Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Emma Bridgewater Visits Corbridge

Earlier in the year, Forum Books in Corbridge organised a talk by Emma Bridgewater to coincide with the release of her new book Pattern & Design; The Secrets of Lasting Design. Emma Bridgewater is famous for her pretty patterned mugs and crockery and dinnerware (and much more now) which is all made in Stoke on Trent. The patterns are based on a cream background and can range from nieve spongewear to artistic fonts. They are instantly recognisable.
Emma Bridgewater latest book. Pattern and the Secrets of Lasting Design.

The Angel was packed out with fans of her work and Emma gave us all an insight into some of her most famous patterns which feature on her pottery and how the designs have developed, changed and been reimagined over the past few years.

As a small business owner and craftsman it was fascinating to hear how Emma and her husband Matthew work together as a team to create the patterns and to see a little into her world.

Emma is a self assured and shrewd business woman, which is not what I was expecting, she has a business worth £11 million in 2010 so she must be good! But despite being a great business woman she still seems very down to earth and unfazed by the limelight.

The stories written about the various patterns in the book and her inspiration behind each one is fascinating. There is such a wealth of patterns and variations that Bridgewater have used over the years it is hard to understand where all of the ideas could have come from. There is a vast catalogue of designs at the back of the book and there is also a collectors club and a healthy second hand market noticeable on ebay. 

One of the things I took from the evening is that Emma Bridgewater is not afraid of discontinuing a pattern if it isn't working even if she adores it. If it doesn't make business or financial sense then it goes. But conversely this doesn't make her afraid of trying new things, sometimes a pattern comes back into fashion after years wallowing.
I think I could definitely learn a thing or two from that mantra.

My favourite Emma Bridgewater pattern which I'm lucky enough to own too is the Charm Bracelet collection that was produced on Porcelain, not her usual medium. The Charm Bracelet pattern is made up of curious charms and the odd gold sparkle and was available on a teapot and a tea set. I daren't use them as I love them so much!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Top 5 tips for Independent Shop Owners


As you probably know we have a tiny shop in Corbridge, Northumberland which is a fantastic hive of independent businesses set in a beautiful historic village. 
I’ve been in the Jubilee Buildings shop for 3 and half years and before then we were in a more modern shop in Bakery Yard and before that, in a shop tucked away behind a garage. A fair few locations and different set ups.

If you are thinking about taking the leap and setting up shop, here are my top 5 tips to setting up shop and keeping it running! 
Kirsty Taylor Jewellery Shop in Jubilee Buildings, Corbridge

1) Location, location, location. Despite being in the digital age and selling over the internet all over the world, local footfall is vital. Luckily, we do a lot of commission work and our customers are more than happy to seek us out but most of our day to day trade occurs because they are walking past the shop! We compromised on size and space to have our smaller shop in a better location and we really noticed it started to pay off in our first summer season in the new shop with all the tourists visiting Corbridge and Hadrian's Wall.

2) Smile and Chat. We have a tiny shop, it is pretty hard to ignore a customer, but we like to say Hi at the very least, it’s common courtesy. I’ll try my best to engaged them in conversation, but if they just want to browse in peace, that’s ok too. Let your enthusiasm for your shop and product show. 

3) Mix it up. It constantly surprises us that pieces sell straight  after they have moved to a different area in the shop. Move it around and freshen things up. We definitely still need to work on this  a lot more and the latest edition of Scarves from Hayley and Co. have helped to draw customers in to look at the scarves because the bright colours look so appealing.

4) Tomorrow is another day. There will be rubbish days. Days when you haven’t seen a soul or when you overhear someone slagging off your shop standing outside your door. The one that gets my goat is: ‘I don’t know how they make a living’ Resist the urge to shout down the street ‘Didn’t your Mum tell you if you had nothing nice to say to stay quiet?!!!!’
They aren’t your type of customer and they never will be. Concentrate your energy on those who will be you ideal customer.

5) Know you neighbours. Take time to chat to you neighbours and fellow shop keepers, you need each others support. Running a shop is hard enough but being able to recommend customers to other local shops will pay off. Tourists love an insider tip for the best places for lunch. 

Friday, 27 May 2016

Insider Secrets on Choosing a Diamond

What to look for when choosing a Diamond

It's all about the C's - Cut, Carat, Clarity and Colour.

Diamond Cut - Diamonds are cut so that the stone shows the most light, giving diamond-like lustre and light dispersion.  Probably the most popular is the "Brilliant" cut particularly for engagement and wedding rings.  Others include Cushion, Marquise, Trillion, Round, Princess and Square cuts.  Here's one of our Princess cut square diamond set in Palladium below.   Its important to choose a stone that will complement your hand size and shape.
Princess Cut Square
Diamond Carat - Diamonds are measured in Carats (not the orange variety).  One of the biggest diamonds ever found was in a mine in South Africa.  It weighted in at a staggering 3,106 carats.  It was cut down into 9 large Brilliant cut stones, and 96 others.  The largest of these stones is called the "Star of Africa" or "Cullinan 1" and now resides in the British Crown Jewels mounted in the Sovereign's Royal Sceptre.  This is a pear-cut diamond.  The higher your diamonds carat the more expensive it will normally be.
Sovereign's Royal Sceptre
Diamond Clarity - The price of a diamond will depend on its transparency and colour (or lack of colour).  Most diamonds will have minor inclusions or blemishes and can appear as whitish or cloudy marks, or cracks.  Flawless diamonds are rare and therefore fetch the highest of prices.  However flaws and inclusion are mostly only ever visible to the trained eye.  Their appearances can sometimes be beneficial to track their origin, a bit like fingerprints. 

Diamond Colour - A diamonds colour or hue will either detract or enhance its value.  Those with intense pink, yellow or blue are more valuable.  We work with champagne, chocolate, and other coloured diamonds.  The traditional clear diamonds are the most popular for engagement and wedding rings.  Here's one of our fabulous coloured diamonds set in a contemporary hammered yellow gold ring.  The warm rich yellow gold works perfectly against the intense chocolate diamonds hues.

Probably one of the most famous coloured diamonds is The Hope Diamond which is on display at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC.  The diamond is a wonderful blue/grey colour.  It is said to be cursed.  However these stories of death and tradegy may well have been fabricated to enhance the gemstones appeal, and increase its value.
The Hope Diamond

Other things to consider when choosing an engagement ring

Once you know the type of diamond you would like the next step is to choose the metal, and the setting.  These are both normally dictated by your budget.  Most engagement rings are made from Platinum or Palladium as they are hard wearing and resillient, and should last a lifetime.  Others choose white, rose or yellow gold.  Silver is sometimes used when the budget is tight.  If you have a very sparkly high quality diamond we would always recommend a strong sturdy metal like gold, platinum or palladium.

Place Holders Ring

A "Place Holders Ring" has become more popular over the last few years.  It can be a less expensive ring, a "Stand in" for the real thing.  This lets your loved one choose her own ring, and means you both get something that is to her taste, style and size.  Here at KTJ we have had a quite a few proposals over the years.  Some with place hold rings, just diamonds on their own, inherited rings that have been repaired or remodelled, and even a hula hoop.  

Popping the Question

The last thing to think about is how to pop the question.  I am afraid this is all down to you.  Just remember one thing, the story of how you proposed is something she will tell all her family/friends and future children.  Its a life changing question so be sure to get it right.  Timing is everything, but location and other props (cocktail or two) may help.

If you would like more details on how to choose your perfect diamond or engagement ring then pop into the shop, give us a call or drop us an email.  We promise to keep it hush hush!

Good luck

Kirsty Taylor and Team

Friday, 20 May 2016

Mary Portas Queen of Shops visits Hexham!

As part of Hexham Book Festival  Mary Portas spent an evening talking about her most recent book, Shop Girl: A memoir

In the book Mary talks about her days as a child in a large Irish family and the role her Mother had to play in her life and the devastating loss of her Mother when Mary was in her teens. After a difficult period helping to bring up her brother, her father's remarriage, his eventual death and subsequent loss of her family home, Mary recalls how retail was her escape. 

The evening was led by Claire Malcolm who asked Mary more in depth about her life and was followed by questions from the audience. 
There were surprisingly a lack of questions from the audience, which was slightly disappointing as Mary is such an engaging character I could have listened to her chatting all night. 

Many of the questions focused on the retail side of her work and her thoughts and ideas about the modern high street and her experiences on Mary Queen of Shops. She passed comment on Hexham and the abundance of shops and the lacklustre in the local department store Beales. 

In real life Mary is funny and engaging with strong ideas and opinions. It was quite shocking to hear about the difficulties she faced in her teens with the loss of her Mother and Father and I can't help but marvel at what she has accomplished.
She really is an inspiration. 

My lovely friend Hayley decided to buy her book at the end of the evening and I dutifully joined her and decided to queue for an autograph. Right at the last minute I decided to put aside my usual reserve and ask for my picture to be taken with her. 

Mary kindly asked what I did and I told her I was a Goldsmith (her eyes immediately went to my hands) and she asked how the retail environment was. Completely star struck I managed a 'it's a difficult trading environment at the moment'. Oh dear. 

Here is my picture:

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Hallmarking - How Can I Check my Jewellery is Authentic?


What is Hallmarking?  How Can I Check if my Jewellery is Authentic?

Makers Mark - KT
Hallmarking represents the earliest form of consumer protection and dates back nearly 700 years ago.   It’s an official test carried out by an Assay Office that guarantees the purity of the metal, or piece of jewellery.   Most UK jewellers will hallmark pieces that weigh over 0.5grams.  

When you purchase a piece of fine jewellery its always a good idea to check the hallmarking.  This is the official mark that will tell you what metal, amongst other things your jewellery is.

UK Assay Office Marks
Assay Office Mark – This will tell you where the piece was tested.  For example London is a Lion, Birmingham an anchor, Yorkshire a rose and Edinburgh a castle.

Date Mark – This is a letter and will usually represent the date the jewellery was made.

Metal and Fineness (Purity Mark) – A millesimal number indicates the precious metal content.  This number will have a shield; the shape will indicate gold, silver, platinum or palladium.  For Platinum the number 999 means the metal is 99.9% pure, 950 means 95% pure, 900 means 90% pure, 850 is 85% pure. 

Maker’s Mark – Most jewellers will have their very own Maker’s Mark.  Our stamp is KT for Kirsty Taylor jewellery, which you can see on the top photo.  It’s a very very small stamp at around 1mm.  The hammer we use to make the stamp is in contrast massive.
KT Hallmarking Tools

Metal Alloys

Gold is mixed with different alloys (metals) like silver, palladium or copper.  This helps to strengthen the metal and gives it a longer shelf life.  Gold in its purest form would be too soft to wear as jewellery.  For rose gold, copper is added to the gold, which gives it the lovely rose colour.  The higher the carat of gold the more expensive, and more yellow the colour.

Platinum Versus Palladium

Two Palladium Wedding Rings
Platinum is known to be one of the most durable, and expensive metal available.  It is most commonly used for wedding, engagement and eternity rings, and high-end fine jewellery.  It requires little maintenance and should last a lifetime if cared for properly.


In recent years palladium has become the metal of choice for anyone who wants the durability, and longevity of Platinum, but without the price tag.  It is around half the price of Platinum, but just as durable, and a little lighter.  It’s a darker metal, much darker than white gold.

Due to its popularity from Jan 2010 it is now compulsory to hallmark all palladium pieces weighing over 1gram.  Before it was a voluntary hallmark.   One of the leading assay offices in the UK has reported that in the last 6 months 40,000 pieces of palladium have been hallmarked.  This shows the trend for white metal jewellery, that's affordable and long lasting.
Kirsty Taylor Jewellery in Corbridge

If you would like to chat about hallmarking, or our different metals available then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  We have lots of different examples to show you.  Make an appointment or pop in for a chat.

Best wishes

Kirsty Taylor & Team

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Remodel Your Jewellery With Style

Remodelling Jewellery

Ring to be remodelled
If you have jewellery or family heirlooms that need a new lease of life, then why not chat to our experienced goldsmiths about remodelling.  It’s a very popular way to have something new from something old, in a stylish design that you can wear and love forever. 

You can opt for a contemporary design over something that is out of fashion.  Or remodel a sentimental piece of jewellery so it can be worn and admired.  If you have several pieces of broken jewellery, spare earrings, chain etc we can put these items towards your new stunning jewellery commission.

Remodelling jewellery has become more popular than scrapping gold for cash and we can reuse most carats of gold.  Silver is a little more technically difficult as the labour hours may cost more than the price of the silver to be reused.  However, we maybe able to remodel it if it has a high sentimental value.
Jewellery Remodelling
For Platinum, Palladium or White gold we can melt them down, but they are can be prone to cracking when remodelled extensively.  For metals we can’t use there is always an option for us to scrap them for you, and the cost put towards your beautiful new piece of jewellery.


Jewellery Remodelling Process

The first step is to take your jewellery along so our goldsmiths can have a look at the pieces, and give you an indication of what can be achieved.

Emerald & Silver Necklace
Emerald & Silver Necklace

Then we collectively decide on a design to be used.  This is the fun part.  You may have an idea already of what style you love, or suits you best.  We are always open to ideas, photos or sketches from our customers.  Or our jewellers can make some excellent suggestions as well.

Once the design is agreed we will give you an accurate quote for the work, and you can let us know any deadlines.  It’s as simple as that.

To confirm a remodelling commission we normally take a 30% deposit to start work.  Then the full payment is due on completion.

It’s a fun and exciting process, and something we help with every step of the way so you are in safe hands.   

Please contact us with any questions or if you would like to chat about a commission.  You can email us on Kirsty@kirstytaylorjewellery, call us on 01343 633000, or pop into our Corbridge shop.  Here's a few more Kirsty Taylor Taylor Remodelling examples.

Jewellery Remodelling Examples

This fabulous Diamond ring on the left was made from broken and unworn jewellery.  The diamonds were taken out, and remodelled to suit the customers style.  Into this fresh, stunning white gold diamond ring.  Truly a unique and statement ring, one of a kind.

The chunky men's signet ring was again made from unworn gold pieces that were passed down the generations.  The pieces were melted down to create this stunning gold ring.  Then the family Coat of Arms was engraved onto the surface of the ring.  A wonderful commission for a milestone Birthday.

A customer came in with pieces of jewellery to reuse from necklaces, bracelets and old rings.  She wanted something very individual, with vibrant colour and unique style.  A real show stopper of a ring was handcrafted, with the most amazing rubies and diamonds.  She was over the moon with her bespoke gold ring and gemstone commission.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Engraving: How to choose the perfect style for you...

Engraving: How to choose the perfect engraved style for you.

There are many different styles and types of engraving that we are able to offer to personalise a piece of jewellery. From very personal messages to abstract designs and patterns, we are able to produce a wide range of styles and techniques when it comes to choosing a design.  Below are some samples of previous commission work to show you exactly what can be achieved.

1) Hand engraved patterns, swirls and leaves. We use a top hand engraver. They are incredibly rare beasts in the jewellery kingdom. Hand engravers can trained for up to 7 years to perfect their skill, so no wonder they are a rare treat.

This rose gold ring on the right was engraved for us.  We simply allowed the engraver to work his magic and do what he thought was best. As you can see he didn’t let us down producing this beautiful design.

2) Hand engraved dates and names. Again we use a hand engraver (after all could a machine get into the inside of a tiny ring and create a work of art like this?).  This option is very popular for wedding and engagement rings and will last a lifetime. For this style of engraving we would suggest script or capitals.
3) Hand engraved Roman Numerals.  Fantastic particularly for Men’s gifts, and the hand engraving just gives add a final touch of class.  Its good if you want to give a subtle private message to someone, without having it on display for everyone to see.  

4) Free Hand stamping. If you are looking for a bit of personalisation and don’t mind a bit of quirkiness (and like the free option!) then hand stamping is for you. We do this in our workshop and can add it to most things.  If you want it on the inside of a ring remember to let us know before we make the ring as we need to stamp the message on before the ring is constructed. 

5)  Kirsty's own hand writing.  Using a very tiny ball burr on a drill we use our special close up googles, and our best joined up handwriting to write a message.  We like quirky and we like handmade, and if you like your pieces to be unique then this is a good option.

Here's a few other examples that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration.

If you would like to chat about the engraving options please get in touch for more details.