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#ThrowbackThursday: The Phases and Dust of the Bluest of Moons

Blue Moon Pendant Front

In this week of blue moons and celestial convergences, there was really only one possible work to feature for this #ThrowbackThursday. It’s the third in a series of four separate pieces that Wings created for a dear friend. She is a collector of sorts when it comes to his work, a woman with a longstanding passion for beautiful wearable that fits her spirit like a glove, and she now owns numerous individual pieces and a few commissioned sets like this one, collections in miniature designed specifically for her.

This set began with a cuff bracelet built around a truly spectacular lapis lazuli cabochon from Australia. It was perhaps the most perfect blue I’ve ever seen, with a creamy look to the stone, its polish simultaneously silk and velvet. It was cut in a stylized crescent, and when our friend decided that she was interested both in a work in lapis and one that would summon the energy and soul of the moon, I sent her photos. It became hers in short order.

Eventually, she decided that the cuff needed companion pieces, and beyond stipulating that such pieces include a similar assortment of lapis and moonstones as the cuff, arranged in differing ways, she left the design largely to Wings. First came a pair of earrings, moonstones and lapis dangling and dancing from a pair of moonstone crescents. The fourth item would turn out to be moonstone only, a hair cuff built around an extraordinary rainbow cab. But the third piece was a pendant, and this one presented a challenge. Like the cuff bracelet, it was to built around a larger lapis stone, this one round. That alone would not have been difficult, but for the rare color and beauty of the crescent cabochon in her cuff. For a collection that would eventually come to embody the phases and dust of the bluest of moons, finding a “full moon” cab worthy of the cuff’s “crescent moon” was no small task.

Wings tasked me with running suitable cabochons to ground, and it took a few months. It wasn’t as simple as calling up a regular supplier and requesting a round lapis cab of the proper size; I needed to see the specimens in person in order to match the blues at least somewhat. Finally, I found a small collection in the proper size and shape, and after comparing them against the photo of her cuff, we purchased three of them. Several repeat comparisons and much back-and-forthing later, and we settled on the one shown above: a greater range of blues mottling its surface, but still bright cobalt with significant depth and a bit of wispy white matrix underlaying the blues.

Now that he had a stone, Wings went to work on the piece.

Our friend wanted a pendant only, not a necklace; she has a stunning silver omega, and she likes to interchange pendants on it. It’s a big, bold, substantial piece, and so any pendant needs to be similarly bold enough to complement it, and needs to have sizeable bail to encircle the choker. With that in mind, he set about designing a fairly large piece, beginning, in this instance, with the center stone.

First, he set the lapis cabochon atop the silver to gauge what size the pendant as a whole would need to be. He knew that he would need to draw two separate circles, because to give the pendant the proper depth, he knew also that he would wind up creating a concha-style piece domed from the reverse side, repoussé-fashion. The outer circle would serve as the pendant’s perimeter; the inner one would indicate the point at which the doming should begin to rise from its flat edge.

Once he was satisfied with the size of the concentric circles he had drawn on the silver, he cut the piece out along the outer edge, then filed that edge smooth. He scored a deep line around the inner circle, some quarter-inch from the edge, using a single small stamp and striking it, freehand, all the way around the arc. Then he turned it over, placed it on a miniature anvil concave in shape, and hammered it outward to form a lightly raised, eminently smooth convex surface. Then he chose a pair of stamps, one a crescent and the other a tiny round hoop, and chased them in an alternating pattern around the flat border that formed the pendant’s edge. The effect was to link orbs and crescents, creating an image much like the phases of the moon, full alternating with sliver.

He then took a short length of silver, filed at the edges and narrowed at either end to form a tab. This he stamped in a repeating pattern of matched lodge shapes that, conjoined, form an Eye of Spirit, one of those who dwell in the same skies as Grandmother Moon herself. These he placed end to end along the length of the tab; then he soldered one end to the back of the pendant and gently bent the tab over to provide a bail for our friend’s omega.

Finally, it was time to deal with the stones.

The lapis stone, the one that would serve as the full blue moon, was sufficiently large that soldering it directly onto the domed center of the pendant would have been risky. To keep it held in place securely, he elected to raise it slightly off the pendant’s surface, using a very short length of sterling silver tubing to lift the bezel. He then cut a back to extend slightly beyond the stone itself, soldered a saw-toothed bezel to it, soldered a delicate strand of twisted silver all the way around it, and attached it to the top of the tubing. Then, he formed two tiny saw-toothed bezels into crescent shapes, and soldered each at opposite angles on either side of the center setting — seen as the hands of a clock, one at roughly 10 o’clock and one at 4 o’clock. Then he oxidized the entire pendant and buffed it to a high polish.

At last, it was time to set the stones in place. He began with the lapis, a blue moon in its full phase. Then he took a pair of moonstones, part of the same lot whose members anchored our friend’s earrings, and set them facing each other on opposite sides of the center cabochon. It produced an image much like that in the skies right now: a pale white crescent, luminous and chatoyant, growing closer, turning its face toward us, until it becomes a full blue moon, then slowly turning in the opposite direction, pale and curving away again.

It was a powerful piece, one well suited both to her omega and to the other pieces in this collection. It’s also one that has been much on mind in recent days, as we have seen the imagery play out in real time in the skies above us. When Wings created this piece, he had no knowledge of the celestial convergence that would dance overhead only a few months hence, but now it seems almost prophetic.

On this night, our moon here is no longer full, although you cannot tell it with the naked eye. It is now white, not the red of yesterday morning, and it wears a halo of moondust, more properly understood as a corona of atmospheric ice. It is, at long last, ascending the skies, seeming to watch over us as it dances along its prescribed orbit.

We live beneath its declining arc now, but there is still much of this moon left. After the last twenty-four hours, it feels as though we walk beneath the phases and dust of the bluest of moons. Our friend has them already caught and held fast, to walk in their light anytime.

~ Aji










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