Let me introduce to you to the lovely, and very talented Elinor Cambray.
Elinor is a bespoke jeweller based at the Fisherton Mill gallery, Salisbury, where she has a working studio on the first floor.
Her work station is covered in equipment and tools that look like they could be as much implements of torture as they are devices to create the most stunning pieces of jewellery.
I was very taken with some very pretty pieces on the desk. beautiful in their own way. Diamond tipped filling/drill bits, tiny but gorgeous.
I asked Elinor if she would mind very much if I did a photographic story based on her next commission. I wanted it to be something that was personal and perhaps even linked to Valentines day, but certainly linked to love.
Elinor's current commission is from a lady, whose husband had bought her a Peridot necklace, but she wanted it revamped because she wasn't wearing it. The Citrine was bought by her husband while overseas. She has asked Elinor to reset the stones in a new design, that allows both the peridots and the citrine to be worn together; this is a great opportunity to bring the two pieces together into something individual and wonderful.
I loved this story instantly. All too often Valentines is aimed at people who have been together for a short time, or even to people who are in love from afar. But what of the people who have been together for years and what does love mean to them?
The design had already been created for the new piece. Elinor draws out her template ready for building up the individual pieces. Her attention to details is inspiring.
Then she starts removing the delicate peridot stones from their old setting.
People often ask why she doesn't just use the old setting, but she explains that the metal has so much solder on it that it's not worth much beyond scrap. It is also much more work than just removing the stones and building again from scratch.
The saw she uses is so fine it can hardly be seen. It takes patience and skill to go through the old setting without damaging the stones. Elinor does this four times, slowly and delicately. It's mesmerising to watch and a testament to her ability.
Once the stones are all free Elinor starts to construct the new mounts. Not a great fan of the claw style mounts, she makes a new setting, called a "rub-over" or "bezel," for each of the stones to sit in.
Folding the silver around the stones to get the shape and size is just the start of the process. Once shaped and soldered, a smaller inner piece has to be made to sit snug inside so that the stones can sit without fear of dropping out. It looks simple, but I know that the years of training means that it only looks easy with experience.
Like an alchemist, the chemistry of metal, heat and the skills of an artist, the magic starts to come to life
Once the pieces are shaped, soldered and allowed to cool, they soaked in a bath of "pickle" to remove the oxides off the surface of the metal. Afterwards they sit in a bowl of gravel looking cereal to dry out.
From there Elinor chooses her weapons of choice to sand, craft, shape and bring to a glossy shine each of the settings.
There's a leaf in the design, delicate and a key component of many of Elinor's pieces.
After hammering the silver a little, the shape of the leaf is drawn on the silver. The saw is prepped and finally, carefully, it is cut out to size. The edges are smoothed before having the leave design imprinted on the surface.
After going through the press, the silver comes out with the leaf pattern set. A quick file to reshape and ensure the edges are smooth and so another piece of this pendant is ready.
I love the idea that this story is about the reinvention of an existing piece, that in a society where there are too many people who will just go and get a replacement, this lady was keeping something precious to her and reusing them, making them viable, and keeping the love alive.
The old days of make do and mend seem to be coming back, and what better way to show this than at Valentines, where too often the shops can be filled with consumables that don't last and won't stand the test of time; but buying something that will last a life time or more, even with a make over, shows the depth of love that some people can share.
I'll be heading back this week to see how the rest of the pendant comes together. Watch out for my next blog
You can see more of Elinor's pieces on her website:
Or you can visit her at Fisherton Mill, 108 Fisherton Street, Salisbury, SP2 7QY