All That Glitters Episode One: Silver

The lights dim, the audience settle into their seats and the curtains open - well the credits roll but you get the gist… Welcome to the opening night of All That Glitters.

Andrew Howard
Lecturer, School of Jewellery

Heating jewellery with torch

How it Started

The series was filmed here in the historic Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and more importantly, on location here at the 131-year-old School of Jewellery. Our showcase hall was transformed into a modern day jeweller’s paradise bursting with tools, benches, and pendant motor bits, hearths, kilns and so much more… you name it and it’s here!

The show was a long time in the making with plenty of activity taking place behind the scenes over the course of many months. Background work started in November of 2019 when the TV production crew, Twenty Twenty Productions, and BBC producers came to the site to discuss the concept of the show with our Head of School, Professor Stephen Bottomley. We also opened discussions on the possibility of Birmingham School of Jewellery being the filming location for the show.

Stephen recounts: “As with all who visit the School for the first time, they were incredibly impressed by the scale and resources. It’s fair to say, like many, they fell in love with its Victorian Venetian-Gothic grandeur and history and saw the potential.”

A second meeting brought together Professor Bottomley alongside key personnel including technical staff, academics, health and safety representatives, security teams, estates colleagues and legal advisors to discuss how the School of Jewellery could become the home of All That Glitters. Filming began in February 2020 but, as with many activities, was hit by restrictions associated with Covid-19 leading to a three-month pause in activity until it was safe to resume filming in line with government measures.

As the academic, it was my responsibility with the technical and production teams to ensure that our fabulous industry is well represented on the show and that the viewers get an authentic taste of what life as a jeweller is like.

Episode One

We have been led through the first episode by eight very capable and experienced jewellers who have been finally revealed as:

  • Sonny Bailey-Aird, a 26-year-old self-taught jeweller from London
  • Tamara Gomez from Essex who works from the Cockpits Arts Yard in London
  • Naomi Smith, a 23-year-old from Scotland who now works as a trainee jeweller in West Sussex
  • Daniel Mussellwhite, a 40-year-old jeweller from Frome, Somerset
  • Kim Styles, a 56-year-old jeweller from Portsmouth
  • Lee Appleby aged 49 from sunny Pontypool in South Wales
  • Nicola Lillie, a 25-year-old Jeweller based in Hereford
  • And finally, Hugo Johnson who has made jewellery since he was 15-years-old and now works at a Jewellers in Hayward's Health, London.

Bangles created by the All That Glitters contestants

Top row (L-R): Work by Dan, Hugo, Kim and Lee. Bottom row (L-R): Work by Naomi, Nicola, Sonny and Tamara.
Images courtesy of BBC and Twenty Twenty Productions

Sterling Silver

In week one viewers have been introduced to 925 Sterling Silver, an affordable metal to start making jewellery in and easily recycled into new forms should any major mistakes happen.

All the jewellers were given a plate of 1.2mm thick 925 sterling silver sheet and asked to make a trio of silver bangles to their own unique style but to a set measurement. This is the viewers' first insight into the basics of jewellery making from how the metal is cut, how it is shaped, adding textures and detail, and how to perform every jeweller’s most basic task of soldering. And, of course, ensuring it’s the right size to be worn! Soldering metals happens under immense heat of over 650c. Will the pressure of the cameras, a new bench, and a different bench peg make the jewellers sweat? You can bet your life it did.

Jewellers are, like most creatives, creatures of habit. We like our bench notches to be where we have them, we have our tools laid out to hand where we can get at the easiest and we know how our gas torches operate. These jewellers have been given a new bench, the layout designed by School of Jewellery staff to work for both the jewellers and the camera crew, to ensure all the best shots are taken of the highly detailed work they each produce. They were given time at the start to adjust their fresh bench pegs (the wood wedge shape you see them using throughout the series) to ensure they had them just as they needed.

Each week the jewellers will have a set of challenges to work on, falling into two categories: 'Best seller' and 'Bespoke', with the challenges getting more technically demanding week by week.

Pendants created by the All That Glitters contestants

Top row (L-R): Work by Dan, Hugo, Kim and Lee. Bottom row (L-R): Work by Naomi, Nicola, Sonny and Tamara.
Images courtesy of BBC and Twenty Twenty Productions

This week’s bespoke challenge was to create a pendant in silver. Ben wanted a pendant necklace for his mum to wear to Buckingham Palace when she collected her MBE. This challenge showed viewers, and potential new jewellers, just what can be made with our old off-cuts from previous projects. It also delved into how mixed metals can be introduced to the fold by adding in base metals such as copper and brass, to add in colour variants. These are easily soldered to silver using special silver solder paillons (tiny sections of silver that melts at a fractionally lower heat than 925 sterling silver).

The pendant was then hung on a silver chain and the client was able to see them and choose which one his mum would wear at the Palace. Did you like the piece he chose? We were so happy his Mum loved it!

As with all talent based shows, one person must leave each week but with the final eight jewellers being selected from over 1000 applicants, wherever they placed they will all have earned a special place in the viewers’ hearts and should all be very proud of what they achieved.

What will next week’s challenges bring? What new skills will we expect to see our jewellers using? The only way to find out is to tune in: Tuesday 20th April, 8pm on BBC Two. 

Find out more about All That Glitters