Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I gave gold for iron

By Frieda Lühl

Iron is the most common element (by mass) forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. About 1000 BC iron became accessible to men and was used in many different ways ever since.  Because of its inflexible, rigid, strong, robust characteristics it was used for objects like locks & keys, spears, knifes, fittings etc to this day.  

Over many centuries iron was developed with different metallurgical properties showing different characteristics. Some alloys are very hard, others suitable for casting or forging and many more.

One way to harden iron/steel in the early ages was Damaszener steel. It is more a technique then an alloy where steel and iron are layered, welded together and then forged together. This process is repeated many times till the piece is made up of very thin layers.  
The result it a beautiful layered texture of very high flexibility and hardness used for swards and knifes but also in jewellery. 

The first iron became fashionable as jewellery was in the early 1800 as the Berlin Iron Jewellery.
The then Prussian royal family lead by Fredrick William III urged their citizens to hand in their gold and precious metal jewellery to help fund the uprising against Napoleon.   In return for their gold, the citizens received iron jewellery inscribed with Gold gab ich für Eisen (I gave gold for iron). This continued for a couple of years, but alongside this patriotic endeavour another trend grew for commissioned iron jewellery and these pieces were as you might imagine quite a bit more intricate.  Beautiful – and of course now, quite rightly, collectors items.

Iron still inspires many goldsmiths, including myself, to create new ways of using this grey/blue metal. For me this is just the beginning of the experiment “IRON” and it appears there is so much more to discover.  

Tore Svenson
Brooch: Steel, Silver

Isabell Schaupp
Brooch: Iron wire, aluminium, silver, laquer

Taisuke Nakada
Brooches:Iron, Gold & Silver leaf

Frieda Lühl
Necklace: Iron, Silver, Glass 

Frieda Lühl
Necklace: Iron, Silver, Sponge Coral

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The year of the dragon

Dragons and pearl. Mother-of-pearl inlay on furniture, Vietnam, 18th -19th century
 According to the Chinese astrological cycle, this year is the year of the dragon. Each year is also assigned an element; this year water, which is associated with the colour black.

Part 4 of Nine Dragon Scroll by Ch'en Jung. Sung dynasty, mid 13th century. Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fine ounce will be participating in an exhibition themed around the year of the dragon, so I have been thinking about dragons.

dragon aquamanile, north German, ca 1200
Although the instantaneous association in the Western mind is most likely the scaly, fire-breathing monster of medieval legend, fairy-tale and fantasy, this seems to be quite a superficial understanding.
They appeared on early European maps to warn mariners of parts of the world (not yet the globe) unexplored (by them, anyway), where they might encounter unimaginable terrors, or even fall off the edge and into the unknowable.
In China the dragon is usually quite elongated and serpentine, and often has the claws of a phoenix, and many decorative rippling fin- or tendril-like appendages. They live in rivers and seas.
In Chinese astrology dragons are associated with prosperity, power and fertility, and are seen as a benevolent and protective force, but mythology indicates that they may also sometimes be feared.

Dragon from Sufi Book of Constellations, 12th century

A more thorough exploration of the subject suggests that dragons are an ancient and almost universal idea, and do not have a single form, but may be almost any combination of real and imagined creatures, sometimes even including plants, though aspects of snakes recur  frequently .
They feature in the creation mythology of ancient Greece and India. They may also be celestial, living in the Milky Way which is often likened to a river, and are found in constellations of stars.

Rendering by Felipe Davalos of a painting in Oxtotitlan Cave. From David C. Grove. The Olmec paintings of Oxtitlan Cave, Guerrero, Mexico

They seem to be the physical manifestation of a spiritual concept comprising the forces of nature, creation, knowledge and the unknown, and as such are regarded with justifiable awe.

A section of Hell, from the funeral payrus of Dirpu. Cairo Museum

Apart from Egypt, I have not found any reference to dragons in Africa, but feel we have ample resources for the imagining of one.
I am thinking of our wealth of biological diversity, our magnificent flora, fauna and wild places, all of which are increasingly threatened by development, exploitation and cruel, criminal plunder. While some development is necessary, we must take care; if we don't protect it our magnificent wild will join dragons in the realm of legends, and we must surely follow not long thereafter.

All pictures are from:

Olmec dragon
The dragon
Nature of spirit, spirit of nature.
Francis Huxley.1979,Thames and Hudson Ltd.

apart from the picture of the aquamanile, which is from:

Lions, Dragons & other Beasts
Aquqmanilia of the Middle Ages, Vessels for Church and Table
Peter Barnet and Pete Dandridge (editors). 2006 MMA Yale.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

WEDDING RINGS                                                                  by MAike Valcarcel

We all know that a wedding needs rings, just like cake, “ I do”`s, a beautiful dress,
and love.
Do we know why? What is the symbolic meaning? Where does the tradition come from? Why do we wear the ring on a specific finger?

 Tanya Lyons                                       Patrick Malotki                              Phillip Sajet
  “Growth”                                          “Heart Wedding Ring”                    “ Infinity”
   grass braided                                     18ct gold                                        pure gold/ 18ct

The tradition of wedding rings goes back to ancient Egypt where rings were fashioned out of  twisted and braided reeds or grass taken from the fertile plains next to the river Nile. The river being the bringer of all fortune and life.
The circle/ ring has no beginning and no end stands for the continuous flow of life/ love and trust, eternity.
Even the hole in the middle of the circle has a meaning: it`s a symbol of the gateway, or door, leading to things and events both known and unknown.
The ring is worn on the 3rd finger of the left hand because of a belief that the vein of that finger directly travels from the heart.
These rings out of grass did not last very long, reed and hemp probably a bit longer, but were then replaced by leather, bone or ivory.
In early Rome they started to use iron which again symbolized the strength of love a man felt for his chosen woman. Rust might have been a problem though.
Silver and gold only became fashionable in medieval Europe, and gemstones were added.
That`s the tradition- but how nice that some people take tradition further and add other symbolism, brake the rules and challenge the norm!
Here are some examples:

Glynis Gardner                               Alyssa Dee Kraus                         Elisa Gulminelli
    “love you long time”                        Wedding Band(aid)                       “Marriage of
     Ice                                                18ct gold / garnet                          Convenience, Love
                                                                                                               for Money”
                                                                                                               Credit cards

    Yael Friedman                             Tony P.Esola                         Annie Tung
    “ Marriage As a Puzzle”               “Wedding Band”                   “Divorce Ring”
    Silver, cast                                    steel, 14ct gold,                    “A Broken Nest,
    This ring falls in pieces                   stainless steel,                         A Broken Ring”
    if you take it off-                            diamond                                silver
    so if you want to be
    unfaithful and remove the
    ring you better know how
    to reassemble it!

Pictures are taken from the book: 500 Wedding Rings by Lark Books


Monday, 11 June 2012

For the love of pearls...

Left to Right: A revamped pearl necklace, Fairy drops with pearls and Seed pearl and silver heart Sautoir necklace (Firepetals)

By: Adeline Jubi

It’s June already and another birthday is looming. I decided to dedicate this blog to my birthstone, the Pearl. I used to think that pearls were only for old elegant ladies, but as the years go by and the grey hair and wrinkles are starting to show, I had a change of hart about pearls. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to don a sensible string of pearls and court shoes soon. I am however trying to transform conservative pearl jewellery into funky contemporary pieces. It’s time for pearls to get reinvented once again.
 Pearls have been harvested for thousands of years and played a very significant role in jewellery. It’s the oldest gemstone known to men and was considered the most valuable for centuries. The Ancient people believed that pearls had magical properties and could bring prosperity and a long life and was thought to be the tears from the gods.
The Chinese have used pearls to cure many ailments like indigestion, heart disease and fever. That this could have worked is quite believable since the main ingredient in cultured pearls is calcium carbonate, an ingredient used in antacid today.
Five hundred years ago when Columbus discovered the Americas, he also discovered oysters containing pearls. These oysters were abundant around the coast of Venezuela and Panama and pearls became the biggest export from the “New World” , that was before gold and silver was discovered and overtook it. Pearls became all the rage in the Royal Courts of Europe.

"La Peregrina" worn by Mary Tudor, (1553) left and Elizabeth Taylor, right (1970)
One of the biggest natural pearls ever found was the La Peregrina ("the Pilgrim" or the "wanderer") and is the size of a pigeon’s egg. It was found by an African slave in the mid 16th century of the coast of Santa Margarita or the "Pearl Island". As reward, the African slave got his freedom. This beautiful pearl has had many famous owners like Philip II of Spain who gave it to his wife, Mary Tudor or “Bloody Mary” as she was better known as. After her death,  it was returned to Spain and formed part of the Spanish crown jewels for 250 years. It resurfaced when Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph was put on the throne of Spain. With Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, Joseph fled Madrid with some fabulous jewellery including the pearl. Joseph's nephew, Charles Bonaparte who was to become, Napoleon III was the next owner. It weighs 203 grains, more or less the equivalent of 50ct. In 1969, Elizabeth Taylor received it as a Valentines gift from Richard Burton during their first marriage. She commissioned Cartier to redesign the neckpiece and it now also contains rubies, many diamonds and some South Sea pearls. After Elizabeth’s death in March last year, the necklace was sold in December 2011, for £ 7.9 million in New York.

Left to Right: A modern Mikomoto design; A traditional Mikomoto string of pearls with signature 18ct Gold clasp; Vintage graduated Mikomoto strand with signature clasp.

Pearls usually form inside mussels and oysters, mostly as a defence mechanism against an irritant like a piece of sand or grit. Layers of nacre form over the irritant like scar tissue and build up over time to form a pearl. The pearl can form as a sphere when not attached to the wall of the shell or as a half pearl or blister pearl when attached to the wall of the shell. The shape of the nucleus determines the shape of the pearl.
Cultured pearls are formed when an irritant like a bead is placed inside an oyster shell to initiate the formation of a pearl. Layers of nacre are deposited on this nucleated bead. Cultured pearls take a much shorter time to grow for this reason. Sometimes the layers of nacre on a cultured pearl are unacceptably thin and a pearl can easily chip.

 Cultured pearls were revolutionized by  Kokichi Mikimoto, a Japanese pearl farmer. He brought respectability to cultured pearls, previously not even recognized as pearls. It was said that Mr. Mikimoto who lived for 96 years, swallowed 2 pearls every day for good health.In the last 100 years, The Mikomoto Co. has grown to one of the top luxury brands in the world. 
The colour of pearls differ from white, pink, brown, blue , black depending on the type of mollusc and the type of water the pearl has formed in. Natural pearls are more expensive than cultured pearls and are becoming extremely scarce due to overfishing of oysters and pollution. Freshwater pearls are usually more irregular in shape and colour than saltwater pearls.
Pearls are the only gems perfectly and completely formed by nature. All other stones need the skill of the stone cutter or lapidary to bring out its lustre and beauty, but pearls are just perfect.

Good enough to eat... Some interesting pearl jewellery by American Artist John Hatleberg

"GREEN PEAS" I planned the whole piece around the Pea coloured pearls. (Firepetals)