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Wire wrapped jewelry and the Ancient Jewelry of Mesopotamia

Where can we find the first evidence for wire wrapped jewelry?

When you read or hear about ancient wire jewelry you immediately think of Greek or Roman times. But in fact, the Sumerian culture which flourished in Mesopotamia is considered to be the cradle of civilization gives us the first evidence of the use of this technique. It flourished from 8000BCE through the late Bronze age around 1200 BCE. Sumer is considered to be the first place on earth where man started to develop technology, religion, science

Ancient Jewelry of Sumer

and knowledge enabled our race to exit prehistoric times and enter into modern era. Because of the immense wealth of this civilization, wearing  jewelry was not confined only to nobility, royalty and religious leaders as was the case in similar civilizations of that time (most notably Egypt). Instead, entire population accepted decorative items and jewels into their daily routine and everyone wore at least something decorative with themselves all the time just as in our modern times. Some of the most popular decorative items that were worn by both men and females were ankle bracelets, silver hair rings, gold earrings, hair ribbons made from thin gold leaves, elaborate hair beads, medallion pendants, signet rings, amulets and cylinder seals.

Jewelry production was not only confined to the central regions of Mesopotamia, but was spread across all the territories of that ancient kingdom – from Assyria to the Babylonian cities of Nineveh, Ur and Sumer. Because many of the precious metals and gemstones could not be found in Mesopotamia (such as electrum, jasper, onyx, lapis lazuli, sardonyx, agate and silver), they imported them from Anatolia, Egypt and Persia (modern day Iran and Afghanistan). Some of the more rare raw materials such as lapis lazuli, ivory, carved carnelian beads and exotic hardwoods were imported from 1500 miles distant Indus Valley in India.

Ancient Sumerian Copper Wire ring

The first evidence found technique of wire wrapping is dated to 2000BCE. The British Museum has samples of jewelry from the Sumerian dynasty, found in the cemetery of Ur that contain spiraled wire components.

 

 

Ancient Wire wrapped jewelry

What is wire wrapped jewelry?

There are  two main differences between wire wrapping and other techniques:

1. The artist uses metal wire (it can be any kind of metal like copper and brass or precious metal like gold and silver) to shape his jewelry. The wire is shaped into various forms. It is wrapped around cabochons (any kind of shape which doesnt have holes drilled through it) and beads.

Cabochon

2. The connections between components are made using tools such as pliers and mandrels without using soldering or other heat treatments. The connections are made by connecting loops to each other and interlocking them. A loop can be something as simple as bending the end of a piece of wire until the very end of the wire is bent far enough that it touches the wire itself or very intricate weaving of wire parts to each other and requiring trained skills.

Ancient Wire wrapped jewelry

Examples of my Wire wrapped jewelry

Sterling silver wire wrapped glass cabochon necklace by Lapis Horizon Wire Wrapped Sterling silver pearl and swarovski ring by Lapis Horizon

I use the wire wrapping technique in most of my work. I find it fascinating.  It requires a lot of training and precision. I remember when I started learning jewelry making I told my teacher that I simply cannot wrap wire around a bead. It didn’t “do what I want it to do” and she said to me: “You need to control the wire and not vice versa”. Since then and after a lot of practice I know exactly what she means.

Wire wrapping is a very wide range technique. You can weave with it, knit wire, wrap it and bend it around mandrels. It is provides amazing jewelry pieces. I try to work with various techniques and kinds of wire because it is a whole world and very versatile.

Currently I am working on a workshop series starting at beginners’ wire wrapping workshops  and ending up with  expert level. I will be posting details as soon as I work it out. In the mean time you can visit Here for more details about workshops.

Photos from Wire wrapping Workshop for beginners:

Wire wrapping workshop Lapis Horizon Lapis Horizon Wire wrapping Workshop

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For more details and questions:

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Links:

 http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/cultures/middle_east/sumerians.aspx

http://sumerianshakespeare.com/2701.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire_wrapped_jewelry

http://www.pinterest.com/ajax123/wire-wrapping-techniques/

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