A little while ago I received an email out of the blue asking me if I would be willing to make a piece of jewellery to be offered for sale at a charity fund raising auction to be held in September. I was intrigued but naturally a little wary so I contacted the charity direct to enquire as to whether the request was genuine.

I received a reply stating that the person who had contacted me was the manager for the event and yes the request was legitimate.

The charity concerned is the Give Tilly A Hand Appeal ( so I went to have a read and this is what I found out……

When she was 17 months old Tilly caught Meningococcal Septicaemia. This is a deadly form of meningitis which there is still no vaccination for. It happened so quickly that in just minutes she was covered from head to toe in small, reddish bruise like marks. Tilly was rushed to hospital in an ambulance at top speed, but the marks were getting larger and larger by the second. Tilly was critically ill and it was expected at that time that she would die.

A transfer from University Hospital Durham through to Newcastle General was vital and a blood transfusion took placed during the journey. Hours passed by until it was finally confirmed that Tilly was very poorly, but she was still alive. Over the next few weeks Tilly's hands and feet turned black and after a month of being in Newcastle General Hospital, it was apparent that Tilly was going to be ok but her hands and toes were already dead and couldn't be saved.

Tilly’s toes came off naturally but surgeons had to amputate both hands at the wrist because of the dead skin and tissue.

Tilly is now 4 years old and has mechanical prosthetic hands which she has learned to use very well. The difficulty is that due to the fact she is growing quickly she regularly has to have new prostheses at cost of over £20,000 per pair, hence the founding of the charity and the “Diamond Ball”, due to be held at the Gateshead Hilton Hotel on 25th September.

I spoke to Tilly’s mum, Sarah, and discussed what type of jewellery they had in mind. She told me that they didn’t have anything specific in mind, but they were planning to auction unique one off pieces of jewellery, hoping to raise between £1000-£6000 for each piece auctioned, so it was clear to me it had to be something special. I have taken part in many charity events before, but they’ve usually involved me swimming a long way, so this was going to be very different.

After agreeing to offer my support I knew straight away that I wanted to make a hand. I initially toyed with the idea of an arm cuff in the shape of a hand, but it soon became obvious that a full sized hand was going to be too big. I had another chat with Sarah and she told me that Tilly favours her left prosthesis and if she still had her own hands, Sarah is convinced she would be left handed.

I had been thinking about something to symbolize support and it occurred to me that the touch of a hand can be a very powerful gesture, so I came up with the idea of “Helping Hands” – a bracelet made up of links of left hands, each holding onto the wrist of the one in front and offering support and comfort.

I started off by using a small dolls hand as a template and carved a miniature left hand from wax.

I’m a big fan of silver, but the money the charity

are hoping to raise for each item dictated the material to a certain extent, so when I sent the model off for casting I requested it be reproduced in 9ct white gold.

The staff at the casting company were extremely helpful, friendly and polite, but when I got the castings back I was disappointed with the quality. They were quite badly pitted, but I set to with pendant drill and emery paper and spent hours cleaning them up – and I still had to think about hallmarking. As it was such a special piece I decided that rather than just one hallmark for the whole piece it would be extra special to have each individual hand hallmarked, discreetly under the wrist. The construction was the hard part – I wanted to keep the overlapping idea but I also had to ensure the whole piece would articulate for wear, so……..dozens of jump rings and lots of frustration later here it is.

I originally anticipated I would use 10 hands to achieve the required length, but in the end I only used 9, so I attached the remaining hand to a chain to be auctioned too, either as a separate item or as a set with the bracelet as Sarah sees fit.

Sarah was delighted when she received the pieces, and preparation for the Ball has begun in earnest. Tilly has been photographed with each item and the photos are being used as promotion for the event.

So, I sit and wait now until the 25th September to see how my pieces are received by the potential customers. I hope they raise lots of money.

If you would like to find out more, please visit

Linda Wear