Making the Flame Brooch

This was a rather special commission for a high profile event (more of that at the end!). The brief was to design and make a brooch / pendant inspired by the theme of a flame, and incorporate the colours bronze, silver and gold!

I decided to use rose, white and yellow golds – perfect to reflect the colours of bronze, silver and gold. To add strength and gradients to these colours I chose to use coloured diamonds set into the gold panels of the same colour. The diamonds would also add a glittering effect as the piece as it is worn, especially set into rolling curved surfaces, thereby enhancing the flame theme.

The final watercolour and gouache design, drawn to scale.

Raw materials, 18ct rose, white and yellow golds

After drawing the design to scale and painting it with watercolour and gouache, I could plan how much gold I needed and get a selection of diamonds to choose from. At this point the cost was confirmed and the commission was confirmed as a ‘go-ahead’.

Construction of the piece

Good enough to eat! Natural (not treated) coloured diamonds ready for sorting

Paper to metal. The cutting pattern outline in the foreground, part-made gold flame (coated with wax to adhere the upturned chosen diamonds) and the original sketch behind.

Once I had cut out, curved and soldered the gold panels, the fun of sorting the diamonds for size, and colour gradation, began. It took two days before I was happy the the selection. I then had to transfer each stone onto a waxed paper lay-out of the flame shape so that they remained in the correct sequence!

Piercing the back-holes

The brooch with back rail added, awaiting the hinge and catch.

Part of the finesse of a fine piece of jewellery is seen in the attention to, and beauty of, detail at every stage. Once I’d drilled the correct size tapered hole for each diamond to sit in, I shaped the back of every hole into a flowing pattern to complement the style of the brooch and give a pleasing pattern to the entire surface.

The back rail enables the piece to sit properly onto a garment when worn as a brooch, it allows a natural space for the hinge, pin and catch, but on this piece it also contains a concealed loop so that it can become a pendant by threading a chain through the top.

Finishing touches

The finished result!

Once the piece had gone up to the London Assay Office for its hallmarks it was set with the 85 diamonds. The style of setting is know as ‘PavĂ©’ – French for ‘to pave’ – the idea being to cover the surface like a stones in a pavement. The diamonds sit down into the tapered holes that I cut, then small grains of gold are raised/ rolled up over them from the edges. They are rounded to form a series of tiny beads which hold the stones in place.

The presentation of each piece is very important to me – to reflect the care and attention to detail that is given to its creation. I wanted to include details which recorded the story and meaning. In this case, the original design, record of its making and technical specification were included in a beautiful bespoke case.

The icing on the cake was the kind invitation to the Olympian dinner, hosted by Seb Coe and many fellow Olympians, where the flame brooch was auctioned (for the highest bid of the evening!) to raise funds for the Millfield Foundation scholarships and bursaries. It was wonderful to meet some of the world’s top athletes and hear their fascinating stories of success – you can read more about the event in my blog post.