Wire Jewelry Troughout The Ages(continued)When the Roman Empire rose in power and the Greek influence waned, so did the popularity of wire jewelry. The production of wire jewelry declined over a number of centuries, only resurfacing in the 8th century in France with the production of gold and silver wire. As the production of gold and silver wire was mastered by increasing numbers of artisans, wire production was commercialized and by the beginning of the 13th century was beginning to be traded to England. Wire jewelry of this era, and indeed most jewelry, featured crucifixes and other religious symbols.
Beginning in about 1837 and lasting almost 45 years, cameos (look under cameo carving) on wire necklaces became very popular. Many of the pieces made during this period are family heirlooms and still in existence today. Cameos on wire necklaces mark the resurgence of the wire jewelry in the Western world.
Modern Wire Wrapped JewelryOur current form of wire jewelry – jewelry made without solder or casting – is attributed to a man named C.G. Oxley. He began a jewelry making business in 1903. A large part of the impetus for this business was to provide a type of occupational therapy for and to employ a number of veterans returning from World War I. He provided employment for between 20 and 30 men, and in the process popularized his wire jewelry style. There was sufficient demand for wire jewelry that wire jewelry was found in many department stores, often with the wire artist sitting behind the counter creating as the public watched.
Today, wire jewelry artists can be found in their tents at fairs, festivals and art shows, creating new jewelry pieces and selling their wearable art. Wire jewelry today can still be found in silver and sometimes in solid gold. More often, the wire choices include Argentium silver, a new alloy that is tarnish resistant, 14k gold filled wire and even the new silver filled wire which keeps the cost reasonable. And most recently, wire jewelry created in brass and copper wire has become popular. Cameos still appear in wire wrapped jewelry, as well as the newer dichroic glass, natural gemstone cabochons and faceted gemstones, shells, coins and many other beautiful and intriguing materials.
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