BLUF – A brief treatise on the thoughts behind the types of jewelry made in the ways I make them.
Of my pastimes, I’m most often asked about my work with precious stones in making jewelry, predominantly bracelets. Working fairly exclusively with ruby/ sapphire (they are the same thing, really), emerald, topaz and spinel, I have experimented with hundreds of small baubles. These trial-and errors (sometimes trial by fire) keep coming back and centering on two thematic designs: the rosebud and the winking skull. Ironically, the designs adopted were not the most complex or beautiful. They were simple, consistent, and able to be incorporated into many odd iterations.
People sometimes ask why I chose them or why I carve at all, and I laugh – telling them they were the only things I could manage. The stone is hard enough it takes ages to carve, so if I were to mess up, I’d really have to try. There isn’t a high speed setting on the tools, as the diamond plating strips off or the bit breaks. Between the constant drops of water wetting the surface, the humming motor, and the grind you find a zen-like state, though not looking for satori.
Roses and skulls are somewhat simple, but if done consistently they become identifiable, thereby marking my work. They are also common enough a specific symbol is required. Perhaps the branding sets it apart, along with the following.
Longevity: Completely opposite of creating a mandala, there is something satisfying in creating what will last far longer than I will. So much of our lives and the things we have are consumer-culture driven to have a shortened shelf-life. For every writing, every talk, every creation conceived, I have little faith any will live more than a short period – except the stones. The stones may be forgotten, passed on, lost, uncovered, repurposed. But they will be. I won’t make history, but will create legacy in a small way.
Imperfect selection: The stones I work with are beautiful, but imperfect. Very rarely will I find one without fractures, inclusions, or opacity. Gem carvers and jewelers may look at the rough and find a small segment worth faceting, but little is usable for their purposes. For my purpose, there is perfection in imperfect. The fractures offer colour variances, brought to the fore with changes in lighting. The rosebud design actually stemmed from accidental break in an early carving. Finding other mineral inclusions in my rough offers new dynamics in the piece, finding complementary aspects similar to outcomes of natural kintsugi.
Recognising imperfect beauty also shifts internal perspective in dealing with life and people in it. The imperfections in circumstances and others offer glimpses into beauty unseen, as it’s not recognised as such.
Internal versus external expression: Whilst I have made a few pendants, necklaces, brooches and one ring (less to rule them all, rather because I broke a lot of rough to make it), most of what I make are bracelets. Reasons abound, though one is primary – the piece is intended for the wearer, not their audience. Necklaces are beautiful and brooches offer brilliant canvas in carving. You really don’t see or feel either, they are often pieces for display – either to show something off or marking a piece of public identity.
Bracelets, not so much.
People often overlook the wrist; either looking above or more central (where necklaces or brooches would reside) or below at the hand’s adornment. Wearers see the wrist all the time. Each time something is raised, it passes through the field of view. Often a bracelet is fairly nondescript to everyone except the wearer. The meaning attached can be very personal and relatively private, and though it’s openly worn there is rarely attention paid by anyone else. It offers anchors to memory, to purpose, to a sense of self.
Giving the wearer’s anchors a place to remind them of their value and purpose is why I prefer making bracelets.