By Alex Dawkins
Posted in News, on April 15, 2020
Most wedding bands are commercially manufactured and cast. Companies like Tiffany & Co. and Peoples Jewellers produces thousands of identical rings through CAD software and casting, and they add a premium to their products for the branding of the company. Northwest Coast Indigenous rings, on the other hand, are hand-engraved using steel tools and originate from hand-drawn sketches. Wedding bands created by First Nations jewelers are completely unique, totally personal, and customizable.
This is an enlightening excerpt on the art of hand-engraving from the book Understanding Northwest Coast Indigenous Jewelry: "Some Northwest Coast jewelers still prefer to 'carve in the round'. They wrap a metal blank around a cylindrical piece of wood, often referred to as a donut, and hold it in one hand while engraving with the other. With this technique, the graver is usually pulled through the metal. The advantages to this traditional method are that these cylindrical wood blocks are light and transportable and the metal is already rounded, which reduces the risk of any creasing when the metal is being shaped after it has been engraved. The disadvantages are that it is much more difficult to create a symmetrical design when the metal is rounded at the outset, and it is more laborious to engrave the piece while holding it rather than having it anchored to a vise on a workbench. Today, a piece of Northwest Coast jewelry is typically engraved by affixing the flat metal blank to a wooden block with pitch, anchoring it in a vise grip, and pushing the graver through the metal. One of the advantages to this method is that designs can be applied to the flat, secured metal in such a way that the artist can ensure balance and symmetry in the composition."
Here at Lattimer Gallery, we just need the following information to get your custom order started: artist preference, ring sizes, width preferences, and desired design. After we have this information, we ask the respective artist for a quote and then require a refundable deposit. Most orders take between 3-4 weeks. Pictured above is a set of silver and gold combination 'Wolf' rings by Justin Rivard and a set of 14k gold 'Stacking Salmon' rings by Shawn Edenshaw. Wolf often symbolizes family in Northwest Coast culture because these animals travel in packs and look out for one another. Salmon is also a popular design for wedding rings because salmon represent the cycle of life and continuity.
Designs do not necessarily need to be identical either. Above is a set of 14k solid gold wedding rings by First Nations artist Kelvin Thompson wherein one depicts 'Eagle' and the other depicts 'Raven'. Within several Nations located in the Pacific Northwest, communities are entirely divided into two moieties: Eagle and Raven. Within these two clans, there are numerous crests which help to divide and organize the population. One of the reasons for this type of organization was to ensure the gene pool in remote areas remained diverse. Another reason is the mythological lineage linked to specific families and family names. To this day, Eagles cannot marry other Eagles, and Ravens cannot marry other Ravens. The visual pairing of Eagle and Raven is often referred to as “love birds” because of the frequent bonding between Eagles and Ravens in many Northwest Coast cultures.