Historic Jewellery talks but you have to listen carefully – part 3
Part of the reason why I am doing this series is that I want to research what the oldest goldsmiths did. Unfortunately I didn’t encounter any ancient images of my profession during the writing of my post for the beautiful jewel from Mesopotamian.
Egypt however, has more to offer.
In Saqqara I found the oldest evidence in the Mastaba from Vizier Meruka. The tomb is from the 6th Dynasty (2500BC) when Farao Teti reigned. There you will find a relief on the East wall of chamber A3 picturing goldsmiths. On the first line you can see how metalworkers first melt and then pour the gold and finally (of what survives) the beating of the solified gold into foil. The second line shows the production of collars and pectorals. (mouse over the image to see a line drawing)
The 2nd image is in Luxor (Thebes) in the tomb of Nebamon and Ipuky from the 18th dynasty (1390–1350BC). In it is a coloured display of metalworkers. The drawing here is from N. de Gares Davies who made it in 1921.
Afterwards the mural faded and was damaged by tomb robbers! Lucky this painting exists. If you click on the image you can see it full-size on the Met-museum site.
Both read like a comic book. It starts with weighing of the gold and then the processing steps in making jewellery. Take note to the fact that in those days the craftsmen only had bronze tools!
One of the typical Egyptian craftsmanship was the ability to shape a hard stone like Carnelian or Lapiz Lazuli into an inlay to fit snugly within a cloison. Instead of stone they also knew how to make glass that they used as substitute for stones, a skill that was regarded highly.
Take this example of rings from the 18th dynasty (1400-1200BC) that are in The Walters Art museum in Baltimore. There are 2 gold rings with symbolised flowers.
The ring on the right with the red Carnelian and Lapiz Lazuli even has small buds of the flower in gold.
The ring left with the delicate granulation rim uses light and dark blue glass. The white is also glass with small purple speckles.
Both are made in the typical Egyptian cloison style.
The Walters calls them Lotus rings but the actual flower that inspired the goldsmith was the Blue Egyptian water Lily.
The Lily is known for opening up each morning showing the intense golden center set against the blue petals. An imitation of the sun in the sky while releasing a sweet perfume. In the afternoon it would close again only to open up the next 2 or 3 days. Because of this pattern, that reminds of the rising and setting of the sun, its religious significance was great.
For the Egyptians it was a symbol of re-surrection or rebirth and connected to the sun god Ra.
It still is the national flower of Egypt.
You can find a lot of stylized lilies in the art work of the Egyptians. To the right you see a sketch I made from an art work depicting a Lily.
Egyptian artists are well-known for their faithful representation of nature and at the same time combining it with the magical and spiritual. I wonder if the ancient people made a distinction between amulet and jewellery?
You can find more images on my pinterest page
Historic Jewellery talks but you have to listen carefully