The common fork, that lovely utensil that makes feeding ourselves easy, has a surprisingly long but interesting history. Preceded by stick and skewer to cook over an open fire, early forks were believed to be used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Evidence points to early fork use for ritual services and cooking. Most forks at this time had two tines only. A brief historical look at the evolution of the fork may help provide us with an understanding of why fork jewelry is so appealing today.
It's thought that forks were used for eating in the Middle East since around the seventh century. Oddly enough, it apparently took another 5 centuries for the common fork to be widely used in 16th Century Italy. Forks are also thought to have been used in France, England and Germany during the 16th and 17th centuries by the wealthy who viewed fork use as a novelty fad.
It was not until the nineteenth century that forks were universally used in the West however. The forks we know today, the four tinned kind, began being regularly used for mealtime first in England and Germany before finding their place on tables in the US.
Early on in history, there's evidence that forks were elaborately decorated which likely speaks to the attraction for jewelry making as well as fork jewelry's popularity today. As commonplace, everyday items, utensils, like dinnerware, presented small spaces for readily applying intricate decoration. Indeed this fascination with fork decoration produced not only a large variety of unevenly cutlery, but a new generation of fork and spoon collectors as well.
It's not clear when making jewelry from forks entered the scene although in recent history, fork jewelry gained significant momentum in the 1970's. Likely inspired by the hippie generation and the surge of re-cycling sub-themes, original fork jewelry inclined to look, well, a lot like forks. That was OK though. The often tiny but delicate and intricate designs on the forks continued to fascinate when transformed into jewelry.
Fashion and jewelry trends change and so fork jewelry went out of fashion along with all the hippies. Now and in the past few years we've seen a re-surgence of 1970's fashion (again?) And along with that, the reappearance of jewelry made out of utensils. Although this jewelry is different now. How? It's significantly more sophisticated and in a lot of cases, hard to distinguish its eaterly origins.
I first noticed the reappearance of fork jewelry while walking art fairs a year or so ago. The jewelry lines were very distinct and unusual which is what originally drew my attention. It was only through direct and close up examination that I finally realized the jewelry was made from forks and spoons. Gorgeous stuff. This new utensil jewelry included stones which elevated this type of jewelry from its 1970's predecessor. Wow. Fork tines were sinuously wrapped around beautiful stones and forks were twisted into the most noble and appealing shapes.
Discovering all of this made me realize just exactly why utensils are so appealing to art jewelers: they're simple to turn into magnificent jewelry because the decoration and embellishment is already done. All one needs to do is either cut off sections of the handle for rings, etc. or bend the entire fork into a clear shape. Being able to seamlessly add wonderful stones only makes this better.
The beauty of a well-designed and embellished utensil can provide considerable creative inspiration as well. Add to all that the fact that one can enjoy shopping and hunting for vintage, unique and / or contemporary forks and well, the appeal just expends. Given the rising price of sterling today, the opportunity to hunt for and find sterling forks to make jewelry from is just plain delicious.
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Lisa Van Herik