One of the things I love most about my personal creative process is that I find inspiration from everywhere. The world is my muse. In some respects it makes my life difficult in that it’s almost impossible for me to completely stop working. In other ways it makes me lucky because I am rarely at a loss for ideas (though sometimes my own skills have not yet developed to the point of implementing them).
A few days ago I was feeling a little bored with my current projects so I went through the photographs I took a few years ago when my sweetheart took me to the Butchart Gardens. This photo caught my eye. At first glance it reminds me of my favorite fireworks from the shows I used to in Grand Coulee during my childhood. But on closer inspection it makes me think of design elements for a pendant, earrings and maybe even a cuff design. Mixed metals, perhaps brass (or gold) and silver…
For better or worse, my initial design drawings are outside of my current skill range (and I don’t yet have all the tools I would need to implement those ideas); I’ll get there eventually but for the moment I’m unable to bring them to reality. But, therein lies another challenge. How can I get creative, with the tools and skills at my disposal, to make something else- just as beautiful and with similar characteristics as my original designs?
That challenge fuels my creativity. What tools can I make to expand my options? What techniques can I learn to further evolve my art? It’s these questions that keep me making new designs.
Butterfly Sundries’ etched jewelry is treated with a darkener before sealing (and shipping!) to add depth and contrast to the design, but over time other colors can appear on the jewelry. If you look closely in the picture above, you can see green tarnish is beginning to show up between the letters on this Butterfly Sundries’ Shakespearean Insult Cuff.
If things like this have kept you from ordering base metal jewelry, or if you’ve noticed this effect on some of your pieces, this post is for you! First off, don’t worry; tarnishing is a natural process. It can show up in a number of different colors, depending upon metal type, including black and green among others. This process can be reduced, delayed and corrected by following the care instructions listed below.
How to care for your etched designs from Butterfly Sundries…
Rule of Thumb:
Whenever you take off your copper or brass jewelry, wipe it down with a clean cloth; this will help to reduce the time that sweat and oils from your skin have access to the copper or brass (it will also prolong the benefits of the wax sealant applied before it was shipped to you).
Cleaning (Go Green!):
Put your copper or brass jewelry item into a bowl and pour in enough of one of the following to fully immerse your piece: lemon juice, white vinegar (you may want to add a little salt), tomato ketchup, or Worcestershire sauce. You can let it stay in the solution for up to 10-20 minutes (no longer!). If the jewelry is especially dirty you may want to change the liquid a couple of times. (If you intend to use a sealant like wax on your piece, put on gloves now!) Use an old toothbrush or soft cloth to “scrub” the design clean (If you use a toothbrush, be careful; the darkener I painted onto your design could be scrubbed off if you clean too deeply into the etched areas!). Run water over the jewelry to rinse. Now use soap and water to thoroughly clean and dry your piece with a clean soft cloth.
Feel free to use a polishing cloth on your etched designs from Butterfly Sundries! This is a good option if you want to keep a certain amount of tarnish in the etched areas for contrast (as I did for the picture above), but want to renew the brightness of the raised areas.
After cleaning I recommend using a wax sealant to protect your design. (Important note if you intend to seal your item: once your item is cleaned, I highly recommend using gloves whenever touching your design until after you’ve applied a sealant! You don’t want to seal the oils from your fingertips onto the surface of your design. Trust me- I learned the hard way!) Good options are car wax or Renaissance Wax (what I use). After applying the wax, buff your jewelry with a soft cloth and it’s ready to be worn again!
A few of Butterfly Sundries’ customers recently requested an expansion to my product offerings: larger hair clips. While they loved they ones they had already purchased, they were kind enough to let me know that their preference would be for larger options. As one patron put it, she wanted a barrette which would be big enough to hold her whole ponytail. Of course, with no standard sizing system for hair clips and hair thickness (it’s all perspective), I had to do some market research.
During my time volunteering for Knights of Veritas, one of Butterfly Sundries’ former Featured Charities, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn more about the middle ages. One of the things I learned is that most-everything I thought I knew about armour (including some things still in text books) is absolutely wrong. Two of those lessons inspired this original Butterfly Sundries earring design from the Knights Collection.
Lesson 1. There’s no such thing as “chain mail.”
Did you know that “chain mail” is a modern term? It didn’t exist in the middle ages. It was invented by armour scholars about 150 years ago who were looking at different artistic representations of maille armour and decided that each different artistic representation must be a completely different form of armour design! Those same armour scholars decided to call all kinds of armour “maille”, and then specified a term for each different artistic representation (‘banded maille’, ‘ring maille’, ‘plate mail’, ‘chain maile’, etc.). But, none of those terms existed in the middle ages!
Later scholars went back and looked at the same art, compared what they saw to medieval inventories and archeological finds, and realized that there really was only one weave or pattern that was followed; they’d created an artificial classification system that hadn’t existed during the middle ages! If people in during the middle ages only ever called it “maille” (though they would spell it in many different ways, sometimes even in the same sentence)- why should we continue to try to reinvent the wheel and muddle everyone’s understanding? This led modern scholars, about 60 years ago, to go back to calling maille armour by it’s original name: (just) maille!
Unfortunately, though that was true for modern armour scholars- and many wise people followed their example- not everyone got the memo. The incorrect terms were largely reintroduced back into our vocabulary by the maker of a popular fantasy game, Dungeons & Dragons, who referenced old outdated books. Those terms have been further reinforced by popular books and movies (special features of the Lord of the Rings, anyone?)! In fact, many historical reenactors who haven’t done their research continue to use the wrong terminology!
As a jewelry artist myself, I am sad to say far too many jewelry hobbyists and artists continue to support the use of inaccurate terms by labeling their work with terms like “chain mail jewelry”, whether for ignorance or the necessity of using the terms for which their prospective clients are most likely to search. (Note: I have yet to see any genuine European medieval jewelry designs using maille weaves, and much of my inspiration for my original designs come from antique jewelry designs from ancient Rome & medieval Europe; buy such designs because they are pretty and you love them- not for their historical accuracy!)
So, word to the wise: if you want to sound like you got all your arms and armour information from a fantasy game, movie or novel…. by all means, continue to call maille armour “chain mail”, “ring mail” etc. However, if you want to sound like you got your information from a reputable armour scholar, just call it “maille”!
Lesson 2. Maille wasn’t made with butted rings.
Often when you see people selling maille designs you’ll see butted rings (like jump rings) woven together but, unless it was for decoration, you never saw those kind of rings used for maille armour during the middle ages! Why? Because butted jump rings offer absolutely no protective value! If you’re going to wear 20-ish pounds of added weight from a maille shirt when you’re fighting for your life- wouldn’t you want to wear something which is going to help protect you from the most common forms of attack? Of course you would!
When armour makers in the middle ages made maille shirts (sometimes called hauberks) they would either rivet or weld the ends together on EACH ring (they could be either flat-as seen in the picture above- or round; sometimes you would see washers with no ends) in the weave- making them stronger and able to withstand attack. Wearing such a maille shirt with a tight (small rings) weave could protect you from all manner of different attacks from the most common weapons. In fact, it was so effective that maille armour was used for centuries, often in combination with a shield, for its protective benefits from attacks (including bow & arrow, sword, etc.) before it eventually was supplemented and replaced by plate armour. However, even when plate armour became the primary form of protection, maille was still used for protection in the gaps of the armour!
Did you know spurs are medieval? In the middle ages a squire would receive silver spurs; a knight would be given gold spurs. If a knight behaved dishonorably his spurs would be hacked off by his peers!
Celebrate your love for history and the middle ages with one of these beautiful etched “I Won My Spurs!” Cuff. Each of these beautiful bracelets are one-of-a-kind items; I couldn’t create exact duplicates if I tried. Each is original- just like you! They are available in my Etsy shop!
These items are part of my Knights Collection, a jewelry collection inspired by the programs of one of my Featured Charities: Knights of Veritas. They recently celebrated the addition of a genuine medieval spur to their traveling museum program; this bracelet is my way of celebrating! If you’d like to learn more about their programming, please visit their website.
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