August 23, 2010

Buried Treasure

Some of the oldest evidence of gold being used as ornamentation was discovered in 1972 at the Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria. Over 3000 gold artifacts were found in the graves which date back to 4600-4200 BC.

The find showed that as well as having sophisticated religious beliefs about the afterlife, a hierarchal status based on differences to do with male superiority was already firmly in place •Sigh• 

What is thought to be an elite male was found buried with a huge hoard of gold trinkets including, appropriately enough, a gold penis sheath.

These cute bull-shaped gold platelets were thought to venerate virility and warfare.

August 18, 2010

Sites For Sore Eyes

Fine jewellery websites can take themselves a bit seriously sometimes so it's refreshing to come across a couple that take a more lighthearted approach to presenting their wares. The animations on Solange Azagury-Partridge's site (including the tumbling gems, above) and the irreverent names she gives her often tongue-in-cheek jewellery make for good browsing.

To see how Dior creative director, Victoire de Castellane, constructs on of her French fancies check out the little film under Milly Carnivora. I love the fact that the jewellery looks like it could have come out of a Christmas cracker but costs an average year's salary.

And should my future husband happen to chance upon this, if he presents me with the 'Oui' ring - my answer would be a definite 'yes'.

Yunus and Elizabeth

Artist Yunus Ascott and sculptor Eliza Higginbottom met in 2007 whilst casting precious metals in one of the last surviving specialist foundries in London.

it was a meeting of minds that led to their launch of their eponymous brand, the latest collection of which is displayed here.

Influenced by 'fairytales and the surreal, metamorphosis and hybrids' they create 'miniature sculptures to be worn'. Each piece is entirely handmade at the same foundry where the pair met back in the day.

Chanel - Just Because...

... I like it.

August 16, 2010

Oranges & Lemons

My latest contribution to Adorn London. Suck it and see...

August 15, 2010

Good Mourning

A much postponed clearout this weekend unearthed a bag full of rag-tag pieces of jet jewellery which I inherited from a long-gone relative. The dark skies and torrential rain that have beset this August weekend, together with the discovery of these funereal trinkets, have put me in the mood for something a little... dark.

Although worn in England since the Middle Ages, mourning jewellery became popular in the 15th and 16th century when hair of the deceased, skulls (not of the deceased), coffins and urns all featured in pieces made predominantly from gold and enamel. Known as memento mori, these articles were designed to remind the wearer of their own mortality.

The band on this skull ring reads 'Eliz Easton ob 7 Oct 1740 AE 16'. The use of white enamel signified the deceased was a virgin.

Bad hair day: Jet brooch embelished with the deceased's locks

Jet jewellery became popular during the Victorian era, notably after the death of Queen Victoria's beloved husband, Albert, in 1861. Victoria went into mourning for the rest of her days (a not inconsiderable number, given that she died in 1901), her subjects assumed black garb and jet became the ornament of choice.

Victorian jet and ivory cameo

Made from fossilized wood and mined in Whitby, North Yorkshire, jet had been used since the Bronze Age to make beads and other jewellery.

Cross-shaped jet brooch, decorated with a heart and anchor, 1850-1900

Perhaps un-coincidentally, when writing his novel, Dracula, Bram Stoker chose Whitby as the vampire Count's bleak dropping off point when his ship, The Demeter, is grounded in a storm. Spooky.

August 8, 2010

Reputation Wreckers

'Artistic jewellery wrecks a woman's reputation' from Gigi, by the French author, Colette

A dash of notoriety (and some in-your-face jewellery) never hurt this lot...

Sarah Bernhardt

Josephine Baker

Iris Apfel

Nancy Cunard

La Dama De Elche

A while back, my mum gave me a postcard featuring this beautiful lady – she’s enchanted me ever since. Known as La Dama de Elche, this stone bust is a fabulous example of Iberian sculpture which dates from the 4th century B.C.

Her jewellery is typically Iberian. The two large wheels (or rodetes) covering her ears hang from chains tied to a leather band circling her head and were probably made from metal. Her three necklaces were made from small filigree beads and crowns, and are thought to be reproductions of even earlier jewellery which originated in Ionia (an area in present-day Turkey) around 600 B.C.

The bust was discovered in 1897 at L'Alcúdia, an archaeological site south of Elche near Valencia in Spain. Having spent time at the Louvre in Paris (where she was hidden for safekeeping during WWII) and The Prado in Madrid (when she was re-patriated following negotiations with dictator Franco’s government) she can now be found In Spain’s National Archaeological Museum. Her other claim to fame is that she appeared on a 1948 Spanish one-peseta banknote.

Although it has been suggested that she’s a forgery, pigments found on the Dama are consistent with ancient materials. Here’s what she might originally have looked like two-and-a-half thousand years ago.

August 1, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Photos: Douglas Friedman

I have a serious dose of life envy after reading this story on the Nowness website last week. Mother and daughter Judy and Jane Aldridge live a life of 24/7 fabulousness in this just-the-right-side-of-kitsch Dallas pad.

Check out Judy's Atlantis Home blog for some truly fine vintage jewellery finds, a small selection of which are pictured below. If shoes are your thing, be sure to visit 18-year-old Jane's Sea of Shoes.

Photos: Judy Aldridge

Memory Lane

Adorn London ran a sweet, and timely, piece on holiday jewellery last week. The website's editor, Juliet, asked various contributors to wax lyrical about the pieces they packed for their hols, or – in my case – my brother's wedding in San Sebastian, Spain. Click here to read the full story.

Here's what I wrote:
"I’m taking five bone bangles from India, a pair of marcasite drop earrings from my Spanish great grandma, my great aunty’s gold wedding ring (worn on my left forefinger), a gold and black ‘hip hop’ chain necklace by Florian and my trusty gold hoop earrings."

This is the best I could manage on photos:

To elaborate: the earrings belonged to great grandma, then grandma, then mum and now me. My brother was married in the church in the grounds of the school that my great grandma, grandma and mum all attended. It's on a hill overlooking the beautiful city of San Sebastian in the Basque country. The earrings are silver metal embellished with marcasite - they look a bit like lace – and it meant a lot to me to wear them on such a special day.

From the sublime to the ridiculous... I bought these bangles in various Delhi markets when I went to visit my friend Chrissy in India a few years back. I love them because not only do they look fab and elicit lots of compliments, they did well to make it back to the UK in one piece. Kind-hearted Chrissy had adopted two street dogs and these bangles were the only souvenirs of my month-long trip to escape the strays' obsession with swallowing everything in sight.

My proudest purchase had been some gorgeous North Indian beaded necklaces until they disappeared into thin air one day. I found the the beads – minus the string, and bleached by the sun – up on the roof a week later after. How they got there, and the intestinal odyssey they underwent, needs no further elaboration here.