Tell us a little about you...

Why did you write your book?

When covid lockdowns arrived I found myself with no shows, no teaching and no purpose... for the first time since I left school I wasn't working - and I didn't like it!

While teaching jewellery making courses, I realised that a little extra knowledge about gemstones might help fellow jewellers avoid those heartstopping moments when a gemstone is accidentally damaged.  Lockdowns allowed me to develop an idea I'd been thinking about - a quick reference guide that would live on the bench, ready to answer questions as they arise while designing or making a piece. 

It also allowed me to spend time researching the selling of stones (particularly on the internet) and what I found horrified me.  I started writing about some of the scams and misleading sales practices in the hope it would help stop fellow jewellers being caught by them. 

Jewellers quick reference guide to working with gemstones

Why do you want to teach jewellers more about gemstones?

When the lockdowns lifted, I decided to postpone returning to making my own jewellery and teaching jewellery classes in order to focus on helping fellow jewellers learn more about the stones they are working with and shopping for. 

One-day Gemstones for Jewellers workshops are now available in addition to two different zoom classes allowing me to meet fellow jewellers around the world too - what a privilege!  There's also a new gemstone information resource on the website so that jewellers can do some research before shopping...

I also give talks about buying gemstone jewellery and want to introduce as many people as possible to the wide selection of materials being used as gemstones, as well as highlight some of the treatments used and some of the shopping challenges facing gemstone buyers.

Gemstone terminology
Charmouth beach

Where did it all start?

Obsessed with jewellery and gemstones, I have been designing and making jewellery since 1995.  Over the years I have attended courses with tutors who are specialists in their field, learning about their techniques and then coming back to my workshop to practice and assess how they might develop and enhance my designs.  Some were incorporated straight away while others sit waiting for their time, but they have given me a wide skill base to draw upon when teaching.

My love affair with stones started when I was small, spending many happy hours collecting pebbles on the beach.  Over the years the stones may have become more expensive, but I’m still fascinated by them and have studied both coloured gemstones and diamonds with the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, of which I am proud to be a Fellow.  While I live in land-locked Oxfordshire, I get to the beach as often as I can, looking for pebbles, fossils, sea glass and other treasure!

Do you make all the jewellery you sell on your website and at shows?

I certainly do! 

Carefully selecting the gemstones as part of the design process is very important to me - my training as a gemmologist allows me to choose the best stone for a particular design while my training as a jeweller provides me with knowledge of metals and how they can be worked to exploit their strengths, while being aware of their limitations.  Bringing the two together ensures a comfortable and wearable piece of jewellery that can be worn and enjoyed for many years.

rough diamond ring

Why do you make your jewellery by hand?

It may seem strange in these technology biased times but I make all my jewellery by hand because that's what I love to do!  I have tried designing jewellery using CAD and having the pieces cast, but when they came out of the casting process they were just a piece of metal... 

When I make a piece of jewellery by hand, I have a real connection with it - having designed it, chosen the metal and gems and then constructed it I feel that with each design decision, pass of the file or tap of the setting punch, a little of me goes into each piece.  It is very special to then see a customer make a connection with one of those pieces.

gold and diamond ring

Do you ever work in gold?

I do occasionally - it is a real treat to work in 18ct white or yellow gold - I love the rich buttery colour of 18ct yellow gold and the deep, gunmetal grey of 18ct white gold.  Mixing that with gemstones, particularly diamonds is wonderful!

gold and diamond pendant

Why do I see gemstones on your website described as treated or manmade?

As a gemmologist, one of the things I am passionate about is giving my customers as much information as I possibly can about the stones they are buying and being very clear about whether they are natural, synthetic, treated or manmade.  I don't have an issue with any material being used in jewellery, as long as this type of information is disclosed so that customers may make an informed purchase.

What do these descriptions mean?

  • Natural - materials that have been formed completely by nature without human interference/intervention (other than any cutting and polishing)
  • Synthetic - materials that are partially or completely made by man which have the same chemical, physical and optical properties as their natural counterpart
  • Imitation or simulated - materials that are partially or completely made by man which imitate the appearance of natural materials without having their chemical, physical and optical properties
  • Treated - materials (natural, synthetic or imitation) which have been treated to alter their appearance or durability
  • Manmade - I have used this term to describe goldstone and blue goldstone as, although goldstone could imitate sunstone and blue goldstone could, at a stretch, possibly imitate bloodshot iolite, customers may have come across these goldstones before and I wanted to be very clear that they are not natural
sapphires and rubies

Why is this important to you?

It is important a customer can feel confident that they receive what they believe they are buying. 

Before adding a spinel to my teaching kit I quickly checked it would be a good example...  It did not behave how a spinel should, so I carried out the full range of tests to discover it was an almandine garnet... 

This is important, not just because I had been sent a different stone to the one I had bought (they were both red faceted stones after all) but I had been sent a stone that was worth less than the one I purchased...

Sally Spencer guests on Jewelry Journey podcast

Want to know a little more?

I was honoured to be invited as a guest on Sharon Berman's Jewelry Journey podcast series... 

click here to listen

So, what does all this really mean to you...

Whether it’s a treat for themselves or a gift to mark a special occasion, every time a customer chooses a piece of my jewellery that’s a very special feeling because they have chosen to invest in something I have created.  Equally, sharing my passion for gems and jewellery with my students and watching them discover more about the gemstones they use or create their own work is amazing - seriously, job satisfaction doesn't get much better than this!

I love what I do - sharing gemstone information, designing pieces of jewellery and sourcing unusual stones, making the jewellery by hand.  Being able to combine both my love of jewellery making and my obsession with gemstones is a very special privilege...

having the opportunity to share this passion with customers at shows, through my gemstone book and with students in my classes is, without doubt, the icing on the cake.  And I do love cake...


Thanks to Unsplash and Natallia Nagorniak for this yummy cake image