My jewellery-filled weekend in London

Just back from my weekend in London and while I wouldn’t give up living in Edinburgh for the world, I’m glad that London is close enough (ish) for a quick trip down south for that little bit of extra oomph when it comes to Chinese tea time (yum cha) and bubble tea when I need it. With it being such a big city as well, you also get excellent exhibitions like the Cheapside Hoard exhibition at the Museum of London which I posted about.

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Entrace to The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels exhibition

Entry to the Museum of London is free, however entry to the exhibition is £10. It’s worth just showing up at the Museum and asking for the next available timeslot to avoid the £1.50 booking fee and if you can, avoid bringing any coats or bags with you as these will not be permitted in the exhibition and you’ll need to put it in a locker for a non-refundable fee of £1. Having said that, the exhibition is well worth visiting, as the craftsmanship that went into making those pieces are extraordinary.

In respect for the exhibition, I didn’t take too many photos of the exhibit items as I feel the pieces need to be seen in person to fully appreciate the beauty of the gemstones themselves and the work that went into the pieces. The pieces date back to the 16th and 17th century and were discovered by workmen at a site was being taken apart for construction in the cellar in 1912.

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Watching the programme on BBC4 brought some insight into the diplay of the jewels. For example, all chains (including the one above) are so delicate that it can’t be displayed without any sort of support. So if you look closely at the chains at the exhibit, you’ll see that at intervals, the chains are hand-sewn onto thick metal tubing or wire to hold the chains in place.

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I wasn’t completely decided whether or not to go to the exhibit, but I’m definitely glad I went. I was in such awe of what work has gone into producing those pieces and couldn’t believe how small the emerald clock and salamander pieces that they showed on the programme on BBC4 was! I’m definitely glad that I ended up going, because it’s going to be one of those experiences as a learning jewellery designer how much work goes into creating an intricate design on a simple piece, not just more complex designs.

Then of course, there was the main event that I went to London in the first place for: the hallmarking seminar at The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office. The seminar was held in a majestic looking room full of coats of arms of previous hallmarking wardens and portraits of prominent figures. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the rooms we were in, but we all walked away amazed with the history that still remains within the building (including court minutes from 1332) and all other forms of history that date back centuries. From the seminar, we learned:

•What is a hallmark?
•The Hallmarking Act 1973 and other legal Hallmarks
•Recent and forthcoming legislation
•Adding value through hallmarking
•Not just hallmarking – the modern assay office today
•Supporting the craft and its future through hallmarking
•Modern day assaying
•Understanding and the application of Hallmarks
•Fakes & Forgeries
•Introduction to the Company Library and Assay Office Archives

One thing I’m most proud of, is the certificate I came away with in my goody bag at the end of the day:

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At the end of the day, it’s an eye-opening experience to know in the world of consumers and sellers, how many independent sellers don’t hallmark their precious metal items which is in fact, illegal. What’s also interesting to note is that owning an unhallmarked item is also illegal. All consumers should know their rights and beware of retailers who insist that hallmarking an item will mean the cost of your item will cost considerably more (this is untrue, having an item sent to an assay office for hallmarking and processing should cost no more than approx. £10 – this is a rough idea as each assay office will have their own individual prices) and that it’s an optional mark, it’s not.

For more information, have a look at this document from The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office which tells you more about what you need to know about the hallmarks on your gold, silver, platinum or palladium item as a consumer.

What’s best is you also meet other jewellery-making hobbyists and independent sellers as well as delegates from well-known jewellery retailers. I’m pleased to say from conversations with other delegates at the seminar, I happened to meet Anne Tweed of White Oak Jewellery who produces contemporary designs, but mostly features lovely works of craftsmanship using chain maille methods in creating lovely semi-precious gemstone pendants, necklaces and bracelets. To see Anne’s pieces that are available for purchase, see her Etsy store.

Last but not least, you can’t go to a new city or country without taking away some memorable places to eat, drink and be merry! I thought I was too old for this, after all I’m no longer a child. But when my brother suggested going ot M&M’s World near Leicester Square, I couldn’t say no to bringing home my own personal mix of M&M’s! It’s not just your regular milk chocolate or peanut M&M’s either, you get all sorts of souvenirs that appeal to adults and children alike!

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M&M’s World, London

So used to seeing dispensers for Jelly Beans that don’t always appeal to me, I was amazed to see the rainbow of colours for M&M’s!

As a Chinese person, one of the most nostalgic meals you’ll ever miss if you don’t get to experience it often is yum cha, also known as Chinese tea time with dim sum, small servings of dishes where you get to try different dishes without getting full too quickly.

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Dim sum with my brother and relatives in London’s Chinatown

There are so many places to choose from in Chinatown that you can’t just really stop with one. In the weekend I was there, I’ve already been to 2 yum cha places with my brother and relatives and they’ve both been really satisfying to my picky tastebuds. One other place you can’t miss (and I wish they had a store here in Edinburgh, I’d be visiting it everyday!) is to get your fix of bubble tea (or milk tea with tapioca pearls) at Chatime in London’s Chinatown.

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Chatime, London Chinatown

Having experienced ‘Chinese takeaway’ food, any Chinese person can tell you that what’s served isn’t really proper Chinese food. All the dishes (apart from boiled rice) has been adapted to suit the taste of local residents in the country. It’s not just Chinese food though, even Indian, Bengali and Pakistani people can tell you that so-called ‘authentic’ restaurants don’t always give you a true idea of what their traditional cuisine will taste like. My personal favourite indicator? When you decide to go to a restaurant or shop to try out their food/drink, check to see if there are many (if any) customers of that ethnic background. For me, if I’m visiting a Chinese restaurant, if there aren’t any Chinese people sharing in the delights, it’s most likely not authentic enough for us.

How does this relate to Chatime’s bubble tea? If you can see from the photo, almost all the customers in the long queue are Asians so it’s pretty much a guarantee that it’s a good place to frequent. My brother also told me that they’ve got stores in Hong Kong and other countries as well so it must be good. Well, I can tell you I’ve never been more surprised at how much choice there is in making just one cup of bubble tea – you can get grass jelly or red beans along with your tapioca pearls, choose from a range of teas, milk teas or juices as well as decide how much sugar or ice you want in your cup. I just went with the simple kind:

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My hazelnut bubble tea from Chatime

I’ve also got further updates on local Edinburgh eateries and other news which I will post later on!

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