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#ThrowbackThursday: Honoring the Spirits of Sky and Light


This year, the most notable aspect of spring this year is not, as one would expect, the winds. Oh, they are here, enervating as ever, but with less force and frequency than is customary by the end of March. Whether because of the drought, or in spite of it, a different quality has assumed primacy here.

This spring, the most visible change is in the light.

On more days than not, we have been blessed with cool turquoise skies and a glowing amber sun. Even on those days when the clouds amass overhead, bringing short-lived rains and overnight snows, the light has managed to filter through to create skyscapes — and landscapes, too — of extraordinary beauty.

This week, the light show has been nothing short of phenomenal, in the literal sense of the word: an ever-changing world shifting from blue-violet to gray to silver to gold to amber and coral and turquoise and back to violet again. And for this edition of #ThrowbackThursday, it put me in mind of a work specially created for the same dear friend who commissioned the work featured last week in this same space — a work wrought in the same shades of sky blue and amber and shimmering silver.

Our friend is fond of both turquoise and amber, and of the two gems paired together. She is also, like me, fond of long dangly earrings, the kind that dance nearly to shoulder-length. A couple of years ago, Wings created a pair of plain silver earrings in what is known culturally as “Comanche-style” earrings: a style that falls under the category colloquially known as “dangles,” but that take the form of cascading miniature silver conchas, traditional domed medallions named for the shells they resemble. When completed, I posted them to the Web site . . . and our friend bought them within minutes. She is so fond of them that she has said they have become one of her pairs of “everyday earrings.”

Last year, Wings decided to make her a special pair, one that would be a surprise. Knowing how much she liked the first pair, and knowing, too, of her affinity for turquoise and amber, he decided to combine both characteristics into a single pair. Today’s featured work, a long dual cascade of sky and sunlight, was the result. To understand the work that went into them, however, we need to return for a moment to their predecessor.

The first pair of earrings wrought nominally in this style was simple in the extreme: two single round conchas, each stamped in the center with a five-pointed star, anchored the earrings from their wires; below hung a series of six smaller conchas, each domed and drilled at the center of the top and bottom, as appropriate, to hold the jump ring that would connect it to its predecessor and successor. The stars were the only stampwork, each concha was buffed to a soft Florentine finish, and he pronounced them complete. It was fairly simple, given that there were no stones to set atop any of the conchas, and therefore no added weight, however minuscule.

To create our friend’s newer earrings, however, took a bit more work.

Wings followed the same general design: a medium-sized concha at the top to anchor each drop, followed by a series of six slightly smaller conchas suspended from them. However, for this pair, he planned to add a cabochon to each concha, beginning with a medium-sized amber cab at the top, then alternating between tiny round turquoise and amber cabs for the smaller medallions.

The stones are so small that it doesn’t seem like much, but for such delicate silverwork, the addition of even the tiniest stone can change a piece’s center of gravity substantially. These earrings would ultimately hang about four inches long, and they needed to hang straight — but they also needed to dance, and do so without losing their fundamental orientation completely. In this instance, simply drilling a hole in the top and bottom of each concha and attaching them to each other via  simple jump ring would not be sufficient.

So the design took a little extra planning. In this instance, he chose the cabochons before ever creating the conchas, so that he could ensure both uniformity of design and proportionality to the stones. He domed each one slightly, repoussé-fashion. Then, before turning to the front of each, he soldered jump rings onto the reverse side of each concha: one at the bottom of each larger anchor medallion; one at both top and bottom of ten of the smaller ones (five per earring), and then one at the top of only of the remaining two small conchas. If you look at the photo, you’ll see why: The five middle medallions needed to attach to others at both top and bottom; the conchas at either end of the strand attached at only one point. (These he set on posts, rather than on wires, because their design already required extra length. Thus, there would be no need for jump rings at the top of the anchor medallions.) More, the attached jump rings needed to adhere securely, with only the top or bottom half exposed to link to the next one.

They were not ready to link together, however; that would come later. First, he needed to create the bezels to hold the stones. The bezels for the anchor medallions were proportionally larger than the others; all needed to be soldered securely into place, which meant that he needed to ensure that none of the conchas was domed too drastically. He also soldered the posts onto the back of the larger top conchas. Then he oxidized each medallion and buffed them to a relatively high polish.

Finally, it was time to link them together accomplished by connecting a full jump ring to each half. This increased their length over the other pair substantially, nearly trebling the amount of space between each concha. All that remained was to set the stones. The first two were easy: Only the amber were large enough. But he wanted to alternate the amber with turquoise all the way down, which meant ensuring that the first smaller concha was set with turquoise, the next with amber, the next with turquoise, and so on down the line, until he ended, once again, with tiny amber cabs in the terminating conchas.

With a final buffing and a traditional blessing, the earrings were ready to ship. Wings created them last October, when the light here is an almost perfect amber and the sky a flawless turquoise blue. But despite our abundance of puffy white clouds now, the colors have replicated themselves in our skies this spring.

Spring is a time to mark the light’s return. This year, the colors have returned with it, and the mystery too. In the midst of drought, this is cause for celebration, for thanksgiving, for honoring the spirits of sky and light.

~ Aji












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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.