Laura Cartledge goes behind the scenes at a jewellers where work ranges from diamond encrusted pineapples to remaking monuments.
People are proud of where they come from, but it can prove tricky to make sophisticated fashion choices that celebrate that.
Thankfully a jeweller is helping to put the ‘I heart’ t-shirts to one side with ornate pieces inspired by Sussex’s iconic landmarks.
One of the recent creations from Timothy Roe doesn’t just enable you to carry around the Chichester Cross it is actually an improved version of the historic monument.
“If you look at the real thing it is all rounded off because of the weather and it doesn’t have the ball on the top at the moment,” explains the company’s computer aided designer Chris Fisher.
While Chris admits some think jewellery making ‘is just banging metal together’, he adds ‘unfortunately it takes a bit more than that’ but technology is lending a helping hand.
“It gives you so much more options for design,” he enthuses. “If you have a funny shaped stone we can 3D scan that and make it fit exactly for instance.”
But that doesn’t mean it is not still laborious, as Chris reveals the first stage of making the cross began with photographs which were then drawn in CAD - a process estimated to have taken 15 hours.
“We start drawing lines, like the hands of the clock - it is the minute detail,” he reveals. “You almost trace over the photo and from there you build it up.
“The hardest part is the CAD,” he adds, “... or the casting - that can be a pain, but I don’t have to do that.”
Once the computer version is complete it is 3D printed to create a positive image, this takes a staggering 58 hours to print a large version of the cross which measures just 6cm tall.
From there a negative mould is made using rubber and plaster, so the final positive - in precious metals - can be cast.
The cross follows the ‘A Day at The Races’ bangle (pictured), inspired by Goodwood racecourse, Lalique jewellery from the turn of the last century and a longstanding relationship supporting St Wilfrid’s Hospice.
While planning a donation towards the charity’s raffle, owner Timothy had spotted a bracelet decorated with a frame of trees and Art Nouveau enamel, which he decided to give a Sussex twist.
A few sketches later, bearing in mind the Goodwood venue for the hospice’s upcoming 25th anniversary celebration, the design was formed and work on the epic project began.
The result, in my own humble opinion, is the most beautiful piece of jewellery I have ever seen.
Clearly not afraid of a challenge, Chris reveals plans are ongoing for the next Chichester creation.
“We were going to do the cathedral as well as the cross and got part way through,” he smiles. “We haven’t finished it yet - as you can imagine it is a mammoth task, but it could be a case of watch this space.
“Pieces like these give Tim a creative outlet, these things tend to be his brainchilds.”
While the technology can look almost as fiddly as the intricate diamond setting happening on the floor above, Chris, who has been with the business for nearly five years, says he ‘found it came naturally’.
“It just suits how my brain works,” he reasons, naming his favourite program as one called ‘ZBrush’. “It is like working with clay, we can bend it, pull it.”
It is not hard to see why bespoke commissions take up such a large percentage of work for Timothy Roe’s team, and for Chris it brings a variety he relishes.
“We have done some pretty weird things,” he smiles. “There was a ring with two frogs either side of it, one with a beaver’s faces on and then a diamond encrusted pineapple.
“You do a lot of the same stuff but then you get a piece in that is so interesting. Someone asked for snare drum cufflinks, I enjoyed doing that one.”
As Chris puts it, the good thing about combining modern techniques with ancient methods is not only that ‘the possibilities are almost endless’, but also because it means ‘there are a lot of different ways you can get around things’.
To find out more about the work of Timothy Roe, 12-13 South Street, Chichester, visit www.timothyroe.com
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