Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Praise Of Jewels

    Of all the things we slap on our bodies, very possibly the oldest one is some form of jewelry. When we started on this long path to build a language, all unknowingly, we first strung claws and shells and bones about our necks and hips, or placed them in our hair, or pierced our bodies with them.
                                                            Amboseli Man of Kenya
  And over millennia of time we have become ever more sophisticated with regard to the techniques and skill we bring to this incredibly old artform.  That we have in the process despoiled the land and sometimes mortally harmed each other in the trek to find the rare, colorful, and shiny things we have made into our jewels, is not to be disputed.  We have, and continue to do so, with little thought to the how and why.  And so our quest for bright adornment is also bloodied and dark.
                                              Garrard&Co. The Cullinan Diamond Brooch    But the subject here is the simple, and often not so simple beauty that we have created from these things we choose to treasure.  For, doubt it not, gemstones have no value whatever in and of themselves.  They are merely rock crystals of varied composition, nothing more.  The same can be said for gold, silver and platinum, which apart from jewelry, have only slight real world usage.
   Like hats and headdresses, jewelry can, and does often lift to the arena of art; transcending time, and place, becoming in the process something fraught with history, and subtly layered meanings.
   So lets just take a good look at a wide range of jewelry from far places and near.  Sure, its important to never forget the loss and suffering that hides within so much of this dazzlement, but it does not remove its objective loveliness.
                          Late Egyptian gold falcon pectoral with glass inlay. After 600 BC

                                   Diamond and Citrine crown of Queen Sirikrit of Thailand
                           16th century Italian agate cameo portrait brooch with enamel work
                               Roman cavalry helmet, gilded silver, between 23 and 319 AD
                                                    Robin Faye- Chalcopyrite necklace
                                                            Newari necklace, Nepal
              Michele Dato, Necklace of St Januarius 1679 (added to repeatedly over years)
                                                             Jeweled pectoral, Oman
                                                      Shell drop earrings, English, 1880
                                    C.H. Meyla Deco diamond and enamel pendant brooch
                                       Silver and gold cuff with faceted garnets, Turkoman
                    Sarmatian gold diadem with various precious stones. Russia, first century AD
                    Cartier-platinum set blue tourmaline, diamond and yellow sapphire earrings
                                                    Makara bangles, Tamil Nadu, India
                                                            Turquoise pendant, Tibet
                                                                  Necklace, Morocco
If you had the choice of it, what sort of thing would you wear about your neck, or on your head, or anywhere else for that matter?

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