A Bit of History
Wire jewellery has been made since the beginning of history!
Creating wire jewellery is an ancient craft.
Beautiful gold wire designs have been discovered in ancient burial chambers dating as far back as 1700BC. It is believed that these ancient craftsmen made wire by chiseling thin strips from sheet metal. These strips were then either twisted around cylindrical mandrels or rolled between two flat rocks, to smooth them,
for use in jewellery and decorative ornamentation.
The beginnings of Wire Jewellery as we know it today, began in England in 1903, thanks to a businessman called Mr Oxley, who ran a family run business called ‘C.G.Oxley & Co.’ located in the Baker Street Buildings, in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. Following the end of the First World War, Mr Oxley introduced solderless, wire-wrapped jewellery, creating wearable art using glass beads and plain wire wrapped designs. His family run firm, employed between 20-30 World War One veterans, who had been introduced to wirework as a form of occupational therapy. Apparently, you could walk into Mr Oxley’s store and watch the artists at work at their benches. By the end of the 1920’s and ’30’s it became so popular, that pieces found their way around the country into other department stores.
Sadly, as the generation of wire artists grew older and died, no new ones stepped in or were trained and Oxley’s store – which had been taken over by Jim Llewellin in 1950, following Oxley’s death – closed it’s doors forever in the mid-1980’s and wire art virtually disappeared from mainstream popularity in the U.K.
Jim and his wife Mavis Llewellyn emigrated to Canada, bringing wire wrapping with them, which flourished into a new wearable art in Canada, spreading into America, with contemporary artist jewellers combining gemstones, beads and found artefacts into their designs.
Whilst wire wrapping and weaving is very popular in America, there are few in the UK who are attempting to continue to develop the skill. It is a growing band though!
(Reproduced from a blog by Linda Jones)