“1,000 Rings” Book Review

59Rings are the great markers of time, celebrating poignant moments in our lives: love and marriage; rites of passage, such as graduations, bar mitzvahs and retirement; bonds of friendship. We dress our digits in high style, embellishing our most expressive and dynamic body part, the hands, for the whole world to see. A stunning ring is often the first thing someone notices about us. It’s not surprising the ring stars in the superb coffee-table-style book “1,000 Rings, Inspiring Ornaments for the Hand,” edited by Marthe Le Van.

“1,000 Rings” displays 1,000 rings in lavish photos accompanied by descriptive text.  Artists share personal stories of their creative process throughout the book. While some rings are awe-inspiring, others’ fun and funky, all are exceptional works of art created by the best contemporary jewelers, vividly representing the artists’ relationship to their craft. Showcasing compelling rings from traditional to extremely avant-garde, “1,000 Rings” showcases jewelry of mind boggling visual and textural contrast that employs a myriad of diverse materials and fabrication methods: precious metals; base metals; precious metal clay, porcelain, Brazilian rosewood, pumice, brush bristles, feathers, Tagua nut, shells, plastic, sand and even meteorites. Classic precious and semi-precious gems, such as diamonds and pearls, are also represented. Big, bold, colorful, gutsy, strange and sublime, here are 1,000 rings that make a powerful and dramatic statement. Artist Michael Zobel comments, “Through the connection of precious metals, stones and unconventional materials, I create unique objects, which make the extraordinary wearable.”

Artist Reina Mia Brill gives us, “Giddy Up,” a double ring of such surprising exuberance and joy that it gleefully jumps off the page with life. Brightly-colored, coated copper wire is hand knit into this playful animated piece. “Cosmic Connection,” by Joe Reyes Apodaca, is a luscious 14-karat gold sculpture featuring Australian opal, diamond brilliant and meteorite. Tamara Clark’s “Starry Galaxy” features a sterling silver platform dotted with 18-karat gold balls and a sparkling star sapphire, all hand-forged and hammered into an astronomer’s dream. Functional jewelry or outrageous art, Ellen Cheeks’ “Back to Basics” is a wide silver and gold finger-cuff with a 9B drawing pencil attached – handy for jotting down notes!

For pet lovers, or perhaps for those who would like something furry that doesn’t require feeding or walking, Heather White’s “Circle Ring – Pet” features a white puff of fur set into a gold and sterling silver ring. “Dog’s Faith” by Becky van den Brink is a sculpture of a dog wearing a leash and collar sitting obediently on a finger. One of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces is Seo Yoon Choi’s “Desire” fashioned in sterling silver and stainless steel, encircled by a glorious arc of soft, white feathers. Jaclyn Davidson’s “Zebra Ring” is a gorgeous 18-karat gold and black enamel zebra head; its neck gracefully curled into a ring. Lee Carper’s “Vortex Ring” is stunning in 14-karat yellow gold with Tahitian pearls. Ungluing Woo’s, “Something Sweet,” is a die-formed chunk of gleaming silver etched and fabricated to look like a delicious chocolate — presented in a sterling chocolate box inset with a 18-karat gold chocolate cup.

Impressive in its brilliant concept and attractive presentation, “1,000 Rings” opens with a thoughtful introduction by Robert W. Ebendorf, the Carol Brotnes Belk Distinguished Professor in the Department of Art at East Carolina University. Professor Ebendorf juried this incredible ring collection and his passionate appreciation of art is palpable. Unlike many over-sized coffee-table books, “1,000 Rings” is a relatively small, soft-covered tablet, only 8-inches-square and 1-1/2-inches thick. Its dull, matte-black cover comes alive with a photo of Patty L. Cokus’ “Articulated Frusta: Ring #1,” an exquisite, brushed-gold creation reminiscent of a soft ice cream cone with a swirl on top. A hard cover would have been a nice finishing touch for this book, giving it a longer browsing life and a weightier feel; nevertheless, “1,000 Rings” deserves a special place in your fine art library.

Firmly anchored in the philosophy that jewelry is art, “1,000 Rings” celebrates rings as the most important piece of wearable art. Rings are, after all, miniature sculptures, compact platforms on which ring-makers display their art. Ultimately, this book is a grand celebration of creativity. It would make a wonderful gift for any ring enthusiast, jewelry lover, jewelry designer and anyone who collects books about contemporary art.

All Rights Reserved Copyright 2008 Susan Dorling
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