Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Treasures and Talismans Exhibition at the Cloisters

I had the pleasure to trek up to NYC see the Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffon Collection exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park.  Stepping back in time to the medieval era where precious materials were not in excess and the lack of technology proves that the marvels on display are impeccable works for their time.  These rings were gaudy and rich with meaning as well as ceremony. These jewels were a representation of the individual and their personal experience whether it had to do with the acceptance of mortality in the form of Memento Mori (remember death) rings, Posey (poetry) rings, or to demonstrate marriage to the church (clergy status rings). We can see the importance of meditation and reflection in this era that is evident through the jewelry and other works of art from this time.

These rings were so personable in that they were specifically made for an occasion or thought since jewelry really was not widespread or a common thing to posses, so it held very high value to those lucky enough to have something commissioned.  

The medieval time span is interesting in that technologies were gained and lost due to poor documentation, disease, and constant feuding.  In fact, some jewelry on display were pieces left over and re-purposed from the Roman Empire, since the technology for carving cameos was lost, these became really prized pieces to own.  Through these artifacts we can really watch how people in the medieval times struggled to maintain information and technology.  It really puts into perspective the renaissance that follows as we see a boom in science and art as everything is well documented and shared compared to its medieval predecessor.


In the exhibit’s works we can see very specific stylization that points to the medieval time period. Such as the hand engraving of Posey rings where a hand written inscription was written on the inside of the band; often a poem or saying.  On the outside hand engraved designs were used as decoration. 
The more common engravings were hunting scenes.

                                             Or plant lattice work often called Giardinetti.

The cabochon stones, since the technology for faceting stones did not yet exist, smiths of this time smoothed out the stones surface and really had an emphasis on the color. 

Architectural construction, we can see the importance and value of the stones here as the goldsmith built almost steeple like structures that echoed the architecture of the churches at that time.  There was utilization of arches and buttress like foundations to hold the setting up high above the hand.


Interestingly enough, there was use of diamonds in this time period, though colored stones were much more prevalent.  Once again, the technology to cut a diamond did not exist so the raw stone was incorporated into geometric structures.


Another characteristic that really caught my eye was the pearl accents; the technology to set a pearl was non-existent to medieval gold-smiths, so they would use cold joining techniques.  We see two examples of setting on display, the first is sampling threading a drilled pearl onto a post and flatting the end securing the pearl like a bead. 

The second is a little cleverer in that a bezel is created to seat the pearl then a singular prong is used to hold it in place.

And very distinct to medieval jewelry are Memento Mori rings, a reflection and reminder of our mortality.  Often the pieces will open revealing further design. This is a common motif to not to keep the main feature of the ring in plain view.  

We see the same thought with the Posey rings where the message is written on the inside out of view.

If given the chance I highly recommend the trip out to see the Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffon Collection.  The exhibition is on display through October 18th in the Glass Gallery at the Cloisters.  I cannot express how amazing of an experience it was too see these works in a medieval setting versus that of a sterile museum space.  I have not seen an exhibit that breathtaking and enjoyable in a long time.  Truly a step out of time.

All pictures were taken by me at the Glass Gallery in the Cloisters

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Lesson in Rough Diamonds

A friend of mine recently approached me about procuring a rough diamond; uncut, untreated, raw from the earth.  I was pretty excited at the prospect of handling a new, fresh idea versus the literal hundreds of halo engagement rings I have had the pleasure to build over and over again throughout my career.  As much as I love diamonds, and always will, I must say I am getting pretty jaded to the current design market.  Commercial jewelry stores filled with trays upon trays of the same idea.

So obviously when my friend came to me with a nontraditional idea, I jumped at the opportunity to lend a hand.   She initially started sending me Etsy links, which I wholeheartedly admit I cringed.  Etsy can be a wonderful place for design, it brings the internet to the ordinary craftsman and broadens choices for consumers, but it also can be dangerous in the sense you do not know what you are buying.  There is no safety net, and I could tell from some of the pictures I was seeing, the stones depicted and being called diamonds were most likely Herkimers. 

“Herkimer Diamonds are quartz that have grown non-traditionally in that typically their hexagonal shape terminates to a point only at one end of the stone, but in Herkimers, the hexagonal point is echoed also on its opposing side.  This growth causes the quartz to have two points on either end due to the fact the mineral did not grow in close contact with a host rock (”.

So after telling my friend that we should try to find a stone in person, I began educating myself on raw diamond characteristics.

 I know that diamonds naturally can grow in a cube, octahedron (8 sided), or a dodecahedron (12 sided) because of how neat its crystalline structure is atomically composed from Carbon. My DCA background then took me right to the 4 C’s and also has taught me that a third of a diamond’s price is the way it’s cut.  We already know we are taking the cut out of the equation which will dramatically cut the price.  So what we have left is color, carat, and clarity.

Carat is the weight of the stone, to which my friend had not particular preference, so that was not a hindrance. “So I looked into color and clarity, from my research I found that raw diamonds are typically not very white/clear, they are usually tinted gray or yellowish colors since the gem quality diamonds are usually cut for retail product.  That helped knowing that I am not looking for a crystal clear stone. Also I could look for how the surface was formed, like fingerprints.  It could be grooved with growth lines, a frosted or waterworn surface due to water erosion (like sea glass), or it could be Mirrored or glass-like. This knowledge helped but I truly needed to know the difference that would make telling diamonds apart from another stone much easier. That characteristic is a Trigon, tiny triangles that can be thought of as a diamond’s stretch mark (” 

Armed with new found diamond knowledge, I embarked to the New York/New Jersey Gem and Mineral Show in hopes to find an acceptable diamond specimen.  We found a plethora of Herkimer stones but the search was seemingly growing bleaker by the hour when it seemed no diamonds were in attendance this year, until finally we found a booth that knew of a California based company that specifically sold precious gemstones.  There we fortunately found a few rough diamonds to excitedly choose from and had to decide what was more important; size, shape, or color.  We ended up finding a beautifully perfectly shaped octahedron that was very white in color with visible Trigons.

Diamond Photos/Information source:

Herkimer Photo/Information source:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nane Adams' Flex Rings

Contemporary jewelry artist Nane Adam’s typical work is the combination of differing metals to create swirls reminiscent to that of a fingerprint.  A staple trend that most have seen at any craft show they have attended in the last few years.

It is her work from 2004 that has really caught my curiosity, a plain silver band with colored nylon stretched within the ring’s inner circumference.  The simple design creates an exciting display of line as well as playing upon the stark contrast between cold hard metal and the colorful flexible give of nylon.  That contrast is driven further as the artist has scuffed the silver edge of the band to invoke it’s hard nature as in the same perspective you see the smooth surface of the nylon taut with tension.  Two opposing materials coming together in design triumph of aesthetics and functionality.

The nylon strands create give within the interior of the band, allowing for a custom fit unique to the wearer.  Often we are bound to a size scale of quarter sizes, and most of us cannot find a perfect fit because of the unforgivable nature of precious metals.  German designer, Nane Adam, has discovered the perfect remedy to the classic craft show dilemma of sizing, no one likes having to leave their newly purchased jewelry behind to be re-sized.  In this case the consumer can just walk away with a perfect fit as well as an exciting piece of art the echoes the architectural feats of Santiago Calatrava Valls whose bridges served as her muse. 


Nane Adams website:

Images of Flex Rings:

Santiago Calatrava's bridge in Dallas images:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Anouk Wipprecht's Provoking Spider Bodice

Designed by Anouk Wipprecht, this arachnid inspired bodice has been blowing up the 3d printing scene.  With the assistance of Intel technology, the spider dress has the ability to sense if someone or something is too close, which causes it’s “legs” to reach out in warning.  Wipperecht has created a fascinating interactive wearable that is truly thought provoking.

The design is armor-like, an exoskeleton, which is very reminiscent of comic book heroines such as the likes of  Sara Pezzini from Withblade or Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft. 

Looking at the piece you get a sense of its intention right away, in no way does this costume look friendly.  The extended limbs already give the viewer a sense of preservation, to proceed with caution.  I can imagine how jarring it could be when realizing that these limbs are not static architectural pieces, but instead, react to your presence.   

It creates a uniquely silent conversation between wearer and viewer; by action you are told you are invading the wearer’s personal space.  I often run into the difficulty of getting bumped or shoved, having someone lean to close to me on the bus, uncomfortable, but rather mundane encounters with other people whilst going about my day by day.  Now imagine a world where this outfit was the norm, having a clothing device that wards off another person; A veil of protection.  In that regard this seems to be a very isolating piece, which makes the curved line use around the abdomen less sensual and a little more reserved, even stand off-ish. 

Overall I really enjoy the roles that play out when viewing the piece.  The initial uneasiness that the design invokes, to the sudden unexpected movement of the spider’s legs, and that leads to the nervous laughter given off by viewers as they slink back to a safer distance. It’s a brilliant tug of tension through a simple flinch mechanic that we see so often in ourselves and nature, but it’s completely unexpected in our clothing choices. 

Video is youtube channel gdgtsbuzz
Starcraft Screenshot: Blizzard
Sara Pezzini: Top Cow Comics
Frontal Shot: Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET
Black Dress: