In the Old World, personal information was there for the glancing. No need to check Facebook or Google up some background -- or even ask around.
From chains on holy men's necks to amulets looped onViking warrior vests, metals announced to any knowledgeable viewer the wearer's skills, travels, triumphs -- even clan or birthplace.
That is one reason IBISwoman Jewelry has long admired Ethiopian Coptic crosses. They say so much.
Often made today by village artisans in so-called pot silver, Ethiopian Coptic crosses appear in seemingly endless styles but each weaves a similar tale. The Egyptian Coptic Christians are believed to have come to the highlands of Ethiopian in the 4th century. To symbolize their faith, the Copts made their own cross by layering a Christian cross over the Egyptian ankh symbol with its circle signifying the sun at the top. Ethiopians began to learn about the newcomers' faith and wear the symbol, too. Ethiopian metal smiths first hammered out crosses as rather simple circles atop a cross form. In the centuries following, the cross designs became intricate, almost Celtic. Yet workmanship and materials and basic design elements have echoed across the centuries.
To some, the Ethiopian crosses represent the cross-pollination of cultures. Others see the lost-wax casting techniques used to make the crosses and the history of personal ornament worldwide. To those of the Christian faith, the cross forms represent Christ's halo, the story of the crucifixion, and eternal and interconnecting love.
To me, they represent just one incredible story -- the story that accompanies every bit and bob of material that we gather to the IBISwoman worktable to make the cross-cultural creations you see in our collections. There is so much to learn about personal ornament, and after 11 years and a lot of reading and traveling, I've only scratched the surface.
It's always a new Old World to me.
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