As you know, I often have commissions, and I’m always open to working with someone’s existing jewellery. It makes for interesting and often challenging work, which I love.
Last year I had a more unusual request, which wasn’t to rework existing, loved jewellery, nor to source a gemstone, but instead, to set a gorgeous stone sent from overseas by one friend to another as a symbol of their friendship.
The brief was to incorporate it into a bracelet that the recipient would design. The recipient also found a chain on Etsy, that she fell in love with, and wished to use that, rather than one I would make or source myself.
Not much difference then, from the regular ‘this was my granny’s can you make it wearable’ request I often get.
Except….The chain that the recipient chose was sold as sterling – my client (following my paranoid instructions) actually double checked by messaging the seller that would be the case, but it turned out to be base metal.
Why is this relevant? Well. firstly the chain was mis-sold. Secondly a base metal chain immediately reduced the options available to me to incorporate the stone setting, meaning I couldn’t risk applying any heat to it, so the fixing had to be cold connections (basically I’d have to rivet or use open jumprings / split rings to attach the gemstone); the seller was deliberately misleading in her descriptions and listing photos then, finally and crucially, when my client contacted her to check the was fully UK hallmarked, the seller lied, confirming it was fully hallmarked
Here’s what you should watch out for:
What’s the description? This seller was careful / sneaky in her listings to describe it as ‘silver’ . Not sterling silver (good, it wasn’t), nor silver plated / coloured metal (which is what it is and how it should have been described) She had attached a tag stamped 925 to the chain
A stamp saying 925 is NOT a guarantee that something is sterling. A genuine hallmark will have a number of elements to it. Here’s an example of the one I’ve had applied to the back of the component – DGD (my makers mark) the lion (traditional mark for sterling silver), 925 (alloy rate) leopard head ( London Assay Office), W ( date year 2021) and finally the common control mark (CCM). Not every hallmark will look like this – the makers mark and assay office will vary as will the year letter and the CCM is really only being added as an optional extra post Brexit. It’s costly and time consuming to send stuff for assay, but, if a piece is over the weight threshold (7.78g if silver, 1g if gold) IT’S THE LAW
This chain was really cheap; at about £30, it retailed for less than I can buy a similar one direct from my bullion dealer, but it was marked as 50% off in the sale – watch out for something that seems too good to be true
And finally, when I flicked through her shop, there was nothing in there saying hallmarked, none of the gold chains, nor any of the silver. Neither was there a copy of the Dealer’s Notice that all UK precious metal sellers have, by law to display. Now, this latter point is something many small jewellers fail to do – partly because it’s hard to get it to display correctly on Etsy, but it’s something you should look out for. There’s no requirement for it to be on every listing, but it should be displayed somewhere in a physical or virtual store.
The consequences of this are that I couldn’t set the stone in the manner my client wanted – we had to compromise her design. The bracelet isn’t going to wear as well as a sterling one would – the plate will rub off over time, and who knows what alloy the metal within is. If it’s being sold incorrectly then it probably has elements that are prohibited in the UK , such as nickel and cadmium. And of course, my client now has to complain to the seller and I’ll need to report her to her local trading standards office.
I was going to have to divide the chain to attach my element, which meant sawing through two of the links. I did so, and also took one of the jump rings outside, put on my fume mask that I use when polishing and heated the jumpring, just to demonstrate how it would behave.
I’m sharing this with you because those of us who do follow the law, are doing so for a number of reasons, and it costs a little more to do so. Please consider this when you are buying jewellery
Pictures showing the client’s chain, with a design element whilst we were trying to design round the limitations, the excess chain and the sawn through links
Now you can see a close up of the cut links and the heated jumpring to demonstrate the difference application of heat has to this base link, compared to the sterling jumpring in the above WiP photo
Finally, this particular batch of jewellery back from the Assay Office. I post in batches, otherwise the cost, including the postage there and back is up to £30+ a piece. You can see the laser hallmarks on the back of the flat pieces – all of which had stones set; 3 were commissions, the others were underweight pieces that I included to bring the unit pricing down and can be found in my online shops