Saturday, 8 October 2011

Book finds -- jewellery inspiration

Yesterday, my sis and I went down to the village as we both had mail to collect. As we had time and the weather wasn't too bad we also went by the pharmacy and, as it's just around the corner from that shop, the library. Of cause they we selling old books and redundant copies so we got stuck there for a while. Not that many great finds, but I did walk away with a few books. One of them was Jewels of the Pharaohs: Egyptian Jewelry of the Dynastic Period by Cyril Aldred.

I can't say Ancient Egypt is one of my main source of inspiration, but I have found inspiration from there before (even done an egyptian revival-inspired jewellery set once) and a book on jewellery is always a book on jewellery. Even if it is old and have those typical 70's colour photos.

Haven't read it yet, but have flipped through it and found some inspirational -- and impressive -- jewellery. It's not just eye candy: the book covers bead making, jewellery techniques, history, symbolism etc on around 40 pages. You can e.g. learn that a bead maker was called iru weshbet and that it isn't known whether the Egyptians knew how to draw wire.

Flipping through the colour plates, I kept thinking I wanted to see more close-ups of the clasps and bead and that there was a slightly annoying lack of measurements. Because nowadays I don't just want eye candy for inspiration, I want to know how something is made. Techniques, materials, what the back looks like, what details and mechanisms (e.g. clasps, hinges, fasteners). Everything.

This page show one of the pieces that caught my eye, a floral circlet belonging to princess Khnumet who was buried in Dahshur (the crown above it was also hers). It's not something I'd immediately class as egyptian if I hadn't seen it in this book. Seeing it, I keep thinking it might be an inspiration for a piece made in wire crochet, either a circlet or a necklace. You can click on the image for a close-up so you can see more of the details.

Here's another page I quite liked. The top image is of goldsmiths, known as nuby, at work. Below that is two images of male jewellery makers making bead necklaces and collars. The guy below almost seem to have a modern day bead board. Apart from the nuby (goldsmith) and iru weshbet (bead maker), there was also the baba (faience maker) and neshdy (lapidary) involved in the jewellery making. [Googling it, I also found that the skilled collar stringers were known as seti nub.]

So now I have "new" book that includes two of my favourite subjects -- cultural history and jewellery/beads -- to read. Or rather look at as it's mostly pictures. Hopefully, I'll both learn something new and find jewellery inspiration in it.


  1. Maneki, this is a great blog and a super post. I have a lot of books like this and they never fail to inspire. History and culture should never be's the root of all human design. Egyptiana is hot and has been since they found and displayed the contents of King Tut's tomb. You can see strong influence of Egyptiana in Art Deco design, for sure.

    I also wanted to add that I really appreciated your comment on my last blog post about What Do You Do....When You're New? Especially important to me---and I'm so glad you said it---was the need to shop bargains for your supplies, but not to shop CHEAP. A good price is always important, but don't buy cheap low-end items to place in your work. That's why I have and always will espouse American-made brass stampings with really good finishes because at this time, they are the better choice. Not always the cheapest, but you CAN find realistic prices for really great stuff--again, with its roots in design history, as many of the dies used in US made brass traveled here with Portuguese, Italian and French die makers, back in the 19th century.

    SO! It was good to have your backup there, as I have been preaching quality for so long! AND, that you mentioned to learn the basic techniques well.

    I'd add they should be also reading your blog. ;-)

  2. Thank you!

    Yes, I do believe that buying really cheap, inferior supplies(rather than bargains as you put it so well) is to do yourself a disservice in the end. It might sound like a good way to save money, but you risk ending up with materials that you either can't use or that fall apart after some time. And it can be so disheartening for a newbie, who is likely to blame herself for the failure rather than the inferior materials. It is possible to find decent quality and still stay within budget. And it won't give you any unpleasant surprises once you start working with it.


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