Links to the Past by Ruth Treitman

by | Feb 5, 2017 | Jewelry, Ruth Treitman | 1 comment

Jeweler Ruth Treitman in her studio in Wellesley, MA

Here I am working on one of my “signature” loop-in-loop silver chains. The technique is at least 5000 years old. It’s a way of joining links without soldering them together. Try making a chain of elastic bands to get the idea.  Gold, silver and bronze chains made this way have been found in burial sites in Middle East and Europe. The gold chain below is from ancient Yemen. (Photo courtesy of the British Museum.)

Gold chain from ancient Yemen. Photo courtesy of the British Museum.

I first tried the technique while taking a jewelry making class at an adult education center.  The teacher recommended a book, Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains, by Jean Reist Stark and Josephine Reist Smith.  Jean is a jeweler who has accompanied archeologists excavating tombs in southern Greece to analyze the techniques of the Bronze Age artisans. She wrote the book with her sister, a biology professor. I took a one week course from her in Lenox about 15 years ago, where I learned many derivatives of the basic chain.

Examples of Ruth Treitman's silver chain bracelets

I often feel a connection with the craftsmen who made these chains so many centuries ago.  They worked with tools of stone, wood and iron. The techniques I use today are not that different. I can control heat better with my torch, but it’s still basically heating and pounding, heating and pounding.  

Ruth Treitman creates a link of silver chain

In designing my jewelry, I enjoy combining the ancient techniques of chain making with pieces made from modern materials. I sometimes work with a very new material, Precious Metal Clay (PMC) which originated in Japan in the 1900s. Metals such as silver, gold, bronze and copper are granulates in an organic binder, giving it a clay-like property. Like clay, it can be shaped in molds or pressed into intricately patterned objects like leaves. When PMC is fired in a kiln at high temperature, the binder disappears, leaving pure metal behind.

I invite everyone to join me on Tuesday, February 16 at 6:30 when I talk about my work at the Hills Branch of the Wellesley Public Library as part of their Artists Perspective Series. The Library is located at 210 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA.