Friday, February 18, 2011

Time-Telling Jewelry - New takes on Ancient Timepieces

By on Friday, February 18, 2011 6 Comments

Sun and star dials were some of the earliest crude instruments used to tell time. The sun dial related to the position of the shadows cast during the day while star dials told time via the position of stars. Many different clock innovations have come along over the centuries.

Jewelry artisans really got into clock and watch making back in 16th century when the French pastor Jean (John) Calvin brought his Protestant reform movement to Geneva, Switzerland. Laws were brought in to enforce modest and moral behavior such as no dancing, no singing, no theater....and no personal ornamentation. The wily jewelers quickly switched to making beautiful gem encrusted clocks and watches which were not subject to the ban!

So perhaps it's fitting jewelry artisans now pay tribute to the original sun and star dials. The pewter sun and star dial ring pendants from ThinkGeek were inspired by the historical designs of the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs, Babylon, Egypt and the Celts.

Just think there are no batteries to change! But you do need a sunny day for the sun dial ring pendant. A tiny ray of sunshine through a small hole in the ring will illuminate a number on the inside of the ring indicating the time.

The Aquitaine sun dial design was named after Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of history's most famous queens (see my bejeweled mini-biography). She apparently gave a sun dial to her second husband, King Henry II of England so he would return from the hunt in time for their love trysts. The result? 8 children in 13 years! Her first husband (the King of France) thought it was her fault they only had 2 daughters.

The star dial pendant tells time at night, provided it's not clouded over. It's based on 15th century navigator star dials which depend on the North Star. The instructions state, “Set the middle wheel to the month, hold the dial upside down, and sight the North Star through the center hole. Move the top of the dial's arm to align with the uppermost stars of the Big Dipper, and read the time on the inner dial where the arm crosses the hour mark!“

It might take a while if somebody asked for the time!

Other ancient inspirations:

For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips

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  1. Those are very cool and I want to be clever enough to be able to make something like that! And I like the way you snuck a little history in with the story.
    Love your blog, Pearl,

  2. You noticed! Perhaps you will be inspired to make something really cool soon! Pearl

  3. I just wanted to thank you for all the time you take in preparing these posts. I look forward to receiving them every day! You do a great job and offer some great advice, articles, reviews and more! Thank you again!

    Vicki Koch
    (via email)

  4. I think I would need a tutorial on how to tell time with those pieces! But regardless, they certainly do look awesome!

  5. I really like the look of those. Would make for an unusual necklace. And only %35 for both. Not bad....

  6. Pearl, I truly enjoyed this post, very informative and the history very interesting (not to mention entertaining).
    The Sun and Star Dial pendants are very attractive pieces and I would definitely wear them as jewelry but doubt that I would be able to figure out the correct time with them, especially with the Star Dial as I always have trouble finding the North Star. Guess I won't be giving up my Seiko, quartz crystal wrist watch any time soon. ;)