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By Jo Varney

Polishing and Finishing for Jewellers and Silversmiths – 999 A190

This is a quiet and unassuming paperback book which could go unnoticed quite easily if you weren’t looking out for it. It isn’t flashy or attention grabbing and contains no unnecessary, lengthy descriptions where they are not needed. Instead, this little book is chock full of fabulous jewellery making tips and techniques right from the get-go and is, in short, an absolute gem.

Stephen M Goldsmith is renowned as a master polisher and was employed by Crown jewelers Asprey & Garrards until his appointment at designer jeweler Theo Fennell. His experience spans some 45 years and he has worked on some of the world’s most prestigious pieces of silver including The Grand Punch Bowl (dating from 1829) which he actually restored under armed guard! So, as one of the best in the jewellery business, there is much to glean from Mr Goldsmith and he doesn’t disappoint.

Spread over 96 pages and split into six chapters, this is a relatively small book that is easy to read and absorb. It is delivered in a very practical, unfussy style which I adore as you can instantly tell this man knows what he is talking about and he doesn’t feel the need to mince his words.

 “A barrel will remove minor burrs, burnish and harden the metal, and deliver an amazing shine – all while you’re off doing something more creative with your time. Although it is an expensive investment, it does not produce nasty dust for you to breathe in and it will never, ever snatch off one of your fingers”

Obviously the main focus of the book is jewellery polishing and finishing methods which are described in brilliant and specific detail using projects to refer to individual metals and also the methods in which pieces are produced.  For example, the polishing of The Silver Alms Dish is split into three stages – Black Bristle Brush, Calico Mop and then Clean each described in masses of detail. However Goldsmith also describes how the dish is made in the first place which determines how it should be polished and also how to dry the silver after cleaning which is more complex than you might imagine. Your attention is also drawn to the longevity and upkeep of the finish you decide to place on a piece making it an integral part of the whole jewellery design process as it should be.

Great advice is also given on equipment and workshop set up which is invaluable to anyone considering investing in new jewellery tools or premises, all delivered in the same no-nonsense style that is so refreshing.

“Make sure the bench is flat with no areas to lose a stone. This costs time and money, so plan your area, filling any gaps with silicone filler”.

Every page is packed with great advice which I honestly think anyone involved in the production of silverware and jewellery would be interested to read. Goldsmith really helps to de-mystify polishing and finishing with this brilliant book but more so, he helps readers to understand and appreciate what a vital part of the whole design process that finishing really is. After all, the finish can make or break a project and for that reason it needs far more consideration and thought than you might first imagine. This is a truly worthwhile read which really delivers so much more than you expect it to.

The post Book Review: Polishing and Finishing for Jewellers and Silversmiths appeared first on The Bench.

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If you have pierced ears you will undoubtedly have a favorite type of earring fitting. Some of us prefer the security of posts and butterflies whilst others are happy in hooks and the choice can be quite mind boggling at times!

So with that in mind, we have put together a bite sized guide to earring fittings outlining the pros and cons of each style.

The first decision you have to make is; pierced or non-pierced? And below are the options you have once that initial choice is made:

Pierced Non – Pierced
Post and scrolls Clips
Hooks and wires Screw fittings
Thread through fittings  
 
Pierced Earring Fittings

Ear Posts and Ear scrollscan be used for simple studs but also drop earrings as well. They can be supplied plain, to be directly soldered onto your design or more complete as a ball stud or stone setting with a loop underneath to accommodate a drop earring. The standard gauge of a stud earring post is 0.8mm but lengths can vary from 12mm – 9mm. Most come with a rounded end and an indent a couple of mm up from it, to help the appropriate scroll locate and secure the earring. Long earrings using a stud fitting will move, but only a little. If you want movement you need to choose a stud fitting with a loop attachment underneath which will allow your design to swing.

Scrolls come in many different sizes and have two sprung curls which grip the earring post once it’s pushed through a central hole, thus securing the earring into the ear. The bigger the scroll, the more support it will give the earring, so for heavier and larger designs consider using a larger scroll.

Alternatives to scrolls include Guardian comfort ear fittings, wide plastic backs with a metal centre, (perfect for heavier designs) and the wonderfully named, Silicone Slider Mushrooms.

Earring Hooks and Wiresvary enormously and can be split into two groups; safety and non – safety. The beauty of hooks is that they allow free movement of the earring which means lots of swing and sparkle which is great for dramatic looks and evening wear. Safety hooks have a locating feature which means that once the wire is through the ear, it is then secured in some way to form a closed loop. In the event of the earring being caught and pulled on something, these fittings should ensure that your jewellery stays in place.

Non – safety hooks are left open and simply push through the ear and hang down. If they are pulled, the earring will come out but many people still prefer them as there is no fiddling around to get them secured.

Thread through fittings – are really an extension of the standard hook fitting and can come in wire or chain form. They have been particularly popular with designers in the last couple of years, using oversized thread through wires as an extension of the design itself to dramatic effect.

Our chain, thread through fittings can be adjusted to sit at any length and are best suited to light designs which will benefit from lots of movement. They are a great example of form and function combined into one attractive finding.

Non – Pierced Earring Fittings 

Clip earring fittings consist of a two part, hinged mechanism which can be bought complete, or in separate pieces depending on how you like to work. The base plate of the fitting is soldered onto your earring and then the paddle that attaches to the ear is squeezed into place as the picture below shows. The tension which creates the ‘snap’ is created from the central bar of the paddle which needs to be adjusted as necessary with pliers until the perfect resistance is achieved. (This can take a bit of practise). These ear fittings do come in different sizes but can be quite bulky and tend to be more suitable for stud designs, so bear this in mind when considering them as an option.

There are many variations on the standard clip fitting including Omega clips, S Clips, (which can facilitate drop earrings) and Ear clips with a cup and peg (perfect for pearls etc) so most styles are catered for these days. Just take care when soldering around any hinged/sprung mechanisms as it can render them useless if they are allowed to overheat.

Ear Screw fittings are the other main method of creating an earring for a non-pierced ear and are perfect for dropper styles and chandeliers. (As the name implies, the earring is held in place by a simple ‘screw’ action which can be adjusted for comfort).The mechanism is much gentler than a standard clip fitting so if you are looking for something with less of a ‘pinch’, screw fittings will be perfect.  The design itself is very simple and requires no assembly. You simply need to attach your chosen design either by suspending from the loop underneath or securing with the cup and peg at the front.

That completes our basic guide to earring fittings which should help to clarify the differences between styles for anyone who is uncertain. For more information and to view our extensive range go to www.cooksongold.com/findings

The post Types of Earring Findings appeared first on The Bench.

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From a sales point of view, wedding ring trends are very clear to see. Across all of the alloys there are styles which consistently sell more than the others.

Court Wedding Ring Profile

The classic court profile is without a doubt one of the most popular wedding rings on the market today. The domed exterior wall, coupled with the rounded interior surface, go together to create a ring which is both comfortable to wear and substantial looking. The chunky wall thickness gives this ring a quality which can sometimes be a little lacking in similar looking designs. It is this weight and presence that sets it head and shoulders above the competition. 3mm is our most popular width which can easily stand alone or sit comfortably alongside another ring making it ideal for both ladies and gents.

Another star within the range is our Halo design which features a completely round profile which has been a big hit with customers for some time now.

Halo Wedding Ring Profile

Topping the popularity charts in both silver and yellow gold, it is the narrow gauges and small sizes that outsell everything else suggesting that these are the ring of choice for the ladies. They are also perfect for stacking and layering. 2mm and 3mm Halos are ideal for complementing a beautiful engagement ring without detracting from it. Again the weight is a great plus point and the rounded shape gives it a substantial feel which would be lacking in other profiles of that width.

Cost is often a prime consideration when it comes to wedding rings and when an item can look exactly the same in a range of alloys with wildly differing price points, it’s no wonder that many people opt for the cheaper option. Who’s going to find out when it looks good? Often you will also find that the bride will have a more expensive ring to match an engagement ring in gold or platinum and the groom will then go for a less expensive alternative such as a palladium or silver.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to men’s wedding rings but they do tend to be a little chunkier than the ladies styles. Our heavy weight 3mm Flat and 6mm Court, represent two more of our most popular styles across the entire range. Both in silver, these are ideal for the men’s market and are so reasonably priced it’s quite astonishing.  The impressive wall thickness, (2.64mm Court and 1.35mm Flat) gives these rings terrific durability and longevity which is exactly what’s required of a wedding ring.

Silver, Flat 3mm Wedding rings

Our silver flat rings dominate the sales in the larger sizes as they also make a great generic choice besides being ideal as a wedding ring. Straight lines and crisp edges traditionally appeal to the male market in many aspects of design, so if you are looking for a gift for the man in your life, a flat ring is a good place to start.

Finally a quick word about our easy fit design. If you are not familiar with it, it is purpose made for those who want the look of a flat ring and the comfort of a court, the best of both worlds. It’s a great choice if you have a manual job where a flat ring may dig into your hand when using tools or machinery, as the rounded inner profile will prevent this from occurring.

Easy Fit Wedding Ring Profile 

We have mentioned just a handful of our classic bestselling wedding rings; however our full range is extensive, in excess of 4500 products to be precise! For the full experience, head to our Wedding Ring Blank section. At the moment, we are offering 15% off Wedding Rings Sale. This sale is due to end soon, so be sure to take advantage.

The post Wedding Ring Trends appeared first on The Bench.

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noble metal

noun

CHEMISTRY

  1. a metal (e.g. gold, silver, or platinum) that resists chemical action, does not corrode, and is not easily attacked by acids.

Silver is one of our fine, noble metals which can be traced back as far as approximately 3000BC. Our fascination with silver has endured to this day thanks to not only its aesthetic properties but also its practical applications which are possibly lesser known, but play an essential part in many industries. For example did you know that silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any metal? Did you also realise that silver has fabulous antibacterial properties which can actually be used to kill bacteria? So you see there is much more to silver than meets the eye, literally!

Silver in its pure form is extremely soft and can be quite impractical for some jewellery purposes due to its lack of strength. It does however have its place and is ideal for sculptural work, casting grain and also enameling where pure metal is preferable to prevent contamination which can interfere with the adhesion of the enamel itself. Most bullion on the market is alloyed material which has additional ingredients to give it strength or anti-tarnish properties for example. Here is a rundown of the different types of silver we sell here at Cooksongold:

Fine Silver Wire

Fine silver – (99.9% pure) The purest silver on the market. It is extremely soft, is beautifully malleable and solders easily with minimal tarnishing.

Britannia Silver Sheet

Britannia silver(95.8% pure) Slightly softer than sterling silver, Britannia silver is alloyed with 4.2% copper and is often used for decorative Britannia silver coins. The durability and price of Sterling Silver have made Britannia silver a less popular option for jewelers and silversmiths today.

Sterling Silver Sheet

Sterling silver(92.5% pure) the most popular type of silver sold for jewellery purposes. Sterling silver is alloyed with 7.5% copper to give it strength and durability and it has the colour and working qualities that we are all most familiar with.

Eco Silver Sheet

Eco silver(92.5% pure) Sterling silver made from 100% recycled scrap from the medical and electronics industries which can be traced authenticated by way of a certificate.

Argentium Silver Wire

Argentium silver(93.5% pure) Alloyed with germanium for increased tarnish resistance and a whiter finish, similar to fine silver. It also has great durability and strength.

So how do you know which type of silver to buy?

Your choice of silver should be determined by what you intend to use it for. As a general rule, and unless you have a good reason not to use it, most people opt for sterling silver which is a good general purpose material and has the most extensive range of products and permutations within the Cooksongold stock. The downside of sterling silver is that over time it will tarnish and it is also prone to fire scale/stain which occurs during heating which can cause unsightly marks on the surface of the metal. Both of these problems are due to the presence of copper within the alloy which solves some problems but ultimately creates others.

Argentium silver was developed to combat tarnish issues amongst other things and will produce a cleaner, whiter finish when polished so no need for any silver or rhodium plating to achieve the perfect shine. If you are planning to make something with a large surface area on show it might well be worth using Argentium silver to lessen the impact of tarnish and fire stain. Do bear in mind that tools used for Argentium need to be kept separate from your standard tools so as to avoid cross contamination.

The softer the silver, the easier it is to shape so if you are considering doing repousse or chasing work, then fine silver will give you some wonderful results. Fine silver can also be successfully used to make jewellery but will dent easily, so is best reserved for earrings and pendants which won’t have to withstand too much impact on a daily basis.

Whatever the project, there is a silver product for you, just make sure you do a little research into the working properties of your metal before parting with any cash. And if you are unsure we have our technical team on hand who will be able to answer any questions or queries you might have.

The post Types of Silver: Understanding Precious Metals appeared first on The Bench.

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Here at Cooksongold, we are constantly adding new items to the range and this month we have a lot of great new chain styles making their debut. Part of our growing range of finished chains, we have an abundance of new and exciting styles for you to work with and here, we give you a rundown of some of the highlights to watch out for:

Sterling Silver 1.5mm Diamond Cut Fancy Snake Chain 16”/40cm Unhallmarked – VVOD F15F

First up is a new take on the ever popular snake chain, which has the lovely clean line you would expect, with a few bells and whistles thrown in for extra sparkle. The diamond cutting creates a spiral pattern along the length which has a lovely fluidity and makes the jointing less noticeable, which is very pretty. It also benefits from a flash of silver plating to make it whiter than white.  Weighing 6.14g and measuring 1.5mm wide, it is substantial enough to be worn alone but would take a medium to large pendant equally well. We have 16”, 18” and 20” in both 1.5mm and 1.8mm sizes and all have a sturdy lobster claw clasp and soldered jump rings for complete security.

Sterling Silver 6.6mm Diamond Cut Curb Chain 18″/45cm Hallmarked – VVCD A66H

Next we have an incredible addition to our range of finished chain; our new and glorious 6.6mm diamond cut curb. This is a beautiful chain that absolutely screams quality and the smooth movement between each link is incredibly tactile. The diamond cut finish slightly flattens each link creating a reflective surface which is going to get you noticed wherever you go. Weighing in at an impressive 35g this is a chain which essentially is a standalone piece but should you choose to add a pendant, make sure the bail is large enough to go over the 6mm chain ends.  We have a slightly smaller version also available that measures 5.5mm across each link and both sizes are available in both 18” and 20”. You will not be disappointed with this one.

Sterling Silver 1.5mm Twisted Curb Chain 18”/45cm Unhallmarked – VVCT A15H

Now we move onto some of our new, classic lightweight pendant chains and we have to say our 1.5mm twisted curb has a lot to offer for such a low price point (£2.52 inc. VAT).  It is strong, as you would expect with a curb but has a little more finesse thanks to the twist, which also creates a delicate sparkle. Good quality chain ends are topped off with a bolt ring which is substantial enough to provide good security for whatever treasured trinket you decide to hang on it. Our 1.5mm version ranges from 16” – 22” but we also offer a thinner option at 1.2mm which we have in 16” and 18”.

Sterling Silver 1.0mm Mini Belcher Chain 18”/45cm Unhallmarked – VVB M10H

Finally, why not take a look at our new mini belcher range which is incredibly cute as well as being a great quality pendant chain. Also known as rolo chain because of the round, flat links, belcher chains can look a little ‘functional’ in larger gauges, but you have no such problem with the smaller sizes.  In fact the links are so tiny in our mini version that it is not immediately apparent the type of chain it is at all! Weighing only 1.3g this chain feels remarkably strong and will show off any light to medium weight pendant beautifully.

The tiny links create a lovely, clean line which won’t interfere with any designs regardless of their style, so both contemporary and traditional pieces will be accommodated equally well. We have an impressive range of sizes in this style ranging from 16” right up to 30” so this will make a great, standard stock item which will tick many boxes.

This is just a taste of some of the new styles we have on offer. If you want to check out the full range, head to our Finished Chain department where you will find a whole host of new designs to peruse at your leisure.

The post Finished Chain: Discover New Chain Styles appeared first on The Bench.

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Durston Jewellers Student Workbench Pro999 7219

There are many factors to consider when purchasing a work bench. Previously in Part 1, we looked at budget, size, height and storage. In part 2 we will go on to focus on bench pegs, comfort features, construction and scrap which are all things to think about when contemplating a new bench.

A bench peg/pin is your main working area on a jeweller’s bench. It provides a valuable means of support when filing and sawing and will often be customised to suit the owner’s requirements by way of slots, holes or cut outs. It sits at the centre of the semi-circle at the front of the bench and is held in place via a readymade slot or alternatively a clamp. When choosing a bench, make sure you check if it comes with a bench peg and what means there are to secure it as you may need to order these items separately.

The Durston Jewellers Student Workbench Pro999 7219 (pictured above) is a great value option and includes a bench peg slot as well as the actual peg itself. However if your chosen model doesn’t have a peg simply add one, such as the item below (999 082) to your order.

Bench Peg and Anvil – 999 082

Any Scrap metal produced whilst working represents an extremely valuable commodity which needs to be collected and stored ready to be scrapped in exchange for cash when you have built up a reasonable amount. It’s amazing just how much scrap is produced from everyday tasks such as sawing and filing which is why all benches need some in-built mechanism to collect it. Our Durston Jewellers Workbench (999 7169) includes a handy aluminium lined scrap tray for this purpose whereas The Durston Jewellers Student Workbench Pro – 999 7219 has a bench skin which can be attached to the underside of the work surface. Both do the same job equally well, but you must be sure to add an additional bench skin to your order should you choose a model that comes without any built in scrap provision.

Large Value Leatherette Bench Skin – 997 1011

Bench construction varies enormously and can be loosely split into two categories; hardwood and non-hardwood which can include materials such as Birchwood and MDF (medium density fibre board). It stands to reason that a solid hardwood bench will be more hard-wearing and able to withstand the rigors of everyday life in the workshop, for a more sustained period of time. Therefore if you are looking to invest in something for the next 20years or so, then go for a hardwood bench. Birchwood and MDF are both softer materials relatively speaking and will get dented and damaged more easily however, they are both sturdy and solid working surfaces which can be easily sanded back and refreshed should they become overly damaged. N.B. All wooden benches need protecting with suitable firebricks should you want to solder on them.

Comfort features are something of a luxury when it comes to benches and are only really available on some of the more elaborate models.  Our watch making benches, (Durston Watchmaker Bench – 999 7172 and Durston Watchmaker Bench, Superior – 999 7173) both have footrests and arm rests to facilitate the horologist who has to sit for extended periods of time. You can also expect to find arm supports on some of our jeweller’s benches e.g. Durston Jewellers Workbench – 999 7169 and Durston Jewellers Oak Workbench, Superior999 7168 (which also has a fabulous footrest) which again help to combat fatigue if you are sat working for numerous hours at a time.

Considered purchases can be difficult and choosing a new bench is very much a matter of personal preference but I hope our list of things to look out for, along with our handy comparison chart will help to make the whole process just a little bit easier.

Remember: budget, size, height, storage, bench peg, scrap, comfort and construction

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As a customer jewellery designer, independent maker, and a business person you have to wear many hats. And juggling them can take up a lot of time and effort to make sure you’re giving your jewellery business every possible opportunity for success. One area of your business that you certainly won’t want to scrimp on is your custom jewellery design process. However that may look for you personally, it’s important to make sure you take the time to avoid common pitfalls that other small jewellery business owners make on a regular basis.

So, here’s our top 8 most common pitfalls we think you should avoid, to help you create custom made jewellery that really speaks to your customers.

Common pitfalls to avoid when designing your own jewellery
  • Not listening to your existing customer base – What are your customers asking for on your social media accounts? What are your most popular pieces historically and are you creating more custom jewellery designs or more pieces with a similar look and feel? There’s no point engaging with customers in this way and then ignoring their opinions! Use your social media accounts to ask questions of your customer base. Add polls to your accounts to ask them which custom jewellery designs they prefer. The more closely you listen to your customers, the more they should buy from your custom collection.
  • Letting your artistic side run riot – As creative makers, a large part of the joy of owning your own jewellery business is being creative! But when your creative side overtakes that of your customers’ wants and needs, you run the risk of losing out on a sale. Remember that your custom made jewellery pieces should reflect exactly what the customer would wear, not what you would wear.
  • No custom pricing template – It’s important to remember that custom jewellery design for your customers may mean more time spent personalising and tweaking the design to fit the customer’s brief, so it’s important to factor this into your costs. That way, you’re accounting for that additional labour time in your custom jewellery prices.

Want to learn more about pricing your designs properly? Read our helpful article on how to price your jewellery.

  • Forgetting that custom should equate to luxury – It’s worth remembering that a custom jewellery piece is a special one-off that won’t be replicated elsewhere. With that in mind, don’t forget to upgrade your findings to reflect the quality of the design you’ve been working on. A custom piece with cheaper, lower quality findings will only spoil that luxurious feel that you need to create with custom jewellery design.
  • Not advertising this new string to your bow – Now you’re creating personalised jewellery pieces for your customers, how are you getting the message out there? Have you updated your web site? And are you advertising this on your social media accounts? Make sure you take the time to push this new aspect of your business wherever possible. This could be a lucrative aspect of your work that gives you more momentum (and more revenue!)

Need help when it comes to marketing on social media? Read our post on how to sell your jewellery online with social media.

  • Stretching yourself too far – Remember that your core business may not be custom jewellery design. So, you may want to put a cap on the amount of custom work you can take on each quarter or each year. That way you’re not putting undue pressure on yourself, putting all your eggs in this one basket, and neglecting the core collections of your jewellery business that have previously performed well for you.
  • Not communicating with your client – The perks of buying a custom designed piece of jewellery is that element of personalisation that you can’t get elsewhere. So, keep lines of communication open with your client so that you know exactly what their expectations are. When you design your own jewellery line, of course, you’ll want to have full control over the entire manufacturing process. But remember the more you can accommodate your customers’ requests, the more likely it is that they will recommend your personalised jewellery service to other potential customers.
  • An open-ended repertoire – If you claim that you can produce an open-ended repertoire of custom designs you may not meet the unrealistic expectations of your customers. So, think about what is plausible, cost-effective and within your reach as a maker and as a business manager. If the custom design element of your business is completely open ended, then you run the risk of biting more off than you can chew.

As an accomplished designer and business person you already know how to design your own jewellery. But when it comes to producing a custom jewellery design service, there are a few more elements of the process you’ll need to manage to make this part of your business a success. We hope the common pitfalls to avoid above will help you build up your custom service to a well-recognised element of your business, and keep those new customers rolling in!

Looking for more jewellery business advice? Take a look at the article available on our business advice hub.

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As Fathers Day approaches (Sunday June 16th), once again the shops are full of gifts for men ranging from the wonderful to the distinctly weird! So let us guide you through some of the more practical and dare we say it, sensible gift ideas for men that Cooksongold has to offer.

Personally speaking, we love a gift voucher so if you are finding it hard to choose something specific and are worried about getting it wrong, Cooksongold now offers gift vouchers which allows the recipient to choose their own perfect gift. Vouchers must be purchased in-store or over the phone in which case they can be sent through the post and should be redeemed in the same way, so bear this in mind if you are buying for someone who only shops online.

If you feel your dad or granddad deserves something really special this year, then it may be worth considering an investment bar. They are, without doubt a considered purchase particularly if you are thinking about a gold one, however we do also have silver ones which are much more affordable whilst still looking the part. Silver investment bars come in sizes ranging from 50g – 1000g, where as gold ones start at 20g and go up to 500g with prices from a reasonable £46.83 to an eye watering £18’170 excluding VAT.

For those who like a gadget, our brand new Jewellers Smart Loupe might be just the ticket. It can be used as a traditional loupe with its powerful 10x magnification. However the lens can also be removed and inserted into the seperate clip supplied and attached to a smart phone, enabling you to take magnified photographs in one quick and easy step. It comes in a stylish hard case which will easily fit into a pocket for perfect portability which is definiely going to earn you some brownie points.

It would be an oversight not to mention cufflinks when talking about gifts for men and if your dad or granddad likes to look smart, they are a great choice. We have many to choose from including our Rhodium Plated Brass Anchors which are particularly poignant at the moment with the anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Traditionally a symbol of hope, strength and steadfastness, anchors make the perfect gift for those wishing to remember the men and women who fell for their country 75 years ago; but are equally fitting for those who have been a steadying influence on your life.  Price points range from just £4.86 – £25.29 excluding VAT so there is something to suit all pockets. Just remember to add one of our fabulous cufflink boxes to your order and you are good to go.

Don’t forget about our bestselling leatherette cufflink box which is strong, stylish and reasonably priced at only £2.21 excluding VAT making it an absolute no brainer!

Make sure you get your order in soon to avoid disappointing dad on Father’s Day – we’re sure he deserves something nice this year.

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A good workbench can last a lifetime so there are many considerations to take into account when choosing such a vital piece of equipment. Unfortunately budget is undoubtedly at the top of most people’s lists when it comes to what can be a considerable purchase. Fortunately Cooksongold cater for all budgets and our range starts at a reasonable £186 (Folding Jewellers Bench997 120F ) and goes right up to £1020 (Durston Watchmaker Bench, Superior999 7173) should your finances stretch that far.

Size is another vital consideration for most as we all have wildly different spaces in which to work. My bench fits into a small space in the garage and my standard 85cm (width) x 90cm (height) x 63cm (depth) model fits into a corner perfectly. However if space is at an absolute premium, our Folding Jewellers Bench (997 120F) may be the answer to your prayers.  It can be put together in minutes and measures a compact 80cm x 61cm x 86cm when complete making it our smallest bench in the range. It’s ideal for transporting to craft fairs for demonstrations, but also a perfect choice for those just wanting to work occasionally.

Height is a factor I have seen discussed frequently in numerous customer reviews and generally you would expect a jeweller’s bench to measure somewhere in the region of 90cm in height. Our range encompasses benches from 86cm – 96.9cm so it is by no means a fixed measurement. I do feel however that ultimately your ideal working height will be determined by a) personal preference and b) your choice of chair, which after all is the flexible element of the whole set up. Ideally, an adjustable chair is preferable which will allow you to alter your position depending on the job you are doing e.g. lower for sawing and higher for stone setting. But if this isn’t possible within your budget the same effect can be achieved with a series of cushions which can be added or removed as required (no I’m not joking!).

Durston Jewellers Stool – 999 7174

Storage may not initially be one of your main considerations when choosing a bench, particularly if you are new to jewellery. However, as you gain more experience you will soon realise that storage is extremely important if you wish to maintain a clear working area. Over time, the amount of tools you own will accumulate, which is why many of our professional benches contain handy storage drawers and cupboards to help combat the clutter. Our sturdy Durston Jewellers Bench (999 7169) contains 3 handy drawers to help with tool storage and at £486 represents a great mid range option in terms of features and quality. If you require more, the Durston Jewellers Oak Workbench Superior (999 7168) contains no less than 7 drawers and their Watchmakers equivalent (Durston Watchmaker Bench, Superior –999 7173) contains a further 2, totalling 9, plus an additional 2 cupboards!  But we also have modular storage options which can be added to a basic bench and positioned wherever convenient so both ends of the spectrum are covered.

Durston Workbench Drawer Unit – 999 7218

Look out for part 2 when we will cover bench pegs, construction, comfort and scrap.

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By Joanna Varney

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I am a big fan of Fimo, so I positively leapt at the opportunity to review the new Fimo Kids range which is new to Cooksongold this year. The range consists of standard individual blocks plus a series of kits all designed with children in mind and made from an extra soft Fimo formula suitable for small hands to mould with ease. (For anyone who doesn’t know, Fimo is polymer clay which only dries when baked in a low oven. It doesn’t air dry and so has an infinite working time which is ideal for children.)

Handily enough I just happen to have two perfect guinea pigs to try out Fimo Kids in the form of my daughters aged 6 and 8 who were more than happy to get stuck in! We chose a Butterfly kit with a difficulty rating of Level 1 and a Unicorn Kit with a difficulty rating of Level 2 which I thought would be suitable for their skill levels. Fimo have provided a very useful skill level guide for their kits which is indicated on the front of each pack with a red star rating. (By choosing the easiest level, my 6yr old was able to enjoy the activity with adult supervision despite the suggested age for the product being 8+.)

Once you open up the packs, my kids were delighted to find the colourful backdrop, (which also doubles as the packaging), 4 colourful packs of clay and a moulding tool, all contained in a practical plastic case which can also be used as your work surface. Everything you need (apart from a baking tray and oven) is contained within the pack which will come as a relief to most parents!

The instructions are clearly laid out in pictorial form and show you how to complete three different models.  My eldest was able to follow the instructions on her own and needed no help to get on with the first task. Each kit has enough clay to complete the three different models illustrated plus a little to spare and baring in mind the first model took just over an hour to complete, at £6.26 these represent great value for money.

The new formula is lovely and pliable without being too sticky, which meant both children were able to mould all the shapes themselves without me having to intervene. They even managed to open the packets without assistance but that did result in some getting ripped, unfortunately.

Once complete the models were placed onto a baking tray which was covered in a layer of greaseproof paper. They were then baked at 110° C which equates to ¼ gas mark for the designated 30mins to harden off. All of the models held together well during baking and retained their crisp, bright colours I’m happy to say.

All in all I have been really impressed with Fimo Kids clay. The product itself performs excellently and the kits are brilliant and have been exceptionally well thought out. They are perfect for the specified age group 8+ but can also be used successfully with younger children providing there is adult supervision. These kits would make ideal party presents; the price is spot on and there is a wide range of themes to choose from to suit even the most particular child. (E.g. mermaids, robots, space monsters, snow princess, sea world, pirates, fairies etc).  My advice would definitely be to stock up while we have them. There not many gifts for children at that price point able to provide the amount of enjoyment and entertainment that these kits most certainly did. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to place my order…

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