Have you seen olive and laurel trees in Greece? Throughout history, Greek jewelers have recreated these images in gold. Find out more in Jewel School.
Jewel School: Greek jewelers recreate nature with gold
Have you driven around Greece and seen groves of olive trees? Have you seen the laurel trees and other vegetation so abundant in that country? Throughout history, Greek jewelry designers have recreated the image of branches and leaves. Gold, silver, and other metals are the medium these artisans use to imitate the soft, subtle veins to the rough, textured wood.
How did nature become so significant in jewels and gems all across Greece and the world? Well, let’s look at some popular Greek myths that might have acted as inspiration.
Daphne was a Naiad nymph. Ardently pursued by the Greek god, Apollo, she avoided his advances and pleaded with her father not to let him catch her. Her father immediately took pity om her, and turned the beautiful Daphne into a lovely laurel tree.
The olive branch
‘The story of the Olive Tree bears repeating. Recall that Athena and Poseidon vied for control of Athens and all of the surrounding territory, called Attica. In Athens, they competed for the coveted prize. The contest took place on the Acropolis. The god of the sea, Poseidon, struck a rock with his trident and a horse appeared. From the ground, goddess of wisdom Athena brought forth an olive tree. Athena was proclaimed the victor, and the rest as they say, is history.
At Paul’s Jewelers, we use different techniques in creating our fine jewelry. Our 3rd generation (pictured here) is already learning to create leaves from a sheet, readying them for connection to a vine. IMAGE: paulsjewelers.com
Capturing nature in jewelry
In ancient times, jewelers wanted to capture the feeling of nature by making it an enduring symbol crafted in precious metals and gems. One technique is called granulation. Craftsman creates shapes by soldering beads of gold are soldered onto a surface. They created leaves and other natural shapes by hand, attaching one piece to another ‘by curling, twisting and plaiting fine pliable threads of metal, and uniting them at their points of contact with each other, and with the ground, by means of flux, such as borax, by the help of the blowpipe.’ Jewelers blow into a tube over a fire to create a stream of heat, and melt one piece to another forming a bond. Etruscans, then Greeks, became superior craftsman through centuries of practice. We see stunning examples of this work in museums all over Greece and the world.
Nature continues to inspire artisans. Today, everything from stefana, to earrings, to pendants, and more are beautifully crafted. Take a look at some examples of how nature has inspired us at Paul’s Jewelers.
Look at these beautiful stefana that imitate nature but have, in place of berries, genuine gemstones like amethyst, turquoise, and crystal. The leaves are crafted by hand and the beads are carefully placed to accent each leaf. IMAGE: paulsjewelers.com
The lovely single olive branch design on this pendant is crafted in sterling silver and elegantly hangs with ripe olives ready to drop to the ground! Do you own a piece of nature in precious metal and gems? IMAGE: paulsjewelers.com
Nature continues to inspire
Today, jewelers have been inspired to do great things as well. Some craft as the ancients did, others use new technology to create wonderful things. Whether old or new, these pieces have stood the test of time and will continue to do so for years to come. Nature is a gift so why not honor it by imitating it in gold?
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