Given the increasing popularity of ‘Fast Fashion,’ a phenomenon where trends are in one day and out (or thrown out) the next, it is no surprise that I regularly have customers coming to me with jewellery that they love but have not lasted the test of time. To keep up with fashion at such a speed, items are made quickly and cheaply to last a season rather than a lifetime. Not only is the throw away mentality terrible for the environment, but the premature death of a beloved piece of jewellery is often upsetting for the client.
I’ve heard that some jewellers prefer not to go near costume jewellery repairs and remakes as they can often be tedious or not to their particular aesthetic, however, I really enjoy working with these pieces. Not only do I see it as a great opportunity to learn, but I really like the idea that I can either repair something that would otherwise be thrown out or remake the piece so that it will last a lifetime. It is more sustainable approach to fashion and encourages my customers to truly treasure their piece of jewellery.
One particular client came to me with her beloved necklace which was so well worn that the plating was patchy and the chains had fallen off so many times that there were layers of glue from desperate attempts to save the its life. My delightful client had two options. A: Discard the necklace she wore so much it practically became part of her body, or B: Find a good jeweller to remake the piece in silver. Luckily for me, she chose B and so I got started.
I began the process by taking direct silicon moulds from the original necklace as I wanted the silver version to be as closed to the original design as possible. I then melted and poured a special type of jeweller’s casting wax into the mould. The wax cast would form the shape for the final metal discs so I had to be really careful to get all of the bubbles out of the wax before it hardened to prevent any holes in my metal.
Once the waxes had hardened, I filed the discs back to the exact size and shape I needed and then sent them off to be cast.
The discs on the original necklace had no backing plate to cover and protect the unsightly solder joins which is something I wanted to improve on in the remake. I used my computer to design a backing plate that would protect and help position the points where the chains were attached. I also made sure that the plates included holes to rivet everything together. These designs were then printed in wax and also cast in silver.
The original piece had a very specific size and patterned chain which was integral to the design. I wanted to use a high quality chain that would last which was quite a challenge to find. I ended up with a beautifully made Italian chain and soldered it onto the backing plate.
After casting, there is a lot of clean up to be done to give the pieces a fine finish. I filed, sanded and polished the pieces to a near mirror finish, just like the original.
I then riveted the piece together by hand and gave it a final touch up polish.
My lovely customer was very happy with her new and improved necklace and hopes that she will one day hand it down to her daughter.