Transparency and Lightness Filigree Jewelry

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This article was originally posted on Userblogs on 2/7/2018.
By Katja PoljanacMore from this author

The thousands of year old skill of filigree production has enjoyed an exciting development in contemporary jewelry art. It has long since departed from its aesthetic and technical tradition. However, the crafty endeavor to rid metal of its heavy qualities has remained constant. Jewelry objects of breath taking delicacy, with an airy sense of lightness, appear to defy the laws of gravity.

filigree jewelry

Mari Ishikawa, brooch "Sunset cloud", silver, Japanese lacquer

Monika Brugger, brooch "Fragile", silver

Without a single tremble, the hair-thin wires must be placed together using tweezers and then moistened with spreading solder before they can be soldered together to form delicate structures. Just a single breath of air could blow them away and the work of many hours would be destroyed. A goldsmith requires at least 10 years of professional experience in order to become specialized in this field. Traditional filigree jewelry is still produced in the Near East or in South and Eastern Europe, the centers of previous golden ages. According to documented testimonies, approximately 450,000 kg of filigree work in silver and 100,000 g of gold were exported from Central and Southern Italy each year at the end of the 18th century. It remains extremely popular as traditional jewelry in alpine regions. But the ornamental wire pieces were already known in antiquity, 2,000 BC, in Troy. Also the Mycenes, Etruscans and Germans provided testimonies to this highly developed goldsmith art, and they can now be marveled at in art history museums. The balmy location of Campo Ligure in Italy dedicates a filigree museum to this art, featuring treasures from all over the world.

Mari Ishikawa, necklace "Blooming", silver, Japanese lacquer

Albert Sous, brooches, gold

Robert Baines, bracelet with fire car, silver gilt, plastic cars

Barbara Simon, bracelet "Poems", silver

An Etruscan exhibition in Cologne was the key experience that introduced the metal sculptor Albert Sous to jewelry during the fifties. This is where he encountered for the first time the art of connecting metal without solder, which is also known as granulation. And he never forgot this discovery His fragile grid constructions, like those by Ewa Doerenkamp, consisting of extremely fine wires, had a pronounced, balanced and inherent stability. The items of jewelry had the character of miniature sculptures. Viewers may be reminded of Anton Cepka's work that was inspired by constructivism. They take up space while still appearing weightless. Following clear geometric arrangements, our gaze is initially caught by the overlapping of the lines. Giovanni Corvaja compressed them to form structures, with strict adherence to the principle of rhythmic repition. The task is developed to become a silent exercise: "You start a piece in winter and suddenly notice that spring has arrived," summarizes Corvaja.

Detlef Thomas, aleatoric ring, gold (left). Ring, gold, tanzanite (right)

Ewa Doerenkamp, wire brooch II, silver, blackened (left), gold (right)

Giovanni Corvaja, brooch, gold

Yasunori Watanuki, brooch, gold, silver

Detlef Thomas moves in the tense field between chaos and order. He is equally fascinated by mathematic structuring of a surface in the form of patterns, including the effects of coincidence on the principle of design, which also includes a latent proximity to destruction. Monika Brugger's work touches the thresholds to material dissolution. Perforated by endless numbers or tiny drill holes, the finely pierced metal surfaces in her lightly taut brooches have become seemingly transparent. A whisper of nothing forms a structure with organic appearance in the hands of Yasunori Watanuki and Mari Ishikawa. Contradicting the weight of metal, they seem also like volatile manifestations, akin to clouds, inconstant and imaginary. Barbara Simon's "Poems" appear to have escaped from the lightness of a single moment. They are lent weight by the galvanoplastic implementation in metal. However, their picturesque duct remains preserved. The writing is transformed into filigree ornaments, while the meaning of the text can only be guessed at.

Concentration on the effects of the metal is the predominant feature of most filigree work. A lively interchange between light and shadow is released in the intermediate spaces between the patterns and the structures. Petra Müller-Tichy breaks with the colorful purism. Her works are reminiscent of filigree enamel, intended to incorporate this material. Anna Heindl loosens her sometimes constricted and other times loosely woven structures with colored stones, while Christiane Förster works with numerous layers in the form of a relief. Zirconium can most certainly be burned into a plastic stone. In some cases, stones or other colored materials are densely woven into the substructure and only vaguely glimmer from below.

Petra Müller-Tichy, fantasy rings, plated silver and fine gold, silicon or dental ceramics

Dorothea Balkow-Edafieta, riveted, circular ring made of Bandfilifran®, gold

Anna Heindl, necklace, silver, various gemstones

Christiane Förester, crochet silver weave, plastic, enamel

Only the extraordinary silkiness of the precious metals permits this form of extreme processing. A wire measuring 3 km in length and with a thickness of 0.006 mm diameter can be pulled from one gram of pure gold. The vast expandability and equal strength are characteristics that entice us to attempt the impossible. The metal is challenged in many ways in its specific properties, but not just by jewelry artists Refining centers and also manufacturers of semi-finished products, such as the firm C. Hafner, experiment creatively with metals. In the Edition "light metal", silver and gold fibers are compressed to form delicate mats, which can be processed using standard goldsmith methods. The company increasingly offers workshops and organize: competitions. The important thing is to seek for the extreme. Using materials to their full potential means crossing the boundaries of the possible time and again.

by Katja Poljanac

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Katja Poljanac

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