A lot of work goes into every commissioned item of jewellery that we make and it is a really special and exciting process to be part of. I wonder if many people think that commissioning a piece of jewellery is something that would be expensive or complicated but it can be a very affordable, enjoyable and memorable experience, resulting in an unique piece that becomes a treasured family heirloom.
I thought you might fine it interesting to share in the experience of a commissioned kilt pin that we made a few years ago.
A customer of mine wanted to commission kilt pins for a wedding for their husband and son. We had a brief chat about the kind of thing they wanted. They wanted something unique but with a Celtic feel as her husband is Irish and she is Scottish. I did some brief research into their family clan. Their crest has a boar which is speared with an arrow. I felt that the shape of the boar was likely to dominate the kilt pin so I asked them how they felt about a design which incorporated fish as both the groom and his father are fishermen and also their name is Pollock. They really like that idea so I worked on a few very rough sketches. I kept the arrow shape as the main part of the design and experimented with a few different traditional Celtic fish designs. I narrowed my sketches down to two options which if they hadn't liked, I would have worked on alternative ideas. Happily, they liked both and they chose the second one below.
As these drawings are only very rough sketches, the next stage was to draw the design out on tracing paper so the shape of the outline was symmetrical.
The drawing then has to be traced onto a piece of silver. I covered the silver with white stickers so I can trace the drawing onto the metal.
Then the design is pierced out by hand which is the image on the left below. Next, the kilt pin is filed to make it look as if the left half crosses over the right half and finishes in a pointed ridge at the bottom.
Then a brooch pin fitting is soldered onto the back.
Next the whole piece is polished to bring it to a bright finish as it is on the left below, and finally the detail is hand engraved on the fish as it is on the ring below. The last stage is to hand make the silver pin and attach it to the fittings that were soldered on earlier.
We made two identical kilt pins and engraved on the back a Hugh MacDiarmid poem called The Weapon.
"Scots steel tempered wi' Irish fire
Is the weapon that I desire."
These are two very special pieces of jewellery that I know will be passed through their family for generations as a loving memory of the Scottish woman and Irish man who is their link to their past.