“During my degree I wrote my dissertation about cave paintings. I was interested in how art began and tried to put far too many things into one essay, just about scraping a pass. As with many things in my life so far, the worse I objectively did, the more I use what I learned in my day-to-day life. There are a lot of theories about religion in cave art and one thing jumped out at me, which is that people all over the world, at completely different times, thought that the spirits of their ancestors went into stone when they died. This seems like quite a strange thing to say, and if someone showed you a stone and told you their dead great grandfather lived in it, we would question their sanity, but this seems to be an idea that resonates with us, what we now refer to as ‘sentimental value’. To me, metal is the technological progression of stone. It comes from stone, extracted through various ritualistic and spellbinding methods: it’s hard and heavy like stone, but much, much tougher, and we can shape it to incredible degrees through this magical process we call smithing.
“The most spiritual metal objects were once weapons, holding the power of life and death, and where faith could give you an edge in battle. These days they’re treated with a healthy scepticism among those who generally try to avoid warfare, plus the fact that now the best weapons are mass produced, reducing the magic of the craftsman and the weapon’s uniqueness.
“This is why I make jewellery. Things like wedding rings, engagement rings, signet rings and other special, commemorative gifts, strike me as the greatest modern vessels for the spirituality we once assigned to stone. A wedding ring might sit on someone’s finger for sixty years, taking tiny marks from everything they do and absorbing their personality. I like to think that in centuries to come we will be able to place a wedding ring into a machine that will analyse all the molecules and use that to extrapolate every aspect of the wearer’s life, a bit like the fairly cake in the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. While I don’t necessarily believe the ghost of the wearer is held in the metal, I think there is definite value in embracing the sentimentality, which is why I love my job so much.”
Richard Chown, July 2016