Archive | December 2017

Amethyst: February birthstone

The deep rich purple of amethysts is so appealing. The stone, a form of quartz, is traditionally the birthstone for the month of February.

Naturally when I see a lovely piece of amethyst jewellery I try to get it for my Etsy shop. Below are some of my snaffles:

Kupittaan Kulta caged amethyst pendant, designed by Elis Kauppi. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

1970 amethyst flower ring, hallmarked in London. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

NE From modernist amethyst ring – a great example of Danish design. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

A 1990 Celtic style brooch with a central facetted amethyst, by Malcolm Gray of Ortak on the Orkney Islands, Scotland. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

A 1972 amethyst and sterling silver choker, by Daedalus Ltd of London. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

This could almost be part of a set with the necklace above: it too dates from 1972. This amethyst and sterling silver ring was made by Magnus Maximus Designs in Cumbria. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

An amethyst and sterling silver modernist bar brooch by NE From of Denmark. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

A stunning amethyst orb ring from 1968 by the Danish master, Hans Hansen. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Caged amethyst and sterling silver bracelet. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

1970s modernist amethyst and sterling silver adjustable ring. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

1967 NE From amethyst necklace, a superb piece of Danish modernist design. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

1970s amethyst pendant and chain. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Arts and Crafts style amethyst and sterling silver brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Huge 1930s Arts and Crafts facetted amethyst ring. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Amethyst and silver tone plated modernist ring. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Jugendstil amethyst and 935 silver brooch in the form of ginkgo leaves. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

NE From modernist amethyst wishbone ring: more Danish deliciousness. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Danish ring featuring a tumble polished amethyst in a silver plated frame. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Amethyst is such a popular stone it is also mimicked in glass, also known as amethyst paste or crystal:

Amethyst paste and sterling silver brooch by Charles Horner. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

1970s modernist stainless steel and amethyst glass hexagonal link bracelet. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Victorian amethyst paste and pinchbeck brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Paternoster nostalgia

I was sad to read on the BBC website yesterday that the paternoster in the Attenborough Building at Leicester University has been closed and is going to be removed and replaced with a lift.

The Attenborough Building, University of Leicester. Photo by NotFromUtrecht, Wikimedia Commons.

I have vivid childhood memories of the paternoster, and slightly terrifying rides on it. A paternoster is a type of constantly moving open lift, with compartments stacked on top of another and moving in a constant loop up and down the building. One each floor of the tower there were two openings, one for compartments going up and the other for those going down. The paternoster moved at a slow speed, but it was still unnerving to time your step into and out of the compartment, putting off thoughts of falling and being squashed, half in and half out of the compartment, or getting caught in the exposed mechanisms at the top and bottom of the ride. (Over-riding and under-riding were great thrills).

The paternoster is one of the last few surviving ones in the UK. The paternoster was invented in England in the 1860s, and the installation of new paternosters in buildings was banned in the UK in 1974, making the Leicester University one of the last to be built.

The 18-storey Attenborough Building opened in 1970, and is named after Sir Frederick Attenborough, the Principal of University College (as the institution was known before it became a fully-fledged university) and father of Sir David Attenborough and Lord Richard Attenborough. My father taught in the Philosophy Department, and his office was on the 15th floor, with fabulous views over Victoria Park and beyond. Peregrines nested on the tower, and I remember occasionally seeing them from my Pa’s office in the 70s. His department was closed in 1989 when it merged with and moved to Nottingham University, and he took early retirement.

The Attenborough Building. Photo by NotFromUtrecht, Wikimedia Commons.

The tower had conventional lifts, the paternoster, and (for me) an even more terrifying staircase around a central void which went up the entire height of the building. Being modern architecture, the stairs had no risers, just treads, and a gap between the wall and the steps, with what seemed like a flimsy railing between you and the terrifying abyss to the other side. I still have occasional anxiety dreams about climbing such seemingly rickety staircases …. Every now and then I would force myself to take the paternoster to visit my Pa rather than the lift. Different times: I can’t imagine an unaccompanied child would be allowed in the building on their own these days.

BBC report with film of the paternoster and diagrams of how it works.

Rings that remind me of things: Part 16

Part 16 of an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.

Ring:

1977 tiger’s eye ring with a shield shaped head, Birmingham hallmark. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Thing:

Miniature Iron Age copper alloy shield (65 mm by 35 mm), part of the Salisbury Hoard found at Netherhampton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, and now in the British Museum.

So far I have had rings that remind me of an Iron Age hillfortan alien spaceshipa cream horna radio telescopeNoah’s Arkan octopus tentaclespider eyesPluto and its moon Charonthe rings of SaturnThe Starry Night by Vincent Van Goghsome lichenthe stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara in Egypt, the Quality Street ladya herb knife and a sea anemone.

Liisa Vitali

Liisa Vitali (born in Helsinki, Finland on 9 November 1918, died on her 69th birthday, 9 November 1987) was a Finnish jewellery designer and maker known for her modernist designs that were often drawn from nature. Her jewellery series include the ‘Ladybird’, ‘Lace’, ‘Gardenia’ and ‘Cat’s paw’ designs.

Liisa Vitali.

1971 Liisa Vitali ‘Ladybird’ sterling silver ring with trapped carnelian orb. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Liisa’s family moved to a farm at Viluksela, a small village in the municipality of Somero in southern Finland, in 1920. After the death of her parents, Liisa and her brother Väinö continued to look after the farm. Liisa had long been interested in jewellery design, winning a school competition with a jewellery set that she had made.

Liisa Vitali. Love how her blouse matches her jewellery!

Some of Liisa Vitali’s designs, including Pitsi (‘Lace’) in the main panel, Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird and big stone’) top right, Nuppu (‘Bud’) middle right, and Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant’s path’ or ‘Ant trail’) bottom right.

Liisa Vitali Pitsi (‘Lace’) bracelet, 1973, in sterling silver. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

As I don’t read Finnish I have found it hard to piece together much more about Liisa’s life: there appear to be conflicting reports of her training, or lack thereof, and which jewellers she may or may not have worked with.

I have read that she started making jewellery to sell in the 1950s, self-taught and working from a home workshop on a small scale in between her farming duties; that she started her career in jewellery-making working for jeweller Kaija Aarikka; that she trained for a short time alongside the great designer Tapio Wirkkala at the Nestor Westerback workshop; that at first her designs were only available from her workshop on the farm, and from Kaija Aarikka’s shop.

Vitali’s designs were manufactured by various companies, including Aatos Hauli, Mauri Sarparanta, Nestor Westerback Ky, and Kultakeskus.

1960s advert for Liisa Vitali’s jewellery.

Some of Liisa Vitali’s designs, including examples of  Pitsi (‘Lace’), Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird and big stone’), Nuppu (‘Bud’), and Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant trail’).

Perhaps her most famous designs are the Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird and big stone’, ‘Ladybird’ or ‘Ladybug’) and Pitsi (‘Lace’) series. These are visually very similar, with circular cut-outs in sheet silver or less commonly gold, forming a lacy, holey effect. She also used the lacy cut-outs in her Nuppu (‘Bud’) and Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant trail’) series. Her love of the natural world is clear in her jewellery, and the inspiration it provided her with can be seen in the names she chose for her various series.

Liisa Vitali.

During her life, Vitali’s work was highly thought-of, and was exported around the world. Apparently Princess Margaret was a fan. Following her death and changing fashions, it fell out of vogue for a while. In 2009 Kultakeskus Oy began to remanufacture Vitali’s designs, bringing them to a whole new audience.

Some named designs by Liisa Vitali:

Ampiaisenpesä (‘Beehive’)

Gardenia (‘Gardenia’)

Kesäheinä (‘Summer hay’)

Kevät (‘Spring’)

Kissantassujen (‘Cat’s paws’)

Leinikki (‘Buttercup’)

Lemmenkukka

Leppäkerttu, Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird’, ‘Ladybird and big stone’, ‘Ladybug’)

Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant trail’)

Nuppu (‘Bud’ or ‘flowerbud’)

Nyöri (‘Cordon’)

Pitsi (‘Lace’)

Ruusu (‘Rose’)

Tuulenpesä (‘The wind’s nest’)

Villiviini (‘Wild wine’)

Further reading:

Leeni Tiirakari 2012, Design Liisa Vitali, Amanita. Available from a Finnish online bookseller.