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#ThrowbackThursday: Earth and Sky In a Red-Hot Summer

Earth and Sky Cuff Bracelet

Rain is in the offing, but whether it will touch down here, who can say? Yesterday, we were given the gift of three or four small brief showers, mostly while the sun shone white-hot and bright. Today, a few clouds have moved in overhead, lowering the temperature below the ninety-degree threshold at last, but they may choose instead to carry their burden around us.

The hay is in, and a few Skystones would be a blessing about now.

I’ve told the story of the Skystone here many times Raindrops fallen from sky to earth, its heat hardening them instantly into beautiful pieces of the sky itself: turquoise, a stone of elemental value and talismanic powers. I’ve written about it in its myriad forms, too, not least of which is the starkly beautiful variety known as ribbon turquoise. And on a hot summer day when the earth remains red and dry, yet the sky looms low with the promise of rain, it put my in mind of a small, simple, specific work from some three or four years ago.

Earth and Sky Cuff Bracelet 2

The cuff’s name was, aptly enough, Earth and Sky, and in its original description on the old version of our Web site, I described it as “the Skystone story . . . made real.” The name came from the rectangular focal stone, an ever-so-slightly freeform cabochon of ribbon turquoise, all dusky, sandy boulder earth bisected down the center by a narrow river of brilliant sky blue. If I had to guess, I’d say it came from Arizona, most likely the Kingman mining district, where such blues are a hallmark of the turquoise found there.

It was not a perfect cabochon by any means, if “perfection” is defined as the commercial standard of flawless uniformity. In our world, however, such seeming irregularities are a part of a stone’s inherent natural beauty, and by our standards, sometimes increase its value. This one was just such a stone, and the entire cuff flowed from it — but, as always, it began with the band.

This was the first in a group of three cuffs Wings created at the same time. They were not a series, nor were they in any way a collection; it was just a coincidence that he happened to make three separate cuffs using the same narrow-width, heavy-gauge silver. These are much like my own amber cuff, slender and unobtrusive on the wrist, yet very substantial in weight and feel, although these were made many years later. The second featured a group of three sky-blue turquoise cabochons, a center rectangle flanked by two round ones, and was named Blue Moons; the third was called Turtle Shell, for the single round cabochon of Damele turquoise, dark intense green mottled and plated just like Grandmother’s back, that served as its focal point.

And then there was this one: Earth and Sky.

This band, as I said, was slender — probably no more than 5/16 to 3/8 of an inch in width. But it was wide enough to permit bold stamping, and Wings chose the classic thunderhead symbol, matched end to end and chased down its entire length in a repeating pattern that echoed the images of not only the rain, but of the Sacred Directions and other sacred spaces. The design was as simple as the stones, and a perfect complement to them.

Earth and Sky Cuff Bracelet 3

Next, he created the bezel for the center stone, a long slim plate of sterling silver to serve as its backing, held firmly in the embrace of a saw-toothed bezel. That’s not nearly as simple as it sounds, when working with a free-form cabochon; as you can see from the photo immediately above, the stone itself twisted and curved, its surface wave-like, rising at this corner, dipping at that one. It reminded me of those rectangular pieces of taffy-like candy for our childhoods, once they had been bent with the effort of breaking them apart and then hardened into slightly-misshapen place. But the wavy surface gave the stone its character, and so he worked meticulously to fashion the sterling silver wire around it, crimping and adjusting as he went to make sure that it held all sides and corners securely. Once the bezel was set, he removed the stone again and edged the setting with twisted silver. He then added a pair of smaller round bezels to the top, one each flanking the center setting. Once oxidized, soaked, and buffed, it was time to turn his attention to the stones.

First, he set the center stone, carefully anchoring it within the saw-toothed edges. Then he turned to the two smaller bezels. He had set aside a pair of old traditional stones form: perfect round blood-red cabs of old coral, in a color and quality that’s near-impossible to find anymore. He set one on either side of the ribbon turquoise cabochon, producing an effect much like earth and sky flanked by fire. All that would be needed was air to produce a tribute to all four elements, one achieved by the storm-related stampwork that chased the band.

This one sold in the summer of 2013, as did the other two., all to different clients. It’s far from the only one he’s made the incorporates coral and turquoise together, but it’s the only one in memory that also melds the earthy beauty of the host rock into the mix. It was a piece perfect for its season, and for a day such as this, with a focus on earth and sky in a red-hot summer.

And now, the thunder has begun. The earth here remains fiery red, but the sky is less blue than a short time ago. Perhaps we will get our chance at Skystones after all.

~ Aji













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