It Must Run in the Family….

My dad has just turned 70…..   Now, 10 years ago this man thought that computers were evil and owning one, God forbid, would lead to the collapse of civilisation as we know it (he still thinks that about cell / mobile phones….but I digress).  Time can be a great game changer! Not only, does my dad now have a laptop, but he also has a blog (with his own photos), and is writing a series of articles for a website.   I would never have guessed that one day he and I would be swapping notes on blogs and links and such like….

The sun setting over Titchwell Marsh lagoon, titchwell marsh reserve, sunset, rspb reserve

The sun setting over one of the lagoons adjoining Titchwell Marsh reserve

Ray’s Rambles is a blog that was started when the local RSPB bird reserve at which my dad is a volunteer warden, Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk, England (which I have to say is the best in the country – totally unbiased of course) was undergoing major renovations. During this time the majority of the reserve was closed and so attention was diverted to life forms other than birds.  My Dad started out with a challenge to find 800 different species – plants, bugs, butterflies, moths, birds, you name it – during this period.  To date, and now the reserve is fully opened once again, the total sits at 1132 species! (Over achiever!) 

Bird watching at Titchwell Marsh reserve, rspb,

Dad attempting to teach us the finer points between various waders, on the banks of Titchwell Marsh Reserve

Titchwell Marsh is this year celebrating its 40th year.    Apparently dad is the only person who has been around throughout the reserve’s entire 40 years!  Way to go dad!  In this capacity, and with new celebrity status, he has been asked to contribute 40 articles for the next 40 weeks, looking back over the last 40 years from when it opened back in 1973. 

Looking out across Titchwell Marsh, titchwell marsh reserve, bird watching

Looking out across Titchwell Marsh Reserve on a blustery day – in the middle of the picture way in the distance is the house where I grew up (actually its a golf club, but we lived on the premises)

I ascribe my love of all things natural – stones, shells, flowers, birds, butterflies, animals, etc. to my dad and the many hours we spent tramping along the beach, golf course and local countryside in search of various treasures and sightings.  We were interested in all things and had a need to know exactly what everything was – flora or fauna! (My mum did freak out somewhat when we decided to build a moth-trap – she hates moths!)

Black Arches moth

Black Arches moth. 30 years on – still catching moths! Although now it’s at the reserve and not at home (much to mum’s relief).

So here’s to Dad, who taught me to appreciate the natural world around me, which is kind of how I ended up making jewellery – my love of stones sort of lead me there, eventually;  and who’s proven you most certainly can teach an old dog new tricks – remember, it’s never too late!


The Return of a Best-Seller!!

I don’t often make more than one of a particular handmade necklace design, but this necklace design is one I have been making in limited quantities for the last 4 years – since I started making jewellery in fact.  It has proved enduringly popular.

Turquoise howlite pendant necklace, handmade jewellery, handmade gemstone necklace, turquoise necklace, turquoise jewellery

This was the first item I listed in my Big Skies Jewellery Etsy shop. In fact it was the only item I listed in my Etsy shop when I first set it up – in truth I only loaded one (bad) photo as a test to see how it all worked. 

Turquoise howlite pendant necklace, handmade jewellery, handmade gemstone necklace, turquoise necklace, turquoise jewellery

You have never seen anyone more surprised, and delighted, than I was when I received an email to say that someone had brought my “test photo” necklace!!  This necklace design therefore has a very special place in my affections.

Turquoise howlite pendant necklace, handmade jewellery, handmade gemstone necklace, turquoise necklace, turquoise jewellery I have just re-listed the necklace back on Etsy, with new photos(!), after having found a new supplier of the central teardrop pendant beads. At only $18.00 this necklace is very affordable, it looks great with casual or smart wear and turquoise never goes out of style.  What’s not to love!  

The necklace has just been featured in a “Turquoise Dream” treasury on Etsy by Sarah Lyall Home.  It is always such a nice compliment to be featured in a treasury list.  And the last six favourites selected from my shop……..yep, all of them…..this necklace 🙂

Turquoise Dream treasury list on Etsy, Etsy treasury, turquoise jewellery items, turquoise jewelry

Visit the Big Skies Jewellery Etsy store to see this and other handmade gemstone necklaces, bracelets and earrings – price ranges to suit all pockets.

Love turquoise?  Read more abut it here

Learn About Gemstones – What is a Druzy?

I remember as a child, breaking open flint boulders, which had been delivered outside our door to shore up the sea defences (we lived virtually on a beach), to see if I could find any magic crystals inside.  I am quite sure looking back, that I probably should not have been doing that – but I was 10 yrs old and in search of secret treasure!  I now know that what I was looking for was Druzy.

Druzy Stone, Sparkly Druzy crystals, stone ornament


A druzy is sets of tiny mineral crystals that form on the surface of another stone. The little pyramid-like crystals, glitter and catch the light – making them beautifully sparkly. There are many types of druzy, because there are many types of minerals. Each type of druzy has particular characteristics, such as crystal size, lustre and color. Quartz is one of the most common druzy types because of the prevalence of silica throughout the world. 

Close up of Druzy crystals, sparkly druzy crystals, druzy stone ornament


Druzy is formed when water brings minerals onto a rock’s surface.  When the water evaporates, cooling occurs and the minerals left behind form crystals on top of the rock.  The colour of druzy depends on the mineral from which it has formed – druzy gemstones can be almost any color of the rainbow, including white, pink, blue, purple, green or black.

String of Druzy Beads, Druzy agate beads, gemstone beads



Druzy can be found anywhere that water can collect and evaporate on rock. It most commonly appears along river beds and shorelines.

Druzy bead, blue lace agate druzy bead, druzy crystals

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The Most Beautiful Object in South Africa

Gavin Rajah’s “Pebble Dress” from his Spring / Summer 2013 collection has been voted the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa at the 2013 Design Indaba.

Gavin Raja's Pebble Dress from his couture Spring/Summer 2013 Collection, Most Beautiful Object in South Africa, MBOISA, Design Indaba Aware

The Dress

The pebbles are leather pieces that have been moulded and then embroidered onto mesh by hand. The pebbles are placed, graduating from chocolate up to rose gold throughout the dress.

The Nominator

Malibongwe Tyilo, who originally nominated Gavin, said of Rajah’s creation: “The Pebble Dress combines to great effect some of the most relevant design influences at the moment: leather, ombre, texture and craft. Their unity creates a completely resolved design piece. At first glance, your eye is attracted by the complete garment and it’s almost scale-like appearance. A closer look reveals the incredible amount of work and precision that has gone into creating not only the garment but also an entirely new fabric.”

Pebble dress by Gavin Rajah from his couture Spring / summer 2013 collection, Most Beautiful Object in South Africa, MBOISA

The Awards

The 11 finalists for the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) were selected from a list of nominees submitted by a mix of design journalists and cultural commentators in South Africa.

Every year Design Indaba invites members of the public to decide what constitutes beauty through the MBOISA award. More than just an object of visual delight, MBOISA encourages a wider definition of beauty – one that encapsulates social significance, economic impact, usability, sustainability and even humour.

Just Because It’s Friday Photo

As a jewellery artist I am constantly inspired by what I see.  A lot of my inspiration comes from the natural world around me.

This week’s cool picture is a macro photo of raindrops in the undergrowth, and it was forwarded to me by my beading buddy, Bev Shipley.  It gives us a glimpse into a tiny different world.  So here it is, a cool picture to make you smile…….just because hey, it’s Friday!

This week: Raindrops – Macro Photo  (with thanks to Bev Shipley)

Raindrops - Macro Pic, Raindrops on plant,

 If you like it, please share it!

(Have a look at some other cool pictures here.)

Enjoy your weekend wherever you are, and whatever you are doing!

International Day of Happiness (& 9 Small Steps We Can Take Daily in the Right Direction)

Last year, the United Nations declared today, March 20th, as International Day of Happiness.

Isn’t that cool?  A day designated to the fundamental human goal of happiness!  Just thinking about that makes me feel happier 🙂


Did you know that the citizens of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan are considered to be amongst the happiest people in the world?  This is where the International Day of Happiness initiative came from.  Bhutan uses an alternative measure of national and societal prosperity to that of other countries.  It’s called the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH). This approach rejects the use of economic wealth as the sole indicator of development, and instead adopts a more holisitc approach, giving the equal weight to the spiritual well-being of its citizens as to that of their material weatlh.

The UN hopes the initiative will encourage governments to consider the well-being of their citizens, rather than focusing efforts solely on economic growth.  It acknowledges that in order to attain global happiness, economic development must be accompanied by social and environmental well being.  Not a bad ideal is it?

9 small steps we can take daily, in the right direction: 

Little fluffy ducklings

  • Be kind
  • Be grateful
  • Be passionate
  • Be empathetic
  • Be generous
  • Be positive
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Breath……….

(Admit it, the fluffy duckling picture made you smile! :-))




10 Hot Designer Bags for Spring/Summer 2013

I am a well-rounded accessories junkie – I love shoes, handbags, jewellery….the lot!

Time for some shoulder candy! 

Check out the 10 hottest designer bags for SS 2013 as put together by the The Bag Lady.  Hermes, Marc Jacobs, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton… they’re all there.

My favourite?  Well, I just love the colour of this bright coral-red daybag by Lanvin.


Click here to view full article

Gemstone Folklore & Legends – Moonstone

According to Vedic (ancient Hindu) legend, a battle was fought between Lord Vishnu and Bali, the demon god. Vishnu destroyed Bali by breaking his body into many pieces. As each piece fell to the Earth, they were turned into many various jewels. It is said that the “chandrakanta”, or moonstone, was formed from the gleam of Bali’s eyes.

Moonstone Teardrop and Turquoise Howlite Gemstone Earrings ($14.99) from Big Skies Jewellery

Moonstone Teardrop and Turquoise Howlite Gemstone Earrings ($14.99) from Big Skies Jewellery

Read about other gemstone folklore and legends here.

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Handmade Jewellery Projects for the Weekend

Blue-grey crystal bracelet, wedding bracelet, sparkly bracelet, crystal bracelet

Blingy Blue/Grey Crystal and Diamante Bracelet

I am well-known for having multiple projects on the go…. My creative process tends to follow the path of doing all the fun stuff such as designing and stringing the piece, and then putting off the more mundane task of finishing it off – adding the chain, clasp, securing the beads, etc.

The process is also somewhat dictated by the light source – I tend to create and design during daylight when I can see the colours at their best and truest, and then finish off the pieces at other times when it doesn’t matter if I use artificial light.   

Turquoise howlite and chunky silver statement necklace, bold silver and blue necklace, gemstone statement necklace
Funky Turquoise Howlite and Silver Tube Statement Necklace




But, there comes a point, where I HAVE to finish off my assembled projects before I can allow myself to create new ones. Pictured here are some pieces due for completion this weekend.



Ocean Agate Choker Necklace, Blue Gemstone Necklace, Agate Jewellery, Gemstone jewelry
Blue Ocean Agate Choker Necklace



Visit the Big Skies Jewellery store here.

Aquamarine bracelet and necklace set, gemstone bracelet, blue bracelet
Aquamarine Bracelet and Necklace Set

Just Because It’s Friday Photo

As a jewellery artist I am constantly inspired by what I see.  One of the things that inspires me most is traveling. 

My favourite city in the whole world is New York City.  New York is just awesome, it has a vibe all of its own; there’s something about it that just keeps pulling us back every time we visit America.  This week’s photo was taken from the Empire State Building, looking down the street towards Central Park.  I love all the yellow cabs dotted along the road.

So here it isa cool photo to make you smile…….just because hey it’s Friday!

This week: New York City as seen from the Empire State Building:

New York City


If you like it, share it!

(Have a look at some other cool pictures here.)