Tell us about yourself and how you got into the jewellery industry.
To begin with, I studied engineering at university for five years, and I was planning to try and join the military, but I decided that I wanted to stick with jewellery. While I was doing the engineering I got into casting, so I bought my own casting machine and I was making 200 pieces a week.
After that I started focusing on design work, and this was helped by the fact I spent a lot of time studying in Hatton Garden during my degree. Engineering was really what got me into jewellery in the first place. I started to get my pieces cast for me but now I’m going back to casting myself and getting all the equipment again.
How did you first come up with the idea of radioactive jewellery?
When I was studying in Hatton Garden my sister was studying Egyptology at university and she decided to come and help me make jewellery. She came up with the idea of making ancient designs. A year later or so she decided to move on, but I stuck with the idea of the ancient style of jewellery. I love anything to do with pirates or ancient Mayans – anything in history really from the beginning of the world up to medieval and even the world wars.
There are a lot of ancient designs out there and I thought that I needed to do something a little bit different. I had a watch with radioactive paint pigments on the dials, and I remember looking at it thinking ‘if I can get that radiation and somehow hide it inside the jewellery with a stone in front of it, I could have glowing stones’. It sounded like a really nice idea, so I looked into it further and found you can buy small pieces of radioactive isotopes – something the fishing industry uses.
How does it work?
I designed the jewellery so I could put the rod behind the stones, which was quite hard because I was trying to set the stones just right. It was about getting enough room behind the stone for the rod without making the ring too big or too ugly, we had to hide it just right. I’ve now perfected that part of the design.
Was that the most difficult thing you had to overcome?
That was the hardest part. It was easy to put the rods in there, but it was trying to get the sizes perfect so the stone wasn’t pushed out so far so the whole piece of jewellery becomes uncomfortable. It was a case of ‘how do we get the rod in there, with the stone, using the techniques we’ve got. We had to focus on getting the rods in the jewellery without spending too much time or money doing that. That was quite hard because getting the rods to be invisible was really challenging, but once we came up with the solution it definitely got easier.
How long does the radioactive glow last?
The glow has a 12-year half-life, so the radiation will go for 12 years and then it will be half as light after that. When we sell it we tell our customers the light will last for 10 years, but we do also offer people the opportunity to have no radiation in the designs. After the light goes out we can put more radiation back into the piece if they come back to us.
And it’s perfectly safe to wear?
Yes. The radiation can’t penetrate skin or even a piece of paper, so it’s extremely weak. Even if the rod was to break it would pose no harm either, and there’s no harm over a long period of time. It can be sold in the UK in the fishing industry quite easily and there’s absolutely no regulations on how it’s sold as it’s totally safe.
Is there anything else like it on the market?
People have played around with the radioactive rods before, you can buy the rods inside key rings and lots of other products. People have also used the rods with jewellery, but nobody has ever put the rods behind gemstones, which I thought was even better than having the rods on their own. By putting the gemstones in front, the rods glow but nobody knows it’s there. This allows the stone to take the full glory of the colour.
Do you have a patent or other protection on the concept?
Yes. I got in touch with them and showed them pictures of how the stones are placed with the rods behind them and the glow that occurs, and I told them that the copyright was for the glow of the gemstones. Hopefully by doing that, it will deter people doing the same thing. I’d like to make all my jewellery designs based on these rods.
You mentioned you like history, how do you come up with the designs?
We look at different civilisations and cultures throughout history, and we take different designs from them and put them into an item of jewellery. We try to look at things from the past and then make something with an ancient feel from that period. The radiation gives it another dimension and almost an ‘other worldly’ feel.
Who is the target market?
The target market we’ve been aiming for is mainly the goth industry, and those that are into ancient civilisations. We give people the option of having the same piece of jewellery with or without the radiation, so we still get a lot of people that like the designs for the ancient style. Some of the designs can be quite scary with a gothic twist, so our main target market is goths, the rockers, and those that are into septum piercings and things like that.
Where do you see the company in five years?
We’ve got an incredible amount of designs in the pipeline. It’s quite a slow process to get the designs made, our main focus at the minute is making some of our previous designs, that weren’t radioactive before, radioactive. We are picking up new casting equipment this month so we will be able to do vacuum casting again and then that way we won’t be limited by the casting process. In five years time we should have much more stock in radioactive jewellery and lots of designs from all over the world and from all different eras. Hopefully we will have a nice customer base too.
This feature originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Jewellery Focus.