The “Heavenly Bodies” gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featured a dazzling array of celebrities wearing outfits of various levels of audacity, usually leaning heavily on the Christian iconography that was the theme of the show. But another feature that was highly visible was that of multiple people wearing crowns and tiaras. Pieces on this trend have been written, from the New York Times to more specialized fashion blogs.
Meanwhile on the west coast, we started to explore this particular challenge about a year and a half ago. Danaca Design first proposed a tiara show in summer of 2017. The idea was met with equal parts enthusiasm, trepidation, and skepticism. Many artists loved the idea of the spectacle implied in such a show. Others saw crowns and tiaras as either frivolous or not relevant in today’s modern era. And still others (probably the most sensible ones of all) were intimidated by the engineering challenges, the scale, and the sheer weight of materials that they would have to coax together into a finished piece.
In late January of 2018 Dana Cassara called a meeting for the artists who had committed to contributing to the show, to talk about strategies and challenges in the design and construction process. Some final pieces were already present to try on and inspect as attendants pondered proper fit and balance of their own works. Others brought out components that were waiting to be mounted onto frames or to be formed into crowns. Metal flowers, brass filigree sprigs of grass, strands of pearls and stings of delicate wire loops filmed with iridescent paper were all admired and passed around.
With a few exceptions, most of these artists had never attempted a piece of this particular scale. It was interesting to hear how people were wrestling with the challenge of interpreting their personal skills, manufacturing preferences, and design aesthetics into these pieces.
As the submission deadline loomed, sketches were made and prototypes were rendered. Some pieces were caught in polishers, others were melted before they could be fixed onto frames. Fingernails were worn down to the nub, blood was shed, metallic spray paint was wielded, drill bits were broken inside tiara frames, and every possible fixative known to jeweler was used to rivet or solder or tie or glue or pray the pieces into being.
In the end, 24 artists took on that challenge, and created a broad array of headpieces that sparkled, shone, and sometimes moved and dangled, balancing precariously on the head, or digging into the wearer’s scalp or cradling it like a hat.
On the night of the opening show models strode back and forth through the studio to a cheering audience. A photo booth allowed attendants to try on various crowns, as the creators further discussed the challenges and influences they worked with while putting their pieces together, and determining how they were meant to balance on the wearer’s head. The show generated an inspiring energy that is only evoked when a daunting challenge is met an interpreted in so many ways that the possibilities continue to seem almost boundless. Short video clips can be viewed on our Danaca Design Facebook page.
In the wake of that energy, Danaca Design, its members and surrounding friends and artists have been looking to the next challenge—and are meeting it with a Feast of Brooches in honor of Mother’s Day. On Saturday, May 12, the studio is hosting a “brooch brunch,” show opening, and the wildly diverse contributions of its 29 artists will be featured in the studio gallery throughout the month of May.
This coming March Danaca Design will be hosting a show featuring tiaras and crowns in many forms called Crowning Glory: Ruling Our Own Destinies, Directing Our Own Paths. While the artists will be exploring the diverse cultural, artistic, historic, and social narratives of these accessories April decided to look into the history of these royal accessories to use as a post on the Danaca Design blog. It turned out to be a fascinating subject so instead of making one post she turned it into a four part series leading up to our show opening and reception on Friday, March 2, 6-8:30pm. This week part 2 is focused on some of the current and historical royal regalia in Asia
Traditionally, crowns are worn as a symbolic form of headwear by a monarch or deity to denote power, legitimacy, victory, triumph, honor, and glory. While today it is common to wear crowns for things like costume parties and brides will wear a tiara, but when you hear the word crown it usually conjures up visions of kings and queens and fairy tales about knights fighting dragons; in other words the king and queens of Europe and their fashions.
But I’m not talking about them today. Today I’m going to talk about some of the crowns and headdresses of Asia. In the strictest sense coronations are when crowns are given to the king or queen when they as send the throne. These sorts of coronations are historically rare because only a few monarchies, particularly in Western Asia, ever adopted the concept that the placement of the crown symbolizes the monarch’s investment to the throne. However the head may still be symbolically adorned in other ways such as the Sarpech or aigrette turban ornament of India’s Maharajas.
Kings in Bhutan wear a special headdress known as the “Raven Crown”, symbolic of the king’s authority as well as the raven-faced protector deity of Bhutan, Legoen Jarog Dongchen. The current king is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck became the most recent recipient being coronated in November 2008, a year which marked 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan.
The coronation ceremony of the Thai monarchs includes a consecration by anointment and a crowning. The Great Crown of Victory was made of gold in the reign of King Rama I in 1782, and it is enameled in red and green. King Rama IV added a large cut diamond from India to the crown called the Great Diamond Phra. The crown is distinctive, a multi-tiered conical diadem with a tapering spire on top.
Malaysia has an interesting form of enthronement where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, which literally translates to “He who is made Supreme Lord”, is an elected monarch. The office was established in 1957 and every five years is elected by and from the nine rulers of the Malay states. The royal regalia has an official headdress but not a crown…which is also an interesting story. According to legend the first Sultan of Perak set sail to Perak carrying on his ship many of the royal regalia including the Royal Crown of Malacca. During his travels his ship entered shallow waters and was stuck. The only way they could get the ship moving again was by lightening their load. One by one they threw items into the sea but still the ship refused to budge. Finally the only item left was the Royal Crown of Malacca which was thrown into the sea. Immediately the ship set sail again and the Sultan seeing this as a miracle swore than he, his descendants would never wear a crown as Sultans or never be crowned during their installation. This practice came to be followed by Malay Sultans of other states and the Maylay head-dress known as the Tengkolok came to be the replacement for a crown.
That ends part 2 of this series. For part 3 we’ll look at various regalia for kings in Africa.
This coming March Danaca Design will be hosting a show featuring tiaras and crowns in many forms called Crowning Glory: Ruling Our Own Destinies, Directing Our Own Paths. While the artists will be exploring the diverse cultural, artistic, historic, and social narratives of these accessories April decided to look into the history of these royal accessories to use as a post on the Danaca Design blog. It turned out to be a fascinating subject so instead of making one post she turned it into a four part series being posted every Monday in February leading up to our show opening and reception on Friday, March 2, 6-8:30pm. This week part 1 is focused on the ancient history of tiaras and crowns.
Tiaras, crowns, these head ornaments have been used for centuries to symbolize social superiority and power, have a history going back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Originally these head pieces were called a “diadem” derived from the Ancient Greek “dia dein” meaning “to bind around”. The ancient Egyptian pharaohs would wear gold head-bands that could be decorated with tassels and other ornaments that hung over the forehead, temple, or even down to the shoulders.
An excellent example of this is the diadem discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun, King of Egypt in ca. 1339-1329 b.c.e. (pictured above) Discovered during the excavation of his tomb in 1922 the kings mummy was adorned with a gold diadem formed in a circlet, at the front a detachable gold ornament with the head of a vulture and the body of a cobra, symbolizing the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt. It is also inlaid with glass, obsidian, carnelian, malachite, chalcedony, and lapis lazuli.
In Ancient Greece diadems were made from all kinds of metal, and with a limited amount of gold available, Greek metalsmiths would decorate them with embossed rosettes, filigree, and other motifs such as the Heracles knot which was found frequently in Hellenistic jewelry. Once Alexander the Great opened up the gold supply from the Persian Empire in 331 B.C.E. the styles became even more elaborate and often contained intricate garlands of tassles, leaves, and flowers.
The shift from diadems as just a circular band to what we now consider tiaras and crowns today is attributed to Ancient Persia, now Iran. The original term “tiara” is Persian in origin and in its original form describes the high peaked head decoration worn by Persian kings. However in ancient Persia crowns were worn in many forms and ancient authors did not always distinguish clearly among the various terms for them, making the most reliable evidence for forms of Persian crowns/tiaras are the depictions on objects such as monuments and coins.
Kings from the Achaemenid period wore tall and serrated golden crowns, called a crenelated crown, which was adorned with gold leaves and colorful jewels. The 22 or 24 serrations of the crown symbolized towers, battlements, temples, or the Sun. The Achaemenid queen wore a jeweled crown with a thin piece of cloth reaching her knees attached. Based on historical documents it seems that the only difference between the King and Queen’s head wear was the thin cloth.
However it was not just the royal Persians that wore head covers to denote status in society. From writings by the ancient Greeks it appears that a tiara was a soft headdress often with a high point and members of the Median upper class wore these high, crested tiaras. Median civilians and officers covered their heads with round and soft egg-shaped felt caps which were decorated with lace. Ancient reliefs depict archers with these caps and a crenelated diadem worn over them. Upper class Achaemenid women wore long headscarves some reaching down to their ankles. This shawl-like headdress was not wrapped under the neck but was usually worn with a diadem on top very similar to many popular bridal veil styles worn today.
Well that wraps up part 1 of this 4 part series. Honestly it is really hard to figure out when to stop because their is just so much fascinating history but if you want to check out more really cool pictures of ancient diadem, crowns, and more I suggest going to The Metropolitan Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org where you can browse their entire collection online.
Check back next Monday to find out about the crowns and tiaras of south and east Asia…I can’t wait.
Greek diadem: Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich via http://metmuseum.org Metropolitan Museum of Art
Achaemenid Seal: The Met, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/323560?sortBy=Relevance&ft=achaemenid&offset=20&rpp=20&pos=29
Coin with Tigranes: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tigran_Mets.jpg; Author unknown
If you have a metalsmith on your gift list (or if you’re still looking for ideas to tell Santa) we have lots of items that would make great gifts at Danaca Design.
This month we have 10% off of most tools and supplies but if you spend $100 or more take 20% off!
We also have gift cards that can be used on classes, tools, or jewelry in our gallery so that should cover just about everyone left on your list.
Here is a list of some of our favorite tools that make great gifts:
Electronic Torch Lighter:
This is the kind of thing that you never think of buying but really are happy to have. As metalsmiths we are lighting our torches over and over so this is one gift that will get a lot of use.
Xuron Wire Cutters:
Everyone should have a pair of xuron wire cutters. Once I bought mine I gave away my other wire cutters. They are that good. Available in both tapered flush and double flush xuron cutters make cutting wire a breeze.
This is another one of those items that you don’t *need* but is really nice to have. We carry both the ring bending and bracelet bending pliers. They make bending rings and cuff bracelets go so much faster.
Gifts under $50:
Double Horn Anvil:
This little anvil will fit on even the smallest benches. Useful for forging small jewelry and can be screwed down to a stump, jewelers bench, or table.
Stop squinting at your work and use an Optivisor. I’ll admit…I resisted using an Optivisor for a long time but once I started using one it made my life much simpler. This visor comes with 10x magnification to really let you see what you’re working on.( I noticed I made less mistakes once I could see better too.)
Bur sets are another jewelry making staple. Whether you get the cup, ball, or setting bur set they’ll get well used a lot.
Gifts under $100:
Miter Cutting Vise:
This miter cutting vise will let you make precise and even cuts in sheet, wire, tubing, and flat stock up to 4mm thick. Save time by not spending forever trying to cut and file straight lines by hand
Fretz Double Ended Insert Hammer:
I just bought one of these as a holiday gift to myself! Stop searching for the right hammer and get this one. It comes with seven different hammer heads that are easy to change out and very secure once on. Light weight but will move a surprising amount of metal with ease
GRS Inside Ring Holder for vises:
If you like to make rings this one is for you. Part of the GRS setting system this inside ring holder can be used with any vise. Stop struggling to hold rings in place while setting stones this gives a secure hold without risk of crushing the ring shank.
That’s just a few of the many tools and supplies we sell so stop on by our store to see the rest. We are located at 5619 University Way NE, Seattle WA and through Dec 24th we’re open until 7pm Mon-Sat and 12pm-5pm on Sunday
Weld It! Pulse Arc Welding for Jewelers and Metalsmiths
Instructor: Jeff Georgantes
December 4, Monday, 10am-5pm, Class Fee:$145
I’m really excited that we are going to be offering a one day class on pulse arc welding. I’ve been wanting to find out more about this tool and how it is used and finally I’ll have a chance to try it out!
So what is pulse arc welding and how is it different from soldering?
Pulse arc welding is basically a very small TIG welder. It is used for metal to metal fusion that creates strong weld joins. Unlike soldering, the piece does not need to be heated, fluxed, or pickled. This makes it excellent for repair work and re tipping prongs when the stones are already set. No need to remove and reset the stone making repairs much faster.
It’s also a great choice for when you don’t want to reheat the piece that already has a lot of solder joins. When Victoria Lansford was teaching her Russian filigree class this summer she mentioned that when she added welding to her repertoire it lead to being able to join items that previously would have been very difficult (if not impossible) to solder.
Another cool thing about welding vs. soldering is that you can hold your piece together with just your hands! I know we’ve all spent all a bunch of time balancing two pieces together setting up a solder join just to have one part fall off or roll away just as we start soldering. Pulse arc welding doesn’t heat the whole piece but a very small localized heat zone. So you can hold the pieces together with your hands which is much faster and easier. Pulse arc welding can weld all metals…even metals like stainless steel, steel, aluminum, tin and even titanium. Of course it also welds all of your precious metals more commonly used in jewelry too.
I can’t wait to take this class and see how it changes my work plus it’s an excellent professional training opportunity too.
If you would like to register for this or any of our other classes give us a call at 206-524-0916 or stop by our studio at 5619 University Way NE
For a complete class this visit us at www.danacadesign.com