Monthly Archives: April 2015

Goldsmiths’ Company event for students

.Yesterday and Friday the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and the London Assay Office held an event for UK jewellery students to learn about all sorts of businesses which support and supply their crafts and skills, from all about hallmarking itself to……pearls………..US!

outside the guild's hall

The flag’s out -outside the guild’s hall

Over the two days we’ve talked ourselves hoarse about pearls (my voice has dropped about an octave at least!) with students and with some of the leaders of the jewellery business in the country. I don’t know if I wasn’t more excited than many  of the students at who was there and who we met.

Through the imposing doors and up the sweeping staircase to our waiting stand, in the livery colour of crimson with Pearlescence in gold lettering, and under the crest of the livery company ( I know from a previous visit that security is very tight – it has to be because the London Assay Office, which checks and oversees the quality of £millions in precious metals is on the top floors.(

crest of the worshipful company of goldsmiths

crest of the worshipful company of goldsmiths

The Drawing Room is the room used by the film company to stand in for Buckingham Palace in the film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren. It’s all white and gold,

We set up and go round to see who else is here. It’s by invitation, and many of us are as stunned as I am to have been asked. There’s a big buzz of excitement…

The Drawing Room, Goldsmiths' Hall

The Drawing Room, Goldsmiths’ Hall

Pretty soon the students start to flood in and immediately home in on the fireballs I’ve brought. My aim in choosing what to bring was to keep it pared down and show that there is so much more to pearls than white and round and the fireballs and big ripples I selected start their job immediately. By the end of the two days I think I explained how fireballs happen at least once per hour! The students love them, and fireballs.

I did several knotting demonstrations as well during the two days. By the last one my co-ordination had gone completely and I got knots!

me plus demonstration table

me plus demonstration table

At the end, @goldpolisher and I both asked if we could keep our name labels from the front of our stands as souvenirs. We abruptly changed our minds though when it was pointed out that this would mean we would not be coming back. ‘Keep them…Please!’

Special thanks to @stevelao and Alison of the assay office, plus to the wonderful, unfailingly helpful, knowledgeable and friendly Goldsmiths’ Company and London Assay Office staff.

Most memorable moment…Looking at the panels on the wall listing the Masters of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths dating back to 1317 and realising that I’m standing right there – by invitation!

One of those weeks…!

It’s been One of those weeks here in the Pearlescence Workshop. We’ve had a real masterclass week of everything which could go wrong has gone wrong. From things being dropped and lost while in plain sight to loose rattly nucleuses – five in one strand of south sea pearls. Plus silk stuck in a necklace in for its triennial re-string…plus even a tahitian pearl with (apparently) the hiccups.

So it seemed a good plan to sit back and write up how to deal with these things for those of our customers who are starting out as makers themselves.

Rattling/spinning nucleus

This happens when the nucleus of a bead nucleated pearl comes loose – when the nacre, for some reason, isn’t stuck to it at all and the bead inside the pearl can rattle around freely. It’s a total pain because it means that that pearl cannot be strung as it is, because the drill hole through the nucleus will invariably have spun out of line from the drill holes in the nacre. The first you usually know of it is when you are sitting there, knotting away in a sort of knotting fugue and suddenly you’re poking at the hole with your beading needle and nothing is happening.

First thought is that something is jamming the drill hole, a remnant of silk from the previous knotting or from the temporary strand but the clue is that the needle only goes in a short way from either side. If it’s a bit of silk then the distances will be unequal and one side will go in much further than the other.

I’ve heard of people willing to sit and fiddle and poke with the pearl until they ‘catch’ the inside drill hole but life is a bit too short and I am far too impatient to do that. I just slap a 0.7mm drill bit into the workshop hand held drill and drill a new hole. The cunning bit comes from keeping the bit in the hole so it doesn’t just spin off again immediately, then plug the holes with a headpin or bit of wire until you can get that needle in and through. It’s definitely one of those times when three hands are useful.

Not only have I had the mega south sea rattly strand but also a freshwater bead nuked   and an akoya, one of the baroque blue strands we found in Hong Kong last month and which sold out within twelve hours of listing them!. I think that is probably my quota for the whole year

Knot or silk stuck in drill hole

However much we’re careful when taking a necklace apart for re-stringing it sometimes happens that a remnant of a knot manages to get itself pulled into the drill hole and then jam. Or some really cheap temporary silk shreds and a snarl ends up inside the pearl.

Sometimes a firm application of a head pin into the drill hole will shift something. The best way to do this is to insert the pin then hold it with a pair of pliers just about one mm away from the nacre at the hole and firmly shove. Holding it just outside usually stops the silver from bending and sometimes this is enough to dislodge the obstruction.

If that doesn’t work then the easiest way to clear to blockage is to use an 0.7 drill bit and simply drill out the silk.

Glue misadventures

We switched from two part epoxy glue to gel superglue about six months ago and it’s working very well so far..with the added bliss that there is a release fluid.

The gel superglue is very controllable and easy to use…more so than the usual liquid which can go everywhere. But sometimes things go wrong

I was making up some tahitian pendants last thing yesterday and left them to set really well overnight. When I came to check them one was like this:

Tahitian pearl with glue hiccups

Tahitian pearl with glue hiccups

Every other pendant was fine. What had happened was that a pocket of air had been trapped at the bottom of the drill hole (It’s half drilled) and when I put the finding and glue into the drill hole the air was compressed.

Then when I let go and set it down the compressed air pushed the finding back out again. Usually when that happens it isn’t quite as spectacular as that, it will just move by a mm or so. This one was very nearly out altogether.

Thank the gods of pearls that there is magical unglue liquid. A quick dab and a wriggle and the finding is out…drill the hole clean again, make sure any glue is off the finding and re-do