Lecture Programme 2015
‘More like the work of fairies than human beings’: late Celtic filigree from Ireland and Scotland.
An extraordinary style of gold filigree was developed in Ireland and Scotland in the late 7th to 9th centuries AD. Gold had fallen out of use there several centuries before, so its origins did not lie in the native Celtic Iron Age. Instead inspiration came from neighbouring kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England and Germanic Europe. Much was borrowed. However, in the hands of Celtic smiths the style was developed to a level of great technical sophistication. This filigree is extremely delicate, more intricate than its predecessors, and often conveys a Christian message not immediately obvious to the modern eye.
AGM followed by
From the design board to the jewel.
Producing a piece of jewellery is the result of teamwork by highly skilled people, a combination of an understanding of each person’s role in translating design into the finished jewel. A design committed to paper becomes the work of firstly the mounter, then the setter and finally the polisher all of whom must work in harmony with each other. What are the inspirations behind the designer’s ideas: why was a piece of jewellery made: how jewellery design follows fashion of the period: these are some of the questions which, hopefully, will be answered in this talk.
Dr. Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie
Splendour at the Byzantine court - the Imperial jewellery of Constantinople in the middle Byzantine period (9th to 12th century)
The splendour of the Byzantine court was legendary in the middle ages. But what has actually survived of the jewellery of empresses, princesses or even the emperor himself? The sad answer is: virtually nothing. To gain an idea of how the adornments at the imperial court at Constantinople might have looked we have to look at jewellery of court officials as well as pictorial sources. Diplomatic gifts can also shed light on the appearance of court jewellery, especially the gold jewellery from the Preslav Treasure from Bulgaria, and a hoard found in Crete. With their fine enamel, granulation, filigree, precious stones and pearls they give us an insight into courtly splendour in Byzantium.
Jewels of 'blacknesse' at the Jacobean court
Anne of Denmark (1574-1619), queen consort of James I, accumulated a dazzling collection of jewellery, rich in diamond-set and emblematic pieces. Known to us from contemporary inventories and receipts, it appears to have been one of the most impressive of the period, as well as in the history of English royal jewellery. No surviving pieces other than a miniature frame had been known to survive. However, the identification of a remarkable pair of enamel and diamond ear pendants ordered by Anne of Denmark, incorporating moors' heads, sheds further light on her collection and in particular the fascination with 'blacknesse' at the Jacobean Court.
Golden threads: filigree in Islamic jewellery
The use of gold wire to form delicate decorative designs appears on jewellery and jewelled objects of the Islamic world from the 7th century onwards. Gold filigree formed an integral element of jewellery from Egypt and Syria, when ruled by the Fatimids during the 11th and 12th centuries and again when ruled by the Mamluks from the 13th to the 15th centuries. Further to the north, filigree was an essential decorative element in goldsmiths’ work of the Golden Horde, the Mongol rulers of the Qipchaq Steppe from the late 13th century into the late 14th century. However, despite this apparent continuity of technique within the Islamic world, filigree decoration derived from more than one tradition. In this lecture we will look at these influences from east and west that shaped filigree styles between the 11th and 15th centuries.
Aude Mongiatti and Fahmida Suleman
Beauty and Belief: Techniques and Traditions of Omani Jewellery
In recent years the British Museum has acquired a substantial collection of silver jewellery and weaponry from across the Sultanate of Oman. A portion of this collection formed the basis of the Museum’s 2011 exhibition, ‘Adornment and Identity: Jewellery and Costume from Oman’. This assemblage of over 600 handcrafted silver objects of adornment represents a well-established tradition of jewellery making that can be traced back to at least the mid-nineteenth century. This tradition continued into the mid-twentieth century, but has now largely gone out of fashion due to contemporary tastes for gold jewellery throughout the region. The British Museum’s collection attests to a wide variety of silversmithing techniques and a high level of craftsmanship that is not extensively documented and is in danger of vanishing in present-day Oman. Using both ethnographic and scientific analyses, Dr Fahmida Suleman, curator of the Modern Middle East, and Dr Aude Mongiatti, Research Scientist specialising in metals, will share their collaborative research findings on the significance, symbolism and technical artistry of Omani silver.
Digital Tools and New Technologies in contemporary jewellery
The future is history which hasn’t happened yet and there can be little that has happened in the last few years which is as futuristic as the much-discussed, much-misunderstood '3D Printing', yet this technology has been with us since the 1970s. It is widely described as being a ‘disruptive technology’, yet its power to disrupt seems, on the face of it, limited to the production of pointless plastic objects. Dauvit Alexander will discuss the impact of this technology on the jewellery industry, where it has been widely adopted and is quietly driving a new industrial revolution.
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