Jewellery as memory

Jewellery as memory

Jewellery tells us much about how past lives were lived, valued and stratified. It was used by people as powerful symbols to convey their roles in society and wealth.  As most jewels are made of precious metals they are likely to outlast any other artifacts.  These gold pieces are in the Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris. I covet the ‘R’ piece in the pearl pendant. These jewels belonged to royalty hence the red background. In the movie The Other Boleyn Girl, Natalie Portman wore a similiar pendant in almost every scene, it was a B character and three pearls suspended beneath.

I am very partial to jewellery, not original I know! I prefer contemporary designs but if money were not an issue I would probably collect Etruscan jewellery. That comes from my exposure to the collections in Italian museums. But for a more down to earth approach and much more accessible, I love the jewellery of Barbara Heath. We gained her as a resident in Queensland many years ago after she sailed here on her yachting adventure around Australia. Barbara lived on her boat at first but decided Brisbane was to be the next terra firma, setting up a studio in the city and ever since I have been her number one fan.  Her partner/husband will tell you that many vie for that position.

Barbara Heath’s work as a jeweller was recognised by the Queensland Art Gallery in a ‘survey’ show. That is an exceptional honour – in her lifetime. Her jewellery is sent around the world but the majority of her dedicated clients get the chance to visit her studio in the inner suburb of Wilston in Brisbane. Her studio is a contemporary purpose built space under her traditional ‘Queensland’ house and there she directs a small team of jewellers, and her husband Mal Enright directs Barbara – that is ever since he took over management of the business end.  Click on Mal’s full name above and it will give you a direct link to a photo and description of our latest family commission. We have created an heirloom. My mother-in-law passed away and my husband John had Barbara design and make this brooch/pendant. It is made by recycling her wedding rings. He plans to wear it as a brooch and when he lets me, I will wear it as a pendant.

I also commissioned Barbara to make an anniversary ring from a diamond and incorporating a piece of pearl shell I brought back from Bali many years ago. The ring is a reminder of the holiday in Bali and of the time my husband gave me the diamond in Rome. He had carried it to Europe in a wallet and it miraculously escaped the gypsies who fleeced him on the metro relieving him of his credit cards. So this ring holds many memories.

Anniversary ring

Anniversary ring

When I travel I like to photograph jewellery collections where photography in museums is permitted, Not only do I like Etruscan jewellery but frequently I am moved by mourning jewellery made in the Victorian and Georgian periods. My next foray into international historical jewellery will be in Portugal and Venice. Keep following the blog.

Roz MacAllan

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  1. #1 by malcolmenright on September 4, 2009 - 3:44 am

    . . . thanks for the marvelous mention Roz – mal E here for the Jeweller to the Lost team.

    Our favourite catalogue of historical jewellery work from Portugal – Venice, we found in the Goldsmith’s Hall Library in London, shown to us by their most able librarian; Mr David Beardsley.

    We managed to find and purchase the volume for ourselves in London from a New Zealand Antiquarian Book Dealer at The Admiral Vernon,in Portabello Road. “Five Centuries of Jewellery” by Leonor d’Orey ISBN 972 8137 35 4 Published by the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon in 1994 by Zwemmer Publishers, London.

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