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This plump golden orange Oriental fruit, the persimmon, has just appeared in our shops and I can really understand why they were named ‘the divine fruit’ in Ancient times. To taste them in full ripeness is a sensory delight, they are ..’honey to the throat’ (Goblin Market, remarkable poem, by Christina Rossetti), with a delicate flavour of scented mango.
So many of the words associated with fragrant juice-laden fruit are also those ascribed to Gold. Lustrous, sensuous, precious, indulgent, luxurious, hedonistic, I could go on! We thirst for fruits and both men and women have thirsted for and worshipped this malleable, durable, incomparable metal. It is my favourite metal, but the minimum content has to be 9 carat. I really do love it.
A Little Histoire
The chemical symbol for gold is Au from the latin ‘Aurum’, meaning ‘shining dawn’. The Ancient Greeks thought gold was the wonderous outcome of a dense combination of water and sunlight. The Aztecs believed gold retained the rays of the sun and the Ancient Egyptians considered gold to be the flesh of the gods.
It was discovered at least as early as 5,000 BC, found as nuggets lying in the waters of rivers and streams and wonderfully widely dispersed through the geological world, available but also sufficiently scarce to be prized. Its rarity and its beautiful aesthetic made it ideal for the ruling classes and the elite, becoming synonymous with power, wealth and lasting value. Early Civilizations responded to it with vigour, wearing it daily, decorating themselves, creating artefacts, lining tombs, and sculpting idols of their gods. We can all remember the Golden Calf and what Moses thought of that! Even in Ancient times gold leaf was used to decorate food and Cleopatra is said to have slept with a nightly mask of gold, its properties thought to preserve natural luminosity. Now it is used by cosmetic companies who believe it will lock in the natural moisture in our skin. We can eat it, absorb it, paint ourselves with it and best of all we can wear it.
This amazing metal panned for in rivers and mined from veins in bedrock and soil, has continually enchanted and beguiled mankind with its beauty and versatility. Originally gold was a metal that was valued as jewellery or decoration. It took until the 7th century BC for gold to be used directly for trade, the Lydian merchants being the first to produce gold coins. The last Lydian king was Croesus and you know how the saying goes….
As early as 16th century BC, in the time of the Pharaohs, Egyptians were engraving signet rings made of gold, and the Etruscans were producing beautifully crafted jewellery from 7,000 BC, using decorative granulations and creating repousse beads.
Gold casting was perfected by the Nazca society in Peru in 500 BC, and the Ancient Romans under rule of Augustus, in 27 BC ,were the first to use gold settings to encase beautiful precious and semi-precious stones.
(Some information found in a wonderful highly recommended book by Diana Scarsbrick called ‘Rings, jewellery of power, love and loyalty’)
The loveliness of gold is embodied in its richness, its incomparable elegance, and its desirability. Even Virgil had something to say about its devastating appeal: “O accursed hunger of gold, to what dost thou not compel human hearts”. We cannot resist its allure, its contemporary freshness or its mature gentle beauty in antique pieces of jewellery. I love to combine the old and the new, the vintage and antique with modern elements, an interpretation for now.
Our concept of gold is of a substance of high value and integrity. It is used in prose and poetry to convey meaning, ‘Tragedy is like strong acid – it dissolves away all but the very truth of gold”. D.H. Lawrence.
It has always been treasure, developed into a currency, used for trading by the Ancient Empires, flowing into India to purchase spices and China for silks.
Discovered before iron or copper it has remained the metal we believe in and trust, prized for its intrinsic value, symbolic of enduring worth, worn for its beauty in abundant extravagance and delicate forms.
I have chosen this poem as a final thought about gold’s endurance and special message of love
A Marriage Ring
The ring, so worn as you behold,
So thin, so pale, is yet of gold:
The passion such it was to prove-
Worn with life’s care, love yet was love.
By George Crabbe (1754-1832)
Go get yourself some Gold!