As a kid visiting museums, David Neale saw ancient artifacts and knew he wanted to make treasures. So, armed with his imagination, he ventured into the art of gold and silversmithing. Now, with an artist’s touch and a steel rod called a mandrel, David produces custom handcrafted jewelry and treasures of his own from his studio in Australia that are in-demand all over the world. Read how David uses Pinterest for inspiration, discovery, and even for his business!
Tell us about your background and how you ultimately ended up gold and silversmithing?
I’ve got keen eyes- I notice the small wonders. When I was a kid I loved to visit museums. I was awestruck by mineral specimens and artefacts from ancient civilisations – I knew I wanted to make treasures like these. I took jewelry making lessons with a local goldsmith and later on, I assisted him in his shop. Eventually, I studied Fine Art at university, majoring in Gold and Silversmithing.
We noticed your “Wedding Rings” board. For our readers who don’t know much about the art, can you tell us more about creating a finished piece of jewelry from start to finish, say for a wedding ring or even an earring?
One of my popular rings is made from unrefined Australian gold nuggets – it’s like wholemeal, organic gold – if you will. This material is sourced from small-scale prospectors. I put the nuggets in a charcoal mould, and heat them with a 2000F degree flame, until they melt together as a liquid. When this ingot has cooled, I make a hole right through the middle, using a hammer and punch. Without removing any metal, I stretch out this hole by gradually hammering the ring down a tapered steel rod, called a mandrel. For this, I use an antique hammer, one I picked up on my travels in Italy, because it gives a subtle, ancient-like texture.
Jewelry making can be laborious, is often tedious and frequently hazardous- some folks don’t realise this. It’s my view that cheap, exploitative imports have skewed the way we value an object- especially the skills and effort required to make it. So the studio jeweler has tough competition; we have to persuade people to skip the cheap factory trinkets and instead chose jewelry with lively presence; something worthy of becoming an heirloom.
What is the most rewarding part about being a jewelry maker?
To make wedding jewelry is an enormous privilege. I feel honoured when a couple chooses me to make the rings that symbolise something sacred. This often results in long-standing custom. They feel that I am ‘their’ goldsmith, which is a reward that goes beyond a mere business transaction.
In your “Jewelry board” we find a variety of pieces, not just earrings and rings, but vases, models, combs, and other intricate collections. How do you use Pinterest, find inspiration and decide what to make?
I use Pinterest to present a whole visual mood for my jewelry design. I pin images of my own work, as well as images of anything that inspires me, like historical jewelry, art and design objects. Over time, as the pins build up into a ripe collection, you’ll get a strong sense of David Neale’s aesthetic. Apart from my own content, some of the images come from other Pinners, but I also draw on many different sources. I especially love to ‘rummage’ through any online Museum collections.
I also make use of ‘secret’ Pinterest boards; if a client has particular ideas for a custom piece, I invite them to pin images to a shared secret board. Then we can refer to these in our discussion, as we collaborate on a design. This is a really convenient tool.
Some ideas grow from previous work, pushing the edges of what I’ve already explored. Certainly, Pinterest is a great tool for inspiration; having built up a lot of pins, I can see strong patterns in what materials, finishes and styles that I’m drawn too. It’s not hard to then imagine something that hasn’t yet been made, but would totally fit in with the aesthetic that I’m presenting.
My mind wanders all over the landscape of metalwork. Sometimes I make items that people are switched-on-to right now, such as earrings or cuffs. But other times I’ll make something that I’m not seeing everywhere. For example, I really wanted to hand-make metal combs; and no-one was notably doing that. So I set about cutting some- and the response has been great.
Do you have a work of art that is your favorite, or most fulfilling to produce?
I love making my Horse Pendants – when I make them, I try to re-tell the the happy sight of a cantering horse- with just some simple, moving parts; a little golden poem.
What new treasures are you thinking about next?
I’ve started to work with some talented Australian bespoke gem-cutters, which is really exciting. There are so many unusual minerals and creative faceting designs – the world of gems is a sea of color–Im looking forward to diving in!