The world of jewellery making remained basically unchanged for millennia, but lately it has undergone stunning transformations. With the advent of computer-assisted design (CAD) and 3D printers, complex designs can be fed into a computer and reproduced endlessly. And while technology undeniably has its place, it would be sad to see traditional jewellery-making techniques fall by the wayside.
In a small workshop in Gibsons, master goldsmith Ian Finlayson still does things the old-fashioned way. He builds pieces of jewellery by hand. One at a time. Though he also works in platinum and sometimes in silver, it is gold—malleable, ductile, hypoallergenic and rare—that he works with the most.
To “smith” means to treat metal by heating, hammering and forging it, and that’s what Ian does. He starts with pure gold, melting it in a crucible and adding alloys to make it stronger and to create different colours. The alloyed gold is then poured red hot into an ingot and annealed. Next, the bar is passed through a series of rolling mills or draw plates to create basic gauges of plate or wire, which are cut and forged into their rough shapes and filed and polished or textured by hand. This ancient process imbues the gold with tensile strength, as the molecules are slowly worked into a coherent lattice-like structure. It also produces a true original, a one-of-a-kind creation brought to life in the hands of a craftsman.
Ian apprenticed under the talented Toni Cavelti, a Swiss jeweller who made a name for himself as a premier goldsmith and designer in Vancouver in the 1970s. From there Ian went on to create pieces for Swedish Jewellers. With this training under his belt, Ian moved to the Sunshine Coast where he now works with his daughter Lesley, who does the designing.
A visit to the Finlayson’s studio starts with Lesley, who will help to narrow down the myriad choices available in custom design. Looking through their collection of unique and precious gemstones is akin to being a kid in a candy shop – every colour imaginable beckons. Lesley can guide a client through the sometimes-daunting process of choosing a diamond, educating them on the ‘Four Cs’ (colour, clarity, cut and carat weight) before a selection of diamonds (usually Canadian) are brought in for inspection. Lesley helps her clients figure out what they want and how best to achieve it. Only when the design has been finalized does it go to Ian’s bench.
The Finlaysons also restore vintage jewellery and do all manner of repairs. Almost everything is done on site, with expert craftsmanship and care.
Finlayson Goldsmiths 604-886-9590