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#TBT: A Single Green Drop

Our small world here is now changing fast. We have not yet reached that tipping where that landscape speaks more of winter than of summer, but it is not far off . . . and autumn as the calendar reckons it is still nearly three weeks away. Time was when the leaves would not have begun to turn in any real way until that point, but those days, it seems are already long and permanently past.

I noticed yesterday that the chamisa is suddenly as yellow as it is green, a process that took approximately four days from first flowering. It is, of course, part of why my allergies bedevil me so completely these days. But it’s also another indicator of time telescoped, as though all of the earth’s processes of transformation have been speeded up, as if to proceed at its more leisurely and ordinary pace would be to invite calamity of a more immediate sort.

At this stage of the season now, it’s possible to believe the earth weeps, a few tears of mourning in the shapes and shades of her very self: a vast turquoise sky, a shimmering brown earth, a single green drop, and a little golden light.

It was not, of course, likely to be what was in Wings’s mind when he created this piece, some thirteen or so years ago. It was one in a small informal series of layered-bezel necklaces from that time, and while I have no memory now of their actual order, this one also felt to me like the first. It was, indeed, a teardrop within a teardrop, amid geometry of other sorts, a complex ordering of what would ultimately appear a deceptively simple piece.

While the execution would have begun with the silver, I think it’s probably safe to say that the design began, at least jointly, with the stones. Their relative sizes, shapes, and ordering are so perfectly suited that the settings would have been built around them, rather than risk finding something to fit thereafter. This necklace consisted of two layers of sheet silver, one overlaid atop the other, and he would have begun with the base layer to ensure that everything fit properly.

In this case, he simply aligned the stones as he intended them to be displayed to determine the parameters of the teardrop, then cut it freehand from the sheet and filed the edges smooth. This would be the heaviest layer, one solid enough to take the overlay, the bezels, and the stones without bending or warping. He then set about creating the second layer, a process that would include the bezels.

The second layer was designed to embrace the stones themselves, the edges extending beyond the bezels just enough to make the layer visible, not so far as to meet up with or extend beyond the edges of the teardrop itself. If you look closely at the image above, you’ll see that the second layer in fact embraces only the upper three stones; the one at the bottom is excluded. This is because the tiny round cabochon at the point of the teardrop nearly fills that space on its own. The possibility of getting a second layer that would hold the bezel without exceeding the teardrop of the base was not impossible to do, but it would have made the base look bulky. Leaving the bottom cabochon to stand on its own, yet flow with the others, produced a much cleaner, more elegant line.

And so he set about creating the overlay, a single piece of sheet silver cut freehand around the outer edges of the top three cabochons, layered vertically in particular order: large round, small round, small inverted teardrop. Once cut to shape and size, he filed the edges smooth and soldered it securely to the teardrop that formed the base layer. Then he fashioned three simple, spare, low-profile bezels, and soldered them to the upper layer in the proper order. Finally, he would have created the bezel for the tiny round cabochon at the very tip — again, simple and plain-sided, no need for scallops or saw-toothed edging here. Then, he cut a single small strip of silver, flared at its center and tapering to a near-point at either edge. This he bent gently around the narrow end of a mandrel into the proper shape; then he soldered it securely at the very top of the teardrop, forming the bail. He oxidized the entire piece, paying careful attention to the joins of the overlay, then buffed to a Florentine-like shade that produced an “antique” effect.

Lastly, it was time to set the stones. He had chosen a varied collection for this piece: a fairly large round cabochon of Royston turquoise, the color of a robin’s-egg and speckled with gold; a shimmering brown pearl, like local earth infused with mica; a brilliant malachite teardrop banded on the diagonal, a single green drop like a willow’s tear in the end-of-summer wind; and at bottom, a tiny round orb of pure sunlight, a little citrine cabochon. Once complete, he strung the entire piece on sterling silver chain to let the beauty of the pendant and its stones retain the focus of the piece.

It was a beautiful piece, one that found its home about eleven years ago, if memory serves, along with some other pieces of his work. Today, it makes me think of this season, when green and sun alike are still abundant, earth and blue skies too, but their glow is tinged with melancholy, perhaps a tear or two for their own early departure. For the moment, though, we have much more than a single green drop, and it is time to enjoy it before it’s gone.

~ Aji








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