Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Green with Envy

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“Sunken Treasure” by Eve Alfillé. Photo credit: Matt Arden.

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. image2This 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.

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“Treasures of Ur” by Eve Alfillé. Photo credit: Matt Arden.

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 favoriteblog_angelina_jolie_emerald_earrings_oscars), 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!

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Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

A Meanwhile, on Mount Vesuvius: A Pompeii Q&A with Eve

Following a visit to the ancient ruins of Pompeii, Eve Alfillé returned home to create a stunning new jewelry collection, opening May 2 at the gallery, from 1 to 7pm. Read on to hear her thoughts on the series...

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A narrow street tread by Eve and her family on her trip to Pompeii earlier this year

Q: How did your trip to Pompeii make you feel? 

A: There’s no other place in the world where 2,000 years doesn’t seem to matter. Through the tragic occurrence of a volcanic eruption and the miraculous discovery of a buried city 1,700 years later, we’re able to see and feel what life there was like. When you’re there you can actually see it very easily…suddenly, something happens, and second sight occurs. A dogs’ dish on the floor, a lost sandal, humble things of everyday…things you immediately recognize, that become very real. Pompeii does that for you.

Q: How did these feelings motivate you to create this series?

A: If you want to evoke it…how do we do that?

One way is to appropriate: to reproduce what people had or did in those days. But obviously, there’s no point doing it exactly alike. It’s going to be tinged with ‘today’ in some way. So, it has to be filtered through my impression, my sensibility…but my intent is to give you some jewelry that you would have worn if you had been Claudia or Flavia or someone in Pompeii at the time.

But the other thing that occurs to you there is that you become really gripped by what time has done, and it’s especially poignant there because things are so well preserved…and yet, with two thousand years and the elements…they’ve had some effects. So what you see, the sum total, is very, very strongly pompeii22emotional. You see the first part: a tempus fugit.

The carpe diem, that’s the other conclusion. You feel happy for those people, that they had such wonderful lives. Pompeii was actually a resort; that’s where rich Romans went. They were relaxed.

Q: What do these two themes mean to ‘Pompeii?’ 

A: So these two Latin sayings are actually the two sides of the collection. They will look different. One is the carpe diem, the part about “seizing the day,” about “living the life.” And life in Pompeii was a very rich life. People were there to relax, to enjoy life, to show off. They built magnificent houses; the frescoes were amazing, and the mosaics were incredible. So we have a picture of life lived to the utmost– and that’s the carpe diem.

But over 2,000 years have passed, and what time has created is different. It’s not so much the fact that many things are ruined…it’s the beauty in how time has affected things, how time has ruined them. It’s how we are affected by seeing this decay. I think it’s a very powerful thing: it’s the flag of time, the tempus fugit.

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Mount Vesuvius, rising above the ruins of the city

Q: What can we expect to see stylistically in this series? Any stones of note? 

pompeii19A: There will be some things that perhaps Pompeii would not have seen. Maybe black diamonds were very rare, or occasional there, more than they are now. But in the second part, one of the pieces of shorthand that I’ve used (as the Romans did) are intaglios and carved figures. For these, the designs will often be negatives, not positives. They will be shown in reverse, because we are going backwards through time from the present. They will be seen through other gems, because that is what one sees: you see things through a glass. There will be a number of pieces like this: where antiquity is present, but not directly. You’ll see it a remove or two…one remove is by seeing only the reverse of the scenes, the other one is in seeing them through a barrier.

There will be the gems of antiquity, the emeralds and the rubies. There will be moonstones, which I chose because they are like a crystal ball…you can see into them, but you’re not sure what you see, and I like them for that. There will be some gems in the tempus fugit half which we did not discover until modern times…opals, tourmalines…they were later gems. We’ll use those to mark the time that has elapsed since then. I like opals because the colors are evanescent: they change with your point of view.

Q: How does this series fit into your work as a whole? 

A: Something I’ve dealt with in a lot of my series is the fact of our mortality and how we choose to see that time is fleeting: that the hourglass is not going to reverse itself.

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Eve and her granddaughter, Becky, before Mount Vesuvius

I’m very conscious of being just a speck on the march of the ants through history, and I think there’s a great beauty in fulfilling that role, in being part of destiny, in actually watching time flow with our own eyes. That is something I like to celebrate rather than fear. And so, maybe half of the jewels you will see in the serie s are about tempus fugit. They are meant to be somewhat nostalgic, to evoke perhaps faded colors, but colors of great poetry, of great sensitivity. And that is the difficulty: how do you reconcile the two?…You can only do it by keeping them separate.

So, the series will actually have two components, and I would very much like for people to understand that the first ones, the ones that recreate ancient life, will be perhaps easier to comprehend. But please: stay and watch the others, and I think after a time, that their beauty will seize you as well.

Custom Design, Eve's Insight

Romancing the Stone (in May)

Green with Envy Emerald Necklace by Eve J Alfille
Graduated emerald necklace adorned with Eve’s 18 karat green gold “Antiquities” series hook clasp

Some of you may become green with envy as we introduce the birthstone for May: Emerald.  For a closer look at both finished Emerald, stop by the gallery and ask to see some Emeralds.

Emerald is a variety of Beryl, which gets its green color from the presence of trace amounts of the metal elements chromium & sometimes vanadium. As these two elements do not play particularly well together, they can cause minute stresses, creating the typical inclusions seen in most emeralds. The French give these a pretty name: Jardin (garden).

Most emerald are mined in Colombia and Brazil, although a newer source of fine, relatively clear Emerald has been discovered in Zambia, Africa.  Emerald in various concentrations have been found in places all over the world including the U.S., but ironically have not been located in Ireland which fancies itself “the Emerald Isle,” for its lush green countryside.

More than 2,000 years ago, Egyptian queen Cleopatra had a passion for emeralds and wore them in her jewelry, and they have been in demand ever since.

Liz Taylor's Emerald & Diamond Necklace
Liz Taylor’s Emerald & Diamond Necklace

Speaking of Cleopatra, one famous actress who portrayed Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor, is quoted as saying, “Oh my god!! I’ve got to have the emeralds!” And so she did… check these out! Not understated, but very WOW!!

In 330 BC Egyptians began mining emeralds, and buried their mummies with emeralds around their necks to symbolize eternal youth.

During the sixteenth century Spanish Explorers discovered emeralds in South America and introduced them throughout Europe. It was said the Spanish conquistadors discovered and overtook the emerald mines in present-day Colombia. But it took them fifty years to finally overpower the Muzo Indians who occupied the area and refused to reveal the sources of their mines to the greedy Spanish, even under torture!

Legends claimed that emeralds had power to cure diseases such as cholera and malaria and to make the wearer quick-witted and intelligent.

Emerald found in its natural state
Emerald mined in its natural state, originating from a mine in Muzo Columbia.

Emeralds are less dense than diamonds. This means that a one-carat emerald is larger than a one

-carat diamond.

About emeralds, Roman historian Pliny said, “No stone has a color that is more delightful to the eye, for, whereas the sight fixes itself with avidity upon the green grass and the foliage of the trees, we have all the more pleasure in looking upon the emerald, there being no gem in existence more intense than this.” Following Pliny’s advice, the Roman Emperor, Nero, watched gladiator fights through emerald-encrusted sunglasses.