If you’ve been reading my newsletter for a long time, you probably know that I am fascinated with the ancient world and its influence on modern life. I remember going to Pompeii a few years back and learning that the ancients invented street signs, gutters, and fast-food stalls in the marketplace. They invented spas with hot and cold baths. One guide told us that the word “Spa” comes from the Latin “salutate per aqua” which means “health through water.”
The ancient goldsmiths had to work twice as hard as modern goldsmiths, because they had to refine the gold, hammer out thin sheets used to form breastplates, collars, and bracelets. They had to pull their own wire (something we do in my studio), drill out tiny, delicate gems for beading, and scrounge for gemstones to set. I’m sure there was a hierarchy in the labor pool, but still…
I love the fact that so many of the things we still do, build, or wear have their roots in the ancient world. The ancients developed a vocabulary of design that has outlasted each generation. Who doesn’t love hoop earrings or high carat gold set with cabochons, or cuff bracelets? Ankle bracelets, arm bands, pearl drops….
In a recent article in the New York Times, Kallos Gallery director Madeleine Perridge explains:
“In a gleaming shade of warm yellow so identifiable as the high gold content of ancient jewelry, the bracelet was tapered smoothly inside and out. Compared with the often mass-produced, uniformly finished pieces in the windows of contemporary mega-brands on that same street, it was singular in its warm patina — and distinguished by the fact that it had been owned and worn by someone more than 3,000 years ago."
It also reflected, at least in part, why there is an active market for ancient jewelry today.
“Ancient jewelry is the very definition of a unique piece,” said Madeleine Perridge, director of Kallos Gallery in London. “A lot of people who collect art of any sort are looking for that unique aspect, that sense of connecting you to the past, linking you very strongly to the people who may have originally worn it.”
You’ll see in some of the photos contained here how our sense of style has merged with ancient tastes insofar as gold jewelry goes. In this crazy world, the fact that we have some language and style continuity with the past is very grounding and feels very “clean” to me. Beauty has its eternal language.