Throughout our fiction and world history, particular pieces of jewelry have held significant power in our collective imagination; The Pink Panther diamond, the horcrux locket of Salazar Slytherin from Harry Potter, the Crown Jewels of England, to name a few. Beyond their monetary value these adornments have been layered with deeply personal, spiritual and influential significance.
Values on the market fluctuate, and tastes change, but among cultural artifacts jewelry hold a singular place being both signifier of a specific, time bound era or person, as well as a timeless touchstone of aesthetics. Just as there is commonplace, mass produced paintings, versus masterful, unique, one of a kind works on canvas, there is jewelry collectable by the interested connoisseur, for more reasons than simple decoration.
Anthropologists suggest that the adornment of the body may have preceded clothing for early humans. Bits of bone, shell, or stone, and later, the addition of elements selected from hunted animals (antlers, teeth, tusks, feathers) would have provided numerous opportunities for early peoples to adorn themselves. The wearer of such items might have believed that they were absorbing the ‘power’ contained within the stone or bone, making distinctions between those identifying as hunters versus those who were gatherers or shaman. Sophisticated techniques of weaving, the use of sinew for stringing, and the acknowledgment of rare items equaling greater value and therefore status, helped to establish part of the groundwork for organized societies. The shift from nomadic cultures to established communities with agriculture, often located on the banks of rivers or other bodies of water, led to the discovery of mineral deposits such as gold or precious stones which one can imagine were attractive simply for their special ‘glamour’ before their rarity was a factor. Who can resist the shimmer of gold after all, or the alluring color and glitter of a sapphire? As techniques in metallurgy and stone carving evolved, along with developments in fibers, architecture, sculpture, religion and government, so did the sophistication of the jewelry these ancient people used for trade and the manifestation of social position and wealth. Simple necklaces and bracelets evolved into numerous other forms of adornment aligned with the particular vernaculars of the cultures they emerged within, some piercing the body through the ear, nose, or lip, some circling the waist or draping over the chest; the Maya even inlaid jade and gold into their teeth! These ornaments acted both as signifiers of beauty, and also as a unifying practice, a hallmark of maturity or signal that one was either available for coupling, or not. As such, jewelry is and has always been about much more than just dressing up an outfit.
Among the earliest examples we have are the objects from the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi at Ur from the 3rd millennium BCE. As with many monarchs and people of importance she had been buried with ornaments on her body that underscored her eternal significance.
Welding, alloys, filigree, stonecutting and enameling can be seen in such Sumerian jewelry, practiced with a high degree of craftsmanship and an eye to sophisticated designs symbolically reflecting nature and religious idioms.
Such techniques still form the core of practices for artisans today, like our own Master Jeweler Debra Cobia, who incorporates historical inspiration and modern design for her own works. Swirling lines, leaf like shapes and stones both heavily polished and left in a nearly raw state, are held in silver chains and rings, textured and unique. Modernity and the Classical merge for a sense of timeless beauty, eschewing the kitsch of common, mass produced wears. Blending her mastery of the numerous traditions of jewelry crafting with her broad knowledge of design ensures that Cobia’s work will withstand the vicissitudes of style for years to come.
Collecting a particular piece from such an artist as Debra Cobia is, like the history of adornment itself, about more than just adding an accessory to your jewelry box. This sort of jewelry is most certainly Art, but with the added bonus that it lives and moves with you and comes to life in concert with the owner. Her pendants, rings and earrings are truly one of a kind and not only make for spectacular special occasion wear, but also become treasured heirlooms to be passed on. Her variety of colored, semi-precious stones set in sculpted silver and gold will transform any wearer and make for perfect gifts on special occasions. Stop in to the Blue Door Gallery soon and enjoy her new pieces for the fall; we are sure one of her works will speak to you too and take pride of place in your collection.