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  • alisonberthelsen

Unveiling the journey: The hidden story behind this piece of loveliness

How do you get from a pile of unwanted/broken jewellery, to shiny gold loveliness?

It looks so easy.

Here I give a brief outline of what it takes to make 'new' from 'old'.

To get it back to the starting position, simply isn't as quick and easy as you might think.

Read on to learn more, and then find out why this particular job was so hard for me and took so long......

Included in this pile of jewellery was a Victorian ring that had quite a bit of damage to the gold, but had beautiful colour rubies in.

The ring was in fact 15ct gold, which meant the ring was aged somewhere between 1854 to 1932, which is when they stopped producing that carat and moved to 14ct.

Sad to melt it down, but it had significant damage and was collapsing easily in places.

Melting down isn't quite as simple as it looks. 

There is definitely stuff to know, and practice does indeed make perfect.

It always looks as though its happened in seconds, but actually, it takes time and patience. If you don't get it right, the gold will not be happy at the later stages of working.

The heat required is quite intense. And it needs to be of a reasonable amount of time.

This is not a big industrial furnace. Small amounts require care and tending. Especially when it belongs to your client.

Then you mill.

And mill some more. 

And some more.....

But equally, time and patience. 

Nice and gentle. Re annealing (reheating) is essential if you have to mill alot. And that's not just the once. Multiple times.

Otherwise cracks appear quickly.....

Continually checking the metal over, measuring depth, as well as length/width.

Then sawing, filing, papering. 

Much of this....

In this case, I reconsidered the original layout of the stones, and put it to my client.

2 diamonds added in, and made it more irregular. I do like irregular.

You will see an image of the gold looking 'blackened' on a J cloth. It doesn't really look much like gold at this stage. 

Pieces go back and forth between shiny to discoloured, whilst we work on them.

So why is my story behind this piece so difficult in particular?

My lovely client found me in October 2022, told me her hopes and dreams for her unworn jewellery.

I designed the pendant, working with her around her hopes and dreams, and gave her an idea when I would start work, the end of January 2023.

February 2023, and I found myself at crisis point with my Carpal tunnel situation.

I had been with carpal tunnel for around 15 years. But this was different.

Suddenly pain past my elbows that wouldn't go.

So I took the afternoon off.

Then the next day.

Rest of the week.

Another week.

Started sleeping in splints with metal rods in. 

Eventually, it was a month of no working.

Unable to cut my own dinner.

Even using a computer mouse was a challenge. Small movements only, and with the mat on my legs so I didn't have to raise my arms.

Carpal tunnel also messes with your sleep........



When I did return to work, I was quite afraid. I knew this job in particular, required me to do alot of the things that compounded the problems in my wrists.

My client was so kind about what was happening. 

Over the rest of the year, I kept in touch with her. I wanted to restart the work, but had definitely lost my mojo with it.

I did other commissions, and found ways round things, but I declined a few that I knew would be too much for me at that time. Too labour intensive.

I was having to spread my work out. Gave myself gaps between jobs.

Not ideal in anyway.

I had been told in the January that it needed operating on.

Finally, after 3 cancellations over the summer, I got a date for the op that actually went ahead for my left hand (the worst one) in mid October.

Able to communicate this to my clients, and this client in particular, I knew I had a minimum of 6 weeks without working. Possibly 8 weeks.

Which basically lead up to Christmas.

Then I got a bug

Two days before Christmas, I got the date for my right hand. 7 days later!

Which meant another round of communicating with my clients, letting them know that work wouldn't restart until March.


Not great when you are self employed.

There is no sick pay.

I managed one whole week of work after Christmas.

Wedding rings for my bestie, and surprise birthday diamond earrings for my other bestie from her daughters.

Then operation time! New years was spent with a comedy bandage on my hand/wrist/arm (The surgeon calls them a sympathy bandage)

I booked in all my clients who had been kind enough to wait for me, for a  'refresher' appointment in late February, to go over their jobs with them.

But not this job.

I wanted to be able to get in contact and say 'TADAH! Its done!!!'

But I was still a tad nervous of it, and wasn't just picking it up and restarting.

March was with us, a few smaller jobs in, and some working in secret behind the scenes, and the confidence for the job returned.

Suddenly the pendant, in its halfway state, was in my hand.

It was all there. Do-able.

Mojo was back!

I am delighted to add my most patient clients own words.....

''I’m very much a reuse and repurpose type of person and hate things going to waste.

The gold I had was from inherited items and pieces that weren’t now the style I would ever wear.

No family members wanted them as they were and I checked with my mum that she was happy for me to repurpose the old items.

I had a vague idea of what I wanted and loved how Alison was able to use her artistic eye to suggest options; It really felt like a collaboration .

I am beyond pleased with the outcome, it is stunning, a truly original modern piece with a lot of history behind it.''


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