Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sapphire ~ Birthstone of September

Now, finally, we arrive at my personal favorite birthstone ~ SAPPHIRE!

  Why is this my favorite? Well...I was born in September, so this lovely stone has been in my jewelry collection for some time. Plus, I love the blue colors in sapphire!
  Most people do associate the color blue with sapphire, although it is available in many colors (except for red, because then it would be.....Ruby!).

  Like ruby, sapphire is composed of the mineral corundum, which is second only to the diamond in hardness. The mineral is used industrially as a grinder. You may be familiar with sandpaper or other such abrasive that is coated with corundum. 

  Both ruby and Sapphire may be found in Ceylon & Burma, as well as inside the U.S. in Georgia, Montana and North Carolina. 

  In the most general terms, Sapphire has been long thought to foster loyalty and fidelity, and to enhance creativity and intuition. Because it reflects the color of the sky, it is associated with heavenly matters and spiritual protection.

  It has been valued by mankind for at least about 10,000 years; it plays a role several times in the Holy Bible (the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written were thought to be Sapphire; in Revelations, it is also listed as the second foundation stone); in ancient Persian culture and also in Vedic myths.

 Some famous Sapphires are:

  • the Logan Sapphire, weighing 432 carats, and currently at the Smithsonian Institute
  • Catherine the Great's sapphire, which weighs over 337 carats
  • the "Star of India", a phenomenal star sapphire weighing in at over 563 carats, and is now kept at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City
  Readers are encouraged to look up pictures on the web of these and other remarkable Sapphires.

A livelier emerald twinkles in the grass,
 A purer sapphire melts into the sea.

~ Tennyson

Such are the "Elements of Life"....


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tiffany Exhibition in Richmond

  This past weekend, I was finally able to make the trip to Richmond VA, where a selection of glass and other art objects are on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. The exhibit is only open until August 15; Richmond is the ONLY city in the U.S. where this will be shown.

  Oh, sure, I've seen pictures of the famous elaborate stained-glass lampshades; but some of the works were jaw-dropping and even breathtaking. The works include designs from others in Tiffany's workshop, including Clara Driscoll and Frederick Wilson (don't know much about them yet). Up to this point, I've known zip about Tiffany as a designer / artist. This exhibit has spurred me to find out more. And, by the way, Chrysler (of the motor company) was close friends with Tiffany for some time.

  The exhibit was well laid out, although even with timed tickets (every half hour), it was a bit crowded. It included the lampshades (about which I'll discuss more in a bit), hanging lamps, vases, jewelry and other items. The most visually stunning feature was a separate room for huge stained-glass windows depicting various Biblical scenes and other subjects. The room had low lighting with the stained glass windows backlit, so one could step back and fully appreciate the depth and colors of the windows. 

  Did I say "depth" of the windows? Yes, literally. Louis Comfort Tiffany  (February 18, 1848 – January 17, 1933) created new techniques and types of glass, including one in which folds were created in the glass with a rod, while it was still malleable, to imitate drapery. So, for example, as one studies these magnificent windows, one becomes aware that the folds in Christ's garments, REALLY ARE folds of glass. Other techniques, such as imitating the rays of the sun at sunrise, or the leaves of a tree with layers of broken slivers of green glass are a marvel. In one window of a Biblical scene, one person is standing within a shelter or small patio which has a roof or some kind of cover. The man is standing in the shadows; an oil lamp rests on a table, its "flames" a glowing yellow-orange glass, which almost seems to shed its own light.

  Tiffany is well-known for the development of the use of opalescence in glass, and of iridescence in the finish of a vase. Many of his designs incorporate the forms found in nature, such as that of a sprouting bulb, with its long stem and budding flower forming the vase; sea creatures and similar motifs; and surging oceans or gurgling brooks.

  A few of the lampshades were also on display, including the very popular "Wisteria" lamp (which I believe was designed by Clara Driscoll); when viewed up close, one can better appreciate the intricacy of the designs, as well as the painstaking custom sizing of each glass component. 

  All in all, it was very interesting, and quite beautiful. 

 What troubles me, though, is that Tiffany was associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, which had been an extension of the Pre-Raphaelites. The political role of art  (and I mean this in the most noble sense of the word 'political') and science is not to underestimated.

 In a future installment, we'll examine the philosophy of this movement in depth, and the role of morals in the Aesthetic. Since I am almost entirely ignorant of Tiffany's personal philosophy, I'll reserve judgement for the time being.

Philosophy, the Arts & Aesthetics - just part of...

"The Elements of Life"

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peridot ~ Birthstone of August

  Peridot belongs to a family of minerals known as "nesosilicates". This includes a larger family called olivine, and also the garnets. Olivine is usually used to describe the more opaque version of this mineral; peridot is clear light green. According to the Smithsonian book, "Rock and Gem", olivine is "...applied to any mineral belonging to the forsterite-fayalite solid-solution series in which iron and magnesium substitute freely in the structure. Fayalite is the iron end member, and forsterite is the magnesium end member....peridot is about 90 percent forsterite." There are also varieties of peridot which range into pale yellow; this is a result of the presence of different minerals.

Peridot was mined over 3500 years ago; the Egyptians made peridot beads as early as 1580 B.C. Although this gemstone is ancient, very little folklore exists around its properties.

It was thought to convey dignity to the wearer, as well as protection from evil spirits. Peridot is also thought to  bring calming sleep and to soothe anger.

Among Life's precious jewels,
Genuine and rare,
The one that we call friendship
Has worth beyond compare.
                               ~Author Unknown

So, such are the Elements of Life!

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