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#ThrowbackThursday: A Water Web of Another Sort

From the Waters Cuff Bracelet - Top

In the world of turquoise, finely webbed specimens are most highly prized, in terms of both collectibility and simple market value. It’s not a hard and fast rule, of course — webbed matrices do not automatically turn low-grade rock into something valuable, nor do they elevate stone from a cheaper mine into something more expensive than that from a higher-grade deposit — but all other things being equal, of two stones from the same deposit, of comparable value otherwise, the one with spiderweb matrix through it will generally always exceed the value of the plainer stone.

Matrix descriptions and terminology differ by type; patchy, blocky matrices are not classified as “webbed,” and are less valuable overall. But among webbed stone, there is “spiderweb” matrix of varying degrees of fineness (and, therefore, value). And then there is what’s known as “water-web.”

Water-web turquoise is found only in certain areas. It occurs when the inclusions forced into a particular deposit (which occurs as a result of heat and water and pressure and time on a geologic scale) contain water in significant enough amounts, and under just the right conditions, for the water to form its own matrix. Over time, of course, the water dries, leaving behind only its track, but water-web turquoise, although spiderwebbed, is more delicately matrixed: The lines are soft, sometimes flowing, often blurred around the edges, giving the stone a smoky, wispy appearance. And while water-webbing by itself will not necessarily render a particular specimen high-value, it often appears in stone that is high-grade, and thus of considerable market value. Water-web Kingman is not uncommon (at least in relative terms; water-webbing is itself unusual), and of the specimens that Wings currently holds in his inventory of cabochons, they are all of exceptional quality.

So what does this have to do with today’s featured throwback work, a tightly-spiderwebbed piece of green Royston turquoise with a matrix that has little to do with water per se, but that resembles the spiderweb turquoise found in Tibet?

In part, at least, it comes from the name.

Today’s featured work dates back to 2011, nearly six full years ago. It was one of a group of holiday commissions for a particular client and friend, who wanted a cuff (among other items) for his beloved wife in her favorite rich dark greens. She also belong to a tradition in which water plays a prominent — and sacred — role. They are dear friends, extraordinary and extraordinarily complex people, and such an order required that the stone be similarly exceptional. [To be clear, the last was not the client’s request, but Wings’s own sense of what was required artistically.]

As we began the characteristic hunt through his inventory of stones, the perfect one presented itself.

It was an old stone, untreated, a part of his long-held personal collection. He had had it for so long that neither of us knew exactly when or how he had acquired it; it might have been one of a group of very old stones given to him long years ago by his late father. But it was a cabochon of exceptional size, perfectly round, in intensely brilliant shades of emerald and jade with a finely-webbed matrix that ranged from golden brown to a rich dark coffee color. Its matrix was so tightly woven in an almost orb-like fashion that it resembled, as I said earlier, some of the finer stone mined in Tibet. Its colors, though, were pure Royston.

Once he had settled on the stone, Wings set it aside for the moment and turned his attention to crafting the band. He chose four separate strands of heavy, solid half-round sterling silver wire, cutting them to equal lengths and then separating them into pairs. He soldered one pair together along adjacent edges, then did the same with the other pair.

He then chose a stamp in a small wavy design that resembled a very loose letter “S,” curving up slightly on one end and downward on the other. The symbol is often used to represent flowing waters, like those of a running river or the ebb and flow of the tides. He stamped this symbol down the length of all four strands in a chased pattern.

From the Waters Cuff Bracelet - Side

Next, Wings again arrayed the two sets of paired strands out lengthwise, one atop the other. He soldered each pair to the other at the ends only, leaving the rest of the space between the the paired strands untouched. Then he cut, freehand, a small pair of “cuffs”: rectangular pieces of sterling silver placed around the conjoined strands at either end of the band, crimped into place, and then soldered securely. Each of these small cuffs acts as a sleeve of sorts, to protect the ends of the band, keep the strands bound together, and make the bracelet’s edges more comfortable.

Then it was time to shape the band. He grasped each pair of strands at the center and gently spread them apart, lightly forcing them into shape. he then transferred the band to a mandrel and hammered it into the customary cuff shape, taking care to ensure that the arc was not too sharp to permit the solder, and thus the cuff’s shape and integrity, to hold.

Once shaped, it was time to set the stone. He created a round sawtoothed bezel for it, one that was unusually low-profile so that it would display the stone’s natural beauty to good effect. He edged the bezel with a delicate strand of twisted silver, soldered securely onto the lip of the bezel’s backing to create a decorative embrasure for the cabochon. Finally, he buffed the entire work, choosing a finish brighter than Florentine, but not a mirror-like polish, then set the stone.

It looked for all the world like an emerald-green lake, or perhaps more accurately, an ocean: impossibly deep, dark green waters, from which rose an earthy web of peaks and slopes and sandbars and coastlines. It was, indeed, a water web of another sort, and its name flowed from it naturally: From the Waters, a tribute to stone and style and the sacred of our friend’s tradition.

It reminds me, too, of the colors of this current season — Mother Earth’s own weaving, a blanket of green and gold and brown. After all, in their way, they, too, are from the waters.

~ Aji









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