Are you living with a gemophobe? Maybe a husband or son who thinks that all precious stones are just hunks of sparkly rock meant to be locked away in a jewelry box or behind a plate of glass in a museum? That person might say that gems can never be fun. Well, that person (despite all odds) has probably not been watching enough TV!
For the disbelieving diamond-doubter in your life, the cure may lie in the most unlikely of places…just sit them in front of the tube, and tune in to Cartoon Network’s hit show “Steven Universe!” The main characters include the ever-tenacious “Crystal Gems,” a band of gem-powered fighters, thinkers, and fun-havers named Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. These gems must work together to protect the Earth from evil…and also, raise Steven Universe, the adolescent protagonist of the show who has also inherited his mother’s gem, “Rose Quartz.”
Each of these characters have not only inherited names from their constituent stones, but have been known to share their attributes as well. According to show creator Rebecca Sugar (also the first female show creator/director in Cartoon Network history), “I wanted their gems to parallel their personalities. Pearls, being automatically smooth and perfect, Amethyst, [which is] coarse and rough, and I love how raw Garnets are mysterious with just a little bit of red peeking through hidden inside.” Steven, with his rose quartz gem, is also known to possess an unconditional love for all things, as this blush-colored stone is of course the most famous among “love stones.”
Some other minor characters include, but are not limited to, Peridot, Lapis Lazuli, and Jasper. Arguably some of the most fun moments on the show also feature the creation of “gem fusions,” in which two gems will fuse together to create a larger, more powerful gem, which have gone by the names of Malachite, Sugilite (voiced by Nicki Mnaj), Opal, Alexandrite and more.
Now, for your gem nay-sayer, these are gems that would simply refuse to stay put in a dusty jewelry box. These gems are made for fighting, and that’s just what they do…by battling invading aliens, defeating giant monsters, swimming through lava, and saving Steven from the occasional misadventure…enough to keep the most critical mineral mope satisfied. It makes a very promising first step to convincing them that gemstones really CAN be fun (especially when you can wear them!)…or, at the very least, it will keep them occupied while you get to sneak away to enjoy the array of Eve’s glittering, and wearable, gems here at the gallery.
A piece simultaneously new and old, Eve has just unveiled her incredible “Ancient Echoes” necklace.
A master of meaning as well as of visual and wearable beauty, Eve has done it yet again. Since the May opening of her latest series, “Pompeii,” Eve has not ceased creating more and more beautiful and conceptually complex pieces, all bent on hearkening back to yesteryear (with a few years added on top of that.)
In case her stunning relief pendants, depicting Romans doing as Romans do, do not excite your sense of history; in case her tiny silver replicas of bread found still sitting in Pompeiian ovens, or her evocative and emeralds, are somehow not enough to inspire in you a sense of what living and dying in Pompeii would have been like, then “Ancient Echoes” is your solution.
Carried in a sentimental, yet elegant necklace of gold, there rests the cameo of a beautiful woman’s face, surrounded by heart-like shapes depicting her covetability. Her soft, enigmatic features have all been lovingly carved from a smooth, cool-colored stone that is not immediately identifiable to the untrained eye…it is, in fact, an actual specimen of Vesuvian lava, carved from the very rock that spelled out destruction for the idyllic resort town of Pompeii all the way back in 79 A.D.
This simple, yet lovely cameo has left many a bookmark between the pages of the centuries that it has travelled since the great eruption where it hurdled, boiling and red hot, through the air and into the homes of the Pompeiian elite. The female form on the lava came into being much later, being carved into the volcanic rock as late as the 18th century (or as the ever-romantic Eve calls it, the time of Jane Austen.) It took almost another 200 years, near the dawn of the 21st century and over 2,000 years since the eruption of Vesuvius, for the cameo to pass into the skilled hands of Eve Alfillé and be made back into a wearable piece immortalizing its heritage.
Today you can see her at the gallery, along with her lovely sister, “Via della Fortuna,” both politely waiting, as they have done for centuries, to again be bestowed with the gifts of life and of motion.
“…just to think that this ring I made has been inside giraffes and tigers!”
“we know who is friends with whom, who is pregnant. Sixty or seventy percent of what we do is preventative medicine. Zoo bunnies to primates, we make sure everyone gets their vaccines.”
“People would walk in (to the family home) and find a box of kittens. Or the time my father found five baby opossums in the shower…I got to do a lot of things. Spiders, snakes. I don’t know if my parents knew what to do with me. But I knew what to do with me.”
What sort of emotions are elicited by the word “emerald?” A stunningly saturated color of green could be envisioned. Perhaps the precious gems, commonly held to be among the most valuable in the world, could be called to mind…or one may even be transported to the “Emerald Isle” of Ireland and hear a distant melody of “Danny Boy” playing wistfully in their ears. The emerald is held in such high regard for the serenity that it can bring that Roman historian Pliny the Elder even spoke of the healing power that the gem held for ancient lapidaries who “[had] no better method of restoring their eyes than by looking at the emerald, its soft, green color comforting and removing their weariness and lassitude.”
For such a tranquil stone, it is amazing how it can still hold such power to excite powerful emotion! This gorgeous, green-hued variety of beryl caused quite a stir, for instance, when the notorious conquistador Cortez brought home a supply of emeralds from the ‘New World’ where they existed in abundance. The most magnificent emerald of the hoard was engraved with the words “among those born of women, a greater has not arisen,” which he intended to give to his bride as a fitting wedding present. This fortune, however, was perhaps not so fortuitous; historians maintain that the Spanish Queen was so disappointed that she was not the recipient of these gems that she became his enemy for life! The historian Brantôme even claimed that it was a sacrilege to engrave upon the face of any material so beautiful, and Cortez’ perceived comeuppance for this atrocity included the loss of a pearl of unparalleled magnificence, so lovely that he composed “A Beautiful and Incomparable Pearl” in its honor, the loss of this entire horde in a shipwreck, and even the death of King Charles IX of France.
Despite this loss of wealth for Cortez, earlier sources had made the obvious mental jump between emeralds and the verdant green of wealth…According to one ancient recipe for tinctura smaragdi, or ‘tincture of emerald,’ “the occult power of the gem was supposed to be greatly increased by engraving on it a proper astrological device. Ancient ‘authorities’ state that ‘men like a merchant, carrying wares to sell, or men seated under a centurian engraved on an emerald, gives wealth and victory, and delivers from evil.’ For any pagan practitioners less interested in the material world and more in the spiritual, simply applying “a hoopoe with the herb-dragon in front, upon beryl, hath the power to summon the water-spirits and force them to speak. It will also call up the dead of your acquaintance, and oblige them to respond to your questions.”
For those of you who are comfortable keeping more of a long-distance friendship with the deceased, but just want to look like Angelina Jolie strutting down the red carpet in magnificent emeralds (her favorite), never fear! Emeralds can come from just about anyplace in the world, with the ironic exception of Ireland. A famous Egyptian source known as “Cleopatra’s Mines,” though only slim pickings of emeralds remain there today, were known to have once produced a generous abundance of emeralds that lasted over three thousand years! These mines were likely responsible for the bulk of Rome’s abundance of emeralds during the height of its opulent reign. But, dear reader, rather than turn green with envy at all of these famous gems of the past…why not simply carry home a precious little (or big) emerald of your own?
Still want to know more about emeralds? We hear you! Click over to Eve’s previous post on the May birthstone, Romancing the Stone, to get your gemstone fix!
Have you ever left something in the oven for a little too long? Maybe you and your toaster don’t always exactly agree on what “well done” entails. If you were a homeowner in Pompeii of 79 A.D., an oven accidentally left on would certainly be the least of your problems…but the results produced are surprisingly familiar!
Almost 2,000 years following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which left the vacation-town of Pompeii buried beneath a mass of volcanic detritus, an extremely burned, charred, and blackened, yet perfectly preserved loaf of bread was discovered. Against all odds, it had “survived” right where it had been carefully laid inside a Pompeiian oven by a doomed baker centuries before. Frozen in time as a completely cooked-through lump of carbon, the intricate details of the bread dough have been preserved for the amazement and inspection of future generations of glutenphiles. Modern visitors to Pompeii can see the intricate knots of dough, which still display such details as indentations running round the circumference of each loaf– these have been hypothesized by modern bakers to mark the location of a string tied round the bread before baking in order to make it easier to carry home.
A bread stamp also marks the surface of each bread loaf, commonly marking both who baked it, as well as to which hungry citizen it was assigned. At this point in history, a baker was a very prestigious and peculiar position: unlike most trades, they were freemen and recognized as Roman citizens, and had to be government-recognized members of a bakers’ guild in order to produce and sell their trade. The upside of being a recognized Collegium baker was that it meant you were a baker for life, but on the other side of the same token, were also forbidden for unknown reasons from fraternizing with “comedians and gladiators,” and were not permitted to attend the amphitheater.
An entire 81 loaves of this kind were discovered in a bakery of the neighboring town Herculaneum, which was also decimated by the volcanic blast. Roman bread such as this was created en masse using animal-powered machinery for kneading the yeasty, delicious bread, out of what would likely have been buckwheat flour. Only the lucky got to enjoy this bread however, as leaven was only for the upper classes, and the lower classes would likely have made do with a pita-like-bread of the unleavened sort: an unfortunate visual embodiment of where they stood on the totem pole.
Fortunately, you do not need to be an upper-class Roman citizen to enjoy these bread loaves today. You can either go to Pompeii, as Eve did, and witness these bread formations for yourself. You can follow the recipe, recreated by pastry chef Giorgio Locatelli, and attempt to create your very own (pre-volcano) Pompeiian bread to enjoy…or, you can carry the memory of Pompeii around with you throughout the day by taking home a pair of captivating Pompeii-inspired earrings crafted by Eve Alfillé upon her return from the destroyed city of yesteryear. Regardless of whether your bread is made of sterling silver, blond gold, or a block of pure carbon, you will never have to worry about it getting moldy again!