This year, the British summer has lasted longer than a few days in May, and we’re all pretty shocked. The vitamin D, blue skies and bright light are fab; the sweaty air, less so…
Anyway, I’m sat in front of a fan with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio in hand and I’m ready to spread some extra sunshine in the form of sparkles (what else?!).
As long as humans have existed, the sun has been a source of fascination, an object of worship, and a muse for artwork, so it’s no wonder it features in jewellery across time and space. Here are five of my favourite pieces of sun-themed jewellery…
Medal Of The Qajar Order of Aftab, 19th Century CE
This beautiful, honorific badge is a gorgeous demonstration of how to mix materials. The central, painted enamel inlay bears the face of the female sun (aftab), which emanates platinum rays set with sparkling diamonds.
The Qajar Dynasty of Persia ruled from 1779-1924, and the Order of Aftab was introduced in 1873 by Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar, the King of Persia. It had two classes, the first for female sovereigns and the spouses of reigning kings, and the second for princesses, women of high rank, or others deemed worthy of special appreciation. The Shah created the order before embarking on a trip to visit foreign dignitaries around the world, which is why Queen Victoria of England was one of the first recipients of a first class order badge.
The first class badge was fashioned in platinum and diamonds, the second uses brilliants rather than diamonds, and is only a semi-circular sun rather than the full disc. Both were worn on a pink and green sash, and all badges were made to this design until the order changed in 1939 with a change of dynasty.
Gold brooch by Castellani, Rome, c.1860
This brooch was made around 1860 by the Castellani jewellery company, which specialised in archaeologically-inspired pieces to cater to the 19th Century CE trend for neo-classicism. It’s based on the Greek sun god, Helios, with both the rays and Helios’ hair executed using the popular but difficult ancient technique of granulation, and is approximately 3.25cm in diameter. It was inspired by a Hellenistic Greek ornament in the Campana collection.
Minoan gold brooch, 17th Century BCE
Found in a Minoan tomb in Mallia, on the island of Crete, this brooch features the sun’s disk, covered with granulation and held up by two bees, right at the centre of the the piece. The delicate and sophisticated work, particularly for the time in which it was made, involved in the piece is one of the reasons I love this brooch so much. It’s also interesting for its symbolism, because bees were believed to be messengers between the living world and the dead, as well as being the symbol of the Minoan-Mycenaean goddess Potnia. This explains both the work put into the piece and the fact it was found in a tomb – I love it when jewellery has a clear design inspiration!
Sunburst costume pendant, D’Orlan, Mid-20th Century CE
This piece was made by D’Orlan, a mid-century Canadian jewellery company, and I love it for its vibrant colours and mixed stones. Although it’s costume jewellery, fashioned in gold plating and imitation gemstones, the mixture of tones within the piece give it a fun, vintage charm. It has alternating pink, purple, blue and green rhinestones, turquoise and coral-coloured cabochons, and faux pearls, all channel-set into the cast gold-plated sunburst shape.
Silver suburst necklace, Graham Watling, 1973
This sunburst necklace is a little more abstract than the other designs on this list, and that’s exactly why I like it. The artfully-alternating lengths of silver seem to shimmer on the chain, designed to move with the wearer and create a sunny halo round their neck. The designer, Graham Watling, was part of the ‘Renaissance of British Silversmiths’ in the 1970s, and the epitome of the phrase ‘it’s never too late to try something new’ – after a military career and 17 years teaching Arts and Crafts, he completed a BA Hons in silversmithing and began designing and selling his creations!