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#TBT: Fiery Sky and Medicine Light

The rain promised yesterday arrived last night, continuing mostly unabated since. Dawn came wrapped in a soft gray blanket the color of a dove’s pale wings. Clouds shroud the peaks, reaching nearly to the earth at their feet, and our whole world here feels softly, slightly blurred, like looking through the wrong end of a kaleidoscope: no seasonal sharp edges or angled light anywhere.

This is vanishingly rare for us, save the occasional winter snowstorm; it’s even rarer now that drought holds our world so fast in its grip. The clouds will mostly clear before day’s end, though, and night will fall amid the scarlet-tinged brilliance of an early autumn sunset.

The colors that will accompany us through the day remind me of today’s featured work, a throwback of only some six and a half months, to the last days of February and the first half of March of this year. It’s a piece that was a special commission, and it was one intended, in . part, to capture the spirit of this land’s ethereal light.

In the waning days of February, I was contacted by a dear friend of ours who lives in another state. One of his own dear friends had a birthday looming, and he felt that personal circumstances might make the symbolism of light captured and held, refracted and channeled, a welcome motif. He had been contemplating possibilities for a gift, and was struck by the beauty and imagery of one of Wings’s older works, a necklace entitled Taos Light. It was a striking yet simple piece, one of a loosely matched pair of works featuring brilliant ovals of golden-hued rutilated quartz. The cuff bracelet sold first, many years ago; the necklace, separately and in more recent years. In both instances, Wings had excised the backs of the stones’ bezels to permit them to touch the wearer’s skin, and — more to the point — to allow the light to shine through them, rather than merely upon them.

Our friend’s interest was piqued by this concept, and while he knew the necklace had long since been sold, he wondered whether it was possible to create something in a similar vein. Unfortunately, time was also a factor, and such cabochons as those used in the Taos Light series are hard to come by; he needed a solution more rapidly than the process of tracking down stones of similar size, color, appearance, and quality would permit.

And so, knowing that Wings had at least a few quartz specimens in his then-current inventory of stones, I began trawling through it. I knew that he had a couple of faceted smoky quartz cairngorms, but they were on the large side (and remained steadfastly hidden from view, having somehow found their way into a container out of sight). He did have a small smoky quartz teardrop with heavy rutile, plus three additional cabochons: one square yellow quartz what’s now popularly called “lemon quartz”), and two rectangular cabs of red quartz of varying sizes. All three were rutilated, and all three had significant sections of virtually clear quartz with heavy banded inclusions of color. I sent photos of all four options to our friend, and he chose the more slender of the two red quartz cabs: slightly smaller, but with more intense color and and a clean, elegant line.

Stone chosen, Wings set to work on the setting.

It was to be a very simple bezel: Wings cut out the backing, fractionally extended beyond the dimensions of the stone. The bezel itself would be scalloped, the better to hold the stone securely while setting off its domed and beveled surface. It would also be trimmed with twisted silver to highlight the stone, hence the need to extend the backing beyond the bezel itself. But before he could create the bezel itself, an additional step was required.

One of the features of the Taos Light necklace was the ajouré cutout on the back of the bezel, permitting the light to shine all the way through the pendant. Our friend wanted the same detail on this one. And so once the flat rectangle that would form the backing was cut out of the sheet silver, Wings then pierced the center, and, using a tiny jeweler’s saw, began excising the silver, freehand. He chose a stylized diamond shape: an Eye of Spirit, a symbol of Spirit’s wisdom and guidance, perfect for channeling illuminating light, but he also gave the slightest of graceful curves to its angles — not enough to change the shape appreciably, but just enough to evoke a hint of the shape of that other guiding spirit, the Morning Star. Once the saw-work was complete, he filed the internal edges smooth, then stamped his hallmark on the back.

This detail complete, Wings fashioned the bezel on the top side of the setting, and edged it with twisted silver. He then chose a short length of molded pattern wire, also solid sterling silver, in a lightly Beaux-Arts design reminiscent of Alphonse Mucha. This he gently hammered into a loop, then soldered it into place at the top of the bezel on front and back. He then oxidized the bezel and twisted silver, and buffed the entire pendant to a shade or so brighter than a strict Florentine finish, soft, elegant, and subtle enough to let the stone shine.

Then it was time to set the stone, and the stone itself was spectacular. Quartz is a funny material: It’s hard and brittle, and yet, polished, it can assume a gel-like consistency on the surface. Such was the case with this one; it made me think of the clear red gumdrops of childhood, frosted and icy on the outside, glossy crimson on the inside. The cabochon was also unusually highly domed, and the lapidarist had beveled beyond the usual corners, so that the angles reached inward. It produced an unusual look and feel, one that elevated the clear high center so far that the mysterious whorls of red matrix in the very center seemed to float like the very dust of the cosmos. The banding at top and bottom was a deep beautiful shade of red, a cross between crimson and brick, with a hint of metallic sheen to it. It looked for all the world like the monsoonal sunsets and autumnal sunrises of our own small world here — intense, mysterious, ethereal, a gift of pure colorful illuminating medicine.

Once the stone was set, all that remained was to fashion the chain, attach the findings, and string the pendant. That task completed, Wings blessed the work in the traditional way for our friend’s friend, and we sent it on its way.

It felt a bit like sending a little slice of our own fiery sky and medicine light.

~ Aji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All content, including photos and text, are copyright Wings and Aji, 2018; all rights reserved. Nothing herein may used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the owner.

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error: All content copyright Wings & Aji; all rights reserved. Copying or any other use prohibited without the express written consent of the owners.