After a month of intense work and Spring cleaning, I feel like a coiled spring. Easter weekend was the first weekend I had off for some time, and I made the most of it. Took Friday off and walked as many new parks and state forests as I could until I was wiped out. On Easter Sunday, I spent the entire day in the woods. It was a day filled with worship in my church/temple/synagogue/mosque/meeting house. Every moment felt gilded and sacred.
This month's missive has a slightly different structure. Rather than five different gemstone/layouts or jewels, this is the story of one ring and it's creation from inspiration to finish. We'll end full circle when you see the very first piece of jewelry I made.
The box of rings in the right hand corner caught my eye. No less than seven out of eight gem-set rings pictured in the box feature what is referred to alternately as the scooped, lobed, cusped, scalloped or petal setting. The ring in the weighing scale is also set in this style. This setting is early, and seen from the 15th century to 16th centuries. Simply, this setting is the the modern four prong setting of its time.
As the wearer's rank rises and time passes, you see the setting becoming more elaborate, featuring enameled flourishes, additional gemstones, and more lobes. Moreover, you will see this style worn by both women and men in portraits. Around 1600, this style fell out of vogue, and cluster settings became fashionable.
The painting was thought to feature St. Eligius, the patron saint of goldsmiths. However, recent scholarship has suggested that it may be a portrait of Willem van Vleuten, a Bruges (Flanders) goldsmith, and the couple is possibly James II, King of Scots, and his intended, Mary of Guelders. The girdle draped over the table suggests matrimony, and there is a ring in the weighing scale. Her brocade gown, jeweled head dress, his hat pin, and impressive necklace all indicate their wealthy, if not royal standing.
This painting marks the starting point of my design inspiration for the new parcels of French-cut diamonds that I acquired in February. I wanted to re-examine the ubiquity of the simplest design, the original four prong setting.
Please attend my gallery talk at Brooklyn Metal Works this Saturday at 1 pm to hear more about this painting and see more examples of this style of jewelry and period (More on this below).
I'm learning how to make this ring using traditional methods and techniques (at Jewelry Arts Inc with instructor & expert enamelist Valerie Blum), and simultaneously building maquettes using 3D printing. The traditional method is informing the curves and the lines I want to see in the 3D printed version.
In the photograph above, you see the very first model in the back ground. It was altogether too small, and flat. For the second iteration, seen in the foreground in a brown resin wax, we pulled the petals a bit to create volume.
After working on two more models to get the proportions and curves just right, we were left with the three maquettes you see in the background, which were each printed on a different printer, using different resins. I then paint them gold or silver to approximate the final color. You can see the evolution of the ring in both scale and volume. The final 18K raw gold casting is in the foreground.
I thoroughly enjoy exploring these liminal spaces between tradition and technology. It is, I believe, where innovation thrives. #tinkering #tinkerers #makers (Another example of this cross-fertilization: Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party cooking Show. Sublime.)
Both traditional handmade techniques and computer-aided design software are tools. Nothing more, nothing less. Some projects are best started with a sheet of metal and others are best conjured with keystrokes. Mastery is knowing the difference.
Also, lilacs are here. Be still, my heart.
Now I've really jumped down this rabbit hole, and am doodling a number of different rings, some with enamel, some designs with additional stones, and a pair of earrings in this style. I want to make a heavier, richly enameled one for a man. It's the cheapest and most fun way to travel back in time around Europe. All you need are books, the internet, a sketchbook and your imagination. Stay tuned.
I was a senior at Haverford College and enrolled in an elective titled 'The Geometry of Design'. We studied the rules of tessellation and symmetry: Escher, the Alhambra, etc. For our final project, we had to create something that incorporated as many of the design principles we studied as possible. It is the only textbook I still have, and refer to, from college.
I have no idea how I located a jewelry class off campus in those pre-Google days (Fall 1995!), but I decided my project would be a piece of jewelry, and I signed up for a class at the Main Line Art Center. I walked just under a mile to class each way every week through a gingko-lined path, and I can still smell the putrid odor from walking through the rotting fruit on the path to the MLAC. It took the entire semester to build this cuff and a big part of me (okay, each and every part of me) cringes when I look at it (the jump rings aren't soldered shut, nothing is the same size and/or symmetrical and my 'enamel' was epoxy and paint mixed together. The edges of the cuff are razor sharp because I didn't know to file them. Oh, I also spray painted the cuff because I wanted it to be a white metal canvas, instead of copper.
I see a big influence of my Indian heritage in the intricacy of the design. When I see the young woman of twenty in that class forming and soldering, my heart is so full. I pronounced solder, with the 'l'. At the time of this class, I had just returned from my junior year abroad studying French literature in Paris (in a word: heaven) and while there, I tried to get a 'stage' (internship) at Sonia Rykiel jewelry, and a summer internship at Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Now when I dust off these memories, I do feel like while I could not have named this path earlier, I have been on it all along.
This cuff has survived my college graduation, a year in Los Angeles and three subsequent moves in New York City. I'm not sure why this object has survived, because it would not be named on the short list of things I would rescue in the event of a fire. But some where, some part of me must have been known it marks the origin point.
The contrast between this cuff (circa 1995) and the renaissance ring marks how far I have traveled.
I spent some time really looking at it and going back to who I was when I made it. At that time I thought I would spend my 'career' sitting behind a desk looking at a computer (doing who knows what), and then working my way to my own office and an impressive-sounding title. After that, I had no idea what was supposed to come next. I figured my parents would let me know.
I look back and see a young woman determined to be a good everything: a good girl, a good daughter, a good student, etc. But still I heard my song and started humming along. I feel genuinely grateful to know I have been on the right path all along.
Now I look back and see that all along I was blooming.
I've been meditating on the aforementioned statement and working on stepping into each day with the knowledge that every petal is unfolding as it should. What if you started each morning with the certainty that you were where you needed to be? This exercise clarified a number of points for me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support over these past two decades. Next year will be Golconda's twentieth year in business. Each sale has brought me that much closer to my dreams. When I think of the next twenty years unfolding, I hope that this second half of my career will be described by the civil rights adage 'Lift as you climb.' I hope to end my career secure in the knowledge that I contributed as much as I received.
We will begin by tracing the history of diamond cutting through the centuries, as well as looking at examples of medieval and renaissance jewelry from private collections. We will see examples featuring the use of rose-cut diamonds, briolette diamonds & French-cut diamonds in jewelry. Also, we will revisit the Petrus Christus painting (we could spend an hour discussing just the jewelry in this painting, although we will limit ourselves to approximately five minutes). I will also bring the renaissance style French-cut diamond ring pictured above.
Morels and ramps are popping, and it's just glorious outside. It's shinrin yoku, or forest-bathing time for me. I've already made iced coffee a couple of times. Even when it's raining, I'm happy because I'm thinking Fungal Fairyland around the corner. This is my prettiest morel find this year, and was lucky enough to find it and others. It was a worthy offering to three Goddesses with whom I spent last weekend. I'm certain good times are ahead my friends.