The Myth of Silver
Written by Evdokia Samara
“The city of silversmiths welcomes you", write the signs at the entrances of the Greek city of Ioannina, which among the many and important elements that make up its cultural identity, chose the "art" of silversmithing to identify itself.
I remember my first time visiting this beautiful city on the edge of the lake Pamvotida and walking through the stone made roads full of shops with incredible silver jewellery admiring the traditional Greek designs and the shining of this exquisite metal.
Traditional Greek bracelet in silver with Carmelo & turquoise - Museum of Ali Pasha in Ioannina
The art of silver jewellery has evolved into a timeless cult and reveals an emotional bond when offered as a gift. Amazing creations that take off those who make the choice of the gift and seduce those who accept them with admiration and emotion. Even in ancient times silver gifts symbolized the truth, trust, wisdom, luck and most importantly protection against the evil.
Silver is one of the first metals used by man. It has been known since prehistoric times to the peoples living in Mesopotamia, Greece, the Middle East and Egypt. It was used in jewellery, clothes and of course everyday objects. There are texts proving that silver was considered even more precious than gold since it was much more difficult to separate it from the other compounds it was found with.
In Greek mythology silver is mentioned just about as often as gold, the most notable being the silver-tipped bows and lances of the Goddess Artemis.
Artemis with a hind - Musée du Louvre, Paris
Egyptian, Tibetan, Roman, Aztec, Native American and many other cultures cherished, worshiped silver and wore jewellery made by it because of its healing and protective properties. Every civilization has its own myths and beliefs about this beautiful metal, about its mystical and metaphysical properties which have been tangled into many stories of religion, rituals and daily life.
The Aztecs used silver in their jewellery and dress. They believed in the reflective nature of the metal. Mirrors found in Mexico which were created of highly polished minerals were symbols of portals to the spirit world. Even the name of the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, translates as "Smoking Mirror" which shows the importance of the material to the Aztecs.
Silver is also associated with the sixth chakra, also known as the "third-eye". In this sense, silver certainly represents the concept of reflection and is considered the source of intuition, spiritual alertness, imagination and generally multidimensional perception.
Usually, silver is linked to myths of the moon and goddesses of the night. Because of this it is also the metal that is believed to help the wearer foster relationships of lasting love and lead a harmonious life. It is a metal intertwined with the creative side of a person and the feminine nature of women.
During the middle ages grew different notorious beliefs about the power of silver.
-Thanks to old fairy tales and the countless 21st century movies we all know how people then believed that silver bullets could be lethal to werewolves and vampires.-
This idea was born from the belief that silver wards us against the evil spirits mainly because to its association with the moon. While the idea that silver wards off monsters of the night is thought to be Christian, the use of silver to deter or ward off evil exists in Islamic, Hindu, Egyptian, and Eastern European cultures as well.
Russian earring; 19th century - Cleveland Museum of Art
During the Victorian era, the creation of silver jewellery grew even more as an art. Silver was a beautiful, white metal that could be bound with colorful semi-precious stones like amethysts, topazes and garnets. Its softness gave the opportunity to the creator to make complicated designs which lured Victorian ladies.
Also, after the death of king Albert, Queen Victoria sank into mourning and wore black until the end of her days. Her influence over the public gave the opportunity for a new style to emerge. That of silver-mourning jewellery, set with dark stones like onyxes.
Mourning jewellery, brooch, Jet, 19th c.
After WWI, followed maybe the most famous style of silver jewellery until today. Art Deco. Art Deco was not a single style, but a collection of different and sometimes contradictory styles which did not appear only in jewellery creation but also architecture, painting etc. It showed the need of the public for something vibrant and excessive after the austerity of the war.
Art Deco Diamond Necklace, Cartier, circa 1929 (s: Antique Jewellery University)
Today silver jewellery is more accessible in terms of price but is still used to create beautiful and affordable creations. Many designers express all their inspiration in beautiful works of art, and you can even find silver jewellery in the titans of jewellery creation like Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier.
Mexico is the number one country in the production of silver in the world. Traditional silver work in Mexico has its origins in the colonial period mostly because the metal was not as expensive. Most silver work in Mexico today is modern pieces and unfortunately traditional silver work is decreasing. Every two years the Hugo Salinas Price National Silver Price is awarded to silversmiths in order to try and preserve tradition.
Silver necklace with Ruby, Emerald and Mexican opal - Museum of Arte Popular in Mexico City
The second country which today produces the greater number of silver jewellery is India. Silver in India is not only a precious metal but also sacred since it symbolises the moon. Silver jewellery are often given as present to special and religious days to bring good luck. One of their most famous traditional jewellery is the Nazar Kada which is a silver bracelet with black beads worn by babies to protect them from evil eye.
In the rest of the world as well the tradition of gifting silver creations is still common, and the “Silver” anniversary is also a milestone for married couples. While the tradition has evolved and commercialized over the years, silver continues to be the gift of choice for a 25th wedding anniversary and in many more occasions.
So, either because you believe in the metal’s multiple properties and protection powers or simply because you want a shiny new trinket, browse through our collections and choose your creation of choice to adorn your neck or hands or gift it to someone special to show them how much they mean to you.
Written by Evdokia Samara