Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Confessions of a Jewelry Fanatic (with a bit of jewelry history and lore thrown in)

"Walking to Mass", Perm. Marker

I love jewelry. I love wearing it, seeing what new jewelry designs are in fashion, and what jewelry people are wearing. I also love creating jewelry for myself and for others. I began making my own jewelry at age 15, taking a long purchased chain necklace which had broken, taking it apart, making a sort of headgear from it, patterned after the head-wear of the medieval era. My only tools at that time were large, clunky pair of pliers and my fingernails. I planned out my design, cut the pieces, and put them together. It was delicate and time-consuming but after a while, I managed to put it together so that it fit my head just right. Right now it sits upon a glass case, a memento of my first creation as well as a template if I wish to make another. I did make one similar but thought it looked good as a necklace or modified it a bit, which is the Vintage Choker with crystals below.

A "Steampunk" Piece
 Since then I have made it a goal to learn as much as I can about jewelry, gemstones, and their healing properties, as well as the history of jewelry. Do stones have a “personality”? What makes them special in our eyes, why are do they attract us, and invite us to possess it and wear certain pieces of jewelry or gemstone? These were questions I wanted to answer. For some answers, I am still searching. 
Victorian Choker, Vintage Crystals
In my research, I found that the art of making and wearing jewelry has been around since the beginnings of modern man and many pieces have been found in the burial places and caves that show that jewelry was used and appreciated, probably for ritual use as well as for its beauty. One of the most familiar use of gemstones is the use as “birthstones”, although through the years, many stones have been attributed to the astrological signs besides the common ones in use today. 

A hand-created rainbow "Stone" Pendant, Vintage Style
In my quest for knowledge about gemstones, jewelry, and why people are so enamored of it, I learned that many stones and gems have healing or magical properties attributed to them, some of which may be based on the properties of the stones themselves; others based on superstition, history, or cultural reasons. One such stone with a long history of mystical lore and properties is  my favorite stone, the opal.  I love how the light catches each facet making iridescent lights of blue, green, red, and yellow that shimmer and shine.  My grandmother had chain necklace with a small glass globe holding a single uncut opal within it.  She would let me look at it and admire how the opal moved within the liquid inside, its ever-changing range of colors held me transfixed for hours.  An opal, it is believed, will fade if the owner is sick or in danger of dying.  I am not sure as to the truth of this, but I do know that the stones are easily scratched, as it is a relatively soft stone, being 5.5 on the Moh’s scale.  It was not until the 20th century that the opal began to be regarded as a gem of ill fortune as it had with the European royals, as previously it was regarded as a stone of purity and hope.  As for personal knowledge of opals, my opal ring which is about 40 years old has gotten quite faded over, owing to scratches on its surface, not due to the stone itself being faded. So knowing the beliefs about opals, at least I felt relieved that my opal was not reflecting my health, only the fact that I had not taken care of it properly to keep it lustrous. I have even tried my hand at making my own imitation "stones" like the rainbow piece above.

Another stone that has intrigued me for some time is the Hope Diamond.  It is a stone of mystery and much superstition surrounding its history has been told and retold.   I will not elaborate on it, as much can be found on the internet regarding the Hope diamond, but will give a run-down of some of the specifics. Whether or not it is really cursed is a matter of conjecture, but even so, the stone is as fascinating as it is beautiful.  The most fascinating aspect of the story of the Hope diamond is its history and how this massive blue stone was taken from the Hindu idol, secreted to France and sold to King Louis XIV, who had it cut down.  It was then known as the “French Blue.” It was then stolen again and never reappeared again.  The French Revolution is sometimes blamed on the curse of the stone. Some 20 years later, another similar stone, although smaller, appears in London.  It was this stone that was acquired by Henry Hope and stills bears his name.  After much heartache and tragedies of the families involved with the stone, eventually it ends up at the Smithsonian’s in their National Gem Collection, where it remains today.   

I have had the pleasure of viewing this glorious and mysterious gem once in my life at a museum when I was 14 years old, albeit really too young to have appreciated the stone’s history, I have not forgotten having had the privilege of viewing such a masterpiece of nature’s glorious works of art. 

While recently I have concentrated a lot on my artwork, I still love making jewelry. In addition to having the satisfaction of creating one's own designs, then working with tools,  gems, beads, etc., to bring them into reality is richly rewarding, besides being a relaxing past-time. Of course as you can see with some of my work, I can't help putting my love of jewely, beads, gems and art together! 

Art using beads, found pieces, gems, wire, paint, etc.

"Time for Steampunk" Wall art
Since I am a jewelry wearer myself, I love seeing what new trends and pieces are out there, as well as having a deep appreciation for the creative jewelry designs of others too. I am always looking for new pieces and love shopping for them at craft shows or for vintage pieces at yard sales (even though I probably have enough, I pretty much can't help myself. I think I just love "all that glitters", even when it isn't gold).

Some of my Favorite personal necklaces
 Thank you for letting me share my art and jewelry designs with you. If you are interested in a piece, you may contact me here. Namaste-Marie Helena

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