Gorgoneion Cypher

Our Sovereign, Magnus Tindal, requested some assistance in crafting a Cypher that could be awarded to members of our community that provided exceptional service during their exceptional reign.  After discussing what type of form this award would be we agreed that it should be something that was practical and useful rather than a mere display piece.  We also wanted to incorporate His Majesty’s personal badge

My thoughts immediately went to an armlet or bracelet as a piece of jewelry that could be worn for all occasions displaying the token of the Sovereign’s appreciation with pride.

I chose to emulate some aspects of the inspiration such as the convex form of the bangle band, the prominent face featured and the jewel embellishments. I decided not to use the granulation technique as I knew that I wanted to end up with 10 similar final pieces for the Sovereign to be able to award his chosen members of the populace, and wanted something with a higher degree of ease for repetition. I also chose not to make the bangle completely enclosed with a clasp on the back as I had no measurements of recipients and wanted to make a more ”one size fits all” or at least easily adjustable open back model.

Research

The Gorgon image appears in several pieces of art and architectural structures including e.g. the pediments of the Temple of Artemis (c. 580 BC) in Corfu, the mid-6th century BC, life marble statue, in cups, in coins, burial reliefs, shields, jewelry, ceramic vases (Lazarou, 2019) While is was extremely popular in ancient Grecian works of art, the Gorgon imagery was also employed by several Roman sources, and was frequently found of coins. Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors wore Gorgoneion for protection. Images of the Gorgons were also put upon objects and buildings for protection. (Forum Ancient Coins, n.d.)

Roman Republic, L. Cornelius Lentulus and C. Claudius Marcellus, For Pompey the Great, 49 B.C.
Roman Republic, Dictatorship of Julius Caesar, L. Plautius Plancus, 47 B.C.

Artists represented the Gorgon across all periods and in all media. Medusa is a deadly and cryptic other, but she is also ubiquitous, with an undeniable energy that inspired artists to repeat her semblance and story in diverse ways across literature, lore, and art through ancient Greece, Rome, and beyond. (Glennon, 2017)

Ancient Roman Gorgoneion Hardstone Cameo of Medusa
OBJECT: Cameo
CULTURE: Roman
DATE: c. 2nd – 3rd century A.D.
MATERIAL: Nicolo Onyx
SIZE: 16mm x 8mm
WEIGHT: 2.7 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. Private Collection, Vienna. Austria.

I chose as primary inspiration a bracelet that I had the opportunity to view at the Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne, Germany which has a large selection of Roman artifacts from the area.  One such artifact is a golden bracelet featuring a face and garnet stones that were prevalent to the area.

Design Process

This artifact, like many custom works, involve a collaborative design process in which communication with the patron is key to help assure that all are satisfied with the final result. I offered four different styles of Gorgon visage to use in our Cypher design, ranging from a more modern interpretation, to varied stylistic choices leaning more toward the classical Grecian design and even an extant mosaic. Several had aspects similar to the Sovereign’s badge example, including the Greek key boarder.

I then began to modify the chosen design aesthetic based upon the Sovereign’s preference to create a personalized item including identifiers MAGNUS TINDAL that could be incorporated into the design to identify this token’s originator.

Once the design was complete I could begin transferring it to the brass sheet that would become the bracelets.

I used Ferric Chloride acid to etch the brass bands.

The next step would be to cut the band so that it could be formed into the style I envisioned. Taking some measurements to plan the cuts.

Then to begin cutting the plate into the correct shape.

Then start the forming
Using the pitch bowl to draw out central gorgon face and create a repoussé style that more closely emulated the original inspirational piece.

Then using forming dies to create a convex bangle style design similar to the extent period inspiration

Now that the proof of concept was made and approved, it was repeated

Then to add in the “extra”

At this point we have a perfectly good gorgoneion bangle cypher that can be cleaned and polished and delivered, but it felt like it needed something more. Something “extra”. With the advice of trusted artisans, I sought to continue to the process in hopes of achieving a level of extra that I could be proud of and that His Majesty and the recipients of his accolade would appreciate and be value for years to come.

I decided to go with adding cabochons on either side of the central raised repoussé gorgon image, similar to the original inspiration piece.  I purchased some green glass cabochons that resembled speckled jade as the colors of His Majesty’s arms are green.

This meant that I was going to need to make some bezels with which to attach these beautiful gems to the bracelets. I used some brass wire from my collection and measured and formed out 24 oval brass bezels.

Fist add a bit of flux
Then precut piece of brass solder
Then apply heat to join the ring
Then a bit of sanding

Add the cabochons and voila!

1 down 9 more to go!

Final results

For more information about Gorgoneion imagery used in early period examples, I recommend looking into some of the resources I used.

References

Ancient Roman Gorgoneion Hardstone Cameo of Medusa. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ancient Jewellery : https://www.ancient-jewellery.com/en-GB/ancient-cameos/ancient-roman-gorgoneion-hardstone-cameo-of-medusa/prod_10441#.YQyJLIhKiUk

Forum Ancient Coins. (n.d.). Coins and Antiquities Consignment Shop. Retrieved from Forum Ancient Coins: https://www.forumancientcoins.com/catalog/roman-and-greek-coins.asp?vpar=1684&pos=0&sold=1

Glennon, M. (2017, March). Medusa in Ancient Greek Art. Retrieved from The Met Museum: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/medu/hd_medu.htm

Lazarou, A. (2019). GOLDEN GORGON-MEDOUSA ARTWORK IN ANCIENT HELLENIC WORLD. SCIENTIFIC CULTURE, 5(1), 1-14. doi:DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1451898

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