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!

 

Silver Charms for Bracelets

… a history of the silver charm bracelet!

The wearing of charms has been popular for centuries. Indeed the ancient Egyptians wore charms to ward off evil spirits and even today some charms are seen as a means of avoiding bad luck. It was probably Queen Victoria who initially started the fashion amongst the European nobility during the 19th Century. The charm bracelet remained popular in the 20th Century too and I am sure many of us recall our mother or grandmother collecting silver or gold charms to remember countries they had visited on holiday or to commemorate important occasions or ‘milestones’ in their lives.

The 21st Century saw the introduction of a new type of charm bracelet known as the European charm bracelet. It has become increasingly popular not only in Europe but also North America. Unlike the traditional charm bracelet, these charms are attached in a different way to the bracelet. These new silver charms are bead-like and made from silver (or silver with murano glass, enamel etc), and each one has a hole through the centre so that they become interchangeable – making it possible to create a unique a distinctive look!

There are a number of successful brand names associated with the manufacture of these popular silver charms for bracelets, including Pandora charm bracelets, Chamilia and Trollbeads. A new dimension has been added to the concept by Paul Wright Jewellery who are currently designing and creating a new range of silver daisy charmsto add to their unique collection of silver daisy jewellery. Their sterling silver, bead charm bracelets are compatible with those created by Pandora, Chamilia and other leading brands and so the charm beads are interchangeable between charm bracelets on all the different makes available on the market.

As the proposed new silver daisy charms are still on the ‘drawing board’ collectors will have to wait a few weeks before being able to purchase the stunning new silver charm beads. So those looking for more interesting silver charms for bracelets or necklaces should keep an eye on the website link below!


Visiting Fieldfares to Stratford-upon-Avon

… VIEW FROM OUR KITCHEN WINDOW AT THE START OF 2010!

 

I snapped this shot of a visiting Fieldfare, perched on our frozen birdbath outside the kitchen window, just as the snow began to gently settle! An ornamental crabapple tree – the “Malus” – still laden at this time of year with over-ripe bunches of bright red crabapples, had attracted flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares to our garden in Stratford-upon-Avon. Neither variety of bird are native to Britain and the Fieldfare has certainly never been known to breed here. They are both visitors from countries in northern Europe and migrate here in the winter.

Flocks of Fieldfares can sometimes be seen flying overhead in loose formation and can usually be identified by their chattering call, “chack-chack”. The Fieldfare is easily identified by its blue-grey head and rump, no doubt giving rise to one of its country names .. ‘blue-back’. Over the last few days we have delighted in watching these birds from our kitchen window as they feasted untiringly on the fruit that our crabapple tree provided. At one time we counted about 15 Fieldfares, 20 Redwings, two Blackbirds and a large Wood-Pigeon all sharing our ‘more than adequate’ wild fruit tree and eventually devouring all but the very last of the red crabapples … just out of reach on the flimsiest of its outstretched branches!

The hustle and bustle of our summer jewellery shows has given way to a quiet time of reflection and contemplation during the current winter months. Thought must be given to new jewellery designs and new opportunities that a new year will bring – a time of inspiration! So I take a moment to wish our friends and customers a very happy New Year and every success for 2010. Of course in order to achieve ‘success’ one needs to define the word. And so I offer you Ralph Waldo Emmerson’s definition, which was recently given to me by a good friend, and which I feel deserves our consideration:

To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and 
the affection of children.
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and 
endure the betrayal of false friends.
To appreciate beauty.
To find good in people.
To leave the world a better place, whether 
by a healthy child, a garden patch, 
or a redeemed social condition.
To know that one person breathed easier,
because you lived.

This is to have succeeded!

by Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Like the visiting Fieldfares in our garden, it is time to move on and seek new opportunities … wherever we may find them. Happy New Year to all! We look forward to seeing you again soon and we wish you every success in 2010!

Christmas Gift Ideas

Our Exhibition Stand

The 20th Royal Welsh Winter Fair was officially opened by Elin Jones, Minister for Rural Affairs. The Fair, acclaimed the finest prime stock show in Europe, attracted record cattle entries this year with over 350 leading stockmen competing for the top prizes. There were also strong entries of sheep and pigs and horse and pony entries reached 730, the highest since 2004 and 71 more than in 2008.

A survey following last year’s show indicated that shopping for new and exciting Christmas gift ideas was one of the main reasons for coming to this prestigious livestock and equestrian event. Every available space is put to good use with exhibition stands erected in the main buildings, marquees and even in much of the livestock shedding! Our own trade stand was located in the ‘Gift Hall’ – a euphemism for ‘Goat Shed’! The only give-away was the word ‘goats’ still clearly visible under the temporary signage above the entrance – as shown in our feature photo above.

Despite the humble surroundings our handmade silver and gold jewellery attracted the attention of the farming community in Wales in no uncertain measure! Our unique silver daisy jewellery collection was a big hit, as was the launch of our new and original white sapphire ring designs. There is no doubt that both the silver and gold jewellery were considered to be amongst the most popular Christmas gift ideas at the show.

Jools Holland in Harrogate

… and the Yorkshire ‘Crafts for Christmas’ Show.

 

Every year we look forward to visiting Harrogate in North Yorkshire where we attend one of the country’s largest Christmas shopping events – the ‘Yorkshire Crafts for Christmas’ show held at the Showgrounds a few miles from the town centre. Our unique collection of silver and gold jewellery always seems to attract attention in the North and we look forward to exhibiting at this popular annual event.

This year proved to be even more interesting than usual. We discovered that Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra was performing for one night only at the Convention Centre in Harrogate. As luck would have it two seats were still available and Wendy and I jumped at the chance to ‘boogie-woogie’ the night away at this raucous, star studded blues concert.

Not only did we delight in the undoubted skills of Jools himself but we were entertained by some of the best instrumentalists in the business including saxophonist Derek Nash and the Badbone jazz-funk showman Dennis Rollins. Reggae enthusiasts would also have been thrilled with the trombonist Rico Rodriguez, a Jamaican legend responsible for the cult 80’s album, ‘That Man is Forward’. His solo contributions included a very different rendition of Frank Sinatra’s ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ – it was a real treat to see him on a concert stage! Jools also received some impressive support from the talented vocalists Louise Marshall and the Rhythm & Blues specialist Ruby Turner who really turned up the heat with several of her powerful gospel flavoured songs.

Since learning to play fluently at the tender age of eight, Jools has gone on to become one of the UK’s most proficient jazz and blues pianists. The performance in Harrogate was confirmation of his ability to entertain a large audience – by the end he had us all singing and dancing in the aisles as he led us in ‘Enjoy Yourself’ … and we certainly did!

Dame Vera Lynn

We’ll Meet Again …..

This year’s Ardingly College ‘Crafts for Christmas’ show saw the visit of Dame Vera Lynn, the English singer whose career flourished during World War II. She was nicknamed “The Forces’ Sweetheart” and some of the songs most fondly remembered and associated with her include “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover”.

Dame Vera and her daughter spent some time admiring the jewellery that formed our display at this popular annual event. Having asked her permission she kindly allowed us to snap this photo of her before moving on to browse the other exhibits that were on show. At the age of 92 she remains just as attractive and charming as she was during the war years at which time the nostalgic lyrics .. “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day” .. became one of the emblematic songs of that period.

And now at the age of 92, she has done it again, hitting No 1 in the album charts with her offering ‘We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn’ and usurping Bob Dylan, 68, as the oldest artist to grace the top spot!

Her visit at the Ardingly Crafts for Christmas Show was the highlight of this year’s event … and, of course, we all hope to meet her again some sunny day!

The Royal Welsh Show 2009

Wendy and I have just returned from exhibiting our unique range of silver and gold jewellery at The Royal Welsh Show. This year we were invited to exhibit in the South Glamorgan Hall which meant that, despite the inclement weather, we remained dry and mud free!

This is the biggest agricultural show in Europe! It is organised by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, which was formed in 1904, and takes place in July of each year, at Llanelwedd, near Builth Wells, in Powys, Mid Wales.

The first show was held in Aberystwyth in 1904, and its success led to the development of the permanent showground at Llanelwedd, first used in 1963.The show lasts for four days and attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually, making it a major boon for tourism in Wales. Events include competitions of cattle, sheep, horses, goats, pigs and various other domestic animals, Sheep dog trials, Sheep shearing competitions, Horse riding competitions, Four-in-hand and Carriage Driving displays, Falconry, Games and sports such as the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery of the Royal Horse Artillery, Arts and crafts and live music.

Given its “Royal” status it is not unusual for a senior member of the British Royal family to attend at the Show. A familiar sight is the Prince of Wales who is generally acknowledged to be a keen supporter of the farming community. Indeed following his outspoken support during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, some farmers regard him as an influential figure. The royal interest in this year’s show was provided by the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, and the Countess of Wessex. The couple spent several hours at Llanelwedd on Wednesday, having been greeted by the president, North Wales landowner and farmer Robin Price, of Rhiwlas, Bala, who then accompanied them on a tour of the showground. Unfortunately I was unable to find an opportunity to photograph the couple to add to my ‘Royal photo’ collection and so the ‘blog photo feature’ this time is one of Wendy and I on our trade stand!

Once again we stayed in our delightful rural B&B nestled in a beautiful valley a short distance from the showgrounds where the proprietor, Biddy Williams, provides not only the best Welsh breakfast ‘fry up’ in the world but an outstanding roast dinner with fresh vegatables grown in her own garden! Each evening all ten guests staying at this picturesque period cottage congregate in its’ small dining room around an oak gateleg table and exchange diverse experiences of the days events at the show. This year’s guests included a Vivien Westwood fashion designer (who was showing a pony in the competition of Welsh Cobs), two Irish cattle farmers from Donegal, the marketing director for Harper Adams Agricultural College, a country artist, a podiatrist and two market traders from London. It certainly made for varied and interesting conversation after the show each day!

We acknowledge thanks to Wikipaedia for the factual information on the history of the Royal Welsh Show.

The Royal Highland Show 2009


Growing up, I heard my parents tell me to be careful how I chose my friends. “You are judged by the company you keep”, they told me.

In our business we are certainly privileged to ‘keep very good company’ by exhibiting our silver and gold jewellery at trade shows supported by various members of our British Royal Family. The 2009 Royal Highland Show, held in Edinburgh, was no exception. In fact this year we were delighted to meet with HRH Elizabeth II herself! She is the patron of the Show’s organising body and this was her first visit to the Show in over twenty years. This presented the ultimate ‘Royal photo’ opportunity and I was pleased to snap the picture of her above – albeit from quite some distance away due to the tight security that surrounds her royal visits!

The Royal Highland Show saw a record attendance over the four days last week. In fact we discovered that the numbers had increased by over 15% with the highest ever visitor figure on the Saturday of 51,307. This was probably aided by the Royal visits which included not only HRH the Queen on the second day of the Show, but also Princess Ann who was in attendance on the Saturday.

Our customers at the Royal Highland show are largely from the farming community in Scotland. Many of them had no doubt as to which would be the champion cow this year. It was an impressive ‘Holstein’, bred near Annan, that was named as the interbreed champion at the 2009 Royal Highland Show. The judges were impressed with the size, power and sheer scale of her. She was well balanced and with a really good udder too. “A youthful cow with good legs and feet”, one farmer told me!

 

The Royal Cornwall Show 2009

The showground, located just 10 minutes drive from Padstow, bursts into life for three days every year during the annual Royal Cornwall Show. There are a number of dog, falconry and equine competitions at this popular agricultural event where visitors are free to explore the many trade stands and exhibitions at the showground.

This year saw the visit of HRH The Princess Alexandra. It was her fifth visit to the show and she was presented with her badge as a Vice-president of the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association. Her Royal Highness requested a visit to the Rural Crafts Association marquee where she took a keen interest in the exhibits on display including the hand crafted silver and gold jewellery by Paul Wright Jewellery.

Princess Alexandra, ‘The Honourable Lady Ogilvy’, is a member of the British Royal Family, the youngest granddaughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She was married to the late Sir Angus Ogilvy. Prior to her marriage she was known as Princess Alexandra of Kent.

Princess Alexandra carries out royal duties on behalf of her cousin, The Queen. She is 33rd in the line of succession to the British throne; at the time of her birth in 1936, she was sixth.

Many of the exhibitors and visitors to the Show took advantage of dining out in Padstow where the popular television cuisine presenter, Rick Stein, has several renowned restaurants including his famous Seafood Restaurant.

Stein opened his first business in Padstow in 1974, and now specialises in fish cookery. His business operates four restaurants, a bistro, a cafe, a seafood delicatessen, patisserie shop, a gift shop and a cookery school. His impact on the local economy of Padstow is such that it has been nicknamed “Padstein” despite the phrase being openly disputed by Rick himself.

Paul and Wendy Wright took time out each day to dine in the restaurants of Rick Stein along with other visitors to Cornwall and the agricultural show. Sadly Princess Alexandra was unable to attend Rick Stein’s restaurant on this occassion but we would like to thank her for visiting our stand during the show – a very charming and gracious lady!
We can’t help those who missed Princess Alexandra and Rick Stein last week but if you also missed the ‘Paul Wright Jewellery’ trade stand in Cornwall you have an opportunity right now to see some of the new jewellery designs in the Summer Collection for 2009 by clicking here.