More just an adornment, garnets are known to lead a varied life…sometimes, even bringing lives to an end.
To the spiritual, garnets were some of the first stones ever carried on the body as a protective amulet. To the utilitarian, they are known for more industrial ends ranging from abrasive powders to water filtration. Obviously, they’re a superb choice when it comes to fashion; ranging in color from deep red to yellow to green, these stones evoke a wide variety of moods and looks…even looks that can kill!
Garnets can sometimes be found cut into a “bullet” shape: they’re an attractive cabochon that allows for a fun and unique variety of styles. It hasn’t always been such a playful cut, however…In 1892, during the conflict in Kashmir between the Hanzas and the British troops, bullet-shaped garnets were used – you guessed it – as actual bullets! It was believed by the Hanzas that, due to their similarity to the color of blood, they would be even deadlier than lead bullets. Even earlier in history, garnets were launched from sling bows! If you were lucky enough to be wearing the garnets rather that ‘receiving’ them, these stones might also have also been believed to cause invulnerability in battle to some cultures.
While garnets are of a 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, making them an excellent choice for jewelry as well as for as projectiles, we do recommend leaving the slingshot at home when you come visit our impressive collection of garnets here at the Eve Alfille Gallery & Studio. Swing by and check out the many different shapes, sizes and colors available in our ‘armory!’
This series, “Helios,” falls within my interest in and investigation of how we, as humans, have always responded to the world as we perceive it. So, more broadly, it belongs to the ‘passage of Time’, historical/prehistorical part of my work.
Just like my much earlier series “Les Animaliers” was not about animals per se, but about how we have interpreted them (an ‘animalier,’ in French, is a painter who specializes in animals as subjects), “Helios” attempts to view the Sun as ancient to modern people have seen it: a constant and inescapable presence, overwhelming at times –weak and endangered, perhaps, at others– and capable of multiple interpretations.
That those interpretations have almost always been very graphic testifies to our need for control and self identification: giving the Sun facial features is a very ancient, anthropocentric attempt at understanding it, and hopefully bringing its course under human control. Maybe if the sun is human-like, we can reason with it?
What does “Helios” mean to history? To jewelry?
Given how central the Sun, in its incredible power, is to human survival, I ponder how original sun cults eventually evolved into modern religions! Was it necessary to diminish the sun’s power by erecting defenses? Other, stronger gods to confront its influence?
Certainly Luna, the moon, is more often female, while Sol, the Sun, might more often have been seen as male- though not always.
Why? And why is the Sun’s face often bland? It is only occasionally that we encounter a favorable expression, or even a particularly angry one.
…And why did humans resist putting the Sun at the apex of their gods, when in fact its influence determines whether they eat or not, survive another year or not? How come Jupiter, how come Baal, how come any other gods came to be seen as more powerful?
What can we expect to see stylistically in this series? Any stones or motifs of note?
How interesting that we are conflicted about the sun: it is the best of things, it is the worst of things. We tan, or we wield parasols. Primitive tribes wailed in anguish during solar eclipses: it was dying, maybe not to return! If we use HFC’s, skin cancer rises. But then it’s beach season again.
So my suns will be both sunny and angry, they will be crowned in beauty with opals, and bare of ornament. They will be subdued, or blazing with diamonds, like the costume designed for Louis XIV, the Sun King. Red spinels, mandarin garnets, yellow sapphires.
But we too suffer when Helios, or Sol, removes itself. Its loss, or absence must, too, be celebrated, albeit in somber tones of black spinels, grey and mauve moonstones, and labradorites…
And there should also be peasant suns, enthroned over parched fields of jasper with plump golden rays enlivening sere landscapes, and uncertain suns, November suns, of pale citrine and quartz.
How does this series fit into your work as a whole?
When we celebrated our 25th year at the gallery, a “Deja Vu” series replayed some favorite pieces in a new guise in honor of the occasion. This time, as we prepare to honor our 30th year next year, I have taken a few other favorites –rings in this instance– and asked them to present homage to Helios as a special addition to the series. You will see a special version of the Acanthus ring, the Medieval ring, and a few others among the new Helios pieces. It is my way of paying obeisance to earlier inspirations while forging ahead, as I hope to do for many years to come.
Did you ever encounter anything related to Helios during your time as an archaeologist?
Heraldry…it is a medieval code of graphic design, and very precise. A heraldic sun’s straight rays always mean Light, but its oscillating rays have to mark Heat. Ancient Incas must have known this: their sun, who is a short-statured warrior, holds in his quiver both curved and straight rays.
Here too, is duality, which we must observe and portray. Heat and light: observe both in the political fray…perhaps more heat than light, alas.
To view Eve’s series, “Helios,” join us in celebration at the Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio on November 19 from 1pm to 7pm.
With enough fire to have been confused with diamonds for centuries, these outstanding gems will set your heart ablaze! The zircon shines all on its own: these stones have a fantastically high refractive index, and are valued for their rainbow-like sparkle. Each gem’s spectacular “double refraction” actually means that you can see twice as much fire and twice as many facets! So much so, in fact, that famed gemologist George Kunz once proposed changing the name to “starlite” to highlight the gem’s incredible sparkle.
These gems are also astonishingly tenacious, and can come into being in a wide variety of elements and locations. Some forms of non-gem grade zircon even contain traces of uranium: the radiation of which causes the crystal-structure of the zircon to become amorphous…essentially melting the stone down from the inside!*
Zircon is only one out of three birthstones for the festive month of December, along with turquoise and tanzanite. Both of these stones typically remain married to some shade of blue, blue-green, or purpley-blue, but zircon really stands on its own as a stone of many colors! In fact, many scholars believe that the stone’s name comes from the word
“zarkun” which is Arabic for ‘cinnabar’ or ‘vermilion,’ while others theorize that the term is from “zargun;” the Persian word for ‘gold colored.’
The stone itself comes in colors that range all the way from yellow to green to red and reddish-brown to blue! During the Victorian era, blue zircon was especially favored. Colorless forms of zircon are often referred to as “Matara” after the city in Sri Lanka where they are
mined. Australia, however, has produced an even more magnificent specimen: at 4.4 billion years old, a single piece o zircon has been found to be the oldest mineral on earth (the earth itself, for scope, is 4.5 billion years old)! Talk about looking good for your age!
Be sure to swing by Eve’s this holiday season, and let us help you pick out the perfect zircon for those lovely December birthday-havers in your life so that they can have a stone just as classic and timeless as they are!