Wednesday, June 6, 2007
People visiting galleries, art shows or boutiques often wonder how designer handcrafted jewelry is created. They often ask, “Where do jewelry designs come from?” or “How does the artist design this jewelry?” In fact, many artists cannot tell you exactly where designs come from, but they can share how they go about designing jewelry. There are as many different approaches to creating designer handcrafted jewelry as there are artists working. Some artists have a predetermined style or a “branded look” with specific stone combinations or techniques that give a starting point for their designs. Other artists create commissioned pieces where the design marries the specific needs of the client with the specifics of an existing piece of jewelry. Perhaps the most challenging for artists is to start a design from scratch. Luckily, most artists will say that inspiration is all around them, all the time. They simply have to be aware of the visual resources around them every day. Whether it is the exquisite colors of tropical lizards, the wavy wrapping of a bird’s nest, the mechanics of a doorbell or shaped and patterned seashells, the rhythm, color and patterns usually spark creativity and the beginning of new designs. Even when artists use similar design sources, that does not mean they will produce the same jewelry product. Two artists using a butterfly theme or motif as their inspiration will generate two quite different jewelry solutions. A butterfly theme may become a brooch encrusted with colorful, faceted gemstones or it may be created from fine silver, then hammered to create relief and patinated with chemicals to create a dark, rich metallic surface. That is why designer handcrafted jewelry is so intriguing.
Looking at the finished product, people often wonder how artists know if a piece has good design How do artists decide what designs to use? Line, shape, color and texture are basics that most artists consider when designing jewelry. They also consider whether the piece has contrast, balance, symmetry/asymmetry, a focal point, and proportion. Sometimes the void or the space not filled up, called negative space, is the most important aspect of a design. Artists usually view the piece from many different angles, even upside down, to more easily analyze and isolate the different design strengths or weaknesses. Whether a piece conveys a feeling or mood or how well it functions is also considered at this design stage. Necklaces that are imbalanced, clasps that are uncomfortable on the neck, rings that are too thick between the fingers are issues that artists must resolve when designing. And of course, there are many different techniques and jewelry processes that can also determine the overall look and feel of jewelry. Forged metal may focus more on line and movement but not color. Texture can be created through hammering or milling. Relief can be created through repousse work or granulation. To create dynamic pieces of jewelry, the piece will have good flow and cause the eye to move all around it. To discover the best of many alternatives, designers have to explore or at least be aware of all the options open to them and then select those that will create the most interesting and beautiful piece.
The best designer handcrafted jewelry is “fingerprinted”; that is, it bears the mark, the unique look and feel of the artist who created it. As jewelry designers focus their artistic techniques and hone their eye to visual themes, they will develop a completely individual style or “brand” that can often be identified by others. This is the goal toward which designers strive. Sometimes what begins as a mistake, a torch melts the edge of silver, or a patina goes darker than expected, can be a point of departure for an artist who wants to develop this branded look. That which was a “mistake” can become a new method of working with a particular media and then, in turn, become a distinguishing look of the artist’s pieces. Todd Reed was one of the first to use unfaceted, rough diamonds in his work. Charles Lewton-Brain was one of the first to develop the techniques and unique look of fold-formed silver as a metalworking technique. Many well-respected jewelry artists today, who exhibit their work in fine galleries or sell their jewelry in fine craft shows, have one or two distinguishing elements to their work.
All designs of true jewelry artists are original, not just copied from something or someone else. By understanding and using the elements of design, the artists can purposefully change their original inspiration or starting point into a totally new creation. There are no real design “rules”. Designer handcrafted jewelry is attractive and timeless because the artist who creates it has successfully used visual resources together with highly skilled techniques to create the one of a kind or limited edition pieces for which they are known.
A Rich History
The ancient Celts who settled in Ireland many centuries ago, created enchanting designs in jewelry. Celtic craftsmen adapted ideas from nature to produce intricate designs based on simple motifs in silver and other metals. Silver and gold were used by Celtic craftsmen between 2000 BC to around 550 AD to create ornaments that were remarkably sophisticated. Spirals, animal motifs and later crosses were woven into Celtic rings, bracelets, brooches and pendants.
When one thinks of Celtic jewelry, the Celtic cross often comes to mind first. It had its start primarily in Ireland. Celtic crosses are not just crosses that have Celtic knot work on them. The early crosses were equal-armed crosses, enclosed or backed by a circle. After the introduction of Christianity, it was more common to see the equal-armed cross on a pedestal, which then gave it a more elongated form.
The arms symbolize the four quarters of the earth, or the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water. The Celtic cross represents a bridge or passage between heaven and earth. The circle or center ring is a symbol of infinite love and specifically, the endlessness of God’s love. It is a symbol of eternity and the path of the sun in the sky. Given the spiritual ideas and power represented by this jewelry, it is easy to see why Celtic craftsmen were so dedicated to pristine perfection in crafting the Celtic cross.
This symbol represented the very highest ideals and aspirations of the Celts, and silver Celtic ornaments are among the most timeless. Today, there are literal interpretations of the ancient cross symbols, as well as more contemporary designs with hearts or other spiritual symbols.
The Celtic knot ornamental patterns were originally created for the Book of Kells, the best-known source of Celtic knots as well as other types of Celtic ornament. The Book of Kells is a fantastic collection of paintings that illuminate the four Gospels in Latin, written in 800 A.D. The knots were also used in other manuscripts and on monuments. They may have also been used in woodcarving and textiles, but these art works have not survived time.
Celtic knots are a prevalent design feature of silver Celtic jewelry. They are complete loops without beginning or end. It is said that good Celtic artists never leave a loose end on a strand and that pure knots should be unending. Celtic animal designs also interlace like knots, but end with feet, heads or tails.
The Celts dominated Western Europe for a thousand years, but only recently has the importance of their influence on cultural, linguistic and artistic development in Europe been understood. The Celts as an ethnic group disappeared from most of Europe with the exception of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.
The Celts were well educated in areas such as religion, philosophy, geography and astronomy but transmitted their culture only orally, never writing down history or facts. For that reason, there was little knowledge of their culture before their contact with the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. Celtic jewelry such as rings, bracelets, pendants, and brooches were so sought after for their beauty and style, that the trade of Celtic jewelry across the Mediterranean was quite successful.
For over a millennium, the intricate knot work and minute decoration of silver Celtic jewelry , woodcarving and calligraphy have enchanted the world. Creating new and fresh designs based on classic ancient symbols and motifs, today’s artists are bringing a new voice and interpretation to age-old designs.
Made to ‘Perfection’
Mass-produced jewelry often looks more uniform and sometimes lacks the variation that speaks of the hand and eye of the individual artist. Machine made jewelry is produced using pattern and perfect repetition with the focus primarily on profitability. Even though mass-produced jewelry may appear as handmade, that does not mean it was actually handcrafted. Even though mass-produced jewelry of common styles is sometimes less expensive, because less expensive to make, it is not always so. Mass-produced jewelry rarely has special meaning or a history attached to it-it does not have a story or a bit of the maker’s life embedded into it.
While machine made jewelry is produced from patterns and consistent repetition, the charm of handmade art jewelry is its variation from similar, but not identically same pieces. Art jewelry shows the creativity, concentration, time, skill and dedication required of the artist to create his/her original. Artists and designers making art jewelry use old metal smith skills, simple tools and a variety of age-old techniques to create new, intriguing forms and shapes. In addition to the craftsmanship involved, art jewelry often speaks or refers to the individuality and personal meaning of the artist as well as their cultural identity and personal themes.
Love and Passion
Handmade jewelry offers the pleasure of unique, often rare designs that are not identical and are created with great love and passion. Art jewelry designers often use natural, high quality materials such as precious metals, precious and natural gemstones , antique components and organic elements such as coral, leather, wood, bone, amber and pearls. They go to great lengths to design unusual, unexpected combinations of shapes, forms, colors and combinations of materials.
Many art jewelers today, have a ‘branded’ look to their work. The brand may be recognized by the specific collection of materials used, by a highly developed approach to design or to an interesting or unusual technique. Each artist attaches their name to the work and is proud of the reputation they have. For jewelry artists, the creation of new jewelry is a passionate aspect of their life. They enjoy every minute of their work, whether working as the designer or the fabricator or the seller sharing their story with others.
An Art Form
Jewelry is an art form. Painters and sculptors embed their artwork with great strength of feeling that comes through their design process and the finished work. In the same way, art jewelry often reflects the personal touch and style and expresses the individuality and interests of the artist creating it. Many jewelry artists have training in art and design, although others are self-taught. These artists commonly speak about the fascination they have always had in working with their hands. They talk about linking their soul, mind and body together in the process of conceiving a new idea and then creating something new and exciting. Jewelry artists often say that they play with the materials in an imaginary space and then see the materials evolve and transform into components which become in turn, a new form of jewelry. Artists also talk about the silent conversations they have with themselves as new ideas begin to flow and come together for the new piece. They are dedicated to their artistic way of life.
Handmade jewelry is not usually available in large quantities. The attention to craftsmanship and detail is a hallmark of high quality art jewelry. Wearing beautiful handmade jewelry is such a pleasure that it is worth discovering it through galleries or art shows. Sharing and explaining to others the history and information about the jewelry or the story of the artist creator, is a great joy. It is satisfying to wear jewelry that a person has personally and lovingly created with the use of their eyes and hands.
The Earliest ‘Bling’
Some of the earliest ornaments were seashell beads; for example, beads from South Africa have been analyzed and dated from 75,000 years ago. More recent discoveries by scientists have found even older beads. As reported in National Geographic, these seashell beads were excavated from sites in Israel and Algeria and date from 100,000 to 135,000 years ago. Remoteness from the seashore indicates that there was a deliberate selection and transportation by humans of these shells for symbolic use and personal ornamentation. Personal ornaments have many different and multiple functions. They may used to beautify the body, function as ‘love letters’ in courtship or as amulets that express individual or group identity.
Beyond meeting the need for food and survival, these earliest humans were living as social beings and constructing ideas and beliefs surrounding their ‘found objects’. These beads are archaeological proof that mankind has had an ability to think symbolically and creatively from its ancient beginnings. Specialists in the study of cultural diversity agree that these early beads indicate that humans had an ability to assign symbolic meaning to objects and to construct social conventions or traditions around them. Whether the beads were used in gift-giving systems in order to strengthen social and economic relationships or whether the beads were used as markers of ethnic, social and personal identity, there is no doubt that these early ‘expressions’ were intentional and creative uses of ‘found materials’.
Evolving Jewelry Styles
Besides the earliest shell beads, which survived weather and time, men and women have adorned themselves with other handmade decorations such as garlands of flowers, bracelets of woven grass, and stone beads. These were the first decorations to beautify the human body. Over the centuries, jewelry styles and materials have evolved in step with the advances of civilization. From the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, from the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution, designs and materials have transformed, modernized, and then often returned to their most basic forms and essential elements.
Today, the majority of jewelry products are machine made, allowing manufacturers to produce uniform jewelry designs much more economically than traditional handcrafting and hand-casting techniques allow. Even complex jewelry designs can be produced with speed and uniformity. The manufacturing helps ensure the production of a consistent and highly profitable product.
However, in the past few decades, the modern marketplace has experienced a new interest in handmade jewelry and a greater value is being placed on limited edition and one of a kind art jewelry designs. These pieces of art jewelry are designed by artists, are made by hand and often utilized ancient crafting processes. With this renewed interest in the art and craft of jewelry, many jewelry artists around the world and enjoying recognition for the talent and skills. There are many specialty galleries that feature an array of handmade jewelry. The Internet facilitates the advent and spread of art jewelry sales globally. Recognizing the eye of the artist and the power and energy of handmade objects, brings us back to our roots—our desire for individuality, beauty, and love.
Circle of Life
In my opinion, a significant hope for the peaceful outcome of our future, lies in this most basic of truths—that men and women are thinking beings and that they desire to create beauty both for themselves and for others. There is abundant evidence that human beings have been ‘human’ for thousands of years. Recognizing our continuity with our ancient ancestors may be our best hope for rediscovering true sources of compassion, serenity and hope.
The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere—in landscape, music art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion and in ourselves. No one would desire not to be beautiful. When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.
If you were walking on the desert or hiking in the foothills, what would you do if you came across and amazing stone that had large yellow and red spots that reminded you of your garden poppies at home? You would probably want to name the stone Poppy Jasper”. That’s what rock hound enthusiasts have done for years. The names Poppy, Picasso Marble, Dalmatian, Paintbrush, Rain Forest and Leopard Skin are all names that describe the large group of jasper know commonly as Picture Jaspers”. Dalmatian Jasper is white with black spots while Leopard Skin Jasper is beige/pink with spots of black and yellow, resembling Leopard Skin.
Picture Jaspers have amazing colorations and designs. Jaspers are found in colors including red, brown, pink, yellow, green and shades of blue and purple. The organic material and mineral oxides in Jasper create interesting patterns. Because of the foreign materials, jasper is rarely uniform in color but commonly multicolored, striped or spotted, bands and colors. Many of the patterns resemble landscapes with mountain and valleys, so the name picture” is part of the name of many well-known jaspers. One of these famous jaspers is Morgan Hill Poppy Jasper. It is jasper with red and yellow dots that resemble poppy flowers. Technically, it is brecciated jasper, meaning that it came from sun-dried and oxidized iron-rich clay; the cracks were then later filled in by other substances.
Place Name Jaspers
Although jaspers are found worldwide, a wide variety of named jaspers are found in the western areas of the United States. California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Washington are well known for the place name jaspers such as Stone Canyon Jasper with its mustard yellow base and cream and purple banding. Others are Willow Creek, Owyhee, and Deschutes Jasper. Other popular jaspers are found in Germany, India, Russia, Pakistan, France and the USA as well as many other countries
Magical and Therapeutic Jasper
Jaspers have been to about every culture known to man. Many of these cultures have attributed magical powers to Jasper. Native Americans believe that jasper brings rain and in fact, the word for Jasper in some Native American cultures meant rain-bringer”. Jasper was also used in Ancient European times as a “rain bringer”.
Natural healers consider jasper useful as on overall healing gemstone. Wearing jasper was believed to provide protection, have a calming effect and give stability and security. It is thought to balance one’s physical, emotional and intellectual states.
In folklore, Poppy Jasper is thought to function like adrenaline, waking up and energizing areas of the body that appear to be sleeping. It is believed to encourage a deep connection with the life of the Earth. It inspires a positive, joyful attitude and gives the motivation and energy to take creative action. To natural healers, poppy jasper is a gemstone that was broken and healed. They consider this a very useful gem to help with blood disorders and heart problems. Poppy Jasper is also thought to enhance strength and willpower.
The folklore and cultural history surrounding Jaspers adds to the beauty of these amazing stones. Picture Jaspers could certainly inspire creative story telling and belief in their curative properties. Their beauty can be explained in geologic terms, but their colorful designs inspire and ask for more creative explanations. Jewelry designers often utilize the beauty of nature with its abundant color, pattern, shapes and forms, as original sources of inspiration. When visualizing new designs, artists will often create a “story” or a theme that helps to bring forward the passion or inspiration for a specific piece of jewelry. Then the piece is not just a necklace or bracelet but adornment to enhance the wearer.
What Is Fossil Ivory?
Woolly Mammoths were great creatures that wandered our earth freely over 10,000 years ago. Like their relatives, modern day elephants, they had ivory tusks. You may have seen drawings of the great Woolly Mammoth whose tusks could weigh up to 300 pounds each and measure over 16 feet in length. Drastic climate changes during the great ice ages caused these animals to succumb to natural forces. Their skeletons and tusks were then naturally buried for over thousands of years in the frozen Artic tundra of Alaska, Canada and Siberia.
Fossil Ivory Tusks
The gigantic tusks, which have been hidden for thousands of years in the remote Arctic tundra of Alaska, Canada and Siberia, are unearthed many ways. Bush pilots sometimes spot the tusks along riverbanks in the Alaska tundra. Other times the tusks are unearthed as a natural result of gold mining or road construction activities. The beautiful fossil ivory hues of tan, brown and blue are the result of thousands of years of mineralization. The colors vary from tan to dark brown depending on the mineral deposits that were in the immediate soil surrounding the fallen mammoth. Each tusk exhibits unique character and beauty that is never exactly the same in other pieces of fossil tusk ivory.
Jewelry Artists and Fine Crafts Designers
Jewelry artists , and fine craft designers are honored to utilize these prized ancient ivory fossils in their lustrous jewelry, small sculptures or inlays in collectible knives that reflect the hues of the Artic landscape. Artists painstakingly design, carve, join, polish and finish each piece to enhance the unique color of the Artic Ivory. To the delight of fine jewelry collectors, fossil mammoth ivory has emerged as an eco-friendly and increasingly valuable alternative to elephant ivory. As with all fine gem quality ivory, the luster is enhanced with frequent exposure to one’s natural skin oils, developing a rich patina over time.
Elephant Ivory or Fossil Ivory
Although there are many similarities between fossil mammoth ivory and elephant ivory, there are identification methods that can distinguish the two. A feature used to identify mammoth ivory is a brownish or blue-green colored ‘blemish’ called vivianite, an iron phosphate. While barely visible to the naked eye, it has a dramatic purple appearance if seen under an ultraviolet light source. Even if discolored, elephant ivory does not have this characteristic fluorescence of vivianite. Polished cross-sections of elephant and mammoth ivory dentine both display exquisite fine lines, cross-hatching or chevron marks called Schreger lines. However, the Schreger line angles, as measured by specialists, show distinctly different angles for elephant and mammoth ivory ~ another distinguishing characteristic.
International trade in elephant ivory has been largely shut down due to concern for the preservation of a living species. While still scarce and difficult to work with, this lustrous natural ivory possesses the same gem qualities of new ivory, without the stigma attached to illegal harvesting of endangered elephants.
These hidden fossil treasures are beautiful gem alternatives to new elephant ivory. Visit Urban Organic Designs website to see fossil Mammoth Ivory necklaces.
Most gem historians believe that our ancestors regarded gems as sacred gifts from the heavens and that emeralds specifically carried magical powers. Some legends said that you could see the future if you held an emerald under your tongue. Others stated that emeralds would bring riches, power, strengthen memory and intelligence, reveal the truth and help to avert evil. Other cultures associated the gem with faith, harmony and peace. Emerald history and lore is unique and rich.
The idea of birthstones, specific stones for each month of the year, has also been around for thousands of years. May, the fifth month of the calendar year, has Emerald as its birthstone in Western tradition. It is also the May birthstone for the Arabs and the Hindus. Mercury is the planet that rules the Emerald and other green stones according to Hindu astronomers. Mercury, and therefore Emerald, rules the mind, intelligence and affects a person’s ability for public speaking, education, and travel. Other birthstones for instance are Amethyst for February, Pearl or Alexandrite for June, or Turquoise for December.
Some people theorize that the earliest associations between gemstones and months of the year evolved from the twelve stones mentioned in the Bible, while others attribute the development of the birthstones to the Twelve Apostles. And yet, still other religions have produced quite different beliefs as to the origins of birthstones.
Better means of gem identification, more modern interpretations of various religious writing, and various transformations in world have played into the evolution of the birthstone idea. Finally, in 1912, in an effort to resolve this issue, the American National Retail Jewelers Association decided on a list of birthstones. They added or changed many of the traditional stones to other which were more commercially viable. In 1938, the American Gem Society adopted this list for use by its members. In 1952, a variation of this list was approved by the American national Retail jewelers Association and the American Gem Society. This official Western list of accepted birthstones was established at least partially on the basis of maximizing sales and profit.
However, other groups around the world have issued their own lists. Alternative birthstones lists are based on cultural traditions and religious beliefs that evolved over many hundreds of years. These cultures assign any or all of the following gemstones as May birthstones: Agate, Carnelian, Chrysoprase, Garnet, Jade, and Tourmaline.
Emeralds and Modern Science
Like our ancestors over many thousands of years, many people today believe that birthstone jewelry can improve health, confidence, relationships, consciousness and finances. Those who believe in metaphysical principles or those who practice astrology say that the planets and all the stars in our universe emit magnetic and electrical fields, a fact confirmed by modern science. In addition, they say that each planet gives out its own cosmic color and generates a particular energy and influence that radiates throughout the cosmos. The energy properties of heat, magnetism and electricity have an influence on the life of every living creature.
They believe that gemstones which resonate with the planetary energies active at the time of one’s birth, can diminish negativity and enhance positive energy in one’s life. Rather than a single gemstone for your birth month, there may be several that resonate with the specific energies active at the time of your birth.
For ancient Egyptians, the emerald’s color symbolized life itself. The French word ‘jardin’ (zhar-dan) means garden and it is often used to describe the ‘inclusions’ in emeralds. If you look at an emerald under a microscope, the inclusions appear as luxuriant foliage. Emeralds are one of four precious stones, along with diamonds. Whether you believe that Emerald or another gemstone is the best May birthstone, the history and lore surrounding any gemstone can be fascinating!
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Jewelry Playing with Design
Thought for Today ~ Creativity
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. Buckminister Fuller
A Celtic Blessing
May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Thought for Today
Art is the creation of forms symbolic of human feeling. Susanne Langer. Author.
Fossil Ivory Necklace
See article below!
Labradorite Close Up
Beauty does not linger, it only visits. Yet beauty’s visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm, it calls us to feel, think, and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful.
I am an Art Jewelry Designer who creates one of kind high end jewelry in precious metals, gemstones, global beads and organics such as fossil ivory.