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#ThrowbackThursday: A Trail of Petals, of Autumn Light

Nine Stone Turquoise Garnet Rose Quartz Earrings B

We are now solidly into the season of skies bookended by fire, dawn and dusk aflame with coral and crimson and the colors of molten metals.

Normally, our days would be all blue right now — the clouds chart their maps across the heavens at sunrise and sunset, but generally leave the bulk of the day to clear sailing — but  a new storm season has birthed itself, and this week is awash in rain and more. The sky has alternated between turquoise and indigo, cornflower and violet, and now, in the moments before twilight, the rain has begun again, and the world is mapped not with light and shadow but with lines of gray.

Both season and weather put me in mind of one of Wings’s works from nearly a decade ago, a pair of traditional blossom-style earrings that sold in 2008.

Some dealers refer to this design as a “cluster” pattern, but it’s actually a blossom: a central eye, or disk (or, in flowers with only a slender stalk-like center, a pistil), surrounded by opening petals made of separate stones, each in its own bezel, soldered to a larger backing that tracks the “flower” shape. Wings has used this very old traditional design in earrings, rings, belt buckles, and other types of works, but for a period of time that straddled the years 2006 through 2008, he created an informal series of them, almost all featuring turquoise in either center stone, “petals,” or both, but often accompanied by contrasting gems, as well. Designs have ranged from brilliant deep-red coral coupled with electric chartreuse Orvil Jack turquoise to Bisbee with moonstone to, in one rare instance, onyx with mother-of-pearl. The number of stones used also varied widely, ranging from as few as eight to as many as, in one instance involving a belt buckle, thirteen.

The pair featured here today was perhaps the median on both counts, and yet so very, very different from most of the others.

These began, as is often the case, with the center stones, but these were unusual: old domed Bisbee turquoise, not prefect ovals but ever so slightly free-form, robin’s-egg blue with a rare hint of underlying green and the classic smoky Bisbee siltstone matrix charting lines across their surfaces. It really did remind me of a a pair of maps, although where the paths ultimately led are, I suspect, known only to their wearer now.

He surrounded each center “eye” with a half-dozen turquoise petals in associated shades — blues and greens with a diversity of shades and matrices, most probably also from Arizona (perhaps all Bisbee; perhaps not, since some contain hues and matrix patterns similar to stone found in Nevada, also). These he arrayed at the sides of each center cabochon, all oval or egg-shaped, and all, like the center cabs, set into saw-toothed bezels. At the bottom, he took the unusual step of choosing a wholly different color and stone: what looks in the photo like a pair of round rhodocrosite cabochons, but what if memory serves were actually rose quartz of an unusually intense shade. He balanced this round light base with a another red at the top, but again, very different: a pair of faceted garnets, wine-red and secured by prong settings, the better to hold fast to their faceted surfaces.

Of course, at this point, none of the stones was actually set; the bezels had to be created first, set atop the silver backing and soldered into place. Then, he cut out the silver backing, freehand, around the edges of each bezel, summoning the “flower” spirit. Once the backing was complete, with bezels soldered into place, he beveled and filed the edges smooth and attached a sterling silver jump ring to the top of each to form a bail of sorts. Then he oxidized the surfaces and buffed each to a subtle Florentine finish.

Then it was time to set the stones. There are instances where Wings creates the setting first, then chooses the stones, but this was not one of those times; in this case, the bezels needed to be crafted to each stone, and so the cabochons came both first and [virtually] last in the process. Once the stones were set, he attached the earrings wires, and they were complete but for a final buffing and blessing.

They were flowers, yes, but to me they were flowers wholly of the sky: a trail of petals, of autumn light, scattered by the spirits to guide us.

On days such as these, when climate change has seized the clear early-autumn light and replaced it with with the storm, and with snow on the peaks, petals of light form a welcome path now.

~ Aji








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