The Magpie's Jewel Box

A treasure trove of sparkly bits and pieces


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Who designs the gorgeous, glitzy costumes for Strictly Comes Dancing?

This year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing surpassed itself in many ways. Apart from the fabulous dancing, of course, and very worthy winners in Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace, one of best aspects for me was the costume design.  Each week the costumes seemed to get better and better and as the BCC’s Strictly costume photo gallery shows, many of the costumes were covered in beautiful beading and sparkling rhinestones.

My research tells me that company responsible for designing the costumes is DSI (DanceSport International Ltd). Based in Croydon, South London, they have been working closely with the BBC on Strictly for a number of years. As well as designing and making the show’s costumes, DSI sell an extensive range of products for costume makers, including rhinestones, beaded trims and  feathers as well as dance wear for men and women, including designer dresses (as worn by the Strictly ladies), formal wear, shoes, spray tans and dvds.

I have never purchased anything from DSI but their website looks pretty comprehensive and if you are interested in costume design and need to source rhinestones, feathers etc, this looks a good place to start.


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Jewellery books are top of the Magpie’s Christmas wish list

If Santa plans to stop by my house, could he please deliver the following books which appear on my Christmas wish list and are all available from Amazon:

7000 years of Jewellery by Hugh Tait. This books draws mainly on the collections held by The British Museum (hardly surprising, really, as the Museum published the book!). It is a broad illustrated history which looks at the different styles, techniques and materials used to make jewellery around the world.

Miller’s Costume Jewellery by Judith Miller.  This book provides an introduction to costume jewllery, starting in Ancient Egypt and exploring everything from Art Deco and Hollywood jewellery to the lives of key designers, their designs and makers marks.  The author is an expert on jewellery, founded the best-selling Miller’s Antiques Price Guide and has written over 100 books. She is also one of the experts appearing on the BBC’s ‘Antiques Roadshow‘ and presented the BBC TV series ‘The House Detectives’ and ITV1’s ‘Antiques Trail’.

Vintage Jewellery by Caroline Cox.  This book covers 100 years of jewellery history, from Lalique’s Art Nouveau enamelling and Cartier’s gemstones to Christian Dior’s costume jewellery and Harry Winston‘s diamonds. It sounds like a visual delight and a valuable source of information about the leading designers and jewellery houses. Caroline Cox is a visiting professor at the London School of Fashion and a leading fashion authority.

Jeweller’s Directory to Gemstones: A Complete Guide to Appraising and Using Precious Stones from Cut and Colour to Shape and Setting (bit of a mouthful, that one!) by Judith Crowe.

This book provides a full description of each gemstone and how it can be used in jewellery, a history of the cuts and useful information about identifying, buying and caring for the gems.  Sounds ideal for jewellery makers.

If I am lucky enough to receive all of the above, I will review each book in future posts. In the meantime, I will try to be good so that Santa pays a visit …


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Tantalising tanzanite – December’s beautiful blue/violet birthstone

A very popular gemstone, and one of my favourites, Tanzanite is the blue/purple variety of the mineral zoisite. It is a rare gem, being found only in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania where it was discovered in 1967. Tiffany & Co named the gem tanzanite and the stone has been marketed under this name ever since.

Tanzanite is strongly trichroic which means that the crystals reflect three different colours: blue, violet and burgundy. Artificial heat treatment to 600 °C brings out the blue violet of the stone. Different colours become more evident in different lights, with the blues being particularly strong in daylight and the purples appearing stronger by candlelight. You can usually see both colours at the same time, particularly in larger carats.

I have several pieces of tanzanite jewellery ranging in colour from pale lilac to a wonderful deep blue and I love them all. It is the blue version that I have seen most often seen in jewellery shop windows.

Tanzanite has become increasingly popular in recent years, so much so that in 2002 the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) announced that tanzanite had joined zircon and turquoise in the traditional list of birthstones for the month of December.

Tanzanite is marketed heavily on its rarity – it is only found in one place, is said to be a thousand times rarer than diamonds and supplies will eventually run out, with opinions on exactly when ranging from 10 to 30 years!

So is it affordable?  As with any gem stone, you should assess a tanzanite on the 4Cs: colour, carat, clarity and cut.  Tanzanite rarely contains flaws and it is colour that is key.  Generally a tanzanite that is more blue than violet with a rich, deep colour will be most valuable.  The best advice seems to be to go for the colour, then carat and purchase according to your budget.

Whether you choose the deepest blue or the lighter lavender, tanzanite is a beautiful stone that deserves to be treasured.

Further information on tanzanite can be found at: www.tanzanitefoundation.org


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Cartier Winter Tale

Here is a great Christmas film called Winter Tale from the French jeweller and watchmaker, Cartier.  I like the fact that you can click on each item featured to stop the film and find out more. This will particularly appeal to all you (big) cat lovers. Enjoy!

Photo: Derk Stenvers


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Marcel Boucher costume jewellery – my new discovery

I was very fortunate to receive a gift recently of an art deco style necklace and clip earrings. The pieces were so well designed and the stones sparkled so much that initially I thought they might be diamonds set in white gold. However, a quick look on the reverse of each piece revealed not a hallmark but a serial number and a name: Boucher.

This made me think that I had an interesting piece of costume jewellery here so I did quickly some internet research.

From this I learned that my jewellery had been created by one of the most noted designers of costume jewellery in the US: Marcel Boucher (1898-1965). Having originally trained as an apprentice for Cartier in France, Boucher moved to New York in the 1920s, eventually setting up his own company in 1937 for which he designed and sold ‘high end’ costume jewellery.

All his pieces bear his maker’s marks which vary according to when the piece was made. The early marks are “Marboux” or “MB” while the later marks are “Marcel Boucher” and “Boucher”. My pieces are marked “Boucher” and I have dated the earrings to 1955. The necklace is later and I believe it may date from 1960 though I need to do more research.

From Googling Boucher, I have learned that his pieces are often quirky, always beautifully designed, very popular and highly collectible. There are many examples for sale via various websites (mainly in the US) and eBay at what I consider to be affordable prices.

Having known nothing about Boucher before I acquired my necklace and earrings, I am now fascinated and want to know more. I also want to start collecting. More on Boucher in future posts when, hopefully, I will have acquired some more pieces!

In the meantime, I came across a Canadian website called Penelope’s Pearls which sells Boucher vintage jewellery and includes some good photos and background information. I can’t vouch for the site personally as I have not purchased anything from them but it does give an idea of the type of jewellery made by Boucher and the prices his pieces currently attract. It’s also a nice site to visit.

For more information on Boucher try Jackson Jewels.