There is alot of jewelry information available on the Web and in books. However, as a convenience for our customers, Diana created these pages to answer common and not- so- common questions about gems, metals, weights, measures, metals techniques, and jewelry lore. This is not an exhaustive compendium, but rather a jumping off point to pique your interest. We will add to this page over time, as we find the best, most authoritative resources available.
Metals Techniques in Ancient Hands
There are many opinions about when the first metalsmithing took place, but we know that adornment, with or without the use of metal, has always been culturally important anywhere there are people living as a society. We do know that gold and silver have been prized by the civilizations who lived near metal deposits, and we can trace this love affair with the so-called "noble metals" back at least as far as 7,000 years ago in Babylonia (Iraq) and Egypt. In ancient Babylonia, (circa 2,500 BCE) the Royal Tombs have yielded a vast amount of high-quality jewelry including chains, gold sheet cut into forms, and pieces set with stones.
Ancient metalsmiths were the first to puzzle out the properties of gold, including its melting temperature, its durability, and suitable alloys to harden and change its color. Things we take for granted today, like the ability to purchase sheet metal and wire, were created by these ancient artisans from scratch. It took a long time (days) just to get a gold nugget thin, even, and smooth, so that the smiths could begin to craft the intended object. Rolling mills as we know them (think "pasta makers for metalsmiths") wouldn't be created for thousands of years, although it is certain that resourceful people invented ways to mill gold that we do not know about.
Two of the earliest decorative techniques practiced by the ancients are filigree and granulation. Jewelers still use these techniques in their work, along with loop in loop chain making, item styles like hoop earrings and collar necklaces, signet rings, cabochon gems set in bezels, repousse, chasing, hammered finishes, soldering, fusing, and gilding. Modern metalsmiths are part of the continuum of this challenging but rewarding art form, and although each designer has their own style, almost all of us use something ancient in our work. We invent ways to make old techniques that relate to modern sensibilities, but we are humbled by the fact that these techniques have been pleasing people for thousands of years.
For instance, the pair of pearl and emerald earrings, above left, was found in the ancient City of David in Jerusalem. Buried in sand for thousands of years, the pearls still have their luster! They have been drilled and suspended on wire, which has been soldered onto the gold bezel surrounding high color quality emeralds. The emerald and pearl drops are hanging from jump rings which have been soldered to the twisted gold wire that forms the base for the center button pearl. The whole earring hangs from an earwire. This style is as common today as it was thousands of years ago!
The Greek gold hoops pictured below are a wonderful, playful take on the classic hoop designs that were one of the first ways we wore our valuables. A sign of status, these earrings are based on two, fabricated gold cupid-like deities. A clip for the earwire hides on the heels of these whimsical figures. Good design never goes out of style...
And finally, the gold collar below shows many of the techniques listed above in a style that is still popular. Each link is made of four elements, the topmost showing granulated gold in every other link. Bezel-set garnets and turquoise follow, along with bezel-set, pear shaped stones (not sure about the gem itself), and cut discs of gold hanging from the bottom. This piece blends symmetry and variation to produce a visually compelling work that is easy for the eye to "read" yet the viewer is entertained by a rich pattern within the template.