Gold Metalwork Decoration
"Let me tell you that for the gold which is laid on flats they ought not to get more than a hundred leaves out of a ducat, whereas they do get a hundred and forty-five; because the gold for the flat wants to be rather dull. If you want to be sure of the gold, when you buy it, get it from someone who is a good goldbeater; and examine the gold; and if you find it rippling and mat, like goat parchment, then consider it good. On mouldings or foliage ornaments you will make out better with thinner gold; but for the delicate ornaments of the embellishment with mordants it ought to be very thin gold, and cobweb-like."
The British essayist Aldous Huxley noted how, "The products of the goldsmith's art are intrinsically numinous. They have their place at the very heart of every Mystery, in every holy of holies. This sacred jewellery has always been associated with the light of lamps and candles."
- c. 539 A.D. - According to the French art historian André Grabar the mosaics in the churches of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo and San Vitale, "...owe their compelling power to the brilliancy of the gold grounds," Mosaics were composed of small cubes, known as tesserae, made of stone, tile or glass laid out in a bed of mortar. The golden tesserae were made by affixing gold leaf to the cubes.The Emperor Justinian is set against a gold background with his wife Theodora beside him draped in gold jewellery.
- 870 - The goldplated cover of the Codex Aureus of Saint Emmeram, was made for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles II at his Palace School and given to Arnulf of Carinthia, who in turn donated it to Saint Emmeram Abbey.
- c. 1019 - A monumental example of repoussé metalwork - the golden altar front antependium executed for the Basel Cathedral.
- 1338 - The Sienese developed the taste for punched gold ornament in panel painting, and exported tools to Florence. While modern punching tools are made of cast metal, all but the simplest early Italian punches seem to have been cut by hand, so that each was unique. Simone Martini painted his own altarpiece for the Duomo di Siena, assisted by his brother-in-law, Lippo Memmi. It depicts the Annunciation. Martini was the first to use elaborate motif punches, rather than ring punches, to decorate gold. The haloes were inscribed with compasses or dividers and the gold was stamped with motifs. These patterns would shimmer in candlelight, giving a supernatural aura to the image.
- c. 1485 - Sandro Botticelli laced the hair of his goddess in the painting Birth of Venus Nascita di Venere (c. 1485) with gold and also scattered it amongst the leaves behind her.
- 1539 to 1543 - Gold has often been used by artists to symbolise the wonders of the heavens. A 16th century Persian miniature painting by Sultan Muhammad celebrating Muhammad's ascent into the Heavens, uses gold to show colour within the nocturnal darkness. The journey is known as the Miraj.
- 1543 - In his autobiography the goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini describes the completion for Francis I of France, from models that had been prepared many years earlier for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, of the Saliera.
- 1900 - The Art Nouveau jeweller René Jules Lalique (1860-1945) realising the possibilities for shapes, colour and shadings in gold were endless, was eventually to devote himself fully to its production. After just a few years the most acclaimed goldsmith at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris was to become the maitre-verrier of the 20th century.
- 1930 - Sir Thomas Lipton, representing the Royal Ulster Yacht Club of Belfast, Ireland, was the only Americas Cup challenger from 1899 to 1930. He brought 6 different yachts, all were named "Shamrock" , to the competition. Finally, in 1930, he was presented with a 18kg gold trophy cup, commissioned by the New York Yacht Club, and made by Tiffany & Co. in honour of his five noble challenges. the trophy is engraved, "To Sir Thomas Lipton, the Gamest Loser in the History of Sport."