Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jewelry - the most conservative art form in the world

Recently I received a wonderful gift: an album called “7000 Years of Jewelry,” edited by Hugh Tait.
“The aim of this book is to bring together jewelry from all the major phases of man’s history” – said Tait in the preface of his book. And he really does that.
Tait’s collection is a chronicle of Jewelry Art through history, from the most ancient known civilizations in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) and Egypt, up until today. The book entries are written by the curators of archeological exhibits that are on display in British museums, with a lot of photos from every period of jewelry-making.

I’ll need a lot more time to study this book (and it’s a lovely project for me to look forward to), but I’ve already gotten a first impression that is definitely clear: with more than a few of the pieces, it’s difficult to tell whether they were made today, or thousands of years ago…

For example, look at this necklace from the grave of Sumerian Queen Puabi (dated around 2500 BC), with lapis lazuli, cornelian and chalcedony beads, attached to a gold chain. It was found around the head of one of the queen’s male attendants:

Compare that design with a necklace recently created by Ester Dvoskin, made of green agate and leather cord:

Many ancient necklaces contain gold spiral wire elements. The spiral is a fascinating and timeless symbol, a picture of eternity or the spinning of time. With the invention of telescopes, they also came to represent unknown worlds – the way the galaxies form spirals in the night sky – beautiful, intriguing and mysterious.
The ancient jewelry designers might have been thinking of “milestones in time”, or even “worlds within worlds,” as they added these dangling pendants and coins filled with spiral designs along a marching line of beads, dividing them into symmetrical groups:






Now here is a modern ornamental piece by Renata Grabois: a necklace made from coral beads with silver medallions.

The same symmetrical design combining spiral wires, coins and grouped beads!

How and why do jewelry design elements have such a long life-span? Maybe the answer is that real Beauty does not answer to changing fashion trends....

Or – put another way – maybe only the truly beautiful things are allowed to survive through the centuries.

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