by Jay and JD Haasbroek

I know for sure it was last year some time, but that’s about all I am prepared to admit to any sense of time or space in these times.

As was usual back then Verna Jooste was visiting round the kitchen table with me, and Jay was busy with stones in her adjacent cutting studio and joining the conversation every so often, with a stone in her hand. Verna, a teaching jeweller and artist, is always interested in the stone in the hand. She comes from a family of diamond cutters, Jooste Diamond Works, Doornfontein, her grandfather Samuel being the first Afrikaans sightholder. It was when Jay popped in holding a beautiful piece of Amazonite that Verna’s eyes lit up.

“What is that?” she exasperated in her way.  “Amazonite,” Jay answered. And then it all spurt forth.

Verna, along with a handful of other jewellers and University jewellery lecturers were invited to exhibit at the Munich Jewellery Week under the auspices of the Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen. She had been pondering the theme for her exhibit, and was leaning towards Climate Crisis and the Amazon forest. It was as if Jay had given her a sign to go ahead, and soon there was more of Jay’s handiwork on the table and part of the design.

Verna was quickly designing and producing her works with the theme of Amazon - Buy One Set One Free!, in her words, “an attempt to reference commercialism, consumerism and the manner in which the Amazon is being exploited at the moment.” She continues in the original blurb for her show: “The reference to two Amazons are to the on-line shopping platform, as well as to the geographical Amazon. The ‘real’ Amazon is being, in her opinion, held captive by capitalism, deforestation, diamond mining, the meat trade and corrupt politics.”

I remember how she nervously spent money, hoping that with the footfall at a European event with Euros in pocket and Climate Crisis hot on everybody’s lips, she could at least sell one piece to break close to even on the tens of thousands of SA ront she had spent designing, creating and presenting the pieces.

Little did she know after submitting her work that they wuld not even make the trip to Germany, and there would be a more immediate watchword on our lips called COVID-19, and that the Climate Crisis and the Munich Jewellery Week would have to take a back seat for now.

Verna would never get to show her jewellery in Munich, nor would the stones that Jay cut for Verna make it to Germany. But in the spirit of sharing in the time of Corona here are some pictures of Verna’s pieces and Jay’s cutting with some commentary from Verna and Jay:

“ Breathe - Save the Amazon” - Silver, Gold-plating and Rubies (10cm x 12cm)

Little did Verna know that some of her Amazon-inspired designs may pass as social-distancing jewellery performing the function of a mask. Well sort of?

“Does the Amazonite Cloud have a Silver Lining?” - Hollow construction silver ring, Amazonite, Chrysoprase and Star Brown Moonstone. (14cm x 6.5cm x 4cm)

Each of the rings that make up the whole have a word stamped on them – “TREES, ARE, LIFE”. The high cabochon brown moonstone represents pollution and our current world - our sphere. The ‘trees’ are the three chrysoprase tongue shapes, [cut by Lorna Quinton decades ago from rough Jay bought from Margaret at a Saturday Open Day], forming the forest through which the pollution must pass before becoming the Amazonite carved cloud - clear air, clean water and life.

“Clouds” lying in wait in the workshop

Jay has been carving and polishing these clouds from various blue and green stones, as an exercise in forming heart shapes (to practise shaping towards the centre of the stone). She originally wanted to set them in silver to create a silver lining, but wasn’t sure on pairing them as earrings and had a vague idea for a mobile. Once Verna had been inspired by the clouds Jay was proud to set them free of her workshop, after months of loving work, to become part of a bigger project.

“Arm-adillo” - Repurposed Metal Rasp, Gold Leaf, Silver, Black Star Sapphires and Diamonds (10.5cm x 8cm)

Another one of Vernie’s prescient designs that never made the final cut as they were only after the masks. An armadillo (pangolin) bracelet made from a rasp, set with (we think cats eye sillimanite). Get it? Bats, Pangolin, COVID-19…

“Metrosexual Mr Moche” - Silver, Sulphur, Green Variegated Jasper (17cm x 8cm)/ Aventurine Quartz

The Moche tribe were considered the protectors of the Amazon. The modern-day Brazilian man is a descendant of the Moche warriors. The reference to metro-sexuality references that the protection of the Amazon is no longer the concern of only its men, whilst the ‘rancher’ moustache hints at the dealings by the descendants of the Moche in the meat trade.

From Jay’s workshop.

Jay found this chunk (of local stone, any ideas?) that seems to cut like aventurine quartz, the challenge was cutting a single slice of 8cm at 3mm thickness in order to compensate for the weight of the stone and to give it some translucency.

“Ek het die Oerwoud Leaf” - Bloodstone, Silver and Gold Plating (15.5cm x 10.5cm)

Bloodstone (used both for its colour and its name) is carved into a leaf shape. That shape is then repeated, mimicking a forest. Those trees standing upright are golden, whilst those lying on their side around a deforested area are blackened with sulphur.

From Jay’s Workshop

Verna asked Jay to carve a leaf shape into the bloodstone.