Very many congratulations to our newest addition to the company – Jo Wicker has worked ever so hard to achieve her Professioanl Jewellers Diploma!

She has been our techy now for 2 years and dragged us into the modern age with all the tweets, blogging and facebook-ing!!!! But we are pleased to announce nine months ahead of schedule she has completed and passed the JET 1&2 Jewellery Education Training Course am internationally renowned Professional Jeweller’s Diploma from the National Association of Goldsmiths. Joanne Wicker of Payne & Son Jewellers of Tunbridge Wells, who spent a year studying the distance learning course, is now recognised by the Association as a professional jeweller and may use the letters PJ Dip. after her name.

 “After a career in luxury retail I have settled very comfortably in the jewellery sector which is where my passion lies. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to take this course and have passed with “A” grade all the way through. I have worked hard to achieve this goal in half the allotted time, as well as working full time in this beautiful shop. I am already putting my new knowledge to use and it’s our customers who will get the benefit. I am looking forward to my next challenging course.”

The Diploma, which is split into two parts Jewellery Education Training (JET) 1 & 2 is a nationally recognised professional qualification for jewellers aimed at enhancing customer service, increasing consumer confidence and providing essential product knowledge.

 Michael Hoare, chief executive of the National Association of Goldsmiths said “I applaud Joanne on her achievement and for her commitment to excellent customer service. Customers don’t always know who to trust when buying jewellery, but by asking if the person serving has the Professional Jewellers Diploma, they know that they will get the right advice, information and support.”

 Payne & Son is situated on the old High Street and specialises in contemporary and vintage jewellery as well as porcelain, silverware and giftware. Joanne will officially receive her Diploma at a prestigious ward ceremony to be held at Goldsmith’s Hall in London in March 2013.

Limoges Porcelain Boxes

The makers of Limoges Porcelain de France, have been owned by the same family for the past 46 years. They have, from their beginning, specialized in the making of hand painted boxes as collectibles but are relatively new to the American porcelain scene introducing their boxes there in 1996. Prior to that time they were sold exclusively in Europe and Great Britain.

The collection is quite varied but always has included a very large selection of classic boxes, exquisitely painted in the most traditional designs, often based on the original 18th century Sevres and Vincennes patterns. Unlike other makers who limit production on many of their boxes, they pride themselves on offering continuity in their classics. An example of this is their Premier Egg Box which they have been making for all of their 46 years and which continues to sell even now. It is made in 6 different colors which alone makes this piece unusual. We can offer a changing selection of figural boxes that are extremely imaginative and beautifully executed.  

Limoges porcelain has been made in Limoges, France since the latter part of the 18th century when kaolin, the pure white clay necessary for the production of hard paste porcelain, was discovered in nearby St. Yrieix. Previous to the discovery of kaolin in parts of Europe only China produced hard paste porcelain, (Chinese Export Porcelain). It was brought to Europe for the nobility and wealthy merchants. Soft paste porcelain had been made in Italy, France and Germany but in the production of soft paste porcelain there were many problems, not the least of which was its deterioration over time.

The manufacture of porcelain in France attracted the interest of Madame De Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. Her influence over Louis resulted in The Royal Factory of Sevres, owned by Louis XV. (The name Sevres is world famous for the finest in porcelain manufacture even today and examples of it can be seen in museum collections the world over.) Louis’ ownership insured the success of the factory because Louis and Madame De Pompadour did much of the selling themselves. To say that it was difficult for the nobility of France to refuse to buy porcelain from Louis’ factory is an understatement. One suspects it was life threatening at worst and at the least would result in banishment from court. It appears that Louis and Madame P. applied just a bit of pressure to the members of the court in order to insure the success of the factory. (High pressure selling turns out to have been a “French Period Piece”. We didn’t invent it after all.) In any case, Sevres originated the manufacture of small items which included what we now know as “Limoges Boxes”. (Another small item produced at Sevres was false teeth.)

Originally used as snuff boxes, bonbonnieres, scent flacons, cane heads and etuis, (small carrying cases), in recent years Limoges boxes have come into vogue as charming, decorative and, sometimes, useful collectibles. Today there are more than 36 ateliers, (studios) that design and make these boxes ranging from one end of the quality spectrum to the other. They are all permitted to mark their boxes “Limoges” because they all are made in the city of Limoges and all are made with Limoges kaolin. However, that does not make the boxes equal. Just as the red wines of Burgundy are called Burgundy, no matter the quality of the wine, so all porcelain boxes made in Limoges may be called Limoges boxes no matter the quality of the box.

The boxes are always imaginatively designed, each of the better factories vying for the best boxes of the year with the lesser factories following along doing cheaper and cheaper copies of the previous boxes. Today, on the Internet, there is a company calling their product Lemoge, copying the boxes and selling them for five dollars. It doesn’t take much knowledge to know that they are not Limoges boxes no matter what they are called. True Limoges boxes are made by highly skilled artists who are trained for years before their work is considered exact enough for production. From the making of the mold, the painting of each individual box, the designing of the metal fittings and then fitting them to each box, from beginning to end, all of this is done by highly skilled artisans.

The boxes are all miniature, some as small as 1 inch by 1/2 inch though most are between 2 and three inches in size. Many are numbered limited editions and this is indicated on the base of the box, usually with the artists signature or initials. When they are numbered, the number 1 is the last box made. In the best factories the molds generally produce perhaps 300-400 boxes before they are discarded. If the edition is limited to a 1000, for example, that means more than 1 mold was used. In any case, there are few enough of any one style box made, considering world wide distribution, that in a sense they are all limited editions.


Payne & Son

Following our last exhibition of fine, rare, Australian black oplas, we are pleased to announce that 
September 2012 will see the second exhibition return to 37 High Street, Royal Tunbridge Wells.

From Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th September we will be showcasing some of the finest black opals in England.

The collection comes from a mine at Lightning Ridge, NSW, in Australia, the famed home of some of the world’s most notable specimens of opal. John Wheeler, the mine’s owner and Leisha his wife, the acclaimed jewellery designer who specialises in bespoke designs for black opal jewellery, will both be at Payne & Son in Tunbridge Wells during the week of the exhibition.



“We always love being in England to see old friends and make new acquaintances. We just love our opals and showing them to anyone who is interested in such fabulous natural gemstones.” Say John and Leisha…

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Payne & Son…

Payne & Son Jewellers of Tunbridge Wells, once again welcomes John and Leisha Wheeler all the way from Lightning Ridge in NSW with their amazing collection of rare black opals.

Following the success of last year’s exhibition, this High Street jeweller will once again be displaying a collection of some 300+ loose opal gem stones and gold and silver set opal jewellery by “Leisha Designs”.

Opening Tuesday 25th and running to Saturday 29th September, you are invited to see the collection (and to purchase stones or jewellery – should something take your fancy) and hear the stories from opal miner John Wheeler who discovered in 1995 the largest ever seam of black opals to be found in Australia, which produces over 95% of the world’s opals.

Sadly, mining of black opals in New South Wales is drawing to a close as much of the opal now found is of poorer quality.

The price of gem quality black opal is set to soar as realisation begins to set in that this beautiful stone will become more and more rare as time goes on.

Bring your own opal jewellery in to the shop during the exhibition and John will happily give you a verbal valuation of your own stones, and come along to hear some facts, myths and superstitions which will be dispelled when you learn more about this fascinating gem.

Here are a few fascinating facts to be getting on with :

  • Opals take over 70 million years to form.
  • The first Lightning Ridge opal was found in 1887.
  • 95% of the world’s opals come from Australia.
  • Good luck is thought to be bestowed on the giver and the receiver of an opal.
  • No two opals are the same.
  • Opals were Queen Victoria’s favourite gem stone.
  • Opals are the birthstone for October.
  • Black opals are the most valuable.
  • Opals are the national gem stone of Australia.
  • There are three types of opal: black, white and boulder opals.
  • Collectible patterns include harlequin, pinfire, tiger stripe and flash pattern.
  • The value of an opal is determined by type, colour, brilliance, pattern and shape.
  • Opals consist of tightly packed silica spheres.
  • Opals contain 6-10% water and can crack or craze when subjected to harsh, dry conditions and rapid changes in temperature.
  • Solid opals can be wet or soaked in water without causing problems. Doublets and triplets cannot.
  • Opals can be polished if they lose their shine or become scratched.
  • Treat all jewellery with respect – it will last you longer.



Gentlemen’s Gift Ideas

We all know how hard it can be to find that perfect gift for the men in our lives, so we have put together some ideas for you and hope that it may give you a bit of inspiration. We can also personalise most items – so please ask for further details.

01892 525 874

Watches – Clocks – Watch Boxes – Barometers – Porcelain – Silver Models – Antique Silverware – Contemporary Silverwear – Cufflinks – Gents Jewellery – Bangles & Bracelets – Chains – Tie Tacs – Dress Studs – Money Clips – Business Card Holders – Tie Bars – Collar Stiffeners – Silver Frames – Decanters – Tumblers – Pewter Tankards – Limoges Boxes – Novelty Silver Gifts – Caran d’Ache Writing Instruments – Hip Flasks – Wine Bottle Coasters – Napkin Rings – Pocket Watches & Albert Chains – Stock Pins

A Shared Blog from NAG

The Truth About Opals

by Press & Media Officer: Miles Hoare

Reported by Katherine Jetter

As an Aussie, I have made it my goal to restore Australian opal to a place of prominence and importance in the world of fine jewelry. This beautiful and rare gem is not just Australia’s national gemstone, it is an essential part of the collective culture, history and identity of my country, yet has been largely unappreciated by recent generations. Bringing it to life in fresh and contemporary designs in combination with other precious gemstones, I want to show that opals are no longer about old fashioned designs and trinket tourist jewelry. I have recently been approached to be the ambassador of Australian opal in the US, and I hope to make my country proud by showing to the world what an amazing gem we have to offer.

Like most precious gemstones, opals take millions of years to form. 95 percent of the world’s opals are formed in the barren earth of the Australian outback, while the remaining 5 percent are from Mexico, Ethiopia and Peru. Seasonal rains soak the dry, cracked soil and fill the fractures and cavities of the desert. The running rain water carries with it stones of unusually high mineral composition. Over millions of years, these silica layers accumulate, forming beautiful polychromatic opal deposits for lucky miners to discover.

Opals were a celebrated stone throughout the eclectic Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements in the early 20th century. In recent years, however, their popularity has waned as stones like diamonds, emeralds and sapphires have risen in prominence – thanks in part to the large mining cartels and advertising budgets supporting them. Today, our opal miners are suffering. Opals have become more and more scarce. Once booming towns like Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge are now ghost towns, as miners have been left with no choice but to abandon their mines. The quest to find new opal deposits, however, takes time, as there is no real science to discovering opals in the vast outback.

Until recently, there has been little unity amongst opal miners. This lack of cohesiveness has become a huge roadblock to the salability and prestige of the opal. Opals have traditionally been mined by individuals or small groups of miners, who upon finding gem-quality stones, sell them directly to the market which includes private collectors, salespeople and jewelers. There is no collective strategy on how these precious stones should be distributed to maximize the power of the miners. Instead, sales are sporadic. The finest stones are snapped up by private gem collectors, mostly from Japan, and followed by the US, for personal collections. Independent jewelers seek out individual pieces of the gemstone for their highly unusual and particular designs. While the lower grade material remains in Australia where it is set in inexpensive tourist jewelry. This probably explains why Australians don’t think so highly of their national gemstone! They seldom get to see a high quality opal.

Opal Producers Australia Limited (OPAL) was formed in 2004, with the goal of forming an association of miners who pool together their opal resources to sell as a unified team. They have also developed the first Gemological Digital Analyzer (GDA) system, which offers a scientific grading system of color, clarity, color and cut of opal. With a similar grading system to diamonds, OPAL has the opportunity to become the licensor of the first leading international gemstone grading system, as well as the leading opal grading and trading company in the Australian industry. This will be beneficial to miners and consumers, both of whom will have a stronger understanding of the value and quality of their stones.

Why are opals considered unlucky?

In Sir Walter Scott’s Anne of Geierstein, the beguiling princess Lady Hermione wears a dazzling opal in her hair. The beautiful iridescent stone sparkles spectacularly when she is in fine humor, but flares red when she is not. For this reason the gem is sprinkled with Holy Water, causing it to lose its luster. Hermione becomes ill and faints, as enchanted princesses are wont to do, and is carried to her chamber. The next day nothing but a small heap of grey ashes is found on her bed. Who knows if Scott meant to portray the opal as unlucky to its wearer, but his novel sure did bring bad luck to the opal industry in the early 1800s. Scott more than likely chose the opal over other precious stones for its magical play of color, but the damage was done.

Nothing revives a trend like a famous patron, however, and in the 1850s Queen Victoria did just that for opals. The Queen kept an impressive personal collection and donned opals throughout her reign. Like Princess Kate Middleton today, the fashion world closely watched the Royal British Court and opals soon became sought after around the world. Around this time, a fine quality opal was discovered in far-off Australia. Determined to bring a stop to the rising popularity of opals were the envious diamond merchants of Hatton Garden in London, who started a smear campaign intent on once again damaging the opal’s reputation by portraying it as an unlucky gemstone.

About the author

Daughter to a Greek-Australian mother and German father, Katherine Jetter was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1983. Whilst always remaining Australian at heart, she grew up overseas in England, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Katherine has a BSc in Clinical Psychology and is a GIA Graduate Gemologist and Accredited Jewelry Designer.

Contact: Katherine Jetter, (646) 651-3233;;

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