Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The honour of Heirlooms...

As I said in my last post, I have been thinking a lot lately about the word “Heirloom” and how it applies to my work.

According to Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, (1913 edition)
Heirloom is :
Heir"loom`\, n. [Heir + loom, in its earlier sense of implement, tool. Any furniture, movable, or personal chattel, which by law or special custom descends to the heir along with the inheritance; any piece of personal property that has been in a family for several generations

In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique, that has been passed down for generations through family members and in the strictest sense would be passed down by family custom, not by settlement..

I really love the idea of something special being passed down in a family through succeeding generations and in this way becoming more dear, through time and common ownership of the item than it was to the first owner.
The concept of a shared possession thats value is increased due to this process as well as the act itself of inheriting the item that once belonged to a distant ancestor is truly magical and quite comforting to me...I really enjoy the way this process can allow you a small glimpse of people that have lived, laughed, loved and died many, many years before you were born.

From a personal point of view, I like the idea of having things that once belonged to someone else as long as I know the story of them. For instance my mother has - inherited a large wooden vanity case lined with midnight blue velvet that is just beautiful, its filled with crystal bottles that were once used to keep creams and ointments, it has a special compartment for a hairbrush (missing), comb and hand mirror as well as another secret compartment tray for hiding jewellery. Its a travel case and boy has it travelled! It was made in England and brought to South Africa with a few stops along the way no doubt, by a Mrs Williams who’s husband was a Magistrate here in Natal in the 1890’s, she used to travel all over Natal with her husband, in those days any journey was long, hard and dirty.
This Mrs Williams is absolutely no relation of mine or my mothers, her most prized possessions landed up being inherited by my great aunt who’s husband inherited them from his great aunt. Its wonderful how this kind of cross pollination of cultures, lives and indeed Era’s can affect people that live hundreds of years apart.

“Woe to him whose daring hand profanes The honored heirlooms of his ancestors.” --Moir.

Previously I have attached key words such as Beauty, preciousness, treasure and history or old world charm to my work but I think heirloom is fast becoming a near perfect fit to the jewels that I make....perhaps with some sort of modern take on the word it would explain itself better. My jewellery is no where near the same quality of workmanship, style or technique as the great master goldsmiths of the past but I would like each piece to hint at the feeling one would have when wearing such remarkably crafted jewels. The feeling of old world charm wrapped up in a piece of jewellery made in the 21 century.


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