Friday, 27 July 2012

All is not Gold that Glitters - Miguel De Cervantes, " Don Quixote" by Giselle

silver ore

Silver is known by mankind since Pre-History, it has been recognised and utilised by many cultures as a metal with unique properties. Its discovery is estimated to have happened shortly after that of copper and gold. The earliest people known to process silver ores were the pre-Hittites of Cappadocia, located in eastern Anatolia. When the world reached 2000 BC, the smelting and mining of silver became increasingly larger.

The oldest reference to the element appears in the book of Genesis. A profound reference to silver in the Bible according to the account in the Gospel of John, Judas carried the disciples' money bag.[11] He betrayed Jesus for a bribe of "thirty pieces of silver"[12] by identifying him with a kiss. The Egyptians considered gold to be a perfect metal, and gave it the symbol of a circle. Since silver was the closest to gold in perfection, it was given the symbol of a semi-circle. Later this semi-circle led to a growing moon symbol, probably due to the likeness between the shining metal and the moon glow. The Romans called silver argentium, keeping this as the international name of the element, from where its chemical symbol derives.
Silver is one of the most major of major precious metals, second in acclaim only to gold, it's big sister. Goverments lock up silver. 'The United States Treasury stopped trading it for paper money in 1968 and the U.S. Mint has struck no silver coins since 1976. But more than 4,000 tons are in federal strong rooms in San Francisco and West Point: the nation's strategic stockpile.'(National Geographic, vo. 160 No.3 September 1981) Silver has a hardness rated between 2.5 and 2.7, and is therefore one of the most malleable of all metals. Silver is white and lustrous. While it is a metal, it is more aptly described as a transition element. In fluids, silver can exist in four basic forms - as a compound, a neutral particle (as in ground silver ), a negatively charged aggregate ( particle ), and a positively charged ion.
Silver and silver compounds have many uses. Pure silver is the best conductor of heat and electricity of all known metals, so it is sometimes used in making solder, electrical contacts and printed circuit boards. Silver is also the best reflector of visible light known. Silver has also been used to create coins, although today other metals are typically used in its place. Sterling silver, an alloy containing 92.5% silver, is used to make silverware, jewellery and other decorative items.

Antique silverware
"The common expression, “Born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” is a reference to health, not wealth. Because being fed with a silver spoon did, in fact, help children stay healthier, the old adage contains more than a grain of truth. "(Silver not just a Pretty Face - by Peter Stone - December 27, 2010 Posted in About our Jewellery) Royalty who ate using silverware were referred to as 'blue bloods" relating to the silver content in their blood. This common observation is part of the reason why silverware came into fashion in the middle ages: people who ate with their hands got sick more often and more easily.
The usage of silver came into being sometime between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. Although it may have been even earlier - records vary. Certainly we can go back to the early Egyptian period and the time of the Sumerian Civilisation. Silver mining was a very dangerous business in those far off days. The problem was that silver is mixed with, lead. And often the lives of the early miners lasted for only 2 or 3 years. Lead poisoning was not diagnosed as such in the early days - though the poor slaves who were actually doing the mining must have had their suspicions about the very high death toll. Because of this, most free men wouldn't work in the mines, and so they forced slaves to work in the mines instead.

Archeological Site
Ancient silver mines in Lavrion, .Greece Remains of silver washing plant with channels and receptacles. The precious metals sank and were retained in the cups. 

One famous silver mine was Laurion, near Athens in Greece. About 500 BC, the Athenians found an enormous silver mine right near Athens, on land that belonged to the government. This mine was what paid to build Athens' first navy, and helped Athens to become a powerful city-state. Another famous set of mines were in southern Spain. These mines were already being worked in the Bronze Age. After the First Punic War, in the 250s BC, the Carthaginians took over these mines and used the income from them to pay the money the Romans demanded. Then in the Second Punic War the Romans took over these mines and used the money they got from the mines to pay for more conquests.

Athenian silver coin displaying Athena and her Owl

The areas where silver is mined are found all over the world, but some of the main producers are: The U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Russia, Australia and Germany.

Ancient punch marked silver coin ,India,BC 300.

The convenience and use of silver in the coinage of the world has always lent great respectability to the commodity. And created a consistently high demand. Although it is interesting to note that the current value of silver bullion is now approximately 2% of the value 500 years ago! Although this may well be the case for perhaps 15 years, silver production has been unable to meet silver demand, and that trend is only becoming more and more pronounced.

Although jewelry and silverware are still the top two uses for silver , other fields are vying for their spot on the list. As the demand for silver in medical, electronic, and technological fields continues to grow, the price of silver is forced upward. Silver is truly multi-functional. In addition to its many health-related uses, silver is flexible, ductile, conducive, and reflective, all of which make it extremely valuable in a wide variety of technologies.

silver bullion
The great beauty of silver, its malleability and long ( almost permanent ) shell-life makes it ideal for jewellery and silverware. Whereas the traditional uses for silver, in coinage , jewellery and silver flatware, there is also a very large silver content in pewter. Photography, medicine and the production of toiletries are all important these days and also make use of this most magnificent of metals.

"Silver is a great antibacterial agent. Tiny amounts of silver or silver salts can chemically affect the cell membranes of bacterial cells, killing them and creating a sterile environment. Bacteria cannot build up a resistance to silver, as they can to most antibiotics, which means that silver is one of the more dependable methods of sterilization.

Today, silver’s antibacterial properties make it perfect for use in the medical field: burn treatments and wound dressings often incorporate silver. Medical research has shown that silver can promote the healing and regeneration of bone and skin. Silver also works to purify water in much the same way. The presence of silver or silver salts will kill present bacteria and prevent the growth of more. Aristotle knew this centuries ago, and advised Alexander the Great to use silver containers to store boiled water… in order to prevent disease. In time, wealthy Greeks and Romans began to store their wine and oil in silver casks to prevent spoilage."(Silver not just a Pretty Face - by Peter Stone - December 27, 2010 Posted in About our Jewellery)

sterling silver double sided mandala ring with round rainbow moonstone and 22ct gold detail

As a jeweller I use silver daily in the manufacture of objects of beauty therefore not only do I have a deep love of it but a great respect and can relate to this quote "But it troubles an engraver that people will so eagerly sell family treasures for paper dollars. " I see silver come in and I recognise the work of artist's now dead." he muses sadly." People don't realize that the craftmanship in their fine silverwork is worth more than the metal. Melting it is like slashing a famous painting in the Louvre. When silver prices get hot, crucibles get hotter. "National Geographic, vo. 160 No.3 September 1981)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A universal validity of jewellery?

Being a somewhat academically and philosophically inclined person, I enjoy reading all kinds of material on contemporary jewellery to engage and stimulate my own thinking and writing on the subject matter.

One of the most important international events pertaining to contemporary jewellery is Schmuck, an annual, specially curated show coinciding with the International Trades Fair in Munich, Germany. Besides trying every year to have enough really innovative work on hand to apply for the show, I always look forward to the catalogues of Schmuck, for they are a rich source of stimulation and inspiration on various levels. The catalogue for 2012 proved no different.

This year’s selection for Schmuck was made by Viennese jewellery collector Dr. Karl Bollmann, who mentions the following in his curatorial statement: “Anyone who thinks jewellery is essential, more than a reflection of vanity, elitism and exploitation, is bound to have doubts. Was Kant right to say that jewellery was detrimental to true beauty? Isn’t any attempt to embellish the personality a striving for false appearance? Can and should externals reflect the inward person?” The collector goes on to clarify: “I took on the task of making this [jewellery] selection because I wished to find out, perhaps one last time, whether jewellery that has substance, exists. If it did, it would express something of universal validity” (Schmuck 2012. Munich: Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen).

This got me thinking..… To me, the notion of a “universal validity” of jewellery, or then the possible lack thereof, is an interesting and challenging question, not least because I am a jeweller and like to think of my work as having some validity. When, why and to whom would jewellery be essential? What would “essential” mean in this context? Is jewellery, or any other form of adornment or embellishment, really only an attempt to falsify appearances, or is it an attempt to externalize something internal?

Before attempting to formulate an opinion on the above, I should probably mention that I tend to engage with this question from the perspective of the maker or the artist, and not necessarily the wearer, for I do not generally wear jewellery. Why, you ask? Mostly out of habit – when working physically in a studio it is not practical to wear jewellery, and so, over the years, I have come to know myself as ‘unadorned’.

Thus, from the perspective of the maker, I tend to agree with the following notion by influential artist jeweller Fritz Maierhofer: “is it not true that one of the origins of art lies in what we have trivialized as ‘self-adornment’, the first form of individualisation which brings us to maturity as complete beings?” (Koschatzky, G. & Aigner, C. (eds). 2006. Fritz Maierhofer – Jewellery and more! Stuttgart: Arnoldsche). Whilst I observe around me that wearing jewellery is a means to individualize and complete the Self, as an artist jeweller I strongly feel that creating jewellery makes me a more complete being. To me, creating jewellery is a means to investigate and reveal the internal structures and invisible dynamics of the Self and, perhaps more so, an attempt to communicate my existence as a human being in a sincere, truthful manner, which happens to be visual and tangible.

Bollmann in a way echoes this notion of self-communication in his summary of the jewellery he was presented with: “everything was represented, everything that could be thought and felt, and that never ceases to be thought and felt around the world” (Schmuck 2012. Munich: Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen). All of the pieces Bollman engaged with represented for him something that essentially spoke of being human, which referred to the intellectual and emotional capacities of human beings, two of the perhaps most defining attributes of being human.

Every Schmuck artist communicated his/her existence as a human being through his/her work, and inevitably so, I believe. For in creating (which is always in some way related to making oneself vulnerable, exposing oneself), we bring our history, baggage, hopes, fears, thoughts, emotions, opinions, strengths and weaknesses to the table, consciously or not. We acknowledge, celebrate, question, interrogate, humour, encourage and portray what it means to be human. Even our choice of medium refers to something inherently human: by choosing jewellery as a means of expression, the body, or at the very least the presence of another being, is brought into the equation. By inviting, reaching out to or perhaps even relying on somebody else to partake and share in our creative expressions, we arguably reveal another essential aspect of being human, namely that we are not islands.

Perhaps, then, it is safe to propose that as long as every creative is completely true to him/herself within his/her creative context – being courageous in the earliest sense of the word, namely ‘telling the story of who one is with one’s whole heart’ (Brown, B. 2010. TED Talk: The power of vulnerability [Online])- (s)he cannot but “pull the strings” of another human being; our creations cannot but gain some degree of universal validity. Does that then not give jewellery its essential quality, for both maker and wearer?

 Gela Tölken

“everything that could be thought and felt, and that never ceases to be thought and felt around the world”

Kim Buck

»Pumpous II«

Ring/ring, 2011

Feingold, montiert, gepresst

Fine gold, assembly and pressure


Schmuck 2012. Munich: Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen, p 32.

Shunho Cho

»Thorn (inside)«

Brosche/brooch, 2011

Silber, Holz, Acrylfarbe

Silver, wood, acrylic paint


Schmuck 2012. Munich: Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen, p 34.

Ursula Guttmann


Halsschmuck/necklace, 2010



Schmuck 2012. Munich: Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen, p 39.

Kazumi Nagano

Brosche/brooch, 2011

Bambus, Nylon, Gold

Bamboo, nylon, gold


Schmuck 2012. Munich: Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen, p 62.

Carine Terreblanche

»Round and round«

Ring/ring, 2011

Holz, Email/wood, enamel


Schmuck 2012. Munich: Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen, p 82.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

made by HAND

 possibility : in your hands 
- by Adi Cloete
photo by Renee Best: beautifulstruggleproductions

Hands symbolize action & power. 

The ability to create, nurture, love , communicate and destroy. 

I sometimes think about all the things that I've used my hands for. Everyday things like cooking and gardening and doing the washing and dishes and driving and typing and and and... the list goes on. 
How many onions have I chopped? 
How many cups of tea made? 
And how many times have I switched my computer on?

And in a professional capacity hands using hammers, sawing and soldering to create the jewellery thoughts of my head.
Sometimes people ask if you cut a ring off from a long tube and wallah! you have a ring? Emm not quite in this instance. You see,  I am the machine. The ring is hand made.

Last year Fine Ounce launched with the 56 rings exhibition. Our invite poster had the image of a hand. Apart from the fact that the 56 rings on show was created to adorn the hand, it was also to remind of the fact that our work is made by the hand and art works, carrying the unique essence of each creator. 
Signed with a unique finger print.

World wide there is a revival and greater awareness for things handmade.  Something being unique, quality and a more personal interaction dealing with the artist or crafter is carrying weight over that of buying mass produced things.
And by doing so you also help to sustain the dreams and life of the creator. 

The importance of the hand is also expressed in various cultures as a symbol or being adorned and incorporated in rituals.

Hand of Fatiema or Hamsa hand

the Hamsa hand is an ancient symbol and has been used for thousands of years across the Middle East and Africa. It represents blessing and strength and is used as protection against the evil eye. 
Archaeologists found that the Hamsa hand originated with the Phoenicians ( a civilization living along the Mediterranean coast line around 1550 BC to 300 BC). They used the Hamsa hand as a protection symbol of an ancient Middle Eastern goddess. The Hamsa hand has always been a symbol of a female entity that offers protection from evil and misfortune. 
The word Hamsa means five. 
In Judaism the Hamsa hand symbolize the Hand of God, but is also called the Hand of Miriam (Miriam is the sister of Moses and Aaron).
For Islam the Hamsa hand is known as the Hand of Fatima Fatima was the daughter of Mohamed the prophet of Islam who is thought to have had healing healing powers. The Hand of Fatima, like in Jewish tradition, is used to protect from misfortune and bad luck but is by no means considered a religious symbol.

Buddhism uses several hand gestures or mudras conveying specific messages as part of  the teachings of Buddha.
Mehndi, the art of henna painting on the body, has been practiced for centuries in India, Africa and the Middle East.Traditionally it is used for weddings , celebrations and rites of passage ceremonies.
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
The hand prints are those of the wives of a Maharajah killed in battle, and where made at the entrance of the fort as they left as part of the funeral procession, to be immolated on his funeral pyre. This funeral practice was called sati and has been banned in India since the 1800's.
upper arm bangle # untitled
silver & garnet
Adi Cloete - Firepetals

'I created this bangle after seeing the panel of hand prints  at the entrance to the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur.To me the bangle symbolize  of the transient nature of life, love and beauty.
The hand holds a silver heart, with a garnet heart st into it. The intricate patterns is hand engraved, resembling mehndi designs decorating the hands of brides. The flowers reminds of beauty that wilts soon. '   

Hands in jewellery. 
From left to right : Hand ring by BloodMilk, Rose gold & diamond Irish Claddagh ring, Hand with ring earrings by Margaux Lange

till next time - Good Bye!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


I thought to talk along the lines of Adornment of the body, especially when it comes to occasions of Ceremony. Stepping back to take a look at the astounding lengths people go to, to decorate their bodies one is taken on an adventure from the sublime to the ridiculous or sublimely ridiculous. I am certainly a fan of the bazaar of the bizarre, however, ‘ridiculousness’ begins to feature when the game of fashion and ceremony looses its humor and takes itself far too seriously.

 As a social species we are subjected to all kinds of trauma and pressure to conform (or not conform) to social codes of behavior and dress. This is done very subtly or sometimes overtly by the particular culture, sub-culture or group we belong to and whose values we attempt to adhere to either consciously or unconsciously. Although this pressure seems to come from the society we live it is ultimately self-inflicted. The pressure gets turned up if you happen to be a celebrity or in the public eye for whatever reason although the same scenarios get carried out amongst the serfs and plebeians, the media vultures are just not that interested in the Jo Soaps of the world unless antics are performed to attract their attention.

I chose pictures that express a certain social behavioral psychology that is fascinating, and made some correlations that might not be entirely logical or factually correct but throw a surreal light on the dress up party at play. Of the images I chose, Lady Gaga in her meat and diamond getup, which she wore to the MTV Video Music Awards was the most demanding of my attention (probably because I am vegetarian). From a purely visual aspect the outfit is fascinating, even if in a kind of nightmarish way, I think it would have certainly met with Salvador Dali’s approval, visually. It is interesting to observe that her dress got as much attention as it did (in my opinion) because of the context within which she chose to express herself- The MTV Music Awards. If she had worn the meat dress in one of her music videos it would not have had the same impact I believe and at a carnival it would have attracted a few stares. The context of an “Award Ceremony” created the stage, literally and figuratively. Secular Ceremonies in society are treated with the same fervor and reverence as Catholic Mass. Certainly for an age that worships Materialism what better ‘church’ than the MTV Music Awards or the Film Oscars.

Apart from attracting attention Lady Gaga was apparently also making a statement, which is: Equality is the prime rib of America-, which implies that we shouldn’t be treated like meat. (I’d like to add… well maybe if we started by not treating animals like meat). Lets make it not so much about hierarchy in the food chain but adding the ingredient of humaneness back into humanity never mind adding a new dimension to ‘Blood Diamonds’.

The other image I found which I thought a fitting match for Lady Gaga and her meat dress was a photograph of a Papua New Guinea warrior in full ceremonial regalia but in place of a nose ring a CD disk with “INCREASE VOLUME” inscribed on it. Make of it what you will.