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L’ÉCOLE – The Art of Gold

L’ÉCOLE Asia Pacific is delighted to now invite the public to discover some of the fascinating goldsmithing techniques with its third exhibition, “The Art of Gold, 3000 Years of Chinese Treasures”. The exhibition will feature masterpieces from the Mengdiexuan Collection, showcasing 3000 years of Chinese gold craftsmanship, were kindly loaned to L’ÉCOLE Asia Pacific by Hong Kong-based collectors Betty Lo and Kenneth Chu and will be L’ÉCOLE’s inaugural exhibition dedicated to savoir-faire (craftsmanship).

You will discover and understand the rich history and craftsmanship of ancient Chinese goldsmithing techniques with a selection of 55 extraordinary gold jewelry pieces and ornaments, including precious necklaces, earrings, hairpins, bracelets, brooches and belt plaques.

You will be taken on a journey across central China, the Steppes, the Mongolian and the Himalayan regions from the Shang to the Qing Dynasties.

4 Goldsmithing Techniques and Exhibit Highlights 

I. Hammering and Chasing (16th century BCE – present) 

Hammering is to beat or to pound the precious metal with a hammer and chasing is the displacement of metal by use of a chasing tool, usually of bronze or iron. In the process, metal is distorted to form patterns without removal, unlike engraving. By combining the two techniques on both sides of the metal respectively, three dimensional reliefs can be created to embellish an object.

II. Casting (11th century BCE – present)

Casting refers to heated liquid gold poured into a premade mold and then allowed to cool and solidify. Cavities or shrinkage are often observed on the surface of these objects due to contraction in the course of cooling. These irregular marks offer an important criterion through which the craftsmanship is examined. 

III. Gold Wire and Filigree (12th century BCE – present) 

Filigree refers to gold wires weld onto the object surface or pinched into different forms and welded together, usually with twisted wires and small grains. Ancient goldsmiths in Eurasia worked with gold wires for a long time, which were initially produced by directly hammering. The advantage of this technique lies in its ability to work any part of the object into wires.

IV. Granulation (7th century BCE – present)

Granulation usually refers to small precious metal grains attached to an object’s surface with solder. Granulation is a process of fashioning metal into granules, which are used to decorate an object. The technique leverages the surface tension of liquid gold to achieve a perfect round shape, with methods such as splashing and shrinking. The small metal grains are then attached onto the surface of an object using direct welding or alloy welding rods. 

Here is some of our favourite pieces in the exhibition 

 

1. Hairpin with figures design (Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644)

Exhibit 23 – According to the collector, the practice of having figures design on an ornament was heavily inspired by the romantic folklores in the dramas of Yuan Dynasty (Zaju 雜劇), and this hairpin depicts the scene of four generals being rallied to join Li Yuan, the hero who founded the Tang Dynasty (618-906) (四馬投唐).  

2. Gold hairpin with auspicious animal design (14th to 16th century)

Exhibit 47 – This hairpin features mythical bird-beast motifs hammered and chased from gold sheets. The filigreed head shows a four-clawed dragon issuing from a tubular socket and chasing a flaming pearl among cloud scrolls accented with two red gemstones.   

3. Gold comb top with gem, glass and shell inlay (7th to 8th century)

Exhibit 49 – The half-moon shaped comb top features a similar design of mandarin ducks and floral motifs executed in the same manner, and may have been worn in combination with a headdress, assessing from similar gold ornaments recovered from Tang dynasty tomb of Princess Li Chui. 

Exhibition presented by L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts supported by Van Cleef & Arpels. 

Address: 510A, 5F, K11 MUSEA, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong  

Dates of the exhibition: March 26 to August 29, 2021  

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 1 – 7pm

 

Free admission Exhibition with free guided tours in English, Cantonese or Mandarin according to specific time slots. Register now: https://www.lecolevancleefarpels.com/hk/en/the-art-of-gold

Due to the current COVID-19 headcount restriction of the School premises, online pre-registration for tours will be required. Details can be found on the L’ÉCOLE website www.lecolevancleefarpels.com/hk 

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