14th C Byzantine/Bulgarian earrings for Lady Tamara by Baroness Estrid
Baroness Estrid writes:
I was so very lucky to get Lady Tamara of Thamesreach as my Drachenwald A&S Recipient. the information I received about was in short as follows: "Lady Tamara is the widow of a Bulgarian wine merchant from the town of Melnik, born in 1201 CE. After the loss of her husband at sea, she began took the reins of the export business and travels regularly to Thessaloniki to send shipments of wine around the known world. She occasionally travels with a cargo personally and has visited the Venetian port of Dubrovnik to confirm trade agreements."
I knew very little about either era or area, so I really had to start with doing my research from the very basics. It took me a while to decide what to do, as I first wanted to make something outside my comfort zone and NOT do jewelry, but after much searching I suddenly came upon a great article called Middle and Late Byzantine Jewellery from Thessaloniki and its Region" by Anastassios C. Antonaras, and in this article was a picture of a gilded bronze earring from the 13th century, found in Thessaloniki. The fit with Lady Tamara was so good, I couldn't ignore it.
I decided to make a pair of earrings inspired by the Thessaloniki earring, but as I decided to use materials I had at hand, I choose to make them out of sterling silver. In the article the author describes the earring as "having a composite, filigree bead", which made me think that my initial hunch of how to make them was right, which was to make the vertical ornament/bead from stacked filigree sterling silver beads (which I'd bought ready made) soldered together.
I also made the two side spiral beads by winding silver wire around a thin round mandrel, thus producing a silver spiral, and then winding the spiral one more time around the mandrel and after that cut out little spiral beads which I then soldered onto the silver wire that forms the hoop. As I used the materials I had at hand, the wire for the spiral beads were of a little too heavy gauge, so the wire beads became a little too large, and my earrings did not end up with the exact same proportions as the originals.
The originals are made from gilded bronze, and my intention was to electroplate the silver earrings to give them a nice gold finish. But, even though I now own an electroplating kit, I didn't manage to master the process in time, so to not miss the deadline, I decided that the earrings would have to stay their original sterling silver color.
I'm quite pleased with how the earrings turned out. Even with the shortcomings described above, I feel they have a nice shape and proportion and they look nice when worn. I hope to get to see Lady Tamara wear them one day.