Behind the Scenes: How I Made These Bespoke Swan Cufflinks

One of the things I miss most during this time is the anticipation – who’s going to walk through the door of my jewellery shop and atelier in The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells. Mostly people are stopping by to browse or take a look at my jewellery workshop but sometimes people will bring in jewellery, perhaps something they’ve inherited or passed down or just isn’t their style anymore, that they want to be re-modelled, up-cycled or repaired. This time has also taught me how much is possible remotely so I’m going to continue to offer a complimentary virtual consultation service going forward so do get in touch here if you’d like to arrange a call to discuss a bespoke jewellery commission, remodelling or repair.

Catherine Hills atelier workbench

One the things I love most about my job as a jewellery designer and maker is seeing a piece of jewellery go to a new home and imagining that it will be treasured for years to come and potentially passed down through the generations. As I was making this commission – a pair of bespoke jewellery cufflinks – it was fun to daydream about the story they would tell to future generations.

The Brief

The brief was to make cufflinks that were based around The Vintners’ Company emblem of two swans, flanking the heraldic crest, that were further personalised with the person’s initials.

The Worshipful Company of Vintners

The Vintners’ Company dates back to 1363 and is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London. Wine was one of the prominent trades in the Middle Ages and to this day the company, with its trade, social, charitable and educational interests, still continues to plays and important role.

The Research

As the brief was to create a pair of bespoke rectangular cufflinks, I had a very tight space to include a lot of detail. I studied the crest to make sure I could bring the story of The Vintners’ Company to life.

Swan at Hever Castle, Kent

Swans are fabulous, so majestic with their long, curved neck. I absolutely love the way they glide on the top of the water so effortlessly. Above is a photo I took at Hever Castle of a swan swimming on the boat. The most amazing swan fact is they have one partner for life and if their partner is killed, they can die of heartbreak.

A Detailed History

I looked at the crest to see which parts were the most important to include. I felt it had to be the fabulous bunch of grapes around each swan's neck.

Catherine Hills Jewellery swan sketchbook

I did some sketching and decided it would be much nicer as there are two swans to include them both so one faced one way and the other the other looking at one another.

English Craftmanship

I really take pride in keeping old traditions and craftsmanship alive and it’s important to me that all of my work is made in the UK by British craftspeople.

Catherine Hills Jewellery hand-carved wax for swan cufflinks

For this project I collaborated with a fantastic female British hand wax carver. After researching the design, I did a detailed, scaled drawing to send to her.

Making my design

It’s always such a thrill to see my design brought to life in 3D. The skill of my wax carver is mind blowing – something I wish I had the patience to do but don’t!

Catherine Hills Jewellery hand-carved wax for swan cufflinks

The face and beak were beautifully detailed but it’s the grapes that I love – they are so characteristic of the Vintner swans. As a signature touch, I’d also incorporated some of my bobble texture to add further interest and character to the design.

The Final Touches

The wax carving was used to make a mould and the cufflinks were then cast in sterling silver. I hand-finished and perfected the final design and added the loops and chain I’d chosen.

Catherine Hills Jewellery swan shirt studs

It was quite heavy as they were a substantial 25mm in height. I then sent them to my hand engraver to add the three initials. Finally, I oxidised the finished piece to blacken some parts of the recesses to accentuate the final design.

The Reveal

The customer was really happy with then and it made a truly unique gift for her husband, along with the shirt studs we made to match.

Catherine Hills Jewellery swan cufflinks

I hope they will be worn often and be a great talking point at the wonderful dinners that the Vintner's Company holds, once we are back to normal. Then maybe they will be passed on through the generations. I hope they will be passed to his daughter one day. Women look great in cufflinks.

If you’d like to find out more about commissioning a unique piece of jewellery you can read more here. If you have any questions you can email me here or contact me to arrange a complimentary consultation to discuss a jewellery commission, jewellery re-modelling or repair.