Rose – Cirino
THE Making of Jewelry is an ancient art, and may be traced to a very remote period, not only by examples, of which there are many, but through ancient writings. Abundant examples of goldsmiths’ work have been found in Egyptian tombs dating as far back as the fifteenth century B.C. The Bible has many references to the use of jewelry.
The goldsmiths’ craft, as practiced centuries ago, has many attractive features that may be adapted or applied to the craft work of the present time. The possibilities for the application of design are unlimited. With no other material can more satisfactory results be obtained in the finished piece of work than with that employed by the goldsmith. No other craft calls for such skill in the handling of the materials used, or so keen a sense of fine line and proportion in design.
Jewelry comprises various objects for personal adornment, rendered precious by their workmanship. In the form of rings and pendants, jewelry may be merely decorative, or in the form of brooches and pins, it may be useful as well. The making of jewelry cultivates an appreciation of this ancient art. To acquire the keenest sense of appreciation for the fine jewelry of ancient or modern times, one must study the designs as expressed in the work, and practice the art. The knowledge derived from actual practice is both cultural and practical. It not only helps to develop the artistic impulse and make the individual sensitive to the beauty of nature as applied to metal, but it also arouses interest in the metal industries and the commercial processes allied with the manufacture of jewelry on a large scale, such as mining, assaying and alloying.
The pieces of jewelry most prized by our museums today are those made centuries ago, where cleverness in design and workmanship were of much greater value than the material used.
Many craftsmen design in the material, feeling their way along without a drawing, but, as Benvenuto Cellini says, “Though many have practiced the art without making drawings, those who made their drawings first did the best work.”
In school work we have our attention called very often to the work of architects, sculptors, painters and engineers, but mention is seldom made of those who have worked in metal, even though their work represents some of the finest moments in the history of mankind. Few know that Tubal Cain was the first metal worker of whom we have any record, or that Bezaleel of the Tribe of Judah and Oholiab of the Tribe of Dan were the goldsmiths who made the sacred jewels and vessels for the tabernacle. The names of Mentor, Acrages, Stratonicus, Unichus, and Hecataeus are unknown to many, but these are the men who produced the superb Greek specimens in metal, many of which are now to be seen in our museums. During the middle ages, it was the custom for each of the kings of France to have his goldsmith. Gilbert Lorin was goldsmith to Charles the Seventh, Jehan Gallant to Charles the Eighth, and Henri to Louis the Twelfth. Few know that our honored patriot, Paul Revere, was a worker in the precious metals.
At the beginning, jewelry making occupied a jealous and important position in the field of the goldsmiths’ craft. As early as the Twelfth Century, the goldsmiths of Florence made articles of great variety to answer multifarious needs of a sensitive people. Articles in silver and gold for church services, and for household and personal use, challenged the skills and ingenuity of the creative artist.
The demands for everyday needs called for a great variety of materials, such as gold, silver, bronze, marble, wood and clay. The Florentine craftsman knew all the intricate processes of casting, hammering, chiseling, filing, sawing, and carving. Not infrequently the commission involved a synthesizing of metals and textiles, as in a brocade, or of stone and painting, as in mosaic—and jewelry setting. There being intense commercial rivalry in those days, ipso facto, the craftsman was compelled to resort to astute design and ingenuity for originality and economy of production. For aesthetic quality to be of the highest, he employed the principles of design with complete under-standing and superlative mastery. Skillful use of form, color, composition, perspective, harmony, taste, and beauty, gave to technical performance, grandeur and sumptuousness.
Scientific knowledge, technical skill, and aesthetic conception made up a large part of the craftsman’s equipment. With this he stood in readiness to challenge all difficulties. It is, indeed, little wonder to the research scholar that the training and education of the Florentine goldsmith constituted such a complete cosmos of experiences, knowledge, and skills. To this craftsman no order was too small or any difficulty too great.
To the scholar searching for what made Florentine art great, history reveals that its painters, sculptors and architects were, or had been, goldsmiths. History tells that Orcagna, 1349, listed as a painter was a Florentine goldsmith; that Ghiberti, the builder of the Paradise Doors,
so called, was a goldsmith; that Brunelleschi, although he spent much time building palaces and churches, was a veritable goldsmith. Each was a goldsmith but, as it happens, the first is classified as a painter, the second as a sculptor, and the third as an architect. To these may be added Donatello, famous as sculptor, but trained as a goldsmith. Then, Verrocchio, equally famous with Donatello as sculptor was also an accomplished goldsmith. The name of
Ghirlandajo should be linked with Donatello, as goldsmith, for in the shops of these two, history records that the great Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo served their apprenticeships as craftsmen. The list of such illustrious craftsmen would not be complete without the name of the inimitable masterworker of metals, Benvenuto Cellini.
To him Michaelangelo wrote, “My dear Benvenuto: I have known you for many years as the greatest goldsmith of whom we-have any information; and henceforth I shall know you for a sculptor of like quality.”
The Florentine craftsman, be he goldsmith, jeweler, weaver, potter, iron or woodworker, was a highly disciplined person. Mastery, thoroughness, skillfulness, and general efficiency marked these craftsmen as important members of the community.
We have limited our discussion to Italian masters, but it would be wrong to conclude that the goldsmith-painter-sculptor-architect relationship was not to be found elsewhere. Two outstanding examples of this relationship are Albrecht Durer, in Germany, and William Hogarth, in England, both of whom served as apprentices in goldsmith shops.
It would not be overrating the virtues inherent in the nature of jewelry making as a craft to say that as a means and form of education it is very rich in opportunities for fostering good work habits and sound mental disciplines.
PRINCIPLES OF JEWELRY DESIGN
Although there are many principles of jewelry design, the six that are considered here are first in importance. They are: Fitness to Purpose, Unity
between Stone and Ornament, Conformity with Personal Characteristics of the Wearer, Conformity with Costume, Nature and Distribution of Motifs, and Limitations and Possibilities of Metal as a Medium of Expression.
FITNESS TO PURPOSE
Every piece of jewelry must be designed to fit its purpose. Some pieces like the brooch, clasp, buckle, scarf pin, cuff links, and hatpin, may be designated as useful since they serve the purpose of a fastening for clothing. The ring, head ornament, pendant, bracelet, armlet, earring and lavaliere are used merely for personal adornment. As the savage used paint and tattoo to call attention to certain parts of the body, so people of modern times use ornamental jewelry. The ornament on useful jewelry is secondary to its practical value while that on decorative jewelry is of primary importance. Whether the piece of jewelry serves a useful or aesthetic purpose primarily or secondarily, it must fit the purpose for which it is used. It must be of such a nature as to conform to the surrounding conditions, must be duly related to the parts it is to adorn and must serve its purpose in an efficient way.
The ring is circular because it is to fit over the finger. For this reason it must be perfectly smooth on the inside and as it is to come in contact with the other fingers, it must be more or less smooth on the outside. The stone must not rise abruptly or too high above the shank since this would interfere with the freedom of the hand. The shank on the inside of the ring must narrow if the fingers are to close comfortably.
The brooch, which originally was used almost exclusively for holding together parts of the garment, seems to have a place in the ornamental as well as the useful jewelry. It often serves the purpose of a button; for this reason its shape was round, originally, but now the contour has assumed various shapes. Since it is used to hold fabrics it must be free from edges that would catch and tear. It must be made strong enough to hold its shape at all times.
The pendant, necklace, and lavaliere which are worn about the neck and hang over the breast are made up of one or more movable parts suspended on a chain. The pendant is worn over the blouse and must therefore be of a conspicuous size while the lavaliere is a delicate jewel pendant and worn with a low neckline. The gem is usually a small brilliant. It is sometimes used with a chain just long enough to go around the neck and to allow it to hang at the throat.
POSSIBILITIES OF METAL AS A MEDIUM OF EXPRESSION
Every crude earthy substance or material that is capable of being transformed to a humanly useful object has its limitations and its possibilities. Metal is one of the few sub-stances taken from the earth that is capable of unlimited transformation as is evidenced by various metallic objects in daily use. Gold, silver, and platinum may be rolled out into thin sheets or into the finest wire or made into almost any conceivable shape. These metals can be made into small forms or into granulations of minute sizes. They resist deformation and at the same time yield to the blow of a hammer, which makes them rank supreme among metals. Fortunately, these same metals are capable of receiving enamels to a much better degree than others used more extensively for commercial purposes. However, because these precious metals permit themselves to assume any form it is not in accordance with the principles of the fine arts to abuse this privilege by so treating motifs as to have natural lifelike ornament assume a lifelike appearance. Natural forms chased on the metal must assume a bas-relief effect, thereby retaining the flatness of the plane if they are to achieve their full beauty. Pierced work should not be so delicate as to cause the design to be weak or resemble lace-like patterns.