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#ThrowbackSolsticeThursday: Winter Fire, From Dark to Light

Amethyst Twisted Wire Cuff

This day was the Solstice, the time the Earth begins, again, to move from dark to light.

In theory, that makes this shortest night of the year, but of course that’s not actually the case; that distinction belongs to last night. The Solstice occurred at 9:28 AM local time, which means that by 9:29 this morning, the light pendulum had already begun its slow upward swing. But in traditional indigenous terms, the Solstice is a line of perfect demarcation, less “the first day of winter” than the line that divides old year from new. Dominant culture calendars notwithstanding, this day serves perfectly to mark time in the most ancient of ways, as the beginning of the Earth’s new year.

And here, this day was a fitting marker, too: all scudding amethyst clouds limned in silver light. Now the snow falls gently on the peaks, although it will most likely miss us at their feet, and the light has gone from silver to gold at the western horizon, on long molten strand of fire spiraled by the deep purple clouds of the storm.

It there’s a day more apt to today’s featured work, I would hard-pressed to identify it.

This work is well-suited to this day in another way, too: With the holidays here, Christmas now only four days hence, it’s a time for family, and this was a commissioned work that Wings upgraded to something unique for a dear friend who is like family to us.

The genesis of the piece lay in a wholly separate work: a small simple cuff that Wings created the preceding Christmas for general inventory, one bought by another dear friend and desired by several others who were not quite quick enough to order it. That work was a spare and delicate piece, an incredibly slender length of sterling silver half-round wire, hand-twisted three times at the center to create a spiral, the center of it flattened just enough to set it with a tiny round amethyst cabochon. We received three or four separate requests for the piece, only the first of which could be filled, of course. But the friend who wears today’s larger work decided to commission one separately for herself.

Unfortunately, Wings’s silver suppliers had sold out of the appropriate size of the half-round wire. We couldn’t get it anywhere.

He turned his attention to the rest of her commission, which involved a number of pieces, even as he continued to search for the wire. Eventually, it became clear that there was none to be had — and so he turned to what little remained in his personal inventory, which consisted of a strand of half-round wire of a much heavier gauge.

He made a couple of other design changes, as well, starting with the directional arrows he stamped on the end of the band. Because the band was so much thicker, so much more solid, it required more effort to twist the center into the spiral pattern, and he chose to expand the spiral a bit, from three turns to five, to keep it proportional to its weight and solidity. He then hammered the ends gently around a mandrel to create the cuff’s natural arc, and hammered the center twist in the spiral flat for purposes of holding the cabochon.

And then he ran up against what would become the much-needed third design change.

He had originally set aside a round amethyst cabochon in the same small size as the one he used in the original, more slender cuff. But it was immediately obvious that the gauge of the band would dwarf the tiny stone. The effect of including the amethyst would be lost, swamped by the size of the spiraled silver strand on either side of it.

So Wings returned to his inventory of stones in search of an amethyst of more suitable size. He found one: not round, but slightly oval, a high-domed, deep violet stone of fairly substantial size. It turned out to be the perfect size for the center of the spiral; its bezel would extend just fractionally beyond the band’s edges, in exactly the proportions required.

And so he created a simple low-profile bezel for the larger stone, one with a smooth edge to set off the doming of the cabochon to brilliant effect. He soldered it firmly into place and set the stone loosely in it to see how it looked. His eye lit on the original smaller cabochon, set aside on his workbench.

And he decided the setting wasn’t done.

After removing the larger stone from the bezel, he returned his attention to the overall setting. He then created a matching bezel — plain, low-profile, as simple as possible — sized to the tiny cabochon he had originally planned to use. He soldered it onto the side of the band, adjacent to the larger bezel and just slightly offset at an angle, what would be enough to create a flare of purple light.

Finally, he buffed the entire cuff to a high polish, focusing meticulously on the twists and turns of each spiral, and then he set both stones.

The effect proved to be one of a gathering winter storm, dark amethyst clouds spiraling among the cold fire of silver Solstice light.

It was winter fire, from dark to light . . . just like the silver and amethyst skies of this Solstice twilight.

~ Aji








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