Jewelry has paved the road back to my own youth. Silver, turquoise and a western and Native American artistic sensibility inspired this wanna-be hippie back in the late ’60s, and now that I’m older the look and feel of an American craft takes me back to an imaginary past that seems complicated only by youth. Handmade silver jewelry was aspirational to a generation that envied the authenticity of Native American art. So when the Florida Society of Goldsmith’s-South–south means Miami in these parts, stranger—sponsored a workshop by Tuscon’s Sam Patania, a master goldsmith whose family has been making silver and turquoise jewelry for three-going-on-four generations, I had to go.
The fact that I am beyond terrified to drive in the Caribbean, Cracker, red Toyota and truck miasma that propels Dade Countians from point A to point B was an obstacle. My trip back in time was at odds with the modern sensibility that one finds on I-95 heading fast for the end of the continent. On the other hand, Patania was teaching silver overlay with a focal stone in addition to a box pendant (seen below). So I imposed on a hospitable club member and stayed in south Miami, ate like royalty in what has to be one of the world’s greatest food cities and learned the basics of silver overlay and stone setting. Both techniques look simple and date back to the age (s) before electricity, but require all four elements–earth (metal), air, fire and water and a lot of finesse. It’s normal to measure, re-measure, cut and re-cut, torch and melt metal for hours without making progress. When it all comes together, you drop a stone and with luck you find it again. The satisfaction when you are finished and your bracelet or pendant looks beautiful or at least close to your vision is amazing. This is a trip I’ll take again.