Handicrafts / GOLD AND SILVER SMITHING

Phoenicians have used gold and silver as raw materials since the 3rd millennium B.C. They have namely used electrum, an alloy of silver and gold, to manufacture beautiful statuettes more than four millenniums ago. Their sailors extracted the noble metals from the Mount Sinai and Anatolian mines, or bartered their crafts for them. Phoenicians have also introduced the technique of gold leafing to shield small bronze statuettes.

 

As for necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings and other jewelry, Phoenicians crafted them exclusively with gold and semi-precious stones like carnelian, amethyst, lapis-lazuli, hematite and others. Pure gold was decorated with geometrical motifs and very fine curvy designs according to the “granulation” process whereby small gold spheres (0.3mm diameter) are fitted one next to the other.

 

Jewelry crafting evolved in the Orient and gave way to new techniques like filigree producing delicate “ajoure” jewelry made of twisted threads and usually incrusted with gemstones. These techniques were transmitted by the Orient to Europeby the Persians, the Scythians, Sarmatians. Later, the Gauls and Francs traveling to the Orient also learned and brought back the filigree technique. The latter was praised by the French court of kings and princes and earned the name of “cloisonné” jewelry. Finally, the Arabs took over the craft and started manufacturing very fine jewelry.

 

The jewelry crafting art is still very much alive in Lebanon and great local artists have remained loyal to their ancestors and masters, working with gold, silver and bronze with the equal passion. Gold jewelry crafting workshops are concentrated in Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, Zahleh and Baalbek. As for silver jewelry it is mostly handcrafted in Beirut and Rachaya al-Wadi.

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