Friday, January 17, 2014

The Millefiori Ring



This ring, evidently, is an object of extraordinary craftsmanship.   Close examination reveals it to be constructed out of thousands of clear and coloured glass rods, fused together in a furnace into a "cane", not unlike a stick of seaside rock, which was then cut and polished in transverse sections.  This technique was known in ancient times, then lost until the late 18th century, when it was rediscovered by glass-makers in Italy and acquired the name millefiori ("thousand flowers").


The Romans and later the Venetians created crude but beautifully-coloured "mosaic" beads in huge numbers for trade purposes.  Literally tons of these beads were manufactured, enough to be used as ballast in outbound Venetian ships.  Unlike the pure millefiori disk from the Ring Hoard collection shown here, these beads were made by applying sections of a soft ceramic millefiori cane to a core, which were compacted by rolling before firing, producing a characteristic squashed mosaic effect.

Beads from Goodoldbeads.com

These chunky, black-cored beads are still plentiful today in North Africa, and in flea markets around the world.  I have some very pretty examples I found in Paris back in 1972.  More sophisticated pieces of millefiori glass were much prized, for example those incorporated into various exquisite pieces found in the 7th century Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo ship burial, such as the purse lid.

Like all good forgers, I may need to "distress" this ring before it finally goes on display, or even break it up a bit, despite the hours of careful work that have gone into its creation.  Few things are as suspicious, or as boring, as perfection.

2 comments:

Zouk Delors said...

Mike,

All the ring images are really fantastic, but if you want us, your readers, to be able to interpret them as depictions of amazing objects rather than just as beautiful 2d artworks per se, you need to show other angles and something for scale. For all we know these things could be the size and shape of a ship's lifesaver. I'm sure there was more contextual information in the first post that mentioned them -- how about a link back?

Mike C. said...

Zouk,

I take your point, but the confusion over scale is part of the point -- all will be revealed when I put the set together. For now: some are the size of a lifebelt and some ... are not.

Mike