Month: August 2013

Vintage Jewels

DSC_4175I was, and still am, very much a girly-girl. As a child I loved frilly skirts, pretty necklaces, lace and sparkly, silver party sandals. Silver Sparkle and LaceThe girly-girl is still very much in evidence as I still love pretty things from vintage jewellery to antique china.  Personality has a big influence on the choices we make when buying and wearing clothes. Clothing can be an extension of our individual personalities and a means of expressing ourselves.

There are 5 wardrobe personalities: Classic, Dramatic, Natural, Gamine and Romantic. You can be more than one of these personalities, but the majority of people fall into one category more than others. I find this knowledge extremely useful when dispensing spectacles at work. A lot of my customers dress very classically. They are the sort of people who like to be smart, neat and tidy, but aren’t overly fashion conscious. If I show them a frame with any visible colour such as pink or purple or anything with any remote sparkle they are not impresssed! The Classic Lady likes a sensible plain gold, bronze or silver frame with no visible logo. How boring!

I have never officially had my clothing style analysed. However it is easy for me to see that I am clearly a natural, romantic. The `Natural’ part of me is very outdoorsy and likes to throw on a casual fleece and jeans. I am not one for spending hours doing my hair and am confident enough to be seen without make-up. I would rather be off and out enjoying life. However my main style is definately romantic.

Romantic Clothing Style 

Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johanson and Taylor Swift all have romantic clothing styles.


MarilynMonroe2Nicole Kidman      Scarlett JohanssonYou like clothing which has details like bows and ruffles and lace.

You enjoy styles which highlight your feminiinty


You favour fabrics which are soft such as angora wool, TaylorSwift2chiffon and silk.

You enjoy dressing up for evenings out

You like decorative finishes such as beading, embroidery and lace

You feel undressed without make-up. ( that’s not me, as I would rather be outdoors enjoying myself than worrying about whether I have flawless make-up!) TaylorSwift

The lines of your clothes are rounded, often with a lot of draping.

You will usually have softly curving features which are flattered and framed with tousled curls and waves or at least a style with movement. Interestingly when I tried to be `Classically Chic and Sophisticated’ with a sharper cut bob this style didn’t really work for me. My hair has too much curl to be smooth and my face just looked rounder than usual!

Someone with a Romantic fashion persona often has an interest in lady-like 20s-50s vintage fashion.You love accessories and use them whenever you can. You’re into delicate pretty jewellery. You appreciate vintage jewellery that has a story behind it.

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I now know why when I went shopping for work suits I also came back with two vintage necklaces from  Antiques on High in Oxford! As a natural romantic I find work clothes boring. They are often drab, dull colours and very structured in style. I like to jazz up my work clothes with a bright cheerful top and a pretty necklace. In fact my trade mark style is a pretty, frilly cardigan with a vintage necklace.

Vintage Jewellery


I am no expert on antiques. However I do have a rapidly expanding collection of necklaces from the Art Deco Period. I love pottering in antiques shops. I only buy what I like and what I will enjoy wearing. The age of the piece is therefore less important to me than it would be to a serious collector. There are a number of synonyms for old jewellery – antique, vintage, estate, period and retro. The terms do overlap but they do mean specific things to collectors and dealers.

The time frames in jewellery history are the Late Georgian (1760-1837), Victorian (1837-1901), Art Nouveau (1890-1915), Edwardian (1901-1915), Art Deco (1920-1935), and Retro (1935-1950). Jewelry before the Late Georgian era is very hard to find.

Antique – by legal definition, means a piece that’s at least 100 years old. It includes the periods Georgian, Victorian, Arts & Crafts and just about Art Nouveau. Nowadays, many jewelers stretch the word to include the 1920s and 1930s, too.

Period –  the official name for jewelry made within the last 100 years.

Vintage – has come to mean something from a bygone era (the same way people say vintage clothing or cars). However, some professionals use it exclusively to refer to older costume jewellery such as bakelite bangles. This term applies to jewellery that was manufactured between antique and second hand. So that’s over 25 years old and up to about 100 years old.

Vintage Inspired Jewellery (Vintage Style Jewellery) – The jewellery is brand new but looks as though it was designed many years ago.

Second Hand, Pre Owned, Contemporary jewellery  used for any piece of jewellery that is up to 25 years old.

Estate – essentially an elegant word for “used.”

Retro  means “old fashioned” or associated with the past/revived from the past. Used mostly for jewellery from the 1940s and 1950s that has a distinct old fashion – quaint look.

Kitsch Jewellery –  jewellery that was once popular and has a sentimental appeal. Jewellery with mass appeal that has become highly collectible. It includes pop it bead necklaces, love beads, macrame jewellery and dried flowers in resin brooches.

Costume Jewellery  came into being as cheap disposable jewellery meant to be worn with a specific outfit or costume, but not meant to be handed down through the generations. It was intended to be fashionable for a short period of time and then disposed of.  It was during the Art Deco period that Coco Chanel introduced costume jewellery to complete her costumes or outfits. A lot of vintage jewellery was designed to be costume jewellery but some how has survived and is now very collectable.

My Jewellery Box


This beautiful 1930s Austrian crystal necklace was a recent purchase from Caroline Henney of Bag the Jewels. I found this gem in `The Antiques on High’ antique shop in Oxford. The stones are known as cut rainbow or iris glass crystals. Each stone is prong set and has flecks of pink, green and blue running through them. This was one of my recent purchases when I was looking for work suits and wanted something glam and pretty to go with them.



Beautiful Blue Art Deco Necklace  

My other recent purchase was this beautiful blue and white crystal necklace, strung with rolled gold. It dates from the Art Deco period spanning the years from approximately 1920-1935.


Common Characteristics of Art Deco Jewellery 

Sleek streamline strong angular lines

Strong use of symmetrical design

Geometric shapes

Filigree was popular

Pink Crystal Art Deco Necklace                             



My pink Art Deco necklace is very finely made. It has square cut cranberry pink crystal stones which are set in open mounts with adjoining delicate filigree spacers with a pink crystal pendant drop and a fine chain. This is one of my favourite pieces and I wear her a lot! The colour of the crystal is just gorgeous and it really does catch the light.

Vintage-Style Angel Bridal Necklace and Bracelet 


When I was choosing my wedding dress I wanted a dress which was pretty, feminine and romantic, preferably made of lace. My dress was described  as an elegant slim-line tulle and crushed taffeta gown. The Empire Line was highlighted with a band of taffeta and the tulle was appliqued with lace and beaded with Swarovski crystals.  I accesorised my dress with cream shoes by Rainbow Club with little diamante detail, a delicate gold and crystal bracelet and a fabulous golden sparkly handbag. The best bit was my golden diamante tiara. I loved it and paraded around the house when I came back from the shop!

Essense of Australia D586 Front

Having bought the beautiful Vintage-Style Angel Bridal Necklace from Yarwood-White and a matching bracelet I decided the necklace was a bit over the top with all the beautiful detail on my dress. I still wore the bracelet on my wedding day and whenever I wear the necklace now I still think of it as my wedding necklace and keep it for special occasions!


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Wedding Dress DetailHoneymoon Gems 

For our honeymoon we went to Sri-Lanka. As I hadn’t worn my wedding necklace on my wedding day I decided I must have a honeymoon necklace! The blue sapphires from Sri Lanka are known as Ceylon Sapphire and are reportedly unique in colour, clarity and lustre compared to the blue sapphires from other countries. I wasn’t keen on the designs of the sapphire pendants I saw so settled on this pretty gem-stone necklace which incorporated 6 stones in the shape of a flower. Much more me and very wearable!  The stones are tanzanite, citrine, blue topaz, pink tormaline, amethyst and aquamarine. There also tiny diamonds in the white gold setting. Although this is a modern piece of jewellery I hope that 1 day it will become an heirloom.


Suffragette Vintage Style Pendant


Edwardian Suffragette jewellery was believed to have been created for the women’s movement first in England and later in the United States. Suffragette jewellery was characterized by the use of green, white, and violet gems to stand for a secretive feminist message. The first letter of each of these colors forms the acronym, “GWV”, which purportedly stood for “Give Women the Vote” .

The Edwardian Period (1901-1910) coincided with the birth of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England. This organization was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 and it became the most prominent spearhead of the women’s movement in England.

The Edwardian period celebrated the reign of King Edward VII and his Danish born Queen, Alexandra. Her favorite color was mauve, his “leek-green” . Therefore, Edwardian jewellery incorporated peridots, emeralds, demantoid garnets (green), amethysts (purple), and diamonds (white). These gems complimented the use of platinum open work, “lacey” settings that defined the jewelry of the period.

The original colors of the WSPU movement in England were thought up by Mrs. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, a prominent and devout leader of the feminist movement. She must have taken inspiration from King Edward and Queen Alexandra’s favorite colors .Her goal was to make a public declaration of colors for the women’s movement, by which all members could proudly and publicly be identified with, not to create a clandestine code for her sisters in suffrage.

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and her husband published the suffragist newspaper, Votes For Women. In the May 1908 issue of Votes For Women, she reportedly explained the symbolism behind the purple, white, and green colors of the (WSPU) movement. Purple stood for royal dignity. White stood for purity. Green stood for Hope.

These colors were not originally intended to form a secret acronym to unite the sisterhood of suffragettes, rather they were intended to be used in a public declaration behind the women’s movement. It is quite possible that as the movement progressed, suffragettes embraced the popular Edwardian jewelry being made at the time and developed the secondary and quite catchy “Give Women the Vote” acronym for it to fit their cause.

Suffragettes could have simply adopted many Edwardian jewellery pieces for their cause, by cleverly calling the color purple “violet” and coming up with the “Give Women the Vote” (Green, White, Violet) slogan.

My pendant is a modern copy of an Edwardian design from Brooks and Daughters in Oxford .


Edwardian 1920’s Bohemian Necklace  


My Edwardian necklace is a dark purple crystal with amazing detail on the chain. It’s a bit chunkier than the other delicate pendants but equally wearable.

Corpus Christi College Brooch 

DSC_4055This distinctive brooch was given to my Grandma when she visited Corpus Christi College in Oxford with her husband, George Mason Hills (1912-1950).   George  studied bio-chemistry and is photographed with his tutor F.B. Pidduck. I find it fascinating that my Grandma was given a brooch by her husband’s tutor. The photo is interesting as it shows my grandparents’ trusty tandem which they even cycled in Italy and Switzerland on  a belated honeymoon.  I found the brooch after my Gran had died. The pin had broken so I had it professionally repaired. I would love to know if anyone else has one of these distinctive brooches. I am also interested to know if the photo was taken in the grounds of Corpus Christi College as I know the grounds have been re-modelled in the intervening years. Imgp0129img250

 Gran’s Beads and Earrings 

I’m not sure of the date of this jewellery, but I presume they are Austrian jewels. They were definately worn by my Gran as here she is at an Office Party in the 1970s. It may have been that she bought them on honeymoon. I haven’t worn the earrings, but I wear the necklace when I need a bit of sparkle in my life.  They really do capture the light and reflect different colours.




Office Party 1974I have inherited my love of the colour turquoise from my Gran. Doesn’t she look glam in her turquoise dress and vintage jewellery?

Christie Brooch

The last 2 items in my jewellery box are a mystery. They were given to me by my adopted father and are presumably some sort of heirloom from his family. However I was young when they were given to me so didn’t take any notice of their history at the time.

Christie Brooch FrontThe brooch is fascinating as it has an inscription on the back. The inscription reads:-

Presented to F.I.P.


Peter Christie

Born Sep 14th 1791

Died March 1st 1865

I have no idea who the brooch was presented to. The Christie family owned Hoddesdon Brewery from 1804 to 1929, and Peter was apprenticed and then made the managing director until his death in 1865. As it was a family run business the managers and employees were quite close. A contact of mine via ancestry has seen other heirlooms held by Christie descendents that were presented from brewery employees. It may be that Peter Christie’s sons who inherited the brewery gave keepsakes to the employees at the time of their father’s death so they could fondly remember their manager by! Perhaps a female worker since it was a brooch? If anyone can shed any more light on the history behind my brooch please do let me know. My adopted father’s mothers maiden name was Pightling. Maybe the brooch was presented to a lady with the surname Pightling?

Christie & Co Brewers

Gorgeous Green Gemstones 

I also inherited this gorgeous green crystal necklace. I believe the stones are imitation paste. It has the style of a necklace from the Early Art Deco Period. It would be great to know more about it! I love vintage jewellery. I love the fact that each piece has been worn by someone else and has a history and story to tell.  I wonder what stories my gorgeous green gems could tell?!



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Scrumptious Strawberries

Juicy RedStrawberries seem to symbolise the arrival of Summer. This year we have picked a good crop of juicy strawberries out of the garden. The variety we’ve grown is `Florence‘ which is a late Summer strawberry with good disease resistance and a wonderful flavour.  What a treat to have home-grown strawberries and cream for dessert!









In June I spent a fabulous couple of days with Anna Mason on a watercolour painting course at RHS Wisley learning how to paint juicy strawberries.  Anna is a fabulous teacher and she certainly inspired me as an artist and as a cook!

Juicy Strawberry

Strawberry Vodka

One of the simplest recipes to preserve an abundance of fruit is to make a fruit vodka infusion. So far this year I have made strawberry, raspberry, peach and rhubarb vodka! The basics of a vodka infusion couldn’t be simpler – cut up the fruit and steep in the vodka, strain and drink!  The art, is in deciding how much fruit, and how long to steep. I am still experimenting! You can drink it neat with ice or use as the base for a cocktail.


Strawberry Jam 

Summer wouldn’t be Summer without home-made strawberry jam. It’s worth a trip to the local pick-your-own just to have some in the cupboard.

1 kg strawberries

Juice of 1 lemon

1 kg granulated sugar


Hull and wipe the strawberries.


Put the strawberries into a large preserving pan with the lemon juice. Strawberries are low pectin fruit so require the lemon juice to set.

Easy Squeezer

Bring to a simmer, just until the juices begin to run – about 10 minutes.


Mash the strawberries with a potato masher and simmer for a further 5 minutes until you have a thick puree.


Add the sugar and stir gently until completely dissolved.


Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Boil for 5 minutes before removing any scum. Test for a set. If necessary continue to boil until setting point is reached.



Remove from the heat, skim off any skum, and allow the jam to cool briefly before pouring into sterilised jars.

Allow the jam to cool completely before labelling and storing.


A lot of my jams are given as Christmas presents in beautiful presentation baskets. However I am particularly fond of Victoria Sandwich Cake sandwiched together with home- made strawberry jam and cream.

Victoria Sandwich Cake 

The Victoria Sandwich is a cake that was popularised in the reign of Queen Victoria and is still a classic today. It is made of melt-in-the-mouth sponge, sandwiched together with jam and dredged in sugar.

175g Butter

175g Caster Sugar

3 eggs (weighed in their shells)

175g Self Raising Flour


Caster Sugar to dredge

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

Butter two 18 cm (7-inch) sandwich tins and line the base of each with a round of buttered greaseproof paper.


Now that’s all very well, but my tins are 8-inch tins and not 7-inch. I also didn’t know if it mattered whether the eggs were medium or large. The trick is to use the same weight of the eggs (weighed in their shells) for both the butter, flour and sugar. 3 medium eggs will weigh approximately 175g, so use 175g of flour, 175g of sugar and 175g of butter. If large eggs are used they may weigh 210g. If so make sure you use this weight for the other ingredients. I wanted a decent thick sponge so used 4 medium eggs instead of 3. I’m really glad I learnt that trick as it had been puzzling me for ages!

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  When you beat yellow ingredients (butter and eggs) they get paler and paler the more air you incorporate. What you are looking for is a really pale and fluffy butter and the longer you beat the mixture the better. Keep scraping down the bowl to make sure it is all getting its fair share of air.



DSC_2776The aim is to get as much air into the mixture at this stage as this will create a  nice, light sponge.

Beat the eggs and add a little at a time.


DSC_2777 Beat well after each addition. It is important to do this slowly, to get as much air into the cake as possible and to prevent the mixture curdling. The mixture can ‘curdle’ if you add too much egg too quickly or if your ingredients are very different temperatures from each other. The moment you see the mixture change from being a lovely pale creamy mixture to looking like very runny scrambled egg, then you can add a tablespoon of the flour and everything should work out alright.  The secret is to get as much air as possible into the mixture, so that when it hits the heat of the oven it rises well and evenly.


  • Sieve the flour and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon. Be gentle so that you don’t knock all the air out you have put in!
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  • Divide the mixture as evenly as you can between the 2 tins and level with a knife
  • .


Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the cakes are well risen, firm to the touch and beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tins. Set your kitchen timer for 17 minutes and DO NOT be tempted to open the oven door before this time to peak as your cake will sink. When the timer goes off look very carefully through a crack in the door. The cakes should have shrunk away from the sides of the tin a little. A skewer or flat knife pushed into the middle of the cake should come out clean with no cake mixture sticking to it.


Turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.


When the cakes are cool, sandwich them together with yummy home-made jam and cream. Sprinkle with caster sugar.



So there we have it – scrumptious strawberries at their very best!

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