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#ThrowbackThursday: The Light That Leads to Winter

Dual Strand Moonstone Cuff Bracelet A

At this time of year, the moon is the light that leads to winter.

Oh, Father Sun is more important than ever now, since it is his fire that warms the world enough to ensure our survival. But according to the old stories, we are now entering the time when he is weakest, when he needs our help and hope and prayers to lift him daily on his journey across the sky, to bring him back from west to east to rise again after each long night’s rest.

The moon? Depending on whom you ask, she is only the sun’s reflected light . . . or she is our Grandmother, a matriarch older than time who watches over us in the darkest hours when we are least able to protect ourselves.

Last night, she was in full and fiery form herself, a descending crescent with a pair of upright horns, robed in the colors of flame, unusually low and large and glowing with the intensity of molten copper. These are her gifts to us, and her warning, too: These are the last golden days of the year, and it is time to prepare for the cold white light of winter.

Today’s featured work reflects and refracts that same chill light, timeless, mysterious, ineffable. It was a piece that Wings created about eight years ago, if memory serves; it sold at the end of 2010, a purchase by one person for another person who is a friend, and who was facing a particularly daunting challenge in her personal life at that moment. She said that the cuff gave her something to hang onto during the dark times, but I think the fact that someone cared enough to make it possible for her to have it was also healing for her.

And it was a piece that was all her.

It was also simple in the extreme; it was in the way that Wings brought its elements together that sparked its alchemical magic. And, as nearly always, it began with the band.

This band was crafted not out of sheet silver, but of what is known as silver wire. It’s unlike what comes to mind when one thinks of the word “wire” — nothing thin, fragile, nor especially flexible about it. Sterling silver wire is made of silver ingot, poured into long molds in various shapes and thicknesses (what becomes known as its “gauge”), then cooled and hardened and spring from the mold in a new form and shape. Most common are half-round and triangle wire; the former looks essentially like a round, tube-like length of silver that has been cut cleanly in half, flat on one side and rounded on the other, while the latter is a solid pyramidal shape, with each angle of equal size. Less common, but also frequently used in Native jewelry, are round wire (which is perfect for creating bangle bracelets) or square wire (which Wings used to great effect in two recent cuffs).

This band was wrought from a pair of strands of triangle wire.

For this particular design, one that is both popular and contemporary-traditional, Wings begins by cutting two separate strands of triangle wire, each strand of equal length. He solders the ends securely together, then files them smooth and bevels the edges; occasionally, he will place a “cuff” around the very end of each band, but in this case, soldering and finish work were sufficient both for stability and for style.

Next, he set the now-conjoined strands on his workbench, and gently spread them apart at the center, creating a gap of perhaps a half-inch at the center. He then shaped the cuff gently but firmly, hammering it with a mallet around a mandrel to create its curvature. Once the arc was the intended shape, he placed it in a small jeweler’s vise on his workbench, and began work on the sitting.

After all this time, I’m not certain, but in this instance I believe he’d already chosen the stone for this particular band. it was simple, and yet spectacular: a round rainbow moonstone of particular chatoyance, with near-perfect horizontal banding, much more like one would find in a gem like tiger’s eye (hence my use of the term “chatoyance,” or a light effect that resembles a cat’s eye). Indeed, Wings took the photo above from that angle precisely to show off that banding to its best effect. And while ordinary white moonstone is marked by shimmering bands in various shades of white, rainbow moonstone’s bands manifest in brilliant shades of color in addition to white, depending upon the angle of the light refracted by the stone. This one was marked by nearly half of it manifesting in the more usual icy-white hues, much like frost, with the lower portion, a bit more than half, more translucent, and channeling brilliant purples and blues and greens. Scattered throughout the stone, particularly around the edges, were tiny bits of jet-black schorl, a matrix common to moonstone.

It was one of the most beautiful specimens I’d ever seen.

Such a stone needed s simple but striking bezel, one that would highlight it, not derail attention from it. And so Wings set about cutting out a flat round backing, one slightly larger than the bezel itself would ultimately be. He then hand-crafted a bezel from flat sterling silver wire of a relatively broad size, soldered it onto the backing, and then gently clipped a “V” shape out of it at repeated, regular intervals. The stone, which was not especially highly domed, was thus held securely, but with a lowered profile in areas to show off the stone to full effect. He then edged the setting in delicate twisted silver, and set the cabochon in the bezel.

He buffed the entire bracelet into a sheen just slightly brighter than classic Florentine, giving it both an aged look and a smooth, shimmering polish.

Ironically, it was winter when the cuff sold, and the recipient was facing wintry circumstances of her own at that time. In this instance, the moonstone’s light was one not of mere masculine reflection, but of a Grandmother’s matriarchal power and protection. It may have been the light that leads to winter, but in this case, it was also the light that led through it, and out the other side into the warmth of spring.

~ Aji







All content, including photos and text, are copyright Wings and Aji, 2017; all rights reserved. Nothing herein may used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the owners.

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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.