LEGENDS AND HISTORY
Benvenuto Cellini, 1500-1571, born in Florence, was not only a sculptor in marble and bronze, designer, painter, writer and poet, but also one of the finest jewelry craftsmen the world has known, particularly in the art of repousse. This is the method of dapping metals from the inside out. One of his masterpieces, made in gold and enamel, is a salt cellar, 10 x 13″, of St. Francis I, which was in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It was recently stolen. One of his most important bronze sculptures, the Perseus, is under the center of one of the arches of the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.
A salt cellar actually contained “salt!” It was generally placed in the middle of a very long, narrow dinner table, with as many as 50 or 60 guests. These people would be carefully chosen with regard to which end of the table they would be seated, with the most prominent and noble on the side with the host. The others would be placed at the opposite end. During these times, those of nobility would be classified as being “above the salt.”
A monstrance that my father and I made over a period of six and one half years, contributing over 5,000 hours, was made in this same method. It was donated to St. Charles of Borromeo Church in North Hollywood in 1961. The parishioners donated the gold and diamonds that were used.
THE LEGEND OF THE ENGAGEMENT RING
In ancient Egypt, a Pharaoh fell in love with a beautiful young princess. Because of her youth, the princess’s father refused consent to their marriage. The Pharaoh, being a wise man, desired to have the father’s blessing, and agreed to wait until the princess was of age. His love for her grew daily and he longed for some way to show his devotion to her while he was waiting for their marriage.
He called in the royal jewelers and told them to search the land for the most precious stone in existence. The Pharaoh had the stone mounted on a ring of gold and took it to his loved one. As he slipped the ring on her finger, he told her, “Until I can place a wedding band on your finger and claim you for my bride, wear this ring as a reminder of my devotion. Just as the gem is priceless, so is my love for you.”
Down through the ages, the engagement ring has served as a pledge of true love and as a symbol to the rest of the world that two people have chosen to spend their lives together. ~ From the writings of Amenophis 11: Circa 3300 B.C.
THE LEGEND OF THE ITALIAN HORN
Have you have ever wondered about the significance of the “Corno” (twisted tapering horn), or the “Malocchio” (clenched hand with index and little fingers pointing outward), or “La Fica” (clenched fist with thumb protruding through the index and middle fingers)? They originated in medieval Italy. Typically made in gold, they are usually worn as pendants or charms. La Fica, is frequently made out of opaque colored gemstones, usually black onyx or ivory. They vary in length from ¾” to 1 ½”.
The story goes that they are given to someone for the purpose of protecting them against evil spirits or to bring them good luck. Traditionally, they are not to be purchased for one’s self; they must be given to you by someone else to have the desired effect. So, if you see anyone wearing one, you’ll know that it was given by a caring and loving person. Most of the time, they are exchanged between close male friends. Although not inappropriate, it is uncommon to see one being worn by a female.
THE LEGEND OF THE VALENTINE’S DAY
Valentine’s Day has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated every year in honor of Lupercus, the god of fertility and Juno, queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. At one point in the festival, on the evening of February 14, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
As Christianity became prevalent, priests attempted to replace old Pagan practices. To Christianize the celebration of the Feast of Lupercus, church officials changed the name. The most popular candidate for St. Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest who performed secret marriages against direct orders from Emperor Claudius II, who believed single men were more likely to join his army. Saint Valentine had been beheaded for helping young lovers marry against the wishes of the mad emperor. Legend also has it that before execution, Valentine himself had fallen in love with his jailer’s daughter. He signed his final note to her, “From your Valentine”, a phrase that has lasted through the centuries. In recognition of his sacrifice for love… and to lure people away from celebrating the Pagan way… Lupercalia was renamed.
There is also speculation among linguistic scholars that the name ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins. It was customary for French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v’. Consequently, the original term may have been the French ‘galantine’, which yields the English word ‘gallant’. The word originally refers to a dashing young man known for his ‘affaires d’amour’, a true gauntlet.