a leaf but there was no one around to hold the camera at the time!

I then brush the piece with my soft brass brush and polish and oxidize if I want, before finishing with a chain and earring wires!

So here they are:

Beech leaf jewellery by MoonRiver.

Beech leaf jewellery by MoonRiver.

Fine silver beech leaf pendant – £35 – Fine silver beech leaf earrings – £25

Ivy Leaf Pendant by MoonRiver.

Ivy Leaf Pendant by MoonRiver.

Fine silver ivy leaf pendant – £35

All prices excl. p+p – please contact me for details or to buy!

So there you are – now you know! I hope you enjoyed reading – I’m off to find some more leaves, I’ve spotted some lovely strawberry ones!

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Inspiration is all around for those who choose to find it.

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