But somebody once did, didn't they? I really don't believe all the
arts were handed down from the muses.
Well, if you want to re-invent the wheel, it's possible. I can speak
from experience on this issue. Before I learned from someone who
knew what they were doing, I spent years trying to do bright cutting,
looking at books and examples. I never got a product that looked
like what I was trying to copy, and it was a struggle to do even what
I could. Why? Because there's always something that's not in the
books, or there's an explanation that you'll never understand until
it's demonstrated, or they assume you already know things like how to
properly sharpen a graver. Now, I never even tried to do classical
pave, until someone showed me how. I was surprised how great it
turned out, and that with only a single afternoon of instruction. I'm
certain I never would have figured it out by myself, because, looking
at it, you assume how it's done, but it's not done that way at all.
Want to know the secret? Go take the class with Blain Lewis.
Most techniques evolved from simpler, earlier methods. The oldest
examples I've seen of bright cutting were done in fine silver, a very
soft metal. Later they were done in platinum, also pretty soft.
Probably someone with some serious engraving skills finally tried it
in white gold. He would have known that the graver angles would need
to be different, and he would have had the strenght to carve a very
stubborn alloy. Recently, it's being done in stainless steel. With
the invention of carbide gravers and pneumaticly driven handpieces,
it's no longer such an exercise in masochism.
Finally, in regards to your statement about muses, I prefer the old
saw, "necessity is the mother of all invention". Somebody, for some
reason, had to invent a way to do bright cutting to begin with, but
they most likely had a lot of related skills like engraving and other
types of stone setting. Somebody built on that and did it in white
gold, probably because somebody wanted the look but didn't want to
spend the money on platinum. I've actually invented a couple of my
own setting techniques that I've not seen anywhere else. But I based
the ideas on things I already knew how to do like channel setting and
even drew from my background in blacksmithing.
David L. Huffman