Some Windows and a Door

I’ve done different versions of window brooches since the mid ’70s. It’s a theme I revisit from time to time, because of the interesting possibilities it offers.


Brooch: Window; Gold, silver

This one, from the ’80s, recycled the client’s ancestral gold, and provided a memento of Cape Town, which they were about to leave.

Copy of Scan10054

Brooch: Window; Silver and inlaid ceramic

Here’s one from a time when my wife Julia was doing ceramics. I developed a method of layering and scraping coloured slips on clay, to produce a pleasing result, I think. The patterns on the pelmet and curtains are made by impressing lace into silver sheet using the rolling mill.


Brooch: Window; Silver, garnet, paua shell

Years ago I found two New Zealand paua shells (a kind of abalone) at a roadside tourist stall that sells seashells on the seashore between Camps Bay and Llandudno (Cape Town). I’ve made a great many pieces using bits of these shells. Above is a brooch with a garnet and some shell. Another piece below.

Pendant: The door to the...; Gold, silver, shakudo, lapis lazuli, pearls, iolite, moonstone, labradorite sapphires, rubies.

The Door to the…

This piece has a name: “The Door to the…” 

While reading a biography of Giordano Bruno, the scientist/alchemist, I was struck by the fact that he was the first Westerner to propose the idea that the stars were in fact suns and that space might be infinite. He was burnt by the Inquisition for his views. The notion proved harder to suppress, however. It unshackled the minds of many of Europe’s leading thinkers, and the phrase ‘infinite space’ wastes no time in appearing in Shakespeare. Bruno’s ideas mark a significant transition to modernity.

But a more interior and extensive notion of infinite space has long existed in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology. Though the Renaissance, as the beginning of the modern, has been of interest to me, as Robert Thurman points out there was another, historically concurrent modernity emerging— the Tibetan, which ‘…can be understood as a kind of alternative modernity, a spiritualistic or interior modernity as opposed to the Western materialistic or exterior modernity” (Rhie and Therman 31). Much of my work has concentrated on the transition to the modern in the history of jewellery. I set out to create a piece which would capture something of this paradox of Infinite Space.

The piece is illustrative of my design approach: based on the Shakespearian conceit, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet, II.ii.270-273),  the piece uses Renaissance forms found during Shakespeare’s life, and alludes to the extension of Elizabethan knowledge and power into the rest of the world: moonstone and labradorite from Madagascar, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan iolite from India, pearls from China, rubies and sapphires from Ceylon, shakudo from Japan.

Aether zoom

To complete the Shakespearian conceit, hidden inside the piece is a carved lapis lazuli face – a representation of the Tibetan Buddha Samantabhadra, Buddha of boundless space.

 Aether under

The door, which stands in place of the transition between interior and exterior, serves as a pivot between the interior and exterior, the inside being roughly inscribed with the words: “The door to the..”, leaving the wearer freedom (space) of interpretation. 

Technique: The piece is technically interesting inasmuch as it includes a number of different techniques: Piercing, shell inlay, stone carving and polishing, setting, lost-wax casting (the gold detail at the base), a catch which works, and assembly by means of a single bolt, as well as the usual repertoire of fabrication techniques.


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