Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Coronation Regalia

The procession of Charles II from the Tower of London to Westminster Palace on the eve of his coronation, 1661, by Dirck Stoop (c.1614-c.1683).

The Coronation Regalia

The Crown Jewels displayed in the Jewel House at the Tower of London are largely those items used at the coronation of a sovereign and are collectively known as the Coronation Regalia. Most of the collection dates from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, when Charles II ascended the throne. The old regalia used up to Charles I's coronation in 1626, had been either destroyed or disposed of by Cromwell's Parliamentary Commissioners who regarded it as symbolic of the "detestable rule of kings". After Charles Ps execution in 1649 Cromwell ordered that the regalia be "totally broken, ant that they melt down all the gold and silver, and Commonwealth". Luckily, detailed records of the old regalia survived the Cromwellian era and were used to draw up a list of new ornaments required for Charles II's coronation. The new regalia was supplied by the royal goldsmith Sir Robert Viner for the sum of £12,184 7s 2d.

The portrait of Charles II by John Michael Wright, c.1661, shows the King bearing the new state crown, orb and sceptre made for his coronation. Although the crown no longer exists, the orb and sceptre have been used at every subsequent coronation, including the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Many additions and alterations have been made to the regalia since Charles II's day. For example, a new set of regalia had to be made in 1685 for Mary of Modena, James 11's wife, as she was the first queen consort since the Restoration. Another new set was required in 1689 for Mary II when she was crowned with her husband, William 111, because she was queen in her own right and not queen consort.

Up until the early 20th century it was common practice for some crowns to be set with hired jewels for the coronation, normally at a cost of 4% of their total value. For the coronation of George IV, for instance, a new crown was made and set with hired diamonds valued at £62,250. Due to the postponement of his coronation, the eventual hire charges for the stones were £24,425. George IV was reluctant to part with his new crown and tried to persuade the Government to buy it outright hut it was finally broken up in May 1823. When the hired stones were removed the crown frames were sometimes re-set with imitation stones and placed in the Jewel House for display. The crown of Mary of Modena on show today is one such example. More often, the crowns were dismantled and the frames abandoned. Several of these frames survive and some, on loan to the Jewel House from the Museum of London, are on show today.

The significance and function of the regalia is best understood by reference to its part in the coronation ceremony. The English coronation ceremony, which dates back to the 8th century, has taken place at Westminster Abbey for the last 900 years. It comprises six stages: the recognition, the oath, the anointing, the investiture, the enthronement and the homage. The ceremonies begin with the Sovereign's procession to the Abbey.

Charles I by Daniel Mytens, 1631. The old regalia were used for the last time at his coronation in 1626
With two exceptions every monarch from Richard II to Charles II rode in magnificent procession from the Tower of London to Westminster Palace on the eve of his or her coronation. The processions of James I and Charles I were cancelled because of the plague. This Vigil Procession, as it was known, was dispensed with by James II in 1685 on the grounds of economy and replaced with a walking procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey on the day of the coronation. This tradition lasted over 200 years until the coronation of William IV in 1831. Today the monarch is driven by carriage from Buckingham Palace and is met at the Abbey by those carrying the processional objects.


Monday, 29 April 2013

Introduction Victorian Jet

Jet Anchor, late-1830s  The anchor motif became very popular following the exploits of Grace Darling. The daughter of a lighthouse keeper, she played an important part in the rescuing of sailors from a ship wrecked in a storm in 1838. According to the Victorian sentimental code, the anchor was symbolic of hope. Although we associate the Victorian era with large amounts of jet jewelry, high-quality pieces were relatively expensive in their day.  

Victorian Jet

Queen Victoria was very fond of jewelry and also of the sentimental significance that could be attached to certain jewels. Jet was the ideal material for mourning jewelry in fact, strict Victorian etiquette required that jet was the only stone to be worn during the mourning period and the changing rituals of mourning in this era are closely mirrored in the styling of jet jewelry. The greatest amount was produced following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, when women were compelled to wear it during the mourning period. Earlier mourning jewelry was light in appearance and frequently embellished with white enamel, whereas Victorian mourning jewelry was heavy, solemn, and gloomy.

Jet is fossilized driftwood, and has been mined since prehistoric times. It was mined extensively near the Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby, the large-scale mining and working of Whitby's jet dating to soon after 1800. The popularity of this material increased tremendously, and by 1870 the number of people employed in the field had increased to 1,400. The level of skill and intricacy of carving also increased, and in many cases more than one specialist carver would work on the same piece. Delicately carved flowers and leaves, chains without breaks in the links, cameos, bangles, knots, and twists were all produced by artisans' hands. The finished article could then be polished to a high sheen or given a textured matt finish.

By 1880, the industry fell foul of the changing whims of Victorian fashion, which turned to lighter, less intricate pieces, with a resulting decline in craftsmanship.

• In the last quarter of the 19th century Whitby could no longer service the enormous demand, and a poorer-quality soft jet, which broke easily and dulled quickly, was imported from Spain. Imitations also arrived on the scene, and it is important to identify these see right.

• Always study the reverse of a piece, although it is quite rare to find signatures or other makers' marks on jet.

• Paint or ink is sometimes used to obscure repair work on jet, so be aware of slight changes in colour and texture. 
Jet Necklace, c.1860-1900  Whitby jet was commonly carved into beads for stringing into necklaces. Some of the craftsmanship on the smaller beads is quite exquisite. This example is of graduated beads carved into stylized chrysanthemums, which in Victorian times symbolized longevity. A wealthy woman might have worn many of these at once, overlapping each other. Although a French jet imitation of this style of bead is unlikely, there are many other imitators, including vulcanite and Bakelite.

Jet Imitations

A short-lived imitator of jet was bog oak, a fossilized wood found in the ancient peat bogs of Ireland, which is softer than jet and is brown in colour with a matt finish. Today, bog oak is a collector's field in itself and is not easily mistaken for Whitby jet.

Of all the imitators, French jet was the most successful. This is a glass that was either cut and faceted or moulded into shapes. It polishes to a very high sheen but is very brittle, chipping easily, and in poor-quality examples mould lines can be seen. Pieces were commonly mounted onto a black metal backing.

In addition, compressed dyed wood powder was commonly made into "carved" cameos. These are not carved, however, but moulded, and many of the “jet” cameos found today are of this type of material. Vulcanized rubber and other early plastics were also used to imitate jet, and although they are not always convincing, care must be taken in identification.

Writer – Steven Miners

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Vermeil Figurals

Vermeil Figurals

If there were only one or two firms producing vermeil flowers and bows, there were many more producing vermeil figural brooches. After the deprivations and trials of the war years, fashions turned towards the colourful and amusing, and the main product of this trend was the figural brooch. Although the Art Deco years saw the production of figurals, it was not on the scale or with the unusual humour of that of the 1940s. Almost every costume jewelry firm produced its own line of figurals, and the variety was staggering. Animals; people; the sun and moon; mechanical moving flowers and clowns; hands, shoes, and feet; silhouettes; dancing people and dancing horses, the list goes on.. but cannot even begin to give an impression of the range of designs produced.

The desire for fun and quirky jewels caused a stampede in the jewelry- design world, as designers worked flat out to create the unusual and eye-catching. Designs were produced and copied and copied again. The turn-around of original to copy was happening at an amazing rate and the forerunners in design had a hard time keeping ahead of those determined to duplicate their work. So much time and effort was being expended in protecting designs and keeping ahead of the forgers that in the early 1950s history was made by Trifari, who successfully brought action against Corocraft in defending one of their more popular models.

The value of a figural brooch lies only part in its design, although there are some figural forms that are more popular than others, such as turtles, flowers, and insects. If a figural has a good maker's name on it, such as Chanel, Schiaparelli, or Marcel Boucher, then the value will increase; other figurals' values tend to be determined by their level of rarity. Near the maker's name one should also see the "STERLING" stamp.

Working with silver rather than base metals allowed a far greater level of definition to be produced, and some of these pieces contain amazing detail, not only in the overall design but also in the method of construction. However, silver as a colour of jewelry tended to be less popular than gold, hence the development of vermeil (a French word describing sterling silver that has a gold-plated finish), which combined the best features of both metals.


Vermeil is simply gilded silver, but there is a lot more to colouring the metal from which a piece is made than simply plating it. Leaving aside the special requirements of preparation for a restoration project, gilding pieces during the process of manufacture requires many steps, including cleaning, polishing, and plating with other metals first to ensure successful gilding.

The actual process used to deposit gold onto the substrate is known as "electroplating", in which the piece is immersed in a bath containing gold and an electric current is passed through the piece and the bath to leave either a "flash"(thin coating) of gold or a heavier thicknesses of gold, depending on the duration of the electroplating process.

Rolled gold, by contrast, is achieved by fusing a sheet of gold to a sheet of base metal and then rolling the two together thinly to produce a sheet of gilded metal.

Writer – Steven Miners

Friday, 26 April 2013

Overview to Proclamations of Power

This tiny gold crown once decorated a miniature icon in a family shrine. The fan-shaped section is set with rubies on one side and diamonds on the other and can be swivelled around to match the deity's attire for the day to be that ornamentation of the body is an integral part of this life, as discarding such accoutrements is a natural aspect of the act of renunciation.

Proclamations of Power 

"The child who is decked with prince's robes and who has jewelled chains round his neck loses all pleasure in his play; his dress hampers him at every step. In fear that it may be frayed, or stained with dust he keeps himself from the world, and is afraid even to move. Mother, it is no gain, thy bondage of finery, if it keeps one shut of from the healthful dust of the earth, if it rob one of the right of entrance to the great fair of common human life."

Whether god, king, or mere mortal, jewellery, until not too far back in time, was an important aspect of male attire in Indian culture. Men wore jewellery primarily for protective and propitiatory purposes. As social hierarchies evolved, ornaments also settled into the vast language of visual symbols, telling the viewer much about the wearer his rank in society, his sectarian affiliations, his religious loyalties. Designs and styles crystallized from specific functions. The surprisingly modernistic looking avigalu pendant with a concaved centre evolved from the need to house the sacred lingam, indicating the Shaivite loyalties of the wearer. Scalloped Vishnupada pendants confirmed the owner's Vaishnava leanings.

Worked in almost three-dimensional relief, this gold repousse crown once adorned a temple deity. Shiva and his consort Parvati are represented seated on Rishabha, the bull. The gods too favoured bodily adornment, and many an endearing myth is woven around their love of it. The Matsya Purana states that, captivated by the celestial gem kaustubha as it emerged from the cosmic waters, Lord Vishnu appropriated it for himself and wore it on his breast. Hinduism's most sacred pond, the Manikarnika Kund in Benaras, owes its sanctity to Lord Shiva's earrings. Moved by Vishnu's single-minded devotion, Shiva trembled with delight and his jewelled earrings, Manikarnika, fell into the pool. Hindus believe that last rites performed on the adjoining Manikarnika Ghat ensures the soul's liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Decorating the image of deity with jewellery is integral to Hindu ritual. The daily puja in a Hindu temple involves sixteen offerings (upachara) to the deity. Abharanani, the offering of ornaments and gems, is the ninth upachara. The beauty of the deity adorned with jewels is not "intended for the aesthetic enjoyment of the secular beholder."' The image of a god or goddess was intended to present the divine in human form; but the aspects of the divine, their omnipresence and glory, had all to be recreated in the form of bodily adornment. A jewel was first and foremost a gift of god intended for god. Man only in his role as a servant of god wore it. Even today, a new ornament is first offered to the deity at home or in the family temple before it is worn.

A portable shrine, the carved rock crystal case encrusted with rubies and emeralds houses a Shiva lingam. A rock crystal bull (Nandi) sits on top of the hinged lid.
Temple jewellery is carefully co-ordinated for sbringara, the beautification of the deity. The phenomenal collections of Srinathji at Nathdwara, Gopalji Mandir in Bermas, and the priceless one of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirtipati immediately conic to mind. Astrological guidelines regarding the colours and gems appropriate to the days of the week and scriptural injunctions regarding specific shrimara for festival days are adhered to closely in the process of selection. On such occasions, the usual accoutrements of the deity are replaced by exquisitely embellished ones appropriate to the occasion. Conch shells that are used to bathe the idol, ceremonial umbrellas (chattris), and vessels for offerings (bhoga), embellished with precious stones and gold work, transcend mere function to reflect the celestial glory of their user. 

This gold spear encrusted with rubies and diamonds was gifted to the deity Murugan or Kartikeya by a grateful devotee whose initials are inscribed on the back. Since jewellery belonging to temples escaped the demands of changing fashion, some of the most authentic extant specimens of classical Indian jewellery lie with temple trusts. Unfortunately, few, if any, are accessible to scholars. Zealously safeguarded for fear of undue publicity and theft, only rare and fleeting glimpses of these jewels are possible during a hurried darshan (offering of prayers).

For both the celestial regents and their more earthly counterparts, the grammar in ornaments had already settled into conventional types as early as the 41" century B.C. Listing them according to their place on the male physiognomy, Bharata in the Natyashastra recommends a crest jewel (chudamani) and crown (mttkuta) for the head; earring (kundala), ear pendant (mochaka) and ear-top (kila); strings of pearls (muktavali), a snake-shaped ornament (harsaka), a golden chain for the neck (sutra); a three-stringed strand of pearls (trisara) reaching the navel, as body adornment. Bharata's list also clearly difkrentiates ornaments for the wrist (ruchika and culika) from those for the forearm (hastavi, valaya) and the upper arm (keyura, angada). 

Reproduced by permission of the Trustees Allowing for artistic variations, sculptural evidence amply corroborates these early stylistic norms. Careful details chiselled on a variety of ornament types visible on sculpted male figures in almost every period in Indian history imply the artist's painstaking attempts to represent prevailing styles. Apart from a diadem of pearls indicating their princely status, Gandhara figures of Bodhisattvas dating to the 2"d or 3rd century A. D. usually support stiff torques, characteristic heavy loop-in-loop chains with figural terminals, strands of shoulder pearls, the trademark armlet strap, as well as armlets and bracelets. The presence of elaborate jewellery is, in fact, an essential iconographical feature that serves to distinguish images of Bodhisattvas from the starkly simple ones of the Enlightened One: The unmistakable implication here seems  to be that ornamentation of the body is an integral part of this life, as discarding such accoutrements is a natural aspact of the act of renunciation.

Writer- Usha R Bala Krishnan & Meera Sushil Kumar

Thursday, 25 April 2013

About Signatures of Jewellery

These earrings bear the signature "original by Robert" within an "artist's palette" plaque. Robert jewelry was always signed but the signatures changed over the years, this one being used only for five years in the late 1940s.


Many manufacturers stamped (signed) their jewelry. These signatures, where present, are found on the reverse of the piece, either on a dip back or on the body itself. They can commonly be quite small and difficult to see and usually require a small hand lens, or "loupe", to read. Many markings on the back of vintage costume jewelry are, however, not signatures identifying the manufacturer but could be part numbers, patent numbers, or even casting faults, so look carefully.

Makers' marks can also tell us a great deal about the age of a piece. A few manufacturers (such as Dior and Hollycraft) actually stamp the year of manufacture with the regular signature, while others have, over the course of the company's life, changed the design of the signature, thus providing us with a useful method of estimating the age of a piece. This is not an exact science, because a maker could use the same design of signature for over 20 years, but with that knowledge and other information such as design, colour, method of manufacture, and material, one can narrow down the estimated age to within five years.
This piece bears the signature "Eisenberg original”. 
There may also be other useful information stamped on the reverse of the piece. Costume jewelry made from

silver generally bears either a hallmark (if made in the UK) or other marks depending on country of origin. These range from the grade of silver written in numbers (for example 925 for sterling silver or 800 for lower-grade silver), assay office marks of individual countries (far too numerous to list here), or "STERLING SILVER" for sterling silver pieces made in the United States. Grade and thickness of gold plating is found on some pieces.

Finally, it is important to note that just because a signature cannot be found on a piece of jewelry it doesn't mean that it is not of any value. Some of the finest and most valuable costume jewelry is "unsigned". After all, somebody must have made it and very many makers simply did not stamp their pieces. Sometimes the process of plating a piece (mostly done after the signature had been stamped) can fill in the signature, all but obliterating it, and of course signatures can wear away over time. This is where real skill and judgment come into play, and after a fair amount of practice one may be able to identify manufacturer, designer, and age with just a brief glance. Some of the more common makers marks are listed opposite with approximate dates of usage. 

These are two signatures of the famous Liberty & Co. Several signatures were used, for example "Ly & Co" (which was used in London in 1898-1901) and "L & C Cymric". This is the stamp of C.R. Ashbee. It accompanies pieces made at the Guild of Handicrafts in Chipping Camden, Oxfordshire. The early signature on the far left was registered in 1945 but in use since 1944. The other signature was in use from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

This is the mark of Theodore Fahrner (who also worked in other styles). It is sometimes seen with the stamp of a designer (individual or company). This is one of the stamps of the Wiener Werkstatte cooperative, registered in 1903 and dissolved in 1932.Although Chanel's earliest pieces date from the 192os, the italic, or "script", signature made its first appearance in the early 19305. The "block" signature is still in use.

These are two of the signatures used by Murrle, Bennett & Co. They are sometimes seen with other manufacturers' stamps (such as Theodore Fahrner), indicating that the piece was in a pre-existing line of jewelry. The large E dates from the early 19405, "Eisenberg Original" from the early 1930s to i945, and "Eisenberg Ice" from the mid-194os to mid-195os (and in script italics for a re-introduction of classic pieces in 1994). From the 195os to the late 198os no signatures were used. The "K.J.L." signature is marked on the earliest jewelry and is by far the most collectable. The "Kenneth Lane" signature dates from the 198os and '9os. Care must be taken because the K.J.L. signature has now been reissued and accompanies modern pieces.
The horseshoe-shaped signature was used from the late 1940s. Before this, Haskell jewels were unsigned. The oval signature dates from the 19505 onward. Schiaparelli's "script" signature is stamped on the earliest of the American-produced pieces, which date from 1949. Little is known about the "block" signature, but it possibly dates from 1954, when she ended her active designing career.  

The three Hobe signatures shown here can be dated accurately, as shown below each stamp. The stamps themselves are soldered onto the backs of the jewels.

Joseff of Hollywood used two different signatures, and there appears to be quite a lot of confusion about the dates. The "block" signature is generally regarded as having been used up to the early 1950s, while the "script" signature was in use from 1938.   

Of the 17 or so known Trifari signatures, the earliest was "Jewels by Trifari", in use from 1920. "KTF", used from 1935, stands for the company founders - Leo Krussman, Gustav Trifari, and Carl Fishel. "TRIFARI" was in use from 1937. "TRIFARI" with a crown above the "T" was used from the 19405 onward. A copyright symbol © suffixed this from 3955 onward.  

Dictionary of Jewellery

Zapotec jewelry

Articles of PRE-COLUMBIAN JEWELRY possibly made by the Zapotec Indians of Mexico who inhabited southern Oaxaca and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, near Monte Alban. They were closely affiliated with the neighbouring Mayan Indians of the Old Empire, c. 317 987, and after c. 1300 with the Toltec Indians who followed them in the region and to whom much of the jewelry of the moNTE ALBAN TREASURE has been attributed.

Zibellino (Italian)

Literally, sable. The Italian term for FUR JEWELRY


A variety of gemstone of which the common natural colour is reddish brown but stones exhibiting green and several other natural colours are found. However, most marketed specimens are brown stones that have been subjected to HEAT TREATMENT which produces a colourless stone or stones of a wide range of colours, especially blue, bluish-green, purple, deep red, and golden-yellow. When the stones are heated in a closed container, they become colourless or blue; when a flow of air is permitted to enter the container, they become golden-yellow or red. Such converted colours are fairly stable, but sometimes revert in time to greenish- or brownish-blue. Certain coloured varieties have been given special names (e.g. HYACINTH. JACINTH. JARGOON) which have been recommended to be discarded in favour of merely prefixes of the particular colour. The zircon has ADAMANTINE LUSTRE and high colour dispersion, so that a colourless stone often resembles a diamond, but with less FIRE and BRILLIANCE. All zircons are brittle and tend to chip at the facet edges. They are classified as (1) 'high' or 'normal' (which are CRYSTALLINE), (2) 'low' or metamict (which are AMORPHOUS or nearly so), and (3) intermediate (which can be converted by heat to 'high'). Zircons are faceted usually in the MIXED CUT or ZIRCON CUT style. Most zircons are treated and cut in Bangkok, Thailand. Misnomers that have been applied to zircon are 'Siam aquamarine', 'Matara diamond', and 'Ceylon diamond'. Synthetic zircons have been produced but not commercially; a blue SYNTHETIC SPINEL has been miscalled a 'synthetic zircon'.

Zircon cut

A style of cutting a transparent gemstone (often used in cutting a ZIRCON, owing to its brilliance) in a manner similar to the BRILLIANT CUT but with an extra row of 16 small FACETS between the PAVILION FACETS and the CUEET.

Ziwiye Treasure

A TREASURE of articles of gold, silver, and ivory jewelry said to have been found in 1947, between Kurdistan and Azerbaijan, in Iran, in an Assyrian bronze 'container' (later referred to as a 'coffin') and which has been attributed to the late 7th century BC. Many pieces now in the Iran Baston Museum, Tehran, and other leading world-wide museums have been attributed to this source, especially as a consequence of the book, Le Tresor de Ziwiye, written in 1954 by Andre Godard who claimed to have recovered some of the pieces (through a Tehran dealer, Ayoub Rabenou) from the pillaging natives, and also the writings of Roman Ghirshman, a French scholar. However, as the number of pieces now attributed to this source has greatly increased beyond the early reports, the authenticity of many of them has been seriously questioned, particularly by Oscar Muscarella, an American archaeological authority, who has based his contention on the fact tht no example was excavated under controlled methods and that many pieces were looted, or possibly even faked, by local villagers to sell to antiquarians. Some of the museum pieces show motifs, including animals heads, usually ascribed to the Assyrians and the Scythians who inhabited the surrounding territories, thus supporting the claims to authenticity. The Sunday Times (London, 7 May 1978); R. D. Barnett. The Treasure of Ziwiye'. Iraq, xviii (1956), 111-16.

Zoomorphic jewelry


Zundt, Matthias (1498-1586)

A German designer of jewelry, formerly known as the 'Master of 1551'. I-le became a citizen of Nuremberg in 1566 as a recognized goldsmith and lapidary. but is now known for his engraved designs which exemplify the Mannerist style of Nuremberg.

 Zuni jewelry

Articles of silver jewelry made by the Zuni Indians of western New Mexico since c. 1870 when they first made silver pieces resembling NAVAJO JEWELRY, but mainly since c. 1890 when they developed the cutting and inlay setting of turquoise. In 1935 they began the making of multicoloured articles, using with small pieces of turquoise some inlays of jet and shell, and their work is now characterized by emphasis on the stones rather than on the silver. They also make fetish necklaces with many small pendants in the form of animals, birds, and grubs. Since the 1940s they have developed the process of decorating with CHANNEL WORK.

Writer – Thames & Hudson

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

About of Gold in Western Art

Golden glass portraying a Roman married couple. Originally set in the side of a wall grave. About 230 AD., Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome. GOLD IN WESTERN ART

The oldest surviving pictures which are adorned with gold but which are not actually products of the workshop of goldsmiths are the "gold glasses", known as .fond door. Many variants of fond door were found in Roman catacombs. These were paintings with gold leaf dating back to Classical and early Christian times. Such glasses portrayed religious, secular and mythological themes and are distinct in technique from subsequent painting on gold leaf and stencil work. The gold adornment has survived undamaged because it was ringed by protective glass. Gold's enduring quality and resistance to gust made it a suitable medium for the artists who fashioned these

Objects. There is, however, some suggestion that these glasses served primarily as a basis for burial symbols in a cult of the dead rather than having been chosen for those practical reasons associated with gold's purely physical qualities. These works probably influenced the later development of painting under glass. In religious painting, gold under glass was often employed to form halos. Occasionally it was also used to lend ornaments and golden vessels verisimilitude. The decorative effect of gold has always made a considerable impact. Gold etching is another form of glass painting. A design is worked onto a lampblack-covered glass plate. The design, created in a fashion similar to that of etching, appears after it is backed with gold or silver leaf. Golden light filled the churches of the middle Ages, shining down on the faithful through stained glass portraying visions of the New Jerusalem. It was, in fact, silver rather than gold that usually created the "golden" effect. So-called silver-yellow was used from around 1300 onward. Its color effect ranged from pale yellow to dark orange.



Gold glass portraying jnab beneath a ground plant fourth century biblioteca Vaticana Rome
When the pharaoh of Egypt, incarnation of Horus, the Sun God, surrounded himself with the radiance of gold, the earthly reflection of the light of the sun, gold symbolized his claim to power as well as the reality of his authority. It was the beginning of a tradition which, through a variety of religious and political instruments, has remained very real and universally understood through the ages, up to the present day. Emblems of rank and status are still commonly displayed in gold. In painting, the best known golden symbol is the halo. It was used in Antiquity, in Indian and Oriental art, and in Christian religious paintings. In Byzantium,

The halo symbolized both the temporal power and spirituality of the emperor. Until the end of the fifteenth 'century, Christian art tended to portray the halo in the form of a disc. During the Renaissance, it became a garland of light rays. In the art of the medieval period golden radiance was not restricted to halos. It often featured as a golden surface covering large portions of the painting. It sometimes even covered the bodies of particularly divine or saintly personages, as in the case of the Golden Madonna of Essen Cathedral.

Mercy seat glass painting using gold from sandal upper austral early ninetieth century dries Raimond Schuster collection Zwiesel
The American pop artist, Andy Warhol, seemed to create a modern version of the traditional image of the Virgin Mary with his photomechanical reproductions of a portrait of actress Marilyn Monroe, with her face set in a golden background.

Andy Warhol's "factory" he prefers to avoid the word studio had an output of two to three pictures a day when "Marilyn" was produced. These "icons" of the consumer age  produced almost as quickly as other consumer articles were often merely flattering portrayals of celebrities, politicians, successful artists and Warhol himself. The use of gold and silver paint and the choice of "demi-gods" of the 1960's as subjects hinted at religious overtones. Other critics live suggested that mockery rather than adulation was involved.

What did the gold backgrounds for much early Christian and medieval art symbolize? "They revalue the limited and restricted Earthly domain, transferring it to a higher sphere where the laws of earthbound existence no longer are valid." They are "surfaces without end", "ideal space", "emblems of divine transcendence", "reflections of divine radiance", "and the luminous space of the divine". Art historians have used these and other pretentious phrases to try to define the phenomenon. And what of gold in the work of such modern artists as Julius Bissier or Yves Klein? "Bissier is especially fond of gold because of its material charm and also for its spiritual qualities" (Werner Schmalenbach). "Gold is the law and God the Father" (Paul Wember).

Salome with the head of John the Baptist. Glass painting with gold leaf. Spanish, Seville region. Tobler Collection, Stafa. Questions about gold's significance in art can often be answered in similar terms, whether it be medieval or modern art. Unfortunately, attempts at interpretation are often as vague as they are eloquent. Twentieth century artists have often spoken about their use of gold in a defensive fashion. Others have chosen to be ironic about it. Obviously, for such artists gold still retains the power to stimulate conflicting feelings, and is seen as both desirable and crass.

Johannes Itten (1888-1967), one of the early members 'of the Bauhaus movement wrote: "Golden yellow is the highest sublimation of matter through the power of light, radiant beyond comprehension, opaque, light as movement. Gold was frequently used in painting in earlier ages. It signified radiant themes. The golden domes of Byzantine mosaic art and the golden background of paintings of the old masters were symbols of the Beyond, the miraculous, the realm of light and sunshine. The golden halos of saints were the symbols of their inner radiance. Saints who attained the level of spiritual supremacy lived as if shrouded in light in which, enraptured, they hardly breathed. This heavenly light could only be portrayed symbolically by means of gold."

Frenchman Yves Klein (1928-1962) was one of the most prominent painters of the New Realism, a West European avant grade movement of the 1950's. In 1949, he produced the first monochrome painting, a board colored blue. In the following decade, Klein tended to prefer blue to other colors, but added more and more red and gold to his palette by 1960. This three color harmony, corresponding to the dominant colors of Gothic art, was designated by Klein as symbolizing the unity of three in one.
Modern Turkish mass produced object glass painting using gold and silver paper 
Julius Bissier (1893-1965), after long pursuing different threads in his artistic career, discovered in 1930 a simplified aesthetic language, with meditative undercurrents, which he employed for watercolors and gold-leafed miniatures. His biographer, Werner Schmalenbach, noted: "Bissicr's paintings have often been thought of as the work of a sage or a monk. They are reminiscent of Chinese themes. Indeed, the artists wag for a long time influenced by the spirituality and aft of the Orient." The Swiss artist, Heinrich Eichmann (1915-1970) was also a convert to gold. During the last decade of his life, he became involved with the use of signs and symbols, many of then contrived of gold leaf, in his paintings. Eichmann also created murals in which gold leaf was applied directly to concrete. He wanted the contrast between the naked wall and the gleam of gold to express "poetry as the feeling for life". Among the things which inspired his "gold art", Eichmann identified the refraction of light by water and the traditional use of golden backgrounds in Italian art.

Vishnu, glass pain lag with gold leaf. Western India, nineteenth century. Sophie Taeuber (1889-1943), who was married to the Dada artist, Hans Arp, began work as a textile designer. She then worked with Arp for a few years before setting up her own studio. In the Dada milieu and later, among abstract painters, she met many kindred spirits seeking firmer aesthetic roots. Her gold triptych of 1918 is not only similar to an altarpiece, it is radiant with the kind of grace which makes some modern work reminiscent of that of the old masters of western art.

The cast sculpture of the American artist Louise Nevelson, born in Kiev in 1900, consists of boxes, one atop the other, in which the artist placed various pieces of wood, mostly bits of furniture. The discards and rubbish of the consumer society were carefully blended, painted and transformed into works of art, even revalued into magical altarpieces. Such an interpretation might be explained by Louise Nevelson's interest in religion and by the resemblance of her work to altarpieces or reliquaries. And her practice of employing gold paint with stunning effect.

The gold leaf pictures of Gottfried Honegger (born 1917) are "meditation boards". Oblong structures pro-trued slightly from the picture and contain symmetrically arranged geometric elements. The way in which Honegger's gold surfaces glow against dark back-grounds is not unlike certain effects in Oriental religious art. In portraying the lives of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, Oriental artists used gold powder or gold leaf to attain their desired effect.

The "Sacro Volk" of Genoa. Byzantine gold frame from the tenth century around an even older icon. Saint Bartolomeo degli Armeni, Genoa.
The Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), who setted in Paris in 1904, was among those who made possible the triumph of nonfigurative sculpture and was, thereby, one of the pioneers of modern art. His works, which seem to be based on elementary aesthetic principles, were strongly influenced by the folk art of his native country. One of his celebrated series, "Birds in Space" was titled "Golden Bird". Carola Giedion Welcker wrote of the ‘`golden" glimmer of Brancusi's work: "Polished as smoothly as possible, the radiance of the work is carefully and deliberately created. Transparency becomes transcendence. Not only does the process permit it to breathe light, it gives it a particularly intense spatial and spiritual power of emanation. The closed kernel-like form opens itself to space through its polished surface, shines through it and reaches out in reflective possession of it and of its surroundings."

Brancusi used only polished metal for his forms, of which he himself had a very high opinion. "Golden Bird" was originally intended for the Temple of the Maharajah of Indor where it was to be placed beneath a gap in the wall to divide the light.

Emperor Alexander. Detail from a Byzantine mosaic, 912-913. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. The last version of Brancusi's most famous work, "The Endless Pillar", was one hundred feet high. Made of gilded steel, it was erected in Targujiu, Romania in 1937. The work is reminiscent of the carved funerary tomb slabs of Transylvanian burial grounds.

The Swiss artist, architect and designer Max Bill also aims for simplicity and perfection. However, Bill and Brancusi had totally different personalities, views on art and methods of working. Bill's sculpture, with its great precision and bold conception, appears to be inspired by space age technology. Many of his metallic sculptures were gilded. It is true that the essence of his art, which boldly rejects any kind of figurative or representational reference, is a denial of the emotional component of gold. But Bill makes functional use of the metal he achieves a distinctive polish with it and, of course, its non-rusting surface is enduring and easily cared for.

The Vladimir mother of God Moscow school first half of sixteenth century.
Gold as a symbolic color had a central role to play in art so long as the artistic content had an overwhelmingly religious or spiritual orientation that is, until the end of the Middle Ages. Subsequently, the advent of secular and temporal art, increasingly involved with representation of the material world, led to gold's disappearance from artists' palettes. Only in modern times, when the camera preempted the efforts of artists to reproduce nature faithfully and induced them to turn to subjective impressions for their aesthetic expositions, did gold emerge again in art. .Artists became interested in art that "does not reflect the visible but tries to make the invisible visible" (Paul Klee). Artists sought the fountainhead of creativity and symbolic color acquired new significance and meaning.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), the central figure of the Secession, a Viennese Art Nouveau group, made imaginative use of gold .around the turn of the twentieth century. I-le employed gold paint and gold leaf in a way which freed him from objective, representational truth. Though immensely disciplined, Klimt achieved an independence of technique and theme which .permitted him to subordinate the central subject of his paintings to finely wrought ornamental devices. This anti-descriptive quality was vastly enhanced by the use of gold color. At times, the effect of gold was a central aspect of his work.

Golden Madonna. Eleventh century. Cathedral Treasury, Essen. But gold can also be used effectively in a more subdued fashion, as has been demonstrated in both modern and ancient art. For example, Gospels copied by Irish monks between the seventh and ninth century

Gold and art are sometimes thought. Of as opposites: one symbolizing the material world, the other re-presenting spirit, feeling and emotion. Yves Klein, creator of the first monochromes, objected to this duality. He sought to discount the emphasis on the material value of gold. I-lies cynical approach to prevailing attitudes was manifested in an exhibition at the Apollinaire Gallery in Milan where he displayed eleven monochrome paintings, all identical, but with prices differing substantially. In 1959, Klein had checks printed with which he sold "zones of aesthetic sensitivity". Such" sensitivity could be purchased from Klein with gold. But Klein kept only half the proceeds, casting the other half into the Seine in the presence of witnesses. Dismissed by some as farcical, it was a ritual which others chose to think of as reminiscent of the Well of Sacrifice of the Mayan City of ChichenItza, the Nibelungen Saga, or the ceremony in which the Doge of Venice symbolically married the sea.

Five of the checkbooks, with nine counterfoils bearing witness to the sales have survived. Among others, American artist Edward Kienholz apparently purchased a portion of Klein's "sensitivity". The checks were for twenty, forty, 160 and 1280 grams of gold in each case a corresponding amount of sensitivity was said to have been received in payment. The checks confirm the transactions with the following proviso: "These transferable zones of sensitivity can only be passed on for twice the price of the original transaction. The vendor risks total loss of his own sensitivity." The ambivalence between the material and spiritual significance of gold was also expressed in a work by Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers (born 1924) which displays carefully arranged gold bars in order of value, each bearing the name of an artist whose work Broodthaers admired.

"Marilyn" by Andy Warhol Acrylic paint and gold bronze on canvas. 1962, Museum of Modern Art (praented by Philip Johnson),Modern advertising campaigns often seek to associate gold with wealth and excellence. Gold-colored packaging is often used to make products more attractive. It is not surprising to see art trying to exploit the same device in its assault on the aesthetic imagination of the consumer society. Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol, two of the best known pop artists, used gold unabashedly to achieve "popular" effects. In the mid 1960's, Hamilton did a series of sculptures one of them covered with gold leaf based on the shape of New York's Guggenheim Museum. The spiral-shaped museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959), is one of the most highly acclaimed edifices of recent decades, said by a cynic to be as well known as the latest model refrigerator. is The "Golden Egg" of Swiss artist Herbert Distel he (limn 1942) was also part of a series. Distel worked extensively with egg-like forms and created "eggs" at of the most varied materials. His golden egg made educe of the visual brilliance of gold as well as cycleth of-life symbolism of the form. Whatever the significance, the purchaser has the value of the object he confirmed by the cost of the material that went into it.

The mosaics of the church of San Vitale, in Ravenna d, (sixth century) are among the finest of all Byzantine n-mosaics and are unique examples of early Christian decorative art. On the whole, the mosaics of the period did not display realistic background settings. o: Instead they were often placed in a golden setting hi consisting of countless golden tesserae  little stones r( covered with gold leaf or enamel. But gold is not merely the color of transcendence. In the San Vitale mosaics, it acquired two other functions as well as symbols. Of earthly and spiritual power and to sc underscore the magnificence of crowns garments and it ornaments.

Lodius Bissier, Egg Tempera and Gold Lear.   A more splendid glorification of the Byzantine is emperor and empress was difficult to imagine. Just and Theodora appear extraordinarily ornamented, 13‘their portrayal as beautiful4as it is valuable. They are shown presenting a golden bowl and a golden chalice. Next to Justinian, Bishop Maxima is portrayed holding a Latin cross bedecked with jewels. Guards are shown in their most sumptuous uniforms. The "bulla", an oval amulet, hangs from heavy gold-en necklaces. Spears and shields are also decorated with gold. The ladies of the imperial court, attired in golden garments, wear golden brow bands, earrings, necklaces and bangles. Jeannine, a lady of the Emperor's retinue, whose hand is shown here in detail, wears a shawl embroidered with gold as well as red and green flowers.

Though painters of the middle Ages frequently used gold paint to represent gold itself, modern painters have tended to employ it in a less direct manner. For modern painters, golden objects are essentially capable of being influenced by their surroundings and the light they reflect. Rembrandt understood how to make gold gleam without using metallic gold paint (see "Man with a Golden Helmet",

Heinrich Eichmann, "Circles". Oil and, gold leaf 1964, Haussmann Collection, Zurich.
After the Renaissance, gold was rarely to be found on the painter's palette. But the profound sense of; history which characterized the nineteenth century; restored gold painting and gold leaf to the artist's repertoire. The twentieth century has again seen a revaluation of the proper content of art. What had earlier) seemed its principle task describing perceived reality now often takes on merely incidental significance. Only in most recent times has gold acquired an important descriptive function in art, whether in popular art or in the traditional artist's search for personal truth and perfection.

Writer - Peter killer