The Magpie's Jewel Box

A treasure trove of sparkly bits and pieces

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The Autumn Rock n Gem Show rides into town

I’ve been really busy with the day job this week, reviewing and editing some rather long and complex bid response documents. It hasn’t left much brain power for blogging. However, given that it’s Thursday already and I want to tell you about an event that’s taking place this weekend, I thought I’d better recharge the little grey cells and get on with it.

The Rock n Gem Show is the biggest and best of its kind that I’ve come across. It takes place at various locations (usually racecourses) around the country but the one I’ve visited on a regular basis is at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey. The details for the Autumn event at Kempton are:

Saturday 27th October (10am to 5pm) and Sunday 28th October (10am to 4pm)

Entry: Adults £5; Children (8-16 years) £1.00, under 8’s free (tickets on the door)

Address: Staines Road East (A308) Sunbury on Thames, West London, TW16 5AQ.  Only 5 miles from the M25 and 400m from Junction 1 of the M3. Trains from Waterloo now stop at Kempton Park Station. Free parking.

What can you expect?  An absolute Aladdin’s cave of gem stones (precious and semi-precious), jewellery, jewellery-making tools and components, fossils (fossilised dinosaur poo, anyone?), minerals, crystals and much, much more.

Who’ll be there?  Around 60 traders, including several importers, all with something slightly different to tempt you with.  One of my favourites is Ilona Biggins who stocks wonderful semi-precious gem stones.

How to get the best from your visit:  Arrive early as it gets very busy and rather warm and you need a bit of stamina for this event! It’s always handy to have some cash on you as not all traders accept card payments.  Take a good look around and try not to buy from the first stall you come to, tempting though it might be, as there is a great deal of choice and, if you’re anything like me, you could very quickly go way beyond your budget. Finally, take advantage of the upstairs restaurant – you can get a decent light lunch there and you’ll probably need to recover after spending all your money.

Sadly for me, I can’t make it to Kempton this year and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get to the next Show in November at Cheltenham Race course, either. Still, I’ve spent my own weight in pound coins at Rocks n Gems over the years so it’s probably not a bad thing that the Magpie is grounded.


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Who supplies the sparkle for Strictly Come Dancing?

Glitter Ball

I’m a big fan of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and have often wondered who supplies the jewellery for the celebs and professional dancers. Watching last night’s show, I spotted dangly earrings, sparkling hair clips, bangles and cuffs aplenty so, when the dancing was over, I decided to find out who supplies all the glitz to the Beeb.  A quick search on the web revealed that it’s a company called Glitzy Secrets who specialise in wedding and costume jewellery and have been doing the business with Strictly for several series, including the 2012 season.

I spent a very enjoyable 20 minutes mooching round their website.  The jewellery is mostly crystal and pearl based but does include a small collection of coloured pieces. It all looks very glamorous and seems very reasonably priced. I can’t vouch for the quality but if it’s good enough for Strictly, it’s good enough for me.

Photo by: jonstead

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Want to know your ring size?

When shopping for rings, especially if you are buying online, it’s useful to know your ring size in advance. The Jewellery Channel (Channel 650 on the Sky TV guide) has produced a free downloadable ring size guide which I’m posting here.

It’s very easy to use: just print out the pdf and place one of your rings over the circles until you find a size match. The letter shown in the circle is your ring size.

If anyone fancies buying me a nice ring, I’m a size L. Unfortunately, The Jewellery Channel has a standard size for Women’s rings (size O) and I’ve been told by my local jeweller that rings can only usually be downsized by two sizes. That’s probably a good thing as TJC has loads of lovely rings at very good prices and I would probably spend a fortune if I had bigger fingers.

More on The Jewellery Channel another time as I’ve bought lots of good things from them and always had a positive experience.

Download the Ring Guide here.

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I promise you pictures

As a writer, I love words but I do realise that a blog without pictures, especially when it concerns something as visual as jewellery, won’t do at all.

I like taking photographs but it doesn’t seem particularly easy getting decent close-ups with my point and shoot so a little bit of experimentation is required before I post up  my own shots.

Meanwhile, I will see what I can do to find other images to drop into the Jewel Box.

Watch this space.

Magpie x

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Not resisting temptation at The Midlands Bead Fair

Purple beads

Perfectly purple beads I had to buy from the Midlands Bead Fair

As any keen beader will know, it’s very easy to source bead-making supplies cost-effectively over the web. But however good the choice, prices and service, there’s nothing quite like picking up a string of lovely beads, holding them up to the light and watching them sparkle before you buy.  That’s why I love visting bead shops and bead fairs.

I missed the Midlands Beads Fair last year so I was keen to get along to the National Motorcyle Museum, near the NEC for this year’s event. Usually I go alone. This time, though my friend N came along to help keep me under control. I have a tendency to spend more than I should when I’m let loose on my own so I was glad of a minder.

As I’m expecting a large car bill this week and am trying to be good, I set myself a rather measly beady budget of £20 to spend at this year’s event. N, who is facing a career change shortly, and probably has no business being out and about with me spending her redundancy money, did the same.  I have enough beady bits and pieces at home to set up a small shop and didn’t have anything particular on my shopping list. However, an addiction needs to be fed and with the Museum being a mere five minute drive from home, it seemed rude not to go.

I have been to this event twice before but this was the best by far. Bigger room (or so it seemed), more space, more stall holders (approx 25), more beads, more sparkle and – hurrah! – air conditioning (when you get a lot of excited beady ladies altogether, all on a misison to spend, things can get a little over-heated. Cool air is a good thing under such circumstances).

After handing over my £4 entry money, I managed not to spend any more cash  for all of 2 minutes and then fell at the first hurdle, shelling out a mighty £3 for 3 strings of fabulous large purple beads, courtesy of suppliers I hadn’t come across before: Silver Fairy design . I like purple. A lot.  In my mind you can never have too much purple in your life. Amethyst is my birthstone so that might explain it.

Anyhow, I quickly moved on to The Bead Barn for supplies of beautiful Miyuki silver lined crystal cube beads in purple, silver and gold.  Just looking at these lovely little beads makes me happy. They are great to work with and really help to lift a piece of jewellery.

I especially enjoy working with chain but haven’t found too many suppliers, either on the web or at events. However, Totally Beads had a good selection of silver plated chain so I succumbed to 3 metres for a rather marvellous £3.50.

One of my favourite traders, Buffy’s Beads was there today with their usual tempting selection of semi-precious stones. I resisted as I still have several strings of stones I purchased from their lovely London store in Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street, that I have not yet made up.

I make all this beady shopping sound easy. But it’s not. I mean how do you restrict yourself to spending £20 when your inner magpie is telling you to spend £200? However, with N trotting along beside me, and since this was her first time at a bead fair, I felt obliged to set a good example. Long story short, I spent £30 and N spent about the same.  It could have been much messier.  We celebrated with a cup of tea.

I can sleep easy tonight in the knowledge that I was fairly well behaved today, bought some lovely sparkly bits and pieces and had fun introducing my friend to the wonderful world of beading. While I sold most of my soul to the wonderful Rock ‘n’ Gem show a long time ago,  clearly I can still be led into temptation by the very enjoyable Midlands Bead Fair. Roll on the next one in 2013. At least I now have 12 months to save up.

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Jump into the jewel box!

Hello and welcome to the Magpie’s Jewel Box, a collection of all things bright and sparkly.

For a long time I’ve been looking for a website or blog that does more than sell jewellery or the bits and pieces for making it. I’ve been looking for something that can tell me about gem stones, famous collections, jewellery history, design trends, interesting books, where to attend workshops and where to go shopping. I couldn’t find anything so I decided to create this blog.

As I pick up pieces of treasure or write little pearls of wisdom,  I’ll drop them into the jewel box. Please feel free to rummage about and take away whatever catches your eye.