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Meet the Experts: Will Sharp, Bench Jeweller

Meet the Experts: Will Sharp, Bench Jeweller
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Meet our resident Bench Jeweller, Will. When he isn't sorting and selling vintage jewellery, he's at his workbench restoring broken-but-beautiful items into new and unique pieces. We chatted with Will to find out about his experience, where he goes for inspiration, and the pieces he's been coveting.

Hi Will, tell us a little bit about how you got into the jewellery industry. 

Hello! I studied 3D design at Leeds College Of Art and whilst there, I realised my interests lay between 3D Product Design and Fine Art. I found the perfect middle ground, where I could combine both disciplines was jewellery, so I went on to study Silversmithing & Jewellery Design (BA Hons) at the Glasgow School of Art. 

Male hands crafting a silver ring
Will at his workbench

Nice! What are the key factors in recognising valuable jewellery?

I would say the most common factor is the material. Ask yourself, is it precious? Is it old? Branded? And is the condition good?

The key to spotting unmarked gold would be the weight. If it feels light, then examine it to see if there are there any scratch marks on the surface where another metal might be showing through. The next question would be, if you don't see anything wrong, does the surface have a soft almost buttery feel to it? If it does then it's likely the piece is gold. Understanding the colour will also help to identify the carat and age of the jewellery.

What inspires you and draws you to a piece of jewellery?

I’m drawn to both precious and non-precious materials and how they can be adapted and incorporated into wearable objects. I love seeing trends throughout history, where unexpected materials made an appearance and became popular. And our response to the use of these materials today. 

Gradient of rainbow coloured bakelite rings
Bakelite Jewellery

Can you give us any examples? 

I love the use of plastic jewellery and how some types are now classed as antique, dating back much further than most of us would realise. Bakelite, for example, was invented back in 1907 and is now a huge collectable. Plastic jewellery is extremely diverse, great for adding colour, and unusual forms can be really comfortable to wear, however, its overuse has become taboo in recent years - and rightly so! So, I'd love to see current production practices adapted and more sustainable, renewable alternatives become the norm within jewellery.

Amazing. What is the most weird and wonderful item you’ve found while working at VCC?

Definitely an ostrich leather brooch. Ostrich leather was a popular material for handbags during the 1950s but I had no idea what it was made from. It wasn’t a valuable piece but definitely one of the strangest.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into jewellery or the antique business?

Don’t be daunted by a lack of knowledge! Find your area of interest whether that be furniture, jewellery or household objects. Something as simple as following relevant accounts on Instagram or visiting exhibitions can be a huge source of knowledge and inspiration. Remember, you're never going to know everything but just approach the industries with an open mind. Companies like VCC are a great place to learn and develop your interest, a place where everyone is willing to share their knowledge and passion. 

Bookshelf with a large selection of books and decor covering the top
The Vintage Cash Cow Office

What’s your favourite thing about working as a Bench Jeweller for VCC?

The people, the shared interests and shared passion along with the friendly atmosphere help to create a workplace that is completely unique.

Memphis-inspired brooch by Guillemette L'hoir

And is there an item you’ve received and loved so much you’ve kept for yourself? 

Last year we received a Memphis-inspired brooch by Guillemette L'hoir, which I had to keep for myself - it's easily one of the best pieces I own. It was made between 1980 and 1994 from Galalith plastic and has a classic mid-century modern aesthetic. I specialised in making mid-century-inspired contemporary jewellery at Uni so it’s great to handle and collect pieces that I have a huge interest in.

Have you got any jewellery to sell?

Pile of mixed gold jewellery

We're the UK’s first platform that helps people sell their old and vintage items through a free-to-use postal service. Instead of throwing away these broken or damaged items, Will suggests carefully packing them into boxes and generating some extra cash. Find out more about the jewellery we buy here.

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