Capturing old memories through new pieces: Remodelling and renewal.

One of the greatest privileges I have is being let into some of the most intimate and treasured memories in people’s lives and being trusted with the objects that hold them.

We all have those pieces of sentimental jewellery we no longer wear. This client wanted to blend a ring from her Grandmother, a silver ring which held very precious memories, and a bangle given to her as a baby – all into a brand new ring. 

“When my mum suggested I use my christening bracelet to get a piece of jewellery made for my 50th birthday I had no idea where to start looking for a designer. I came across Zoe’s website and was wowed by her beautiful unique designs so contacted her.”

The Brief

The brief was delightful: something a bit unusual, a gold and silver blend, a hint of sparkle, with two pinkish morganites and a grey diamond. 

We exchanged emails until I felt I really sure I understood her style and likes. I was able then to send her several hand drawn designs for consideration until we landed on the final design. It included sourcing a salt and pepper diamond to add that ‘unusual’ element she wanted.

Her [Zoe’s] enthusiasm to make me something very special was evident from our first contact and throughout the entire process.” 

Remodelling

The moment must come when much loved pieces are melted down. Before I do, I always acknowledge the memories each piece represents and remind myself of my responsibility to care for those memories throughout the whole process. 

A rolling mill is used to turn silver into sheets, and gold into wire.

A band is made from the sheet of silver

Texture is added through a process known as retriculation. The top layer of silver is heated until just melted which creates a ‘molten-like’ texture and gives the metal a really organic look and feel.

Two lengths of remodelled gold wire were shaped around the ring and soldered. Three tubes also made from the client’s gold were soldered onto the front of the ring.

New Treasure

The whole ring gets a thorough sand and polish ready for the gemstones and then presentation to the client. It nearly brought me to tears when she put it on. It is in these moments I remember why I do what I do.

Many thanks to Zoe for making a new treasure out of old treasures and memories”

Orkney bound – happy couple create their own wedding rings

I can’t hide it – I absolutely love designing jewellery when the heart is involved. It could be engagements, anniversaries, the birth of a child – or in this case – for a wedding.

But this was not a commission. The couple wanted to come to Orkney and spend a day making their wedding bands.

I was delighted – but worried as it was not something I had done before however for this beautiful couple I was honoured to be part of their journey.

As it was February 2020, none of us really knew what the world had in store for us. We hadn’t really yet understood what COVID meant – or the length and number of times we would hear the word ‘Lockdown’. So, I write this blog without pictures of the finished rings. They will be revealed at another time – hopefully later this year when the couple finally get to be married.

Having a wee tipple to celebrate after the pair completed their wedding rings.

The planning process for the workshop started off with us discussing their designs over the phone and email – what they wanted to feature and what they wanted from the day. Whilst I wanted to keep things simple, I was also determined to help them create rings they would be proud of for years to come.

I was delighted that on the day they took to it really well – which was a relief as there was saw-piercing, soldering, polishing and not as gentle hammering as you would believe. It was a great feeling to be able to share the process with them. They couldn’t believe how much time it took to create jewellery. It was an interesting perspective and one I don’t really think about when I am absorbed in my work.

They thoroughly enjoyed their day – and we all enjoyed the glass of Prosecco at the end. I am so glad that we managed to do it.

We genuinely had the best day

“It is lovely to have seen where the jewellery that Zoe makes is made but also to feel like you were being a ‘real’ jeweller yourself. We genuinely had the best day, and are so excited to wear our jewellery for ever, and completely proud that we got to make it for each other – thank you Zoe for saying yes to my request you’ve made it possible for us to have the rings we wanted in the way we wanted them.”
– Feedback from the lovely pair

When we are allowed to mix socially again, I plan to make this workshop available to book via my website. If you or someone you know would like to create their wedding bands, then please feel free to get in contact.

Digging up the past – Recreating the Whitecleugh Chain

One of the best parts of my job is creating commissions for my clients. This year I was fortunate enough to be asked to make another Whitecleugh chain. It is a really spectacular piece, not least because it contains nearly 1kg of silver but more on that later…..

The origin of this chain dates back to Pictish times, from around 400 to 800AD. Named after the place in which it was discovered in Lanarkshire, 1869. Found in the ground, exposed by erosion in a drainage ditch. I wonder how it felt to happen upon such a piece. After all that time buried, it would have tarnished, so when did the finder realise that it was actually a 1.8kg ceremonial silver chain?

whitecleugh chain argentium zoe davidson jewellery

It is likely to have been worn as a choker neck ornament for ceremonial purposes. I like to think of feasts or ceremonies where the wearer sits in pride of place. It certainly wasn’t an everyday piece and not sure that it would be an everyday person as well. There are conflicting views of who the Picts were. Fierce warriors who fought off the Romans or farmers who were deeply rooted to their lands? As always am sure the truth sits somewhere in between.

The chain itself has 44 sliver rings, interlinked into 22 pairs. A penannular ring, acting as a clasp, completes the chain. 

The design for this ring was inspired by the swan, my client’s Celtic zodiac sign. The swan is called “Eala” in Scots Gaelic and is known for its majestic grace and mystical beauty. They considered the swan to mean great power and longevity could be attained once a person realised their inner beauty and power. 

The engraving on the penannular ring was done by Andrew Ashcroft. It’s such a specialist process. I am lucky to be able to work with him to create the spectacular finish to the clasp.

The entire piece is made from Argentium Silver, another request from my client. A special type of hallmark represents Argentium: the “winged unicorn”. Come upon this mark and you are guaranteed the finest silver. This silver is bright and pure. It is tarnish resistant, so easier to care for.If this was buried for over 1,000 years, would it be as tarnished as the original, I suspect perhaps a little.

It took me weeks to make and the hardest part was the wire bending! This piece certainly isn’t an exact replica of the original Whitecleugh chain, but heavily inspired by it. Would I make another one? Yes, I think I would.

zoe silver whitecleugh chain

This piece will always be one of my memorable commissions. I am very thankful to my client for allowing me to share a little of its story.

Creating a Sea Fever inspired commission

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I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying

Excerpt from Sea Fever

John Masefield

It is a feeling that we all know well in Orkney. The freedom of being on the sea. No hustle, no bustle, just you, the sea, and your thoughts. The exhilaration of the spray on your cheeks and in that moment, not a care.

My customers know it well. They have a vintage speedboat and as a unique present for his wife, we created these statement earrings to evoke that memory.

The swirl of the ocean wave contains a small speedboat nestled in the fold. The gemstones are sapphires. To be precise they are Sri Lanka Diamond Cut AAA. “AAA” grade is assigned to a gemstone that is considered to “being near perfect.” Though these stones do show some variation in colour, they are clean, well cut and polished. This grade is the most sought out as the cut is perfect and the colour is vibrant. I have placed them slightly off centre, drawing your eye into the swirl.

The earrings are shaped by hand. I take a single flat sheet of gold and use a technique called fold forming. It means I carefully fold the sheet of gold inside a vice, then go on to hammer and shape a swirl on an anvil. Once I have created the perfect shape, I cut it in two along the fold line– allowing for both sides to be identical. Not only does this create a wonderful contemporary look but it also means that on one of the earrings you can see the soft textures of those hammer marks.

The speedboats are tiny, they are about 4mm long. I love shaping them, but it can be quite fiddly and requires a steady hand. Sometimes I catch myself holding my breath, to ensure I do not file too deep.

For an extra sense of ownership, I have inscribed her initials in the back of the earrings.

It is such a pleasure to create such personal items of jewellery. I hope the owner loves them for years to come and whenever she looks at them, remembers her husband and those shared days on their boat, flying across the ocean.

Bespoke ‘Out To Sea’ Swirl Earrings.
Made in 9ct Yellow Gold and 9ct White Gold featuring Sri Lanka AAA Sapphires.
swirl-earrings-sapphire-blue-boats
Completely hand formed and made in Zoe’s studio in Stromness, Orkney.

Tis The Season… To Support Your Local Makers

As we all know, 2020 has been a strange year. To add to it, we’re now facing a very different festive season too. After the events of 2020, it has never been more important to support your local makers and in turn, we can help you make this Christmas extra special.

Supporting local is so important – not only does it help them reinvest in their own business but the local community.

Gift shopping, I think, is a bit ‘marmite’. People either love it or hate it! Either way, I can help to make it easy for you. I have a range of stunning sets and individual pieces which will suit everyone and every occasion.

A gorgeous set with hints of gold from the Spring Tides Range is striking yet elegant to wear.
Jewellery set link: Large Gold Pebbles Pendant and Small Spring Tide Studs with Gold Pebbles

Jewellery sets make it easy for the recipient to be sure that they always have a matching look which is simple to choose and effortless to wear. My designs are bold, individual and give the ‘wow’ factor that the special people in your life deserve. Choose from the Spring Tides collection, offering sculptural and striking pendant and earring sets which are inspired by walks along the shore, or from the Barriers collection which features architectural, textured pieces inspired by the stacked placement of large blocks which make up the iconic Churchill Barriers.

Jewellery sets make a perfect gift for your loved one.
Left: Narrow Barriers Pendant with London Blue Topaz and Block Gemstone Earrings
Right: Large Ridge Pendant with Gemstones and Small Spring Tide Earrings with London Blue Topaz

For something extra special and completely unique, a gift from the Bespoke Collection really hits the mark. These are exclusive and customisable pieces made just for you. Truly distinctive jewellery crafted with your choice of stones.

A range of Bespoke Jewellery – some available to ship right away.

When you buy from me, or any local maker, you are not only purchasing exclusive handmade items, you are investing in that business and in turn, supporting and growing the local community. You are backing friends, neighbours and families. You might have seen the image which says, “every time you buy from a small business an actual person does a little happy dance”? I’d like to confirm that this is true! Buying from local companies enables growth, creates jobs and develops connections. Each item I sell allows me to reinvest in my own business and in other people too. In addition, when you buy from smaller companies, you also get a much more personal touch.

When you buy from small, you usually get a more personalised service and wee perks.

From help choosing your items to creating plush packaging, local makers can help you directly. When you reach the checkout on my website, you can select ‘Free Gift Wrapping’ if you’d like your items to arrive with style! I can even write a personalised note or card to make it extra special – saving you time! Being eco-friendly is really important to me; using card, tissue paper and recycled items helps to create stunning and unique wrapping. I always keep it classy by finishing with a beautiful ribbon. Wrapping can be tailored to any occasion; think confetti for birthdays and snowflakes made from old music books for Christmas. Let me know what you need and I will ensure your gift looks magnificent.

Eco-friendly gift wrapping to make your purchase extra special.

If you’d like some help with your gift buying this Christmas, I’m here to help you select something truly memorable which will be treasured for a lifetime. You can browse the website HERE or you can contact me HERE for further assistance. Please note that due to Covid-19, things are taking a bit longer than usual so it’s wise to plan well in advance if you can and get your order in quickly. And remember… sometimes the best gift can be to you, from you!

How Beach Walks Inspire My Jewellery

Sitting at Warebeth overlooking the dramatic hills of Hoy.

The Spring Tides collection was inspired, like so many of my designs, by seaside walks along the rugged Orkney coastline. I like to take the time to notice small details such as fine patterns in stone and silvery shadows dancing over surfaces. These subtle elements often spark ideas for new designs. The vision behind the Spring Tides collection came from noting organic, sea carved formations along the Orkney shores and the discovery of small jewel-like pebbles nestled in crevices as if placed there deliberately by the tides.

Photos from left to right: Crevices with pebbles, sea pinks and yellow lichen.

I capture these snippets of inspiration as I go by taking a multitude of photos. I develop these photos further by stretching, widening and repeating them; looking for structures and arrangements to bring into my designs. I then define my ideas by creating lots of samples in metal and paper.

Sketching and developing ideas into pieces of jewellery.

I wanted to emulate these natural formations in a sculptural and striking range of jewellery. For the Spring Tides collection, I chose a pendant shape as the initial design and then made smaller and altered versions to create the other pieces such as earrings, rings and bangles. To achieve this, I create the pieces using my signature style of fold forming. This technique involves continuously heating, folding and cooling the metal resulting in a dramatic three-dimensional effect. Fold forming allows me to produce unique pieces which resemble the crevices found in the rocks on Orkney’s rugged coasts. Pebble detailing is added using colourful gemstones or with pops of gold. These delicate pebbles are carefully set in the fold formed crevices.

Fold forming in process.

The pebble gemstones used in the Spring Tides collection are inspired by the colours found at the shore. London Blue Topaz and White Topaz reflect the beautiful blue hued beach stones and the dynamic colours of the sea. Ruby and Tourmaline echo the vibrant sea pinks which bloom in nooks and crannies while Madeira Citrine invokes the vivid orange yellow lichen which lines the rockfaces.

From the elegant Gold Spring Tides Ring, available in white, yellow or rose gold, to the stunning Oxidised Spring Tides Necklet with Gold Pebbles, each handmade item in the Spring Tides Collection offers the wearer a bold and interesting statement piece. Whether you are looking for a unique wedding ring or a standout piece for everyday wear, the Spring Tides Collection brings a wave of individual jewellery for every occasion.

ORKNEY MIDWIFE RECOGNISED WITH KEY WORKER CAMPAIGN JEWELLERY GIFT

A special key worker gifting campaign launched last month by Orkney jewellery designer, Zoe Davidson, attracted over 200 nominations, with an islands midwife chosen to receive a silver ring in recognition of her vital role in the community.

Stromnessbased Zoe created the campaign in a bid to recognise the efforts of all those continuing to work during the coronavirus pandemic, and to do something positive in the face of a crisis that’s adversely impacted on her own business.

She launched the campaign on her Facebook page, promising to gift an item of jewellery to a key worker randomly selected from public nominations received.

zoe-workshop-working-2019

“This has been an extremely difficult time as a small business owner,” said 28-year-old Zoe. I normally do a lot of trade and retail shows on the mainland and, because my work is very tactile and often bespoke, I rely a great deal on face-to-face sales. This would also be the start of Orkney’s busy tourist season, which brings in a lot of business locally, and that’s all gone for now.

“I’ve therefore had to rethink my strategy and focus more on my online resources, but I was keen not to make it all about selling,” she explained. “I wanted to do a bit more, to try and bring people together during these strange times and help counter the negative effects that lockdown has on mental health.”

Zoe’s campaign urged her Facebook followers to nominate key workers they knew were going the extra mile for their communities, whether NHS staff, supermarket workers, delivery drivers or posties.

key-worker-stories

Showing just a few of the key worker stories on Zoe Davidson’s Facebook campaign.

“The response was overwhelming, with an amazing 200-plus nominations,” said Zoe. “I cried, I laughed and I felt connected again and I hope everyone who took part did too. I also hoped those nominated by their friends and colleagues during these uncertain times got a bit of a lift from it.”

After the campaign had ended, it was Orkney midwife Pam Halliday’s name that was pulled out of the hat. She was nominated by her co-worker, Claire Ross.

Shortly after finding out Pam’s phone number I gave her a call,” said Zoe. “From her reaction I don’t think she had any idea she had been nominated! She was very taken aback, probably thinking it was a hoax phone call.

After a wee bit of chatting I asked more about her story and the work she did at The Balfour. I think a lot of us are oblivious to what goes on behind the scenes in hospitals or any work environment for that matter, especially now. I wanted to shine a light on Pam’s story, and highlight someone who is quietly going about their work, no matter how hard the times.

Pam, who received her ring in the post, said: “I was honoured and to say a bit shocked to be nominated as a keyworker for this campaign, but it was a lovely surprise.  In these uncertain times it is nice to have something which can lift our spirits and I am very grateful to Zoe Davidson Jewellery.

 

 

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Zoe Davidson (left) virtually handing over Pam Halliday’s gift

The ring (left) gifted to Pam from the Spring Tides Range and photo by Pam (right) wearing her new ring.

I work as a midwife in The Balfour and whilst the NHS has seen a lot of changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, our work continues as babies still make an appearance!  In April we had 17 babies born.

We’ve had to make some changes to our daily practice in line with COVID-19 procedures, which has meant changes to visiting and attendance at the maternity unit, but we’re all still very much here for our mums and babies.  I work alongside a fantastic team who’ve all risen to the challenge to support one another and to continue providing the care we always have for our mums, babies, their partners and families.

Zoe said she would have liked to have given all of those nominated a gift, but hoped Pam would wear her ring on behalf of fellow key workers.

Pam represents all of you and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart,” said Zoe. “You all do an incredible job. It’s nice to see folk are genuinely thinking of others in our isles community during these troubled times and great to hear that more babies are being born. Our future looks good!

Zoe is planning further campaigns on her Facebook page Zoe Davidson Jewelleryin the coming weeks.

“As a business, I feel the focus for me right now is on making connections, creating jewellery that connects people during this difficult time and running campaigns that make people smile for their future.

Press Release by Dave Flanagan.

Today On the Bench: Sculptural Swirl Ring Process

Today on the bench I’d like to share with you something I don’t normally share. The process of how I make a lot of my jewellery.

It has been two weeks now in isolation and I cannot help but feel a little out of touch. Stromness streets echo and folk walk into the shadow. To feel that sense of connection I have been having a go at live video and Q&A’s – perhaps more on my Instagram page (you can follow here > Zoe Davidson Jewellery Instagram). But this time I share with you something a little more intimate. Just me transforming sheet metal into something wearable and beautiful. I am always fascinated how things are made – did you ever watch that show ‘How It’sMade’ on the Discovery Channel?

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Overlooking the wild seas of Hoy Sound | Photo credit: Neil Ford.

“There is a channel of turbulent tidal water just to the South of Stromness, my home town. Using the ‘fold form’ technique, I create sculptural pieces reflecting the curling waves and swirling tide eddies of the sea. Every Sunday we enjoy a nice cuppa here, whilst gazing upon the dramatic landscape.”

The wave-created piece in the video is called the Sculptural Swirl Ring with a London Blue Topaz gemstone from the Hoy Sound Collection. It is a personal statement ring and has to be individually crafted by hand. It is my first video so there are hiccups here and there but definitely something I want to work on. Hope you enjoy it.

The Sculptural Swirl Ring with London Blue Topaz is available to purchase on my website here.

You’re Already Making A Difference… And More

christmas papdale country living

Wow it’s October already! This year is going so fast! Lots of lifeboat pendants to make, tie bars and all. And more pieces in preparation for next months local Papdale Christmas Shopping Night extravaganza, as well as Glasgow’s Country Living Christmas Fair. Even some one off pieces for some lovely customers. Busy. Where did summer go!

pave setting stonesLast week was an unusual one. First off, whisked off to Glasgow to take part in an Intermediate Stone Setting Class taught by the fantastic Scott McIntyre, part of the Vanilla Ink team. From smooth flush settings on day one to pave settings, day two. These settings are definitely something that takes practice – but have to say – pretty proud of what I achieved. Something which will be very useful for bespoke items such as engagement and wedding rings. If you’ve not heard of Vanilla Ink, I’d highly recommend having a wee look! They have some great jewellery classes throughout the year.

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Then back in Orkney, two ladies came into the studio to receive a big donation from Zoe Davidson Jewellery. Bella and Mai from the Stromness Ladies Lifeboat Guild collecting their 10% from the Saltaire lifeboat range. This was only launched 3 months ago and has already raised over £300! Thank you RNLI for this chance to give something back for all the effort you voluntarily give to saving lives at sea round here. And thanks to you for all supporting this charitable cause. I am humbled by your generosity and the RNLI’s selfless energy. saltaire-thank-you-donation-zoe-davidson

Favourite Places in Orkney

Stromness, where I live and work now! A wavy necklace of stone gables and piers and slips along the edge of our sheltered harbour. Yet the Hoy Sound tides roost and rage just off the harbour month and the North Atlantic winds can howl over Brinkie’s steep slopes, above us. A quiet haven in the storm. A beautiful place to live. A well knit community living close to each other and sharing our problems, music and joys.

warebeth favourite places orkney
Beautiful Warebeth overlooking the Hoy hills

Warebeth, a rocky beach to the South of Stromness. A place to relax and clear the mind. Stack rocks into a tower as high as you can. Balance on boulders but watch you don’t fall. Walk right round the shore and try spot a seal or two. Tractors working their fields as birds pick up the worms. Such a sight and different every day.

rackwick zoe favourite place orkney
Walking down to Rackwick Bay

Rackwick, somewhere completely different from Orkney! A huge green valley on the edge of huge hills and the Firth. Almost abandoned, now lived in by a few hardy souls and folk from Stromness on holidays.

A dramatic land cut off from the rest.

Almost.

old-man-of-hoy-zoe-places
The iconic Old Man of Hoy

The Graemsay ferry sails from Stromness to Whaness on Hoy over the swirls of the tide. Then a cycle – walk – mini bus a few peat bog miles round our big hill, past ancient fallen stone circles and a house carved from a huge stone block! To a warm and sunny valley set around a huge sand and red bouldered beach. Camp at the Burnmonth hostel, free! Fish in our ‘river’ for a monster troot and swim in the sea – if calm! Tramp to the famous Old Man of Hoy, the dramatic Kame or even more lonely Rackwick Little and the jewel of Hoy, Mellsettar House. A surprising Arts and Crafts masterpiece set at the end of Longhope, even has a peedie forest! And mind on to take Avon skin so soft for the blood-thirsty midges!

 

Orkney is full of surprises. Come visit. And please come by my workshop in Stromness!

Further reading: Orkney.com is a fantastic online resource for everything ORKNEY! Provides great information regarding what to do in Orkney, upcoming events, local arts & crafts and more.

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