Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"J" is for Jewelry

Ahh…one of my favorite topics. Chad loves Amber and he was so excited when we read in our travel guide that Amber often washes up on the Russian shore line, much like sea glass here! I started out writing about Amber (80% of the World’s supply comes from the Baltic Region) and Alexandrite (a rare multi-colored stone that changes color in the light that was named after Czar Alexander) However, in my research (which has become quite enjoyable and challenging for me, I don’t know if you are enjoying it….but I am, if you aren’t don’t worry we only have 16 more letters to go!) Russian “Finift” jewelry kept coming up. With a little digging- I found the scoop and it’s quite beautiful. Finift is Greek for “alloy” or “shinning stone”- Chad did you know that? I don’t think that word was on our flashcards.
Finift is a type of intricate enamel jewelry that was created in the Rostov region of Russia. The first mention of the craft was in 1174 by Duke Andrei of Suzdal. He states that the church of the Nativity was decorated with “gold, enamel, and all type of virtue” The craft is passed along from generation to generation, it has seen it’s heyday and it’s decline in fashion, but an article I read put it this way “the main theme of this craft is a tribute to the beauty of Russia’s native land and to man’s eternal spirit-it was never lost”.
Since the 11th Century Rostov was known to have an icon painting workshop. (Icons are religious portraits painted on wood, and came in second place for the “I” word of the day.) When icon painting began to decline, the artisans transferred their expertise to enameling. The early pieces showed landscapes and people, but in the 18th Century floral designs became very popular. Finifts are still painted with a single hair brush, yikes! Rostov enamel craftsmen were commissioned to create icons, chalices, Bibles and Royal crowns. Today, the technique is used mostly in jewelry making. It is favored in jewelry making, because unlike gold, silver, and gemstones- enamel never loses it’s luster. After it is fired, it remains as beautiful as the day it was created.
But as you know, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some beautiful examples.

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