Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Overlooking carefully groomed lawns and beautiful gardens stands the remains of England's Belsay Castle.

Built during the late 14th century, as a residence for the Middleton family, it is presently open to the public serving as a location for garden parties.

England is also the home of jewelry prop maker Martin Adams.

The experience of seeing a feature film is often one that is indelible. Exotic locales, well-conceived storylines, convincing special effects, and solid acting performances each contribute to a film's visceral impact.

In many cases, the smaller details of a film, such as props, are used as an integral part of a story or add to a characterization.

For instance, the butterfly hair clip worn by actor Kate Winslet in the film Titanic was not only integrated into the film's storyline but was a stunning prop created by none other than Adams.  You could say that Adams is the British equivalent to American jeweler Eugene Joseff.

The impressive filmography for which Adams' work is featured includes Dangerous Liaisons, The Last Emperor, The Queen, Gladiator, and Braveheart.

During his days studying painting, set building, and scenery at Croydon College of Art and Design; however, Adams had not given much thought to Hollywood.

"I did prop work as a hobby at the Aldridge Youth Theater and one night a man--who is still with the theater--Neville Ellis asked me why I wasn't doing prop work for a living," he explains. "He said I was very good at what I did and that I could make something out of it."

Once Adams completed his studies at Croydon, he moved on to work with small, local theaters and in time, his talent became widely known among London's theatrical companies. Eventually, he went on to design stage show props for Hamlet, and Chicago.

By 1976, Adams began a gradual transition towards doing film prop work, as well as specializing in jewelry props. "I had been making so many different kinds of props it made sense to specialize. I realized that I really liked making jewelry related props so that is where I concentrated my efforts."

Adams' creation process involves making rubber molds from which a final item, cast in pewter, is cultivated. The pewter piece is sprayed with a special coating to give the piece a desired silver or gold appearance. Faceted, colored glass is then added simulating precious gemstones, with an overall effect that is spectacularly authentic.

Adams relishes his 33-year stint as a jewelry prop maker. "Gladiator was a brilliant experience as I was principal jeweler for the film, which meant I was working on location in London, and Seville," he enthuses.

"I loved working on 101 [Dalmatians] and 102 Dalmatians as the pieces were really interesting--diamond handcuffs, snake brooches, dog biscuit buttons, and wild broken glass earrings."

Next year, movie audiences will get to ogle more of Adams' exceptional handiwork in a re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend starring Russell Crowe.

To view more of Adam's incredible work, click on the links below:

Lucila's Tiara

101 Dalmatians
Glenn Close

Kingdom of Heaven
Eva Green

For more on movie props check out The Prop Store of London featuring over 43,000 props, costumes, and memorabilia from such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Shining.  Availability and prices vary considerably with prices going from as little as $12.00 to as much as $9,995.
Photo 1 (top right): J. Peterman Co.'s LICENSED Reproduction of Butterfly Comb from the film Titanic
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