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Game of Thrones jeweller talks to HELLO! Online about the show's iconic pieces
When viewers think of the intricate costumes and grand jewels that make up the epic atmosphere of Game of Thrones, it’s hard to imagine the costume gems admired by the Queen during her tour of Belfast on Tuesday could all be made in the small village of Glenarm, Northern Ireland.
The Steensons family goldsmiths was founded in 1976 by husband-wife team Bill and Christina Steenson, and their unique pieces and reputation for original designs made them the obvious choice for Game of Thrones' costume designer Michele Clapton when the production moved to Northern Ireland for its first series.
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"A friend of ours was working for the costume department, and when they started looking for people who could do the things that they wanted, our name was put forward for the jewellery pieces," Steensons co-director Dan Spencer told HELLO! Online. "We're pretty unique in that we make all our own work, from design to finish. We're quite a large workshop for a small company."
Dan trained as a sculpture at the University of Ulster before joining the company and apprenticing as a goldsmith 12 years ago. Now he and his wife Brona – daughter of the jeweller's now-retired founders – run the business together.
"My wife has read all the Game of Thrones books, so she's involved in it all as well," he said. "To make the items we either use traditional goldsmithing techniques - simply taking a piece of metal and hand cutting and forming it – or we use our computer aided design (CAD) programme to generate a model that we 3D print and then cast."
Depending on how intricate it is, a single piece can take up to 15 days to make. Dan himself hand created the tyrannical King Joffrey's wedding crown for the latest series.
"The crowns are probably the most time consuming items to make. They'll each take at least 15 days," said Dan. "The wedding crown needed to be lighter than the first, as Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) found the original quite heavy and uncomfortable to wear all day.
"We used thick sheet brass and sterling silver, and it took a long time to cut back the antler shapes and file it all down. The little silver rosebuds on the crown were actually cast from a silicon mould we made from rosebuds in our garden."
The costume pieces are so rare that even hardcore fans may baulk at the cost of a bespoke crown.
"Because they're so time consuming and costly to make, we only make one of each. If you wanted a crown it would be quite a few grand. You'd be getting on for £4000," he said. "I suppose with Michele there's just that much attention to detail. Even some of the armour and swords have been made using traditional techniques."
Another key piece from the fourth serie' explosive plotlines was the poisoned crystal-drop necklace worn by Sansa Stark – played by Sophie Turner.
"Michele wanted the blue crystals of the necklace to be that exact shape, and I couldn't find anybody who had any stones even approaching that cut," said Dan. "The only way we could make them was to use a CAD programme to design the stone. We then sent the design to a specialist printing company in Belfast, who made 3D prints of the stones so we could lacquer them."
Though it's a huge project to take on, Dan said he and Brona welcome fans into their Glenarm workshop – though he warns that their own jewellery is markedly different from the medieval style of the show.
"It's very different from our style, which was one of the initial stumbling blocks," he said. "But there's been a lot of demand for our pieces in the last year as people catch on. The jewellery from the show has gone all over the world on the costume tours.
"We have some small pins – based on each house's symbol – in production now. We've only got a couple of prototypes so far, but people might want to buy them as a little souvenir."
Despite the added work load and attention, Dan said the best thing about the Game of Thrones phenomenon is how it has affected his hometown.
"Everybody just likes the fact that the locations are showing quite a positive light on Northern Ireland, especially round the coast here," he said. "A lot of people come up to see the locations, and never knew how nice it is up here."