All That Glitters Episode Three: Pearl and Chain Necklace

As All That Glitters returns to our screens, we caught up with Claire Price, Course Director for Silversmithing - Design for Industry, to discuss the episode and get further insight into the world of jewellery making.

The third episode of all that glitters showcases the attention to detail that jewellers are renowned for, in both challenges this week.

The first challenge was to create a chain incorporating pearls. The contestants had to design and create a handmade chain using silver and gold. 

Traditionally many of the workshops in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter would have had craftspeople dedicated to making hand made chain, today, with the majority of chain manufactured by machine it was it was great to see the jewellers taking on the challenge and producing a variety of different shaped links from geometric hexagons to sweeping twists and the winning design a conche shape – reflective of a pearl in its shell.

The incorporation of pearls into this challenge added a few interesting stringing solutions from the contestants.

Some chose to add in a section of pearls as part of their chain, without restringing them on silk. When pearls are professionally strung a knot is secured between each pearl, protecting each one from rubbing against the next or exposing the silk and risking breakage. If the pearls aren’t restrung properly a break in the thread could result in the majority of the pearls being lost or irreparably damaged. Pearls are one of the softest gem materials and needed to be treated with the utmost care.

Pearl stringing is a skill in itself, if the knots are too far apart the string looks uneven, if too tight it won’t hang as nicely, so it’s certainly worth outsourcing to a specialist pearl stringers. Unfortunately workshops that offer this service are becoming few and far between, but it’s so in important when working with pearls that they are secured properly and seeking these specialist services out in the trade can literally make or break a piece.

The bespoke challenge this week was the charm bracelet. 3 charms were to represent a family who had 2 children but sadly had lost a third child at birth.

The charms were to be created using the casting process. Some contestants chose cuttlefish casting which can be super smelly whilst others favoured sand casting which certainly smells more pleasant, these processes only allow one chance of pouring the molten metal into the mould – so certainly adds to the pressure! 

Casting is a cost-effective process to recreate a three-dimensional form in metal, although cost effective it can be often unreliable – and when Piers rainbow didn’t fully form in the mould, he added gold to fill the void in a decorative yet sentimental way. This attention to detail won him this bespoke challenge impressed the judges and the customers, winning him the bespoke challenge.

In contrast to Piers’s rainbow pattern which was made by hand, some of the contestants used found objects as their master patterns, creating moulds from acorns to barbie’s hand, which were then cast into precious metal! 

In the trade, the majority of our jewellery is produced by the lost wax casting process, from hand made master patterns to digitally printed designs. This is where a wax is set in a mould of investment (much like plaster of paris) which then has molten metal poured into it under pressure. In contrast to this industrial process the contestants used sand or cuttlefish as their mould instead of investment powder, but the principle is much the same! 

With Pier’s being crowned this weeks star jeweller – the next episode is set to be an exciting challenge for those remaining.

If you missed previous episodes, you can watch them now on BBC iPlayer.

Learn more about All That Glitters