In Tuareg countries, blacksmiths, holders of fire, masters of iron, copper and silver, form a class apart in society. Their art is often associated with magic, which makes them fearsome. They have for ancestor, says the legend, a woman named "Tammennat", whose name still designates in the Air, a region in the North of Niger, "craftsmanship well done". Their techniques are passed down from generation to generation and are only assimilated with age and experience. The most skilled and the best is called "amyar", the workers are "énaden", and the apprentices are "ikerwaten", or "lambs"!
In the Sahara, it is the recycled silver that they work most willingly. For it has, according to the Prophet, the virtue of a blessing. Iron is an impure metal: it is prudent to use it only with copper and brass which neutralizes its effects. They are also often found associated with weapons of war or old anvils to protect users from iron objects. Copper also has prophylactic and curative properties, it heals wounds, and brass increases this power.
Although traditionally, gold has the reputation of bringing bad luck in the Sahara, a reputation that fades as one goes south, some city women sometimes have gold jewelry made. For this, however, we call on other craftsmen who are specialized in this material.
When I created my first jewelry collections, I only used recycled silver. Silver is always recycled, either from old coins, Talhers, or other old jewelry and decorative silver objects melted down. It has been recycled so much that its impurities have almost completely disappeared with repeated fusions. This makes Saharan silver very pure at 999/1000. It is then very white, very bright and very ductile! It is a soft metal that allows very fine and precise engraving! That's why our women's and men's jewelry is so detailed.
Over the years, craftsmen have shown me their work with ebony. The craftsmen of Agadez buy at the market fine branches of ebony, black, from the south. The pieces are small, so you can only do small things with them: for jewelry it's perfect!
I like the combination of silver and ebony which creates a strong contrast!
Craftsmen sometimes use bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. In the old days we used the term "bronze" to refer to it, I find that beautiful too! It is harder than silver and therefore more difficult to engrave. When I design a bronze jewel, like an adjustable ring for example, I try to avoid asking the craftsmen to engrave it with fine patterns. Its color is yellow and I like to use it with silver. I like the vibration of the yellow bronze on the white of the silver. I use these two materials together a lot when I design Ombre Claire jewelry.
There is also the vermeil present in our collections. Vermeil is not made in the Sahara. Vermeil jewelry is jewelry that arrives in Paris in silver and is gilded by electrolysis! To make vermeil you have to put at least 5 microns of 18 or 24 carat gold on silver, which is a lot! Vermeil is therefore an alloy of silver and gold.
For a few years you have also been asking us for gilded bronze with fine gold. Here too the jewels are plated in Paris. The jewels come from the desert in bronze and are gilded between 1 and 3 microns in Paris.
Obviously all this small hardware has a price which varies according to the world cost of silver and gold! Bronze is less expensive and allows us at Ombre Claire to have slightly less expensive handmade jewelry!
Afterwards I mount all of this on silver, vermeil, golden brass chains made in Germany, or on cotton or silk links in many different colors made in Japan.
The ties bring color, like the cotton embroideries I do on some collections.
So I choose the materials according to the color I want to give the jewel, also according to the price I want to give it more or less...
And you, do you like to mix jewelry colors?