With the final episode of All That Glitters over and the winner now unveiled, that means one thing: it is the final edition of our six-part column with Goldsmiths’ Company librarian Eleni Bide.
As she looks back on the finale and the first season as a whole, Bide says that the show gave jewellery and jewellery makers a humanity that the public does not always see or appreciate.
One of the things I’ve really appreciated about All that Glitters has been its lack of histrionics – the judges managed not to weep, and the contestants held it together. But that didn’t stop me from whooping from my sofa when the winner was announced.
It was emotional in lots of ways – not least in the type of jewellery chosen for the bespoke challenge.
For many people, jewels to mark a marriage are often the most significant (and expensive) precious items they will ever buy. A mainstay of the jewellery industry, they are loaded with sentiment and meaning.
This was captured brilliantly through the maang tikka, a traditional bridal headdress which has been part of South Asian culture for over 1,000 years.
Its position at the centre of the forehead has spiritual significance, but the contestants were also able to use their designs to make it more meaningful for the client, with Tamara choosing mother of pearl as an emblem of prosperity and protection.
Hugo’s ruby-set piece was the client’s favourite, and according to George Frederick Kunz, who wrote his classic The Curious Lore of Precious Stones in 1913, rubies are valued throughout the world for their auspicious properties (for those curious about the symbolism of gems and jewels from around the world, the Goldsmiths’ Company’s library is a treasure trove of information).
The achievements of the three finalists were just as uplifting as their designs.
The format of the final gave them the space they needed to showcase their talent. With the practicalities of making in mind, they were allowed to create the chains for their maang tikka beforehand, and were encouraged to refine skills they had used before, bringing in additional tools.
The focus on improvement and perfection celebrated what it takes to become an excellent jeweller (and I also really enjoyed seeing Dan’s microscope make an appearance).
The judges highlighted how Dan, Tamara and Hugo had all made real progress over the show – with Dan finding his stylistic voice, Tamara improving her confidence, and Hugo focussing hard on the brief.
With no lights off after the first challenge and strong words of encouragement from the judges, the final episode bought out the importance of nurturing, support, and how being part of something encourages creativity.
The achievements of the three finalists were just as uplifting as their designs.”
It’s no surprise that the three finalists have strong backgrounds in the industry to draw on – Tamara as an RCA graduate and maker with a studio in the business incubator Cockpit Arts; Dan as a jeweller with 25 years of experience at the bench; and Hugo as one of the very first students on the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s foundation programme.
As the winner at just 24, what gave Hugo the edge? He is in no doubt that his apprenticeship training played a big role: “What I gained from the traditional route is something I couldn’t have got anywhere else,” he said, crediting the one-to-one support he got from other craftspeople including his master Richard Talman (himself a former apprentice, and, like Hugo, a Freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company).
Hugo is too modest to mention his own hard work but his quip from the show that all those “late nights” and missed evenings at the pub had paid off gave a taste of his drive and determination.
So now that series one is over, what can the UK jewellery industry take away from All that Glitters?
Perhaps Hugo should have the last word: according to him the show has “shone a light on how jewellery is made”. When he was younger he “thought jewellery was all machined… [but] the best jewellery is always by hand. That’s where the humanity comes into it.” Amen to that.