Gift giving can be fun or it can be torture depending on how you approach it. Throughout October I’m going to give you thirty one tips on how to make gift giving a really enjoyable experience and show you how to make someone else feel special.
The first tip is plan ahead. Making sure you have enough time to select the right gift is really important. It takes all the pressure off you, pressure which can leave you feeling like you are going to let someone down by either having nothing or by buying the wrong thing just to make sure you have something.
The most special thing you can do is to show someone you have spent time thinking about them and you can only do that if you plan ahead. It’s the reason why flowers from a florist are more special than flowers from a supermarket. You have to go out of your way to organise them rather than being something you have picked up in passing.
We all lead busy lives and it is easy not to look ahead but if you get your diary out now and look at what you have coming up, give yourself 60 days to choose a gift for someone rather than buying it the week that you need it. I promise you, this will make it more fun for you and make the person you are buying for feel really special.
Some of the pieces of jewellery that we make can be created in a day. Others take much longer. The time depends on how much development needs to be done on the design and what techniques are used to make it. The necklace below, for example started with a phrase from the play Wicked. I was asked to design a necklace with the phrase, “trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!”
I had a think about the phrase and thought it would be fun to design a necklace that had a section that jumped. The first sample piece I made to show my customer was much larger than the final piece. She loved the idea but knew her niece would want to wear a much smaller pendant. The necklace was made a second time in the ideal size, hand engraved and set with the girl’s birthstone, an emerald. The bar with the words “and leap!” moves up and down when worn, making a slight musical noise that reminds the girl wearing it what the message is. I was told that this necklace has meant so much to her and has given her the courage to continue with her studies when she was having doubts.
Without enough time, the pendant wouldn’t have been so perfect. It’s not about the cost or the value of the piece, it’s about getting something that is just right.
My second tip to make gift giving fun is to make a date with the person you are buying for. Get together for a coffee or a meal or go shopping together. The great thing about planning ahead is that they won't guess your motive. Find out what they are particularly interested in at the moment, if they have a new hobby or interest or if there is something that they would like to own but have struggled to find.
Celebrating a moment in time with a piece of jewellery makes the event into a physical thing that stays with you. I was commissioned to make a charm for a woman who carried the Queen's torch during the 2014 Commonwealth games that were held in Glasgow. It was such an important thing for her to be part of that her family wanted to get her a gift that she could keep after the day was over.
A symbol, rather than a replica of the original torch, this is a very special sterling silver charm that only she owns and that she can wear everyday to reinforce her connection to the event.
Not only will spending some time with the person you are going to buy the gift for help in your search for the perfect item, you may find it becomes a regular habit that strengthens your friendship, like this family who I was commissioned to make a set of three necklaces for. A woman asked me to make a necklace for her and her sister and her mum because her sister was moving to Australia. They were very close and she felt the reason they shared such a special bond was because their mum had made sure that no matter what was happening in their lives, once a week they all sat down together for coffee and cake. During these weekly get togethers, they'd find out what was happening in each other's lives and they had been doing this since the girls were teenagers.
I designed a set of necklaces with a coffee cup, a silver spoon and a cake that split into three parts. On top of the cake we set a birthstone of the person the necklace was for. Inside the cake we engraved a special message which can only be read when all three pieces are together. It says "distance can't change who we are, truest friends, strongest allies, closest family"
The necklaces made them feel they were still connected even though they were on opposite sides of the world.
Tip number 3 is to choose a gift based on a special memory you both share. We bond with other people in our shared experiences so a gift that shows that you think about that event, long after it has happened can have a very powerful effect.
One of my customers has commissioned a special pair of earrings for his wife's Christmas, several years in a row inspired by their summer travels. The first pair were made to look like Spanish Moss, a long tangle of flowering plant that grows hanging from tree branches. The year after, he commissioned a pair to look like jasmin flowers because the scent of the plant filled the evenings of their holiday. The following year to this he commissioned a pair that were to look like olive leaves with green pearls. Not only were these gifts a beautiful reminder of their summer holidays in the depth of winter but every time the earrings are worn it is a reminder to both of them of very happy memories.
Sometimes couples or friends share special memories with a symbol that means more to them than to others. It's kind of like a secret language that close relationships have. One of my customers commissioned a necklace for his wife with a heron on it. He said that over their many years together, anytime they have had to make a very big life changing decision that has worked out for the best, a heron mysteriously appeared. He wanted to a necklace designed with this bird because it was the lucky symbol that they shared.
It's easy to take for granted close bonds with friends and family and assume they know how you feel but when someone shows they really have a special connection with you by doing something that takes time and effort to organise, it proves their feelings are more than just words.
Tip number 4 is to make it surprising. The magical thing about a gift is that it is something the person is not expecting. It has to be given with no expectation of getting something in return, otherwise it ceases to be a gift and becomes an obligation. There are lots of ways to make a gift more surprising. You can give it when there is no obvious reason. It's not a birthday, or an anniversary or Christmas, just an ordinary day that you want to make memorable because every day is special. Or you could hold back a single gift on a day like Christmas to give once everyone has gone home and it is just the two of you together. This can be a very special way to say thank you to someone who has spent the day making it special for everyone else. You could hide the gift somewhere the person will find to bring a bit of joy to their day, like in their handbag or coat pocket.
Another idea is to hide something in the gift itself. A customer wanted me to make a pendant for her partner who is a joiner. He calls her his little honeybee so she wanted a design that had this in it. She wanted the pendant to look simple and masculine so that he would wear it everyday. Taking inspiration from his job, I suggested that we made a pendant that has a bee that linked the two pieces together, sort of like a dovetail joint. I made one part of the pendant narrow with a bee on it and the other part I made thicker. The thicker part was initailly made in wax and the bee was heated and pressed into it to make a perfect recess for it to hide in. Then the wax section was cast in sterling silver. Inside there is a message hand engraved in little buzzy circles as if it was a trace of the flight of the bee. When he opened the gift it looked like a simple contemporary pendant design but then the pendant itself opened to show the personal message. It's the kind of magical piece of jewellery that is passed on through generations, eliciting the same surprise each time someone discovers what is inside.
Tip number 5 is to look at getting a better version of something they already have. If someone loves something a lot, uses it a lot, or it is running out, use this as inspiration.
A customer bought a cheap mermaid necklace for his wife when they were on a city break. She absolutely adored it and wore it everyday but as it was a piece of costume jewellery that other people would have bought too he thought it would be really special to get her a mermaid that was designed especially for her. I sketched a unique mermaid design for him to approve and he loved it immediately.
The design was then handmade in sterling silver with the detail hand engraved.
He took his wife to Berlin for a holiday and gave her the necklace there. They sent me a lovely photograph of her wearing the pendant to show how delighted she was with the surprise. The following Christmas, he commissioned me to make earrings to match.
Sometimes it is possible to use the much loved item in the new gift. A customer asked me to take a traditional pearl necklace and update it into something with more unusual. I added a selection of different coloured pearls so the necklace was more vibrant and unique.
Tip number 6 is to think about getting a smaller version of something much loved.
One of my customers surprised her mum with a silver charm that we designed and made. Her mum keeps sheep and they are one of the loves of her life. I designed the charm so that when it flips over, you can see the back of the sheep rather than it being plain to make it extra cute.
People often have a specific animal that they like to collect and we've been asked to make lots of different animals as silver charms. For this dog charm we were asked to make it to look like their pet. We worked from a few photographs that they sent to us.
This charm was engraved with the dog's name on the back. We've also made a charm for someone who has a sausage dog and pair of earrings for someone in the shape of their dog.
As well as pets, we've been asked to make charms in the shape of wild animals such as a giraffe, a squirrel and hare.
The beautiful thing about these charms is that they one of a kind, designed and handmade in my workshop in Ayr. Even though they are unique, it is still possible to replace them if they are lost, which often can't be done if an item is mass produced and discontinued. We keep all of our sketches so we can make an exact replica if necessary for the person it is bought for.
Tip number 7 is to be inspired by music. Music can play a very important part in people's lives, whether they play an instrument or connect important memories to a song.
We were asked to make a bangle for a woman who plays the cello. The bangle was to fit snuggly on her wrist so it would be able to be worn when she performed. Her parents commissioned this gift for a special birthday. The bangle has a treble clef knot shape and pivots on one side, hooking closed on the opposite.
For a different woman, we were asked to make a necklace that was a design she had created of a bass clef and treble clef. She has the design tattoo on her wrist so her parents knew she'd love it in silver.
Music has a profound effect on the body and it also had the power to bring us together. A customer asked me to make a pendant inspired by the song Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. Some people will know it by the lyric "Don't worry about a thing, 'Cause every little thing gonna be alright" She said on the night her husband left her and her two young children, this song was playing on the radio. Ever since, they have called themselves the three little birds and have a very close, strong relationship. For her daughter's birthday, she wanted me to make a pendant with three little birds to let her know that even as she grows and leaves home, they will always be together.
Tip number 8 of making gift giving fun is to buy for yourself. There no better way to ensure the person getting it is going to love it.
A customer saw a heart shaped diamond that I had purchased when I shared a video of the loose stone on Facebook. Like me she fell in love with it on first sight. Heart cut diamonds can vary a lot in shape but there was something about this stone that looked so perfect. She said she had been looking at heart cut diamonds for a number of years and she knew immediately this was the one for her. She asked me to design a ring to suit it that was a little bit different to a traditional single stone ring.
I decided to create a ring called "hearts on fire" because of the immediate attraction. The diamond is held in a three claw setting and the band has tiny diamond flames that look as if they are moving up to the centre stone.
Sometimes having gemstones to use is a good reason for buying something for yourself. One of my customer's had a ring with some blue sapphires in it that she wanted to use for sentimental reasons. She wanted the main stone in the ring to be a peridot so we sourced a stone that she saw loose. She wanted the ring design to be similar to my Knot the End collection. We created a one of a kind ring for her with the peridot in the centre of the knot and the sapphires on one sweeping curve and the result is a very sculptural and elegant statement ring.
Tip number 9 of ways to make gift giving fun is to buy a present for someone who is having a difficult time. We all have times in our lives when it feels like nothing is working out and that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It's hard to ask for help when you believe there isn't a solution but sometimes you don't need a solution, you just need to know that people who love you are there for you.
A group of friends commissioned these cufflinks for a friend who was going through tough times. They said they wanted something with a Batman logo because they wanted their friend to know that they thought he was a hero and he could call on them whenever he needed to. I took the shape and split it in two so that each cufflink was an abstract shape that only looks like the batman logo when placed together.
The way the light hits off the flat surface, the cufflinks can look white, or black or reflect colours in the room.
A bit of light in the dark can be all it takes to make someone's day.
Tip number 10 is to buy a joint gift for you and your friends or family. It's the completely guilt free way to treat yourself and a lovely way to show someone how much they mean to you.
The pendant below was made for two sisters. It is a design from my Kiss and Make Up collection which expresses the idea that the strongest relationships are built on the ability to fall out but to always overcome the inevitable conflict that living together causes. The two separate pendants in the kiss + make up collection are designed to move so they can “break up” but always “make up” again in a kiss. The original design has the two parts on the same chain and they move when worn. This pendant was customised so the two parts were put on different chains so each sister could wear a part. There was also a shape added to the section at the front so that it can form a heart when the two parts are together.
I was also asked to design a two part necklace for two little 5 year old girls who are best friends. They are always making pinkie promises so I was to design an affordable necklace set that they could wear everyday around this idea. The simple curved silver link is like a tiny hooked pinkie that can link into the other necklace. I added a small red crystal heart to the design too to make it bright and fun.
Tip number 11 is to buy something for someone who is far away. Many people travel now for work and can't spend as much time with their loved ones as they'd like. Somehow, sending a physical object from you to them is kind of having a part of you there even though you're not.
A man who was working in the middle east contacted me to arrange to send his girlfriend a surprise gift. It was around Christmas and he wasn't able to come home to spend the holidays with her or her birthday. He wanted to make it a very special birthday, one she'd never forget. He asked me to disguise an engagement ring inside a larger box so she wouldn't guess what it was. I gift wrapped the ring and then put in it a large box surrounded by sweeties, then wrapped the larger box.
If she shook the box, she'd hear the sound of the sweets and when she opened it she wouldn't suspect immediately that there was anything else inside. Hidden inside the small box was this ring.
It was a complete surprise and it fitted perfectly. This is one birthday and Christmas that I'm sure was unforgettable.
Maybe you're the one at home and your loved one is travelling. It's nice to give them something from home to carry with them so tip number 12 is to buy a gift for someone with wanderlust.
A couple asked me to make cufflinks for their grandson. It was a special birthday so they wanted something personal made for him. He loves to travel so they asked me to make cufflinks with the world map on them and a little diamond where his home is.
These cufflinks were cut from a piece of flat silver and the map was first drawn on by hand and then hand engraved. The diamond fills the space where the UK is.
Sometimes a love of travel becomes a career. A wife asked us to handmake a very special anchor necklace for her husband who is in the Royal Navy. She sent us his dad's wedding ring and asked for it to be used somehow in the commission. We handmade the anchor which is cut from silver and then filed it to give the 3d detail. We used the wedding ring to create a gold rope that winds around the anchor, cutting the detail in by hand.
This is a gift from his wife and his dad that he can carry with him wherever he goes.
Tip number 13 is to play a game. Play is an essential part of creativity and what better way to make gift giving fun than to make this at the heart of the experience?
A customer wanted a ring for a special birthday but she didn't know what she wanted it to look like. All she knew was that she wanted it to have a coloured gemstone in it. I asked her to play a game with me. She was to look at any images on Pinterest that she liked. The rules were that it was not to be jewellery but simply a picture that caught her eye. She started pinning images and she was surprised that a pattern emerged. She kept selecting images that had a combination of blues and shades of reds.
She was surprised and a little nervous when I suggested we use this colour combination to create a unique ring for her. It is a bold choice but I knew if she had been attracted to these colours in the images, she'd love the finished ring. I designed a ring with blue topazes surrounding a single red tourmaline.
She was delighted with the finished ring. It's something very special that she helped to create that she can keep forever.
Tip 14 is all about fate. Some people believe we don't meet people by accident and that they cross our path for a reason. Gift giving is a fun way to show that you'd like the people you've met to stay in your life.
A customer asked me to make two identical necklaces, one in rose gold without a chain and one in silver. My customer already owned a rose gold chain so we made sure the pendant had a loop on the back that was large enough to fit her chain. The silver version of the pendant was for a very special friend. They had met each other when marshalling a race on the West Highland Way. The pendants have a scaled version of the route engraved on it. My customer also met her husband on the same race.
To anyone else the pendant might just look like a simple abstract design but to them it is immediately clear as to what it is and how special it is.
The next commission needs a little more explanation, even to the person receiving the gift. A customer asked me to make matching necklaces for her and her best friend. They met when they were children and when they were teenagers, her friend moved to Australia. Even though they were separated by thousands of miles, they kept in touch. She told me that strangely, lots of similiar things had happened to them at similar times in their lives, as though they were following the same path on different sides of the world.
I designed two pendants which have a section in silver that moves through a wiggly path. On one side of the pendant is one woman's birthstone and the other's on the opposite. As the piece moves through the pendant's path it symbolises the invisible bond the two women share.
Tip number 15 is more meaningful than fun but still a lovely gift giving idea. Buy something for someone who is no longer here.
Loss is something that people find hard to talk about but there is a lot more awareness at the moment of how helpful it is to acknowledge how much you miss your loved ones and to celebrate the connection you share.
A groom commissioned me to provide a sterling silver locket for his bride-to-be. He knew that the day was going to be very emotional for her because there was someone very important who would not be able to share in their wedding day so he chose to have a locket with the image of the person inside and engraving on the outside that says, "Always with me"
We also made a ring with two moving hearts in gold for a woman to wear as a thumb ring to remind her of loved ones.
Feathers are also often associated with those who have become angels. A handmade feather is extra special.
People don't stop being meaningful after they are gone.
If you really love something, you take care of it so tip number 16 is to buy a gift to maintain the special thing that person already owns and loves. It shows that you know what the person cares about and that you respect them.
We sell a selection of jewellery cleaning kits from Towntalk because we have found them to be the best available home cleaning product. The silver dip comes with a silver polishing cloth and a little brush which allows you to get into recesses or behind stones. The jewel sparkle is ideal for gold jewellery and it comes with a pair of tweezers, a small brush and a micro fiber cloth. These products make great stocking fillers for anyone who loves their jewellery.
Another way to maintain the look of your jewellery is to have it professionally polished. If you have white gold you may also decide to have it rhodium plated after it is polished. Rhodium is an expensive precious metal that is very hard and very white. Most white gold is rhodium plated to give it a bright white look. Getting this done every year or two will keep your jewellery looking like new and it means a regular trip to your jeweller allows them to check the claws and settings for any wear and tear, which insurance companies love because it means you are far less likely to ever loose a stone.
The ring on the right in the image below has been rhodium plated and the ring on the left is silver. Silver is a lovely warm white and rhodium is a cooler shade, like platinum. We sell gift vouchers for rhodium plating which again make great stocking fillers.
When great things happen to you, having someone to share them with is very important. That's why buying a gift for someone graduating is tip number 17. Sharing in your loved ones good times really strengthens a bond and buying a gift made specially for them shows you are proud of their hard work.
The kilt pin below was handmade for a man who was graduating with a medical degree.
The pin is sterling silver and and set with a round cut amethyst. Serpents are connected with poison and medicine. The snake's venom is associated with the chemicals of plants and fungi that have the power to either heal, poison or provide expanded consciousness (and even the elixir of life and immortality) through divine intoxication. Because of its herbal knowledge and entheogenic association the snake was often considered one of the wisest animals, being (close to the) divine. Its divine aspect combined with its habitat in the earth between the roots of plants made it an animal with chthonic properties connected to the afterlife and immortality. The deified Greek physician Asclepius, as god of medicine and healing, carried a staff with one serpent wrapped around it, which has become the symbol of modern medicine. This unique design has two serpents in a Celtic style, twisting around a rod, biting at the amethyst which is traditionally thought to protect against poisons.
I love this cute duck charm we were asked to make for a girl who was awarded head girl at her school. Her dad thought the play on words of Dux and ducks would make her smile.
Sometimes it is the student who buys the gift to say thank you to those who supported them and helped them to reach their goals. These handmade money clips from our Hero collection were made especially as gifts for two university lecturers that the student bought with his first wage. He said he wanted to get them something really special because he felt without their influence he might not have achieved the level of success that he had reached.
Tip number 18 is to create a very special hand-me-down. The following pieces of jewellery have been gifts that are destined to stay in the family and be the subject of stories to share with the grandchildren.
These two rings were made to be worn together by the woman who commissioned them but also to be separated and one given to each of her two daughters in the future. The three colours of metal make a timeless combination and they are set with diamonds.
This very special signet ring has a unique crest designed by a father as a gift to his son. There is something even more special about a family crest that is unique to your family.
A couple had a brilliant idea of creating something for them to share for their pearl wedding anniversary that could also be handed down to their daughter as a piece of jewellery for her to wear in the future. I was given free reign to create an objet d'art using a gold bangle that the wife had and three pearls that they had collected on their travels together. I designed a large knot with the gold bangle twisted inside. Rather than attach the three pearls I have made the knot into a playful object that allows it to be placed in different sides to give different shapes and then the pearls can be dropped into different places too. Not only is this a beautiful visually but it is practical as the pearls can be removed easily to clean the precious metal. The knot with the gold section can also be worn on a chain.
To learn a language is to have one more window to look at the world from. Tip number 19 to make gift giving fun is to use a different language. A couple asked us to make rose gold wedding rings for them, set with diamonds and engraved with french words. One ring says "jamais et toujours" which means always and forever and the other says "joie sans fin" meaning unending joy. French is such a romantic language that it works beautifully.
The use of Latin gives a piece a sense of gravitas and history. To express serious emotions or beliefs, Latin is a great choice.
This bracelet is engraved with the words "semper te amabo" which means I will always love you.
"Nemo me impune lacessit" is the motto of the Order of the Thistle and of the three Scottish regiments of the British Army. Translated, it means “No one harms me without consequences”. According to legend, the phrase derives from the "guardian thistle" which played its part in the defence of the ancient realm of Scotland against a night attack by the Danes, one of whom let out a yell of pain when he stepped on a prickly thistle, thus alerting the Scottish defenders.
This phrase is also at the heart of the Scottish legal system, appearing in courts across our nation. I designed a collection of jewellery with this phrase on it which is immediately recognisable to anyone who has studied law here. A gift from this collection is perfect for someone who has a strong sense of justice.
Many people are familiar with Celtic as a style of jewellery but not many have seen items of jewellery engraved with gaelic words. I was asked to engrave two wedding rings with the phrase "tha gaol agam ort" which means I love you. It is engraved in a continuous unbroken line to symbolise an unending love.
The pendant below might not look like it is a language but it is. The diamonds are set in a pattern that is written in braille. It was made for a woman who learned braille as a hobby because she was curious about the language. She had a sudden change of circumstances and needed to return to work and by chance a job came up using braille. She decided to commission this necklace to celebrate that her curiosity had given her an unexpected gift.
The best way to predict the future is to create it. Tip number 20 is to give a gift inspired by the person's star sign.
This handmade necklace was made for a person with a birthday in July. It has a tiny ruby set in one claw which is the birthstone for the month.
These two stunning rings were made for two women, one who is a Pisces which is a water star sign and one who is a Leo which is a fire sign.
Tip number 21 to make gift giving fun is to involve your children. A gift from you will be more special if you involve other people that are important to the person you are buying for.
These cufflinks were hand engraved copying the handwriting of children who were asked to write their own name. A parent's relationship with their child changes as they get older so keeping memories like this is very important. It's also a lovely way of reminding someone when they are at work that they are loved and needed and special.
The necklace with three hearts was made for a woman with three children who asked their gran to help them buy a special necklace for their mum. Each child drew a heart and their gran then brought the sketch into us to make a version of it in sterling silver.
She wrote to me when she received the necklace to say "Christine it is myself who received the necklace.....thank u so so much....i burst into tears when they gave me it ❤.a special gift that i will cherish forever xxx"
Tip number 22 is great if you are lacking motivation when it comes to gift giving. It's about using motivational quotes to inspire your gift choice.
People often connect with a phrase that inspires them and makes them feel good. The following pieces of jewellery were made for people who loved these quotes.
This is a rose gold star pendant that was hand engraved for a woman. It combines memories of her mum and dad and was bought just as she was starting her own business.
These handmade cufflinks were made for a gift for a work colleague. A person with integrity works with the same honesty and good moral values in any environment. Albert Camus' quote “Integrity has no need of rules” underlines the notion that a person with integrity will behave rightly because it is right, rather than because it conforms to a standard of behaviour. It's a lovely gift to show that you have trust, respect and admiration for the person you are giving them to.
We have a collection called Follow Your Heart. The pieces are inspired by the phrase, follow your heart and it will take you where you need to go. The pieces in this collection all have a solid 9ct yellow gold heart that moves. A customer asked us to customise this design for someone who loves life. They asked for it to be engraved with "live well laugh often love much" with a moving wine glass.