27 Jan 2013

Highstreet Highlight: Affordable Homeware . . .

- Glass owl vase - Matalan - £8
Set of 3 filled glass votives - Laura Ashley - £14.40
Rabbit ornament - M&S - £19.50
Boutique small bowl - Matalan - £8
Triangle pastel pop hand and bath towels - Matalan - From £4 - £7
Terrainium - Next - £45
Light blue metal bird - Debenhams - £6
Glass Cockatoo - Next - £22 
Beehive treat jar - Next - £10
Pair of Bloomsbury tea-towels - Laura Ashley - £8.64

Let Lily Know: Have you found any bargain homeware treats so far this year?

22 Jan 2013

Guest post: Astley Clarke on the origins of Gemstones . . .

Astley Clarke was founded by Bec Astley Clarke in London in 2006 to celebrate the world’s very best in fine jewellery design and craftsmanship and to pioneer the very best in online luxury. Here, in a fascinating guest post for Lily in the Labyrinth's 'Learn with Lily' series, the brand gives some insight into the origins of precious gemstones . . .

When you walk into a jewellery store, or even open your own jewellery box, you are met with stunning pieces of jewellery laced with gorgeous gemstones and other beautiful adornments. But have you ever wondered where these precious gemstones come from? They may be stunning on the surface, but the true beauty lies within the story that is behind them...
There are lots of beautiful gemstones which are used to create striking fashion items; from a deep sapphire gem ring to a stunning ruby necklace - the choice is endless. Yet, most of these gorgeous gemstones began their journey under the Earth's surface - not one of the most glamorous places; that's for sure. Nevertheless, the process which takes place in order to create each gemstone differs between each gem.

Above: Zara Simon 'Shard Ring' featuring green amethyst | Ruth Tomlinson 'Diamond Cluster' ring featuring grey diamonds | Astley Clarke 'Masquerade Hare' pendant featuring milky moonstone | Astley Clarke 'Square Sonatina' pyrite earrings

Most gemstones are created via the process of minerals and water coming together. The two components get close to the Earth's surface and react against one and other, resulting in a dissolve. The remains of this process will eventually cool down and turn into beautiful stones. Of course, what stone you are left with all depends on which minerals were involved in the reaction. For example, azurite forms when rocks which are high in copper mix with water. On the other hand, amethyst is created when rocks which are high in silica mix with water.
In addition to this, there are lots of precious gemstones which are created via the igneous process. These gems include the likes of topaz, diamonds, moonstone and tanzanite. This occurs when magma rises through the volcano pipes and then solidifies once it reaches the Earth's surface. The solidification process results in crystals and thus, the gorgeous gemstone is formed. 
Above: Astley Clarke 'Night Owl' necklace feat. labradorite | Mushroom 'Bolsena Bracelet' feat. labradorite, milky aqua, moonstone and diamond | Ostinato coral 'Eternity Ring| Astley Clarke 'Lucky Cat' friendship bracelet feat. black rhodium.

Another method of rock creation is the metamorphosis process. This procedure occurs when rocks are affected by monumental amounts of heat and pressure, and can often be as a result of intrusive magma in the area. This forces them to go through a transition period which actually results in a complete change of form. The result is stunning gems, such as sapphire, ruby and jade
Above: Anne Sportun 'Stardust Ring' feat. diamonds | Monica Vinader 'Mini Luna Ring' feat. moonstone | Astley Clarke 'Blue Moon Fox Pendant' feat. blue tiger's eye | Astley Clarke 'Shine Studs' feat. moonstone | Astley Clarke 'Fanfare Earrings' feat. rhodolite, amethyst and carnelian 

So there you have it; three of the most popular ways in which precious gemstones are formed. It is amazing to think that the gems we wear on our jewellery pieces started their life underneath the ground and that a series of chemical reactions resulted in such beauty. Next time you pick up that stunning ruby gem ring, you may wonder where in the world the precious stone began its journey, when it went through the metamorphosis process and how it ended up sparkling on your finger. 

(Written for Lily in the Labyrinth by: Bianca Ridley)

Lily Says: For further reading, be sure to check out Astley Clarke's brilliant gemstone guide. The brand stocks really lovely gemstone jewellery, some of my favourite picks feature above in this post - I particularly like the Blue Moon Fox Pendant and the Ruth Tomlinson ring! Which piece is your favourite? I'd love to know :)

17 Jan 2013

Learn with Lily: WW1 Sweetheart Pincushions . . .

These embroidered cushions, measuring about 20cm in width and decorated with beading and decoupage are known as Sweetheart Pincushions. Produced in World War One (1914-1918) mostly by wounded soldiers as they recovered in hospital, they were sent home to wives, mothers and loved ones as a token of affection across the miles.
Often featuring short mottos such as “Forget Me Not” and “Remember Me”, plus snippets of verse, these cushions act as a tender expression of remembrance and record a little piece of history. As you can see below, one cushion features a popular World War One poem that reads as follows:
When the golden sun is sinking,
And your mind from care is free.
When of others you are thinking,
Will you sometimes think of me.

Purchased as kits containing printed fabric, threads and beads – all the materials a soldier would need to hand craft a memento for his loved ones - Sweetheart Pincushions measure up to 20cm and were likely never used as pincushions but rather kept as treasured tokens of love.
Clearly a labour of love, I find the detail and mottos absolutely heart-breaking. Despite the terror, tragedy and fear that war threw at these brave soldiers, every one of these intricate, delicate little hand-crafted hearts tells a story that has such love and hope in every stitch.  

Below: Details of a Sweetheart Pincushion produced by a soldier in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 51st+105th Foot.
It’s been hard to find much information on these cushions online, but if you are interested in further reading, Amazon stocks a book entitled 'Sweetheart and Mother Pilows' by Patricia Cummings on the subject. 

16 Jan 2013

Lily Loves: Artist prints by Judy Kaufmann . . .

I love these artist prints by Barcelona-based freelance illustrator Judy Kaufmann. The use of simple, block colours and the way Judy uses only the bare-bones details of how we identify certain icons make these prints really appealing to me. If you visit Judy's website or Etsy shop, you'll see that she depicts a whole range of icons in this style, including David Bowie, Batman and Robin, Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon.

Find Judy: Blog / Website / Twitter / Etsy
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