The materials we use act as inspiration and information to us when we design and develop our jewellery. Enjoy learning about each of the materials we use across our different processes, and why. (3 min read)
The Aerospace process came through a relationship with our factory in Hertford. These engineers craft parts for machinery that need to be precise, and performance led. Whether a part for a rocket, an aeroplane, a precision sport, or life-saving medical device, these parts tend to be tucked out of sight on the inside of a motor, a machine or device. We want to celebrate the materials and techniques used for these parts and expose the beauty that is usually hidden from the user’s eye. We choose to use these materials for our design-led jewellery in their raw, machine-finished state. Copper, brass, and stainless steel are always in aerospace grade qualities, and are unlacquered to remove any toxins from the process. This does mean that the materials will tarnish but this is beautiful and gives you, the wearer, the ownership to let your jewellery age, or to quickly clean and restore it to its machine finish. The metals rods that we use are made from recycled materials. The waste we create when cutting our parts are part of this cycle, and the shavings are collected and returned to the rod makers to continue their cycle. The base materials we use can be systematically separated allowing them to enter the recycling system. They can each be recycled over and over again without losing their properties.
At Alice Made This, we have copper at our core. From our copper cufflinks to our copper bracelets for men and women, this raw material has been present in our collections of men’s accessories and women's jewellery since the very beginning.
Copper fascinates us in the studio, with a warm feminine quality in its tone and an industrial, raw and masculine quality in its material characteristics. Copper was the first metal ever to be manipulated by humans and remains a key material to our global society today. To date, humankind has only used 5% of the world’s resource and mine it at a rate where we have enough to last a further 5 million years. Paired with this, copper is a sustainable material as it is 100% recyclable. Nearly 80% of all the copper we have ever produced is still in use today.
To care for your copper jewellery you will need to clean it intermittently as we do not finish it with any lacquers. Exposing copper to air and moisture can create a tarnish. This can be tangerine in tone or even a little green. You can get your copper jewellery shining in all their glory again with a soft cloth and a little Brasso, which is readily available in local shops.
Different skins can react to it too and you may get a green wrist when you initially wear one of our copper cuff bracelets, for example. This will settle as your skin gets used to it, and it can simply be washed away.
We use brass for a number of our men’s accessories and women’s jewellery pieces across our collection from cufflinks to bracelets, necklaces and rings. It is a material that cuts beautifully, allowing us to create the graphic and geometric shapes that we are known for.
Brass is said by many to be both antibacterial and antimicrobial. When used in marine environments it prevents bio-fouling, repelling organisms such as barnacles and algae. In our daily environments, depending upon the type and concentration of pathogens and the medium they are in, brass kills microorganisms within anything from a few minutes to hours of contact.
90% of all brass alloys are recycled. Because brass is non-ferromagnetic it is easily separated from ferrous scrap by passing the scrap near a powerful magnet. It is separated, smelted, formed into bullions, and reshaped into machinable shapes. Its lifecycle is continuous and long.
Over time brass jewellery and accessories tarnish as we leave all our metals unlacquered. You can easily restore it to be shiny and bright again with a soft cloth and a metal cleaner like Brasso. Use this sparingly as a little bit goes a long way!
Our steel precision jewellery is aerospace grade stainless steel. Our aerospace grade stainless steel is pretty special. Used in aerospace applications, it withstands exposure to extreme temperatures and meets high mechanical demands. This grade of stainless steel is stabilised with titanium. Together with this, it is precise, antimicrobial, and strong. You should not have to clean our stainless steel cufflinks and jewellery. If you need to remove things like fingerprints, rub gently with a soft cloth.
Like our other metals, we use recycled materials. The same as brass and copper, we collect our production waste and return it to our rod makers to continue the cycle.
Gold, Silver & Rhodium Plated Brass
We treat some of our brass and copper jewellery with a gold, rhodium (silver tone) or rose gold plated finish. The gold is a Vermeil quality finish in 24 carat gold, and the rhodium is a thick coating to match the quality of the rose gold & gold. It is rare that you need to clean vermeil or rhodium plated jewellery. If it tarnishes at all, try rubbing it with a soft cloth first. If you need to clean further use a jewellery dip solution and follow the instructions accordingly.
We started exploring patinas with a desire to highlighting the materials characteristics, and the beauty in combining art with science. The pieces of jewellery for men and women in these collections are done one by one. This slow, careful process is something we celebrate, and each piece ends up being unique. The patina process intentionally oxidises our metals through atmospheric exposure and is layered by Derek using heat (a flame torch) and chemicals to create deep colours and a refined finish. Each chemical used has a relationship to the metal whether it is a nitrate, an oxide, or a sulphide. Think silver, copper, titanium, potassium, ferric… All these different scientific combinations build an array of colours and lustres to create the designer jewellery we make.
Once we have achieved the finish we want, we hand polish each piece of jewellery or cufflinks, and seal the pieces with a natural Carnauba vegetable wax. This allows the patina to breathe, but to be sealed from further patination.
To clean any of our patina design-led jewellery, use a light metal polish on the metal areas but not on the patina. If you feel that the patina needs it, gently buff this area with a clean, soft cloth (a t-shirt type fabric). To allow for our Cradle-to-Cradle product cycle, we sandblast the patina off and reveal the fresh metal below which can be recycled back into the metal work cycle.
Our Water Cast jewellery for men and women is all made in London using fine 999 silver. This process was the outcome of a project with ‘Responsibility’ as a lead word. We purposefully sought out the most responsible technique for jewellery production that we could create using one of our existing craftsmen. To make this collection we work with our London casting house, Just Castings, and use silver that is running through the casting house in other people’s projects. We interrupt the casting process at the point where the obsolete silver is going back into the production cycle and create a zero-waste technique of plunging molten silver into fresh water. We simply manipulate the silver through its usual process! By experimenting at this point of the process we managed to create something renewed. By dropping the molten silver into fresh, cold water at variable flow heights and speeds we can create beautifully imperfect, organic, charm-like precious metal shapes. I guess you could say that these silver charms have been ‘blanched’ which gives it a wonderfully crisp matte silver finish. We call it a ‘fresh water finish’!
999 Fine Silver can tarnish over time, especially with moisture and heat (sweat, swimming, bathrooms) The best way to care for this type of silver jewellery is to use a silver dip (Hegarty Silver Dip , for example). This will brighten the matte silver charm and avoid any polish shining it up too much.
Working with acclaimed Forger Vincent Jack, our forged design-led jewellery is a mix of hot and cold forged pieces. Working in Farnham, Vincent has always seen metal as something fluid to mould and manipulate. Excited by its malleability, he uses his profound understanding of the materials as a connection to his environment.
At Vincent’s forge, we use our brass and steel materials for our jewellery. These are aerospace grade and fully recycled and recyclable. They are hard materials, and great materials to be manipulated under intense heat and pressure. Each collection we make is made as a small run. Heated in a small furnace each piece is worked by hand then blanched, cleaned, and polished. The end-to-end process is time consuming, yet a single phase can also be as fast a hammer strike on an anvil to capture the metal in its malleable state.
Once cooled, cleaned, and polished the forged jewellery is as per our Aerospace brass and steel pieces. Unlacquered and fresh from the craftsman our Forged jewellery for men and women is robust and refined. The brass pendants may require a little cleaning over time. A simple metal polish used sparingly (I recommend Brasso) with a soft cotton cloth will brighten it back up with ease.
Dave our Silversmith is based in Birmingham Jewellery Quarter. We make small batches of silver, gold and platinum men’s and women’s jewellery with him. We source our raw materials from Birmingham’s Cookson Gold and hallmark these pieces at the Birmingham Assay Office, both of which are a short walk from his workshop. Cookson Gold is a Responsible Jewellery Council member, through whom we source ethical raw materials and use only 100% recycled silver and gold for our cufflinks and jewellery.
To clean any of our silver and gold pieces, I suggest a few options.
Polished Silver or gold – Peek Metal Polish cream cleaner is great for brightening up and removing any hairline scratches from wear and works well for silver and gold jewellery.
Matte Silver or gold – A cleaning dip would be recommended for our matte jewellery pieces. This allows you to dip and rinse and dry rather than polish out the matte finish if using a cream or a cloth.
Blasted Silver or gold – Either of the above work well on the blasted jewellery.
Our hand engraved pieces are cut into our aerospace grade brass jewellery. James Neville, our Master Engraver skilfully uses specialist hand tools ("gravers”) consisting of a square tempered steel section in a wooden handle and a polished tip to enable him to cut a simple v shaped line into the surface of the metal. These cuts are layered on each jewellery piece together to form heraldic patterns. This a slow and meticulous process, so each set we do is a limited run, and a small batch.
The hand engraved aerospace grade brass cufflinks and jewellery can be cleaned using a household metal polish such as Brasso. Use sparingly with a soft cloth.
Ocean Diamonds are very special. These diamonds spend millennia travelling via geotechnical movement from kimberlite pipes in the earth’s crust, down mountains, along rivers, through currents and into the shallows of the ocean waiting to be discovered and hand-picked by local divers. Only the most resilient diamonds complete this journey, tumbling, turning, being placed, and displaced through deposition and erosion, enduring a lengthy and continual cycle. This resilience is embodied in the stone’s beautiful clarity and unique finish that is clearly visible when freshly picked from the water. To create this diamond jewellery collection, the stones have intentionally been left with their raw ocean-picked finish to celebrate this arduous journey and the wonder of nature in all its glory. Rather than diamond mining, Ocean Diamonds wait until the diamonds have moved to the seabed where they are picked when the sea is calm, by local divers in small fishing boats. They gather aggregate from the seabed, filling less than a potato sack, before sieving it to gather the diamonds and returning the remaining mineral to the seabed. These divers are the first to come in contact with these stones for millions of years.
Ocean Diamonds are passionate about their responsible method of sourcing diamonds which supports the local diving industry and communities in South Africa. Ocean Diamonds are conflict free and adhere to the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process is an international certification which regulate the provenance and trade of rough diamonds. Its standards and processes prevent the trade of conflict diamonds.
Alice Made This Ocean Diamonds are raw, uncut, untamed and beautifully imperfect. These Ocean Diamonds are exactly as nature intended. They are organic, natural and free from artificial treatment. Ocean Diamonds monitor and audit the supply of our rough stones to ensure ocean origin. 100% of Ocean Diamonds are collected by diamond divers. Each piece of diamond jewellery is gifted with it's Ocean Diamond Certificate of Provenance specifying the country of origin and the coastal location from wherel it has been retrieved, together with an Alice Made This certificate of authenticity for the gold and diamond jewellery.
To clean your diamond jewellery use a Jewel Clean Dip (Hegarty is recommended).
Barrelling is a technique used across the engineering and jewellery industries to clean metal. Depending on the substrate that you put in the barrelling machine (think of a washing machine type drum that rotates) you will achieve a different finish. You can use ball bearings, metal pins, small ceramic cones, and more. Actually, you can use anything you so wish, and this is exactly what we did to create the matte finish we offer across our cufflinks and jewellery collection.
Inspired by geotechnical movement and the British coastline, the Alice Made This, matte barrelled finish is a contemporary take on an antiqued finish. It is an understated, matte, yet bright finish that has a natural mottle to it. This finish is a post-production technique using ceramic stones and a splash of water. The stones mark the metals as they tumble across the jewellery over and over again. A single piece of jewellery, or cufflink, is barrelled for between 2 – 6 hours. Our engineers in Hertford and our Silversmith in Birmingham both have barrels for this. We also have a small one in the studio so that we can do bespoke and made-to-order pieces for you too.
The matte finish is a surface finish. The metal has been given a fleck that will always remain, but the matt-ness will shine over the years. Think of life being an added buffer to the metal. A ring rubbing on your finger, or a bracelet on your wrist or sleeve will act as a buffing tool over time. The best way to keep your matte jewellery and cufflinks sheen free is to ensure you only clean it with a silver dip.
We offer a complimentary re-matting service on all Alice Made This jewellery. If you get in touch with us here we can arrange this service for you.
Blasting is a technique we work with that is used to recondition vintage motorbikes and car engines. Iron filings and glass beads are blasted at high pressure against our jewellery in a sealed chamber. The filings blast into a trough where they are collected and reused in a continual cycle. The blasting process eats into the surface of our jewellery. It is subtle but creates a micro-undulation that looks impressively raw and surprisingly refined.
We blast our base metals and our precious metals, giving them this unique raw satin finish. It is all done by hand. Each piece is blasted in two substrates then cleaned and wrapped with care. Once blasted the jewellery is easy to care for. If tarnished, you can dip them in jewellery cleaning fluid or rub them with some cleaning cream, such as Peek Metal Polish.