Part 1 of 2 – Sterling Silver Keyring – Commission work is always interesting, challenging and exciting. Here’s a statement piece, a keyring which I have made in the last couple of months. It’s cast in sterling silver from a real shell and hallmarked @theassayoffice in London. This is a family piece, a piece I made to carry special memories from the past into a new adventure in the future.

I was first asked if I would be able to make a keyring to remember time spent living in Dubai. The client, Jo, asked if I could make the keyring as a surprise for her son, who was embarking on a new adventure here in the UK. At 11 years of age, moving to a new school in a different country would be daunting. Jo and her husband wanted to create a special memory of their son’s time spent in Dubai in the form of a sterling silver keyring. The idea was especially poignant, as during their son’s first year in school, he would be referred to as one of the ‘Shells’.

I love challenges like this. I especially enjoy the learning process and that feeling I get in the pit of my stomach, that stretch me when I have to focus on finding solutions to problems and work things out.

Jo sent me a selection of shells to choose from. The first task was to estimate finished size and weight of each one. Costing a commission is always tricky because in my experience, they work always takes longer than expected. You simply can’t calculate the hours worked in the same way as you might do for a piece you have made over and over again.

Commissions, as I’ve learnt, are worth much more than the price of the piece. They challenge my thinking, broaden my skills and as they’re unlikely to be repeated, they’re a chance to break out from the norm. learn new skills to become a better jeweller.

After working out that a 50p weighs 8 grams, my client, Jo said she and her husband had been hiding in their kitchen playing with 50p pieces, estimating what each shell might feel like, whilst trying to keep it a secret from their son in the other room. It’s these funny moments that make me realise what a privilege it is to make such a pivotal family piece like this.

It didn’t take long for the choice to be made. They chose the largest and the most magnificent of shells, which I was really pleased about. Here was my chance to work with this extraordinary textured shell shape and make it into something truly wonderful.

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