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The Dark Side of Silversmithing

By Guan Tan

Left, Alice Waese. Right, Alicia Hannah Naomi.
Collages by Felicia Yap
Left, Alice Waese. Right, Alicia Hannah Naomi.

In a quiet corner of online forum StyleZeitgest sits a thread of exchanges on user ahn’s beautifully blackened, crumpled pieces of silver – initials for Melbourne-born Alicia Hannah Naomi who graduated into the life of a jeweller. You can’t quite put a finger to her work. What is this – art or jewellery? Why does it sit awkwardly, silver bent over and jutting out provocatively?

As you press your nose to the screen and scroll on, showers of praise lends to another. “Really gorgeous. Congratulations! Hard to believe it’s only a graduate collection,” chimes founder of forum Eugene Rabkin, who goes by pseudonym Faust.

Not everyone but a handful appreciates this aesthetic, for it demands a vastly imaginative mind to see beauty in crude objects. Jewellery are heavily-charged sites of emotions. “As with [traditional] brands like Tiffany, they are immediate releases: ‘I’m engaged, and I’m happy now!’”

Explaining the existence of dark, romantic jewellery, Alicia continues, “They are about a more serious, sombre transience in life – the emotions that we don’t express. When a couple is engaged, it’s not but a moment. It’s how things change and weather, and that is beautiful but simultaneously sad. It’s a wonderful expression.”

Courtesy of Alicia Hannah NaomiAlicia Hannah Naomi, Spring Summer 2017
Alicia Hannah Naomi, Spring Summer 2017

Wearing jewellery is an intimate form of experience, and dark jewellers like Alicia and Brooklyn-based Alice Waese takes it further. In a dispensable piece of metal, it is incredibly poetic that life can be within this way.

Alice Waese uses 925 sterling silver – 92.5 percent silver, and 7.5 percent copper alloy. To induce blackening naturally, she applies crushed hard boiled eggs to create a gentler, softer oxidisation that looks much more natural.

Alice’s jewellery when first received, “is much darker. But as you wear it, your skin polishes it. It’s intimate, over time it becomes brighter. You receive something dark but it becomes light – that is beautiful in it’s own right.” Alice pulls a pause and reiterates, “You can find beautiful things in everything.”

Courtesy of Alice WaeseAlice Waese, Spring Summer 2017
Alice Waese, Spring Summer 2017

The presence of copper alloy is what oxidises when exposed to sulphur – creating a blackened coat over the surface. “The need to oxidise metal was why I work with silver. It connects to me, and to my expression,” Alicia applies sulphur directly to silver in order to have oxidisation happen instantly. “If you were to let a silver ring sit naturally for fifteen years in a place where [atmospheric] sulphur and humidity is present, it will blacken.”

Drawing a parallel to inevitable processes of life, “All things are transient. Age should be accepted as a graceful process – it embodies the concepts of time, change, and weathering.”

Another element emblematic of the dark genre is its regard for grey and black diamonds. “Traditionally, black and grey diamonds are absolutely undesirable on every level. There’s the great diamond conspiracy, where diamonds are in fact not rare, but marketed to be so. And suppliers are laughing as they run to the banks, because they earned so much from us…The demand for white diamond is one without internal flaws – which are carbon inclusions. They are black, and undesirable, not pristine and clear as industry standards,” Alicia explains.

But “black diamonds relates to the work [that we do] in so many ways – dark, but it shines. It’s a beautiful stone, an under-valued diamond. The same as a white diamond, but less clear,” Alice continues.

Finding value in the under-valued. There can’t be a more befitting allegory to the philosophy of dark and gothic subculture than a black diamond is – blemishes of life, faults of a person, and preordained mistakes. These things in life they can’t be erased

So Alicia told us to look intently into a black, or grey diamond, for the speckles within are like tiny galaxies. “What is so small on earth, but so wide and vast within. It’s so otherworldly, and so emotive.”

Alicia Hannah Naomi is available at http://www.aliciahannahnaomi.com/, and Alice Waese at http://www.alicewaese.com/.