A Ring of One's Own by Louise Tickle- Part Three

A Ring of One's Own by Louise Tickle- Part Three

The Final Countdown

I’m sitting at my my desk, working.


An email from jamesnewman.co.uk had arrived. I opened it with some trepidation. This would be the CAD (computer aided design) version of James’ initial sketch of my ring.

I had an image of what the design would be like clear in my mind. I scrolled down. And stopped. Oh. Even though I’d been warned that the colours wouldn’t look right, none of the versions on my screen looked as I’d thought they would.

one example of the CAD design

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This was a bit of a shock. I sat back in my office chair and peered at the screen, trying to look at the design more analytically. It was what I’d envisaged, but not quite. Two of the smaller stones felt as if they’d been placed too high against the central sapphire. If they could be slightly, well, squashed down so the design was elongated it would work. Right?

Trying to describe in words what I meant was difficult, but James took on board my slightly – who am I kidding, very – anxious feedback and reworked the the design, coming back to me with within days with alternatives.

amended designs

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Either would have been perfect. I breathed again.

With the first of the two revised options selected, the construction of the ring was now in the hands of James’ workshop in Birmingham. Here are some shots he took of the process.

Hammering photoForming photoConstructionsetting 1

A couple of weeks later I was on a train back home from a job in London. My phone pinged again. Another email from James. This time, to say the ring was ready.

So soon. I’d thought it would be another couple of weeks at least. Finally I let myself start to get excited.

Two days later, the editor took delivery of the ring while I was out. He left it on the kitchen table with the rest of the bills and junk mail. Didn’t text me to tell me it had arrived of course…

He was grafting hard in the garden in brilliant sunshine when I got home and saw the package. I grinned and took it outside. He put down his spade and we sat on the wall as I tore it open. Two thoughts went through my mind as I lifted the lid of the matt black presentation box. Would it fit (not a disaster; jewellery can be resized), and would I like it. Bit scary, that one. But worst of all would be that I kind of liked it, but didn’t really love it.

You need sunlight to really see the complexity of colour in a parti-sapphire.

the finished ring

Finished 3

The blues and greens and yellows of the extraordinary Australian stone sparkled as I took it from the box and held it towards the light. A scatter of green, turquoise and white diamonds set it off beautifully. The ring was fabulously pretty – and fitted.

For days, I couldn’t stop staring at my finger. Quietly, I could tell that the editor was pleased at my giddy delight.

It does however turn out that there are only so many times that wearing a brand new sapphire and diamond ring that you don’t want to get mucky will get you out of doing the washing up.


All pictures copyright James Newman

July 22, 2017 — James Newman
A Ring of One's Own by Louise Tickle- Part Two

A Ring of One's Own by Louise Tickle- Part Two

Fun and games in Vyse Street

It’s the big day. We drop the boys off at school and drive to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter through pelting rain. We’re a few minutes early arriving at James Newmans shop in Vyse St so we sit in the car. Then, out of nowhere, we have an argument.

I say sorry five minutes after I should have done. Now we’re late. Great start.

We decide to cheer up and have a hug as we walk through the door of the shop. Helpfully a large cup of tea and a black coffee are almost instantly placed in our hands by the smiley member of staff  who buzzed us in.  A few reviving gulps later, I start skittering excitedly around the display cases pinpointing various rings I want to try on.

Twinkle twinkle


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James emerges grinning widely and engulfs us with his bear-like handshake. It’s lovely to see him again, paint spatters and all. (He’s been decorating and unsurprisingly, his insistence on a perfect finish means he’s spent weeks –  or rather weeks of late nights – on the prep.) My selection of rings are brought out for me try. It’s like dressing up for grown-ups.

Bespoke design

Commissioning a piece of jewellery is both an education and a thrill. I wasn’t confident enough to embark on it first time round – I felt more secure with what I knew looked great – but this time it’s a creative collaboration. Still, I take a deep breath. I have loved James’ work for years, but when you’re starting from scratch, you place a lot of trust in someone to understand what you’re after. And sometimes you don’t quite know yourself till you see it.

He brings out ‘my’ sapphire.

The colour is spectacular: a brilliant, deep green with tones of blue and a hint of yellow. It’s subtle and constantly changing as light hits the facets from different angles. James shows us other enticing stones too: a  clear parti-sapphire with a blue flash deep in its interior;

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… more sapphires in pinks and yellows, dark purple spinels, fiery opals, rubies and sophisticated ‘salt and pepper’ diamonds, which have black carbon inclusions deep inside.

On the far side of the case, a perfect, pale blue pear-cut diamond draws my eye.

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It’s so vastly expensive that we gasp. But I’m still entranced by the sapphire that James first showed me via email two weeks ago. So this is where we start.


Watching James draw the design is an intensely personal process. He listens closely, taking on board precisely what I like about the rings I try on, as well as what it was about those designs which, once on my finger, don’t work visually, or, sometimes, practically – stone settings that protrude from the ring shank just feel to me like they might get knocked quite easily. It takes half an hour or so of trying different rings on to establish that settings that sit more flush feel better and somehow look ‘right’ on my hand.

James’ pencil swirls and circles across the paper. Suddenly the shapes come together as a design that feels right. We’re all smiling with the sheer pleasure of watching my ring emerge. This is fun.

Detail, detail

Next, a vast selection of smaller sapphires and diamonds are brought out from the workshop in individual containers. Some are so tiny you hardly dare breathe for fear of wafting them away – this is tricky as we’re perusing them closely from above.  A sneeze could be expensive.


With long tweezers, James carefully pushes graduated sizes of deep blue/green and paler aquamarine coloured sapphires and white diamonds into what I suddenly understand is the  layout of the jewels that will become my ring.

Next, a strip of sticky tape anchors the stones to the paper.


The computer aided design process is the next stage, and – I’m amazed when I hear this – my ring will then emerge in wax form from a 3D printer before work begins on the actual construction.

‘Ahem. James… can we afford this?’ I ask, suddenly concerned I may have become giddily carried away by all the sparkly stuff. We were clear about our budget from the off, but god only knows what it’s going to cost at this point – I have literally no idea. James chuckles. ‘I don’t know!’

I widen my eyes and he relents, grinning. ‘I’ll work it out and get back to you – pretty sure it’s going to be all right.’

It’s still pouring down as the editor and I kick it out of the city centre to get back in time for pick up. Somehow the rain doesn’t matter any more. We gloss over the  row, which is mostly sorted. And we do just make it to the school gate on time.

Jewellery photography © James Newman

July 21, 2017 — James Newman