The Royal Welsh Show 2017

Possibly the largest agricultural show of its kind, the Royal Welsh Show starts on the 24 July for four days and is held at the showground in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells. For many it is the holiday highlight of the year and a day out to be enjoyed by the whole family.

Naturally it is the animals that draws the main crowds to the show each year. Exhibitors travel from all parts of the country to bring their potential prize winning animals to the show. Everyone loves to watch the judging and competitions and to see so many different animals at close quarters including horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits and chickens.

There’s an exciting twelve hour programme of entertainment on each of the four days too. This year the show is even bigger and better than ever before with non-stop action in the main ring from the minute you arrive at the showground. You must make a point of seeing Lorenzo, “The Flying Frenchman,” from Saintes Maries de la Mer in France. His incredible performance includes dare-devil stunts while standing on the backs of several of his stunning horses. 

Don’t miss the The Kangaroo Kid either! His thrilling performance involves quad bikes and amazing stunts that will keep you on the edge of your seat while he hurtles around the main ring. This year we also have the amazing RAF HAWKS Parachute Display Team. They will be jumping from planes over the first three days of the show and landing in the main ring. And for a real difference come and see the humorous ‘Quack Pack’ – a combination of clever Border Collies with cheeky Indian Runner ducks. All great fun!

An then of course there’s the shopping! You really will be able to shop until you drop with over a thousand tradestands at the show this year. There will be plenty of opportunities to treat yourself as you enjoy a stroll through our shopping avenues and marquees. From clothing to tractors, livestock equipment to artisan gifts … not to mention Paul Wright’s latest silver and gold jewellery designs. As usual Paul Wright Jewellery will be exhibiting in the Glamorgan Hall. Please pass by and say hello!

All in all an event not to be missed – The Royal Welsh Show!

Sneak Preview

Living Crafts at Hatfield House

Linda Peacock will be offering an oil painting taster class

Hatfield House is a spectacular country house set in a large park near to the town of Hatfield in Hertfordshire. The present Jacobean house, was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I. It has been the home of the Cecil family ever since and is a prime example of Jacobean architecture. The beautiful estate includes extensive grounds and parts of the earlier palace still exist today. The house, currently the home of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury, is open to the public and well worth visiting.

For over a decade Paul Wright Jewellery has been exhibiting at the Living Crafts Country Show held on the grounds of the Hatfield House Estate in early May every year. This popular and fun Spring event is perfect for craft lovers and is enjoyed by families of all ages covering a wide range of interests. Living Crafts is a creative shopping experience showcasing the talents and skills of hundreds of acclaimed designer/makers from across the country. Celebrating contemporary, British craft of an exceptional standard, visitors to Living Crafts can buy unique designs or commission beautifully crafted work direct from the specially selected makers. Enjoy spectacular craft demonstrations, masterclasses and workshops and have an inspiring day out in the magnificent setting of Hatfield House.

Special features include the Living Crafts Showcase Pavilion, a Living History demonstration and entertaining sculpture masterclasses. Visitors are invited to have a go themselves with workshops ranging from rag rugging, oil painting and papermaking to wire sculpture and chocolate making! With entertainment adding to the vibrant atmosphere, Living Crafts is a great day out for all the family and an inspiration for serious craft collectors.

This year Linda Peacock will be offering an oil painting taster class where participants can complete an oil painting in one sitting. All equipment is provided and participants will be taught step by step by a professional artist. The class takes place over an hour at a cost of just £10.

Other classes and workshops being offered include the following:

  • Introduction to Stone Carving
  • Willow Weaving Workshop
  • How to Mould & Decorate Chocolate
  • Felt Making Workshop
  • Rag Rugging Workshop
  • Metal Bracelet Workshop
  • Graining & Marbling Workshop
  • How to Make Butterfly Garden Ornaments
  • The Creation Station – Arts & Crafts for Children

Tickets to Living Crafts include access to the beautiful West Garden near Hatfield House which are open from 10.00am – 5.30pm including the Wilderness areas and the beautiful Herb and Knot Gardens next to the Old Palace. These gardens are maintained entirely organically in the style that reflects their Jacobean origins. Visitors are also free to explore over 1,000 acres of parkland with nature trails and woods. There is a children’s play area designed for use by young children under parental supervision which incorporates a pleasant picnic area although this is not available to those visitors with dogs.

How to get to the event:

Hatfield House can be found off the A1(M) 7 miles north of junction 23 of the M25. Exit the A1(M) at Junction 4 (after the Hatfield Tunnel if travelling from the South) and follow brown leisure signs for Hatfield House. For SatNav users please use the postcode: AL9 5AB.

If travelling by rail the main entrance to the Park is opposite Hatfield Railway Station. Kings Cross to Hatfield takes approximately 20 minutes.

And don’t forget that Paul Wright Jewellery will be exhibiting in Marquee C located on the far side of the show ground opposite the main entrance. Be sure to see the launch of my new blue opal jewellery and cultured pearl designs. This is an event that is not to be missed and a fund day out for all the family!

 

A limited number of complimentary tickets are available at this link: Free Tickets

What are “Cultured” Opals?

High AAA Grade Cultured Opal EarringsCultured Opal Earrings 

Opal is formed from a solution of silicon dioxide and water. As water runs down through the earth, it picks up silica from sandstone, and carries this silica-rich solution into cracks and voids. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind a silica deposit. This cycle repeats over very long periods of time, and eventually Opal is formed. The tightly packed spheres of silica in opal refract light passing through it, creating a play-of-colour that is fascinating and highly sought after in precious opal.

The physical and optical properties of cultured opal are almost identical to those of natural opal. The main difference is that the opal has been impregnated with an extremely hard polymer resin which permanently binds the silica spheres together. The resulting opal is 80-90% pure opal silica exhibiting a play-of-colour and vibrancy that equals the most prized of all precious opals. Its treatment results in a generally much stronger and more stable gem than natural opal, making it less vulnerable to heat, cracking or crazing. Cultured opal is a form of solid opal not to be confused with ‘doublets’, ‘triplets’, ‘opaline’, ‘reconstituted opal’ or other such imitations.

Natural Opal:   SiO2.nH2O
Cultured Opal: SiO2.nH2O + polymer

It can take between one and two years to grow a solid opal, so it is not an entirely inexpensive alternative to buying one that has formed naturally. However vivid flashes of colour are not easily found in the naturally occurring variety as it is so rare. Natural opals with a strong play-of-colour are usually either too expensive or too difficult to finder most to hope to acquire. As cultured opals are more affordable, they are a popular option and benefit from having the colour of a far more expensive gemstone.

See our new collection of cultured opals.

The Value of Coloured Gemstones

Ruby & Diamond Ring by Paul Wright Jewellery

Much is written about the value of diamonds and many are aware of the ‘Four C’s’ to look out for when buying them (Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight). When assessing coloured gemstones, they too have four important C’s to consider. They are Colour, Colour, Colour and Colour! This is no exaggeration! In general the better and rarer the colour the less impact cutting, clarity and carat weight will have on the value of the gemstone. It really is all about its colour!

Naturally there is a high degree of subjectivity involved in making a colour assessment, especially as no system has yet been devised to measure the best ‘colour’ (in the way they have done with evaluating the colour of diamonds). How then do we determine the most desirable colour for a gemstone? Well the colours we see in gemstones are usually a combination of pure ‘spectral’ colours mixed with varying degrees of brown, white, black or grey. This results in the ‘tone’ or ‘shade’ of colour that describes a gemstone. For example if there is some white with the spectral red colour of a ruby then you will see a lighter tone or shade of red making it appear somewhat more pink in tone. The presence of black will make the ruby a darker shade of red. And so it can be seen that a huge range of ‘red’ colours are made possible in between. As a rule the most highly prized gemstone colours are those that are closer in colour to the pure ‘spectral’ colour without any tint or hue (although, in nature, one must accept there will always be some tint or hue present).

I should mention, at this point, that a gemstone’s colour can be significantly affected by the way it is cut. A good lapidary working with a fine gemstone, will be able to bring out the very best in the stones inherent beauty and thereby increase its desirability simply by knowing the best way to show off its vivid depth of colour. In general a gemstone that is too light or pale or, conversely, too dark will sell for less per carat weight.

The finest rubies from Burma are highly sought after because of their fine colour. This is because the colour of Burma rubies comes closest to pure red (although there will usually still be a slight bluish undertone). The tone will of course vary from very light to very dark. The most valuable will be those with a rich, deep colour in-between. It should also be mentioned that Burma rubies also tend to exhibit the best colour in all types of light i.e. in both daylight and in artificial lights. Unlike Thai rubies which can vary in hue and tone depending on the type of light source. Ceylon rubies are generally found with a paler tone and appear to be more pink than red. If the saturation of colour is too weak to be called ‘ruby’ (as technically ruby must be red), then it has become customary to call it a ‘pink sapphire’. This is because a sapphire and a ruby are in fact the same stone physically and chemically (both known as Corundum) but the red variety are always called ‘rubies’ and the blue variety are always called ‘sapphires’.

If we look at the colour of Emeralds, as another example, we find that some of the finest gems come from Colombia. This is because the green colour is an almost pure spectral green with just a faint hint of yellow or blue. Emeralds from other countries may be found with exceptionally good colour too but few can match those from Colombia. Those from Africa, and particularly from Zambia in more recent years, have a lovely green colour but tend to show a slightly more blue undertone than those from Colombia. However it should also be mentioned that the Zambian emeralds discovered today have far fewer inclusions than the Colombian ones and so are more vivid with greater saturation once cut. These compare very favourably with Colombian emeralds and have the added advantage that they are likely to cost less per carat weight. My own country of birth, Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia as it was then), is home to the Sandawana emerald mines, which were discovered in the late 1950’s. Sandawana emeralds are usually smaller in sizes and the larger carat weights, with a good colour, are quite rare and so highly sought after. Most emeralds from Sandawana have quite a dark Green to a slightly yellowish Green colour.

Once you start looking and comparing all the different colours of precious gemstones, you can train your eye into discerning what is the most desirable colour. In this way you can judge what is acceptable and what is objectionable. Very quickly you will learn to see the difference between the colour of a very fine gemstone and one that is less so. As a rule if you think the colour of one gemstone looks stunningly more valuable than another – it probably is!

Paul Wright Jewellery

 

Source: Jewellery & Gems by A. Matlins & 
A.C. Bonanno, 4th Edition 2009.
Photo by: StrangerThanKindness

The Value of Amethyst

 

The Roman intaglio of Caracalla carved in amethyst from the treasury of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

 

As recently as the 18th century, amethyst was a highly prized gemstone and was considered just as valuable as the finest diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies! However, during the mid 18th Century extensive deposits were discovered in South America, especially Brazil, and so amethyst lost much of its perceived rarity and concomitant value.

As with all coloured gemstones, the depth of colour is the most important consideration when assessing the value of an amethyst. Some of the most valuable amethyst gemstones will not only have a deep, rich colour but may even display red flashes. As amethyst is often found in large structures, the value of this gemstone is not primarily determined by its weight and so, unlike with most other precious gemstones, the value will not increase exponentially with the size of the stone. The most important consideration when valuing amethyst is always the richness of the colour it displays.

The most prized colour grade for amethyst is known as “Deep Russian” which is exceptionally rare and will command a very high price indeed. However today amethyst will never reach the value once seen as being equal to the highest grades of sapphires or rubies. And so, in this respect, amethyst has become a far more affordable gemstone than it originally was. I am sure you will agree that it remains one of the most beautiful and fascinating of all gemstones. It is certainly one that I enjoy working with and I include in some of my favourite jewellery designs.

See one of our latest new amethyst jewellery designs featured here.

Photo: © Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY2.5

The Value of Pearls

Cultured Pearls

If you are thinking of investing in pearls you need to be aware of six main factors that determine their quality and value. All these factors are important but you may need to make compromises in your choice if you need to keep your purchase within a limited budget. In order to prioritize those ‘inevitable compromises’ I have made this list in order of importance.

1. When evaluating cultured pearl ‘nacre thickness & quality’ is usually considered to be the most important factor because this will determine how long the pearls will last. The nacre is the white substance secreted by the oyster around the pearl thereby creating its lustrous pearly coating that is so highly prized. The thicker this coating the longer the pearl will last and the better the quality of that coating the greater the lustre and iridescence will be.

2. Closely associated to the quality of the nacre is the ‘lustre & orient’ of the pearl. This refers to the sharpness and intensity of the reflections on the pearl’s surface. It is not just the shiny reflective area but also the shadow area which gives a deep iridescent glow like no other gem.

3. Colour is a very important factor when evaluating pearls. There are effectively two parts to the colour of a pearl and these are known as ‘body colour’ and ‘overtone’. The body colour refers to the overall look of the pearl ie. white, pink or black etc. The overtone is the more subtle secondary colour that can be seen. For example a pearl may be seen as basically white but also has a subtle pinkish overtone. These are highly prized and more expensive. Others may be white but with a creamy overtone. If the creamy overtone is very strong the value of the pearl reduces. Cultured pearls are available today in a great many colours but not all of these colours are natural as some are produced with dyes or irradiation techniques.

4. Another factor that will determine value is the quality of the surface texture of any pearl. Blemishes or small blisters or spots will affect the value. It is difficult to find perfection in nature but if a pearl has a clean, smooth surface without any marks it is clearly going to be more valuable than one with many unsightly blemishes.

5. Basically there are three different categories in considering the shape of a pearl. These are ‘spherical’, ‘symmetrical’, and ‘baroque’. The round ‘spherical’ variety of pearl are the most rare and so these cost the most. The more perfectly round they are the more expensive they become. Button-shaped and pear-shaped pearls come under the ‘symmetrical’ variety and their value will be determined by how symmetrical and well proportioned their shape is. Symmetrical pearls are less expensive than round pearls but more expensive than ‘baroque’ pearls which are pearls in our third category – those with a totally irregular shape.

6. Finally, as with other fine gems, size is an important factor too. Natural pearls are sold by weight whilst cultured pearls are sold by their size in millimeters with reference to their diameter. For pearls that are not round two measurements are normally given for both width and length. The larger the pearl the rarer it is and therefore the more valuable it becomes. There is a dramatic increase in the price for pearls that are over 7.5mm.

One other thing worth mentioning, but not included in our list above, is the ‘make’ of the pearls. The make refers to how well matched a string of pearls is, for example in a pearl necklace. Each pearl must be selected to match size, shape, colour, lustre and surface blemishes so that the overall string looks beautifully uniform in all respects. This is no easy task!

What are “Cultured” Pearls?

Cultured Pearl Earrings

 

 A pearl is a gem that is produced inside an oyster from the sea or a river-borne mollusk. A small foreign object becomes lodged within the tissue of the mollusk and if it can’t be repelled it irritates the oyster. In order to prevent further discomfort the mollusk secretes a white substance called nacre around the irritant. Over time this lustrous coating becomes thicker and thicker and its pearly appearance can produce a rainbow of reflected colour which is highly prized.

Natural pearls are very rare and extremely valuable. Today virtually all pearls are sold as ‘cultured’ which means that humans have helped nature by inserting the ‘irritant’ which is in the form of a mother-of-pearl bead. Kokichi Mikimoto was one of the pioneers who helped to develop the modern cultured pearl industry and by the early 1900’s he patented the technique of culturing spherical pearls thereby creating the successful cultured pearl industry we have today.

However beware! Pearl imitations can be found in the market and some of these pearls can be quite convincing. One of the easiest tests to establish if a pearl is real or fake is the ‘tooth test’. If you very gently run a genuine pearl along the edge of your teeth it will feel mildly abrasive. By contrast an imitation pearl feels very smooth and plastic.

In future blogs we will be looking at the most important factors that affect the quality and value of cultured pearls.

 

47th Bangkok Gems & Jewellery Fair

Paul & Wendy dining out with Kik & May

 

Wendy & I were fortunate enough to be able to attend the 47th Bangkok Gems & Jewellery Fair in Thailand last week. This major exhibition attracts specialist gemstone dealers from around the globe and is an important means of sourcing excellent gemstones for our new designs this coming season. It is also an opportunity to see the latest unique collections by the world’s leading jewellery designers and attend fashion shows, design awards and multimedia lectures and presentations. Much can be gained by attending this important event.

Over the years we have established very useful contacts with several important gemstone suppliers in Bangkok and we were looking forward to seeing Kik and May again who are featured in the photograph above. After meeting with them at the Gemstone Fair, they kindly invited us out to dinner at a local Bangkok restaurant where we enjoyed the most memorable meal in sumptuous, traditional Thai surroundings.

I am pleased to say that, during our trip to Thailand, we managed to source several extremely good gemstones including an impressive black opal from Lightning Ridge, several stunning blue opals for our new silver opal bracelet, earrings and pendant designs, a parcel of fine quality white sapphires for our unique collection of white sapphire rings, an aquamarine for a private commission and several unusual semi precious gemstones to add to our growing collection.

Importantly we also came away with a good idea of the latest trends in fashion jewellery which are becoming bolder and more extravagant this year. Watch out for our new designs which we hope to launch at the Badminton Horse Trials on 21 April this year!

Blue Opal Jewellery Designs

While we were in Japan last year we discovered that pearls are not the only things that can be cultured!


The Japanese have also learnt how to ‘culture’ the most beautiful fiery, blue opals using a form of quartz called silica and zirconium oxide. You see natural opal is basically a type of quartz known as ‘silica’ and it’s the unique geological structure of this silica that makes it become an opal. The finest, vivid blue opals have a silica structure that makes them diffract light in a way that produces flashes of vibrant colours. Natural blue opals of this quality and colour can demand very high prices indeed. However the Japanese cultured opals, whilst displaying the same magnificent colours of a natural opal, are far more affordable. We are pleased to include them in a range of unique silver jewellery we are planning to launch in the Spring.

The method of culturing these lovely blue opals was originally invented by a Frenchman called Pierre Gilson in 1974. It takes over a year to grow them using this procedure. The resulting opals have all the properties of natural opal apart from the presence of water. The advantage of Gilson’s opal is that it tends not to crack in the way that natural opal does when it loses its water due to extreme temperature changes. The Japanese cultured opals which we discovered during our visit, are initially grown in the same way as those by Gilson but are then impregnated with polymer as a stabilizer ensuring that the silica structure is completely cemented together and the vivid play of colour in the opal is permanent. This created gem has fiery blue opal colours and flashes of turquoise which are truly breathtaking!

Technical Info

Gem Type: Polymer stabilised opal

Cut: Cabochon

Colour : Light blue with turquoise flashes.

Clarity : VVS Fine quality

Treatment : Lab Created AAA Gem Grade

Hardness : 4-5 (Mohs)

Specific Gravity : 1.89

Heat Resistance : 130 degree


Diving for Pearls in Japan

Mikimoto & the story of cultured pearls

During our recent trip to Japan in search of Japanese ‘Akoya’ pearls for some of our new cultured pearl jewellery designs, I snapped this shot of an ‘Ama’ diving for pearls off Toba’s Mikimoto Pearl Island – formerly known as Ojima Island.

These women, who brave the cold waters to a depth of 10 meters or more in search of oysters and abolone, wear white in order to scare of the sharks! It is customary for women to carry out the diving as they are reputed to have the ability to hold their breath longer and cope better with the cold water than men. Having retrieved a prized abolone the Ama returns to the surface and tosses it into a wooden bucket attached to her by a long rope. One can hear an eery whistle-like sound as the Ama controls her breathing by slowly exhaling as she resurfaces – this is called “Isobue”.

Kokichi Mikimoto was the eldest of five children and was expected to take over his father’s noodle shop but instead his fascination with pearls grew as he watched the pearl divers of Ise in his home town. By the age of 30 he and his wife took out a loan to to research the possibility of finding a way to make oysters produce pearls on demand. His early attempts failed but his wife remained steadfast and, despite near bankruptcy, encouraged him to persevere with his dream.

Mikimoto found he was not the only one trying to discover the secret to culturing pearls. A biologist, Tokishi Nishikawa, and a carpenter, Tatsuhei Mise, had discovered a method with the help of a Bristish marine biologist. It was found that in order to culture pearls it was necessary to implant a piece of oyster membrane together with a nucleus of shell into the oyster’s body causing the tissue to form a pearl sac. This sac then secretes a ‘nacre’ around the irritant shell thus resulting in a pearl.

Mikimoto held three patents relating to this technique for culturing pearls but once he bought the rights to the Mise-Nishikawa method in 1916 he became the leading authority in the field and his business grew. He opened stores in Tokyo’s prestigious Ginza district and further shops followed in London, Paris and New York.

I would like to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls” – Kokichi Mikimoto

Kokichi Mikimoto became known as the ‘Pearl King’ and at one time declared the largest personal income in Japan. Yet he lived his last years in a very modest four room house on Mikimoto Pearl Island – a small wizened man wearing a brown kimono and black bowler hat!