Enrich Your Jewelry Designs with the Spirit of King Tut

Helen Driggs
is the Managing Editor
for Lapidary Journal

Jewelry Artist

When I was in art school, I was privileged enough to see the first exhibition of King Tut's treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I marveled at the gold, gemstones, and fantastic metalwork.

To this day, seeing photos of those works takes me back to the late 1970s and my impressionable youth. I still have a necklace, some earrings, and postcards I bought in the Met gift shop from that visit. I also remember early 1980s Egyptomania-everything from T-shirts to pop songs, including a funny song by Steve Martin and another one later by the Bangles-had something to say about things Egyptian.

And now, more than thirty years later (gasp), King Tutankhamun's treasures and ancient Egyptian art are returning to the United States in exhibitions at several museums across the country. All this Egyptomania also has me exploring ancient jewelry design all over again.

Explore the Jewelry of Tut
The October issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist includes a great feature by Sharon Elaine Thompson on this decade's renaissance of Egyptomania. Check out Tut, Tut for some fantastic jewelry photos and insights into the life of the ancient Egyptian goldsmiths of Tut's time.

Retro fashion! Here are my 1980s King Tut inspired earrings. It's funny how pop culture trends trickle into mass-market jewelry and clothing.

You can also visit these three fantastic Egyptomania and King Tut museum exhibitions for even more inspiration: Tutankhamun and Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York City (through January 2, 2011); Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs at the Denver Art Museum (through January 9, 2011); and Mummified at the Walters Museum in Baltimore (through November 8, 2010).

Ancient Endings

Learn to make this antiquity-inspired S hook and neck ring in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

In keeping with the October issue's the of King Tut and the jewelry of the ancients, I'll also show you how to make two antiquities-inspired findings–an S-shaped necklace hook closure and a forged neck ring in Cool Tools & Hip Tips.

It's fairly simple to create the S hook from either wire or metal sheet-and you don't even need a torch. The only tools you'll need are a bench block, small diameter mandrel or rod, chasing or ball peen hammer, jeweler's saw, wire cutters, half round file, and a Sharpie.

If you're more comfortable with using a torch, annealing, and other metalwork techniques, give the neck ring a try. You'll need a torch and quench, forming block, vise, forming hammer, Sharpie, jeweler's saw, half round file, pickle pot, planishing hammer, and sanding and finishing equipment. Yes, it's a bit more complicated than the S hook, but it's well worth the effort for giving your jewelry that ancient look.

Check out the issue for complete instructions on making both the S hook and the neck ring along with step-by-step photos.

More Historic Inspirations
If you want to find inspiration for your jewelry making in the pages of history, but King Tut's not your thing, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist has looked at jewelry using materials, techniques, and styles from other ancient periods. And frankly, you can't get much more ancient than fossils. In one of our issues from earlier this year, Smokin' Stones featured jewelry made with petrified wood. Accompanying it was a Conical Petrified Wood pendant project by Lexi Erickson-a great way to bring ancient history to life.

Maybe you're a history buff and a jewelry lover, but the early twentieth century is more your speed. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist recently published a history of Cartier and incredible designs it offered to the social elite. You can't help but find inspiration looking at these fabulous pieces of jewelry. 

Don't miss these issues of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist-or any of our issues! We have some great articles coming up in the next several issues, including pieces on etching, cold connections, using "found objects," and faceting. We'll also have a special gem issue and a wonderful series on soldering. If you're not already a subscriber, make sure to get on board now.

And if you happen to be inspired by ancient Egypt-or any place and time in history-post your timeless designs on Jewelry Making Daily. Maybe you'll inspire someone else!

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