Hammering it out with Rachel Jeffrey Jewellery
I’m not a maker of things. Except cakes. I can do cakes. But, y’know, creative things? Nope. Not me. So when I do manage to make something that looks half-decent, I do not stop talking about it. I made a lampshade at Fabric HQ months ago, and I’m still angling for compliments every single time I turn the light on.
Now, though, I’ve made something I don’t have to wait for it to get dark to show off. Tempted over to Rachel Jeffrey’s stunning – and tucked-away – jewellers in Wheathampstead by their 10th birthday celebrations (which is today!), I ended up taking one of their jewellery making workshops. Nervously, and a bit sceptically – and with lots of “don’t expect me to manage anything good” prevaricating.
The day-long (well, sort of a long half day) courses run in the workshop attached to the shop. To be honest, once I was in the shop, coffee in hand and ostensibly listening to what Rachel was telling us, I was a bit distracted by all the loveliness around us: the jewellery there is stunning – very elegant and very distinctive.
I was also having a bit of a problem relating the short grey sticks of metal that she was showing us to the glittering silver rings and bangles we were choosing as our models. I decided that a ring was more for me – mostly because I find bangles a bit awkward when I’m doing anything, although a little bit because it looked easier.
The workshop is tucked away, a few steps down from street level and atop the river – it used to the wheel room for the watermill that gives Mill Walk its name – so you can hear the water flowing past.
It’s a whole different world – jewellers benches everywhere, with their leather ‘aprons’ built in to catch the bits and dust; blow torches, a polishing machines, files and hammers. Lots of hammers. It’s a fairly physical process, with more whacking than you might think.
Yes, I was by no means convinced that I would be able to do it but everything was explained so clearly – and Rachel and Dani were on hand the whole time to help, advise, get you back on track, and so on – that I actually felt like I was getting the hang of it.
It was actually deeply satisfying, making something I could actually hold in my hand and see changing in front of my goggle-clad eyes.
We took tiny sticks of dull-looking metal, heated them up, hammered them into circles, sawed the ends off, soldered them, filed them, cured them (well, popped them in to cure while we went for lunch), and then sanded and polished.
And – honestly – I’ve ended up with something utterly gorgeous which I’m wearing every single day. And getting complimented on. (I’ve made sure of that….)
The group – 9 of us – were predominantly women. There was one chap there, but he was there with his fiancée and they were (so lovely…) making each other’s wedding rings.
Lots of the others had been given the day as a present – wouldn’t that be great? – and Rachel was saying that she often gets groups of friends all booking in together for a hen do or a big birthday or something like that. I would have loved doing the workshop with friends, and I’m now trying to find an excuse to get a handful of us all together to go back. I did suggest to Mr C that we went over and made each other rings, but that was one romantic step too far for the poor chap.
You can even leave your ring or bangle there once you’re done and they’ll hallmark it for you. I didn’t do that, but that was mostly because I was desperate to get home and show it off to… well, to just about everyone I could find.