In the perception of many people, today Japan is primarily the country of the samurai, the tea ceremony and the art of arrangement of flowers – ikebana. And this is normal – these traditions are part of the exotic country of the rising sun – as we know it from the novels and movies. The Japanese civilization, however, is also famous for an ancient handicraft, which with its precision and inventiveness arouse noble envy and admiration – the jewelry.
The Japanese jewelry technique Mokume Gane is established between the 16th and 18th century. This is the time in which the samurai sword, except as a key weapon in the battle, began to be perceived as a sort of feature of the social status and class of its bearer. The quality and beauty of the decorations on the handle and scabbard of the sword turned into an indicator of the social status and wealth of the samurai.
The fact is that today, centuries later, the mastery in the manufacture of these swords is literally breathtaking. Not surprisingly, for the connoisseurs of old weapons and for the collectors, among the most preferred gifts is exactly the samurai sword.
The practice has developed many different techniques for decoration. One of them is the traditional technique Mokume Gane (moku – wood, me – eye, gane – metal). Its progenitor was Denbei Shoami from the prefecture Akita, a master of swords from the 17th century. He created metal sheets with various combinations of gold, silver or copper alloys, which merge into unique colors, patterns resembling natural wood.
Gradually the original technique finds application in other crafts – in the beginning for manufacturing of household utensils, and later in the jewelry. Due to the complexity, however, this technique has never been widespread. In the first half of the 19th century Mokume Gane is almost unknown in the west and quite forgotten in Japan.
Today Mokume Gane is used for the making of some of the most beautiful jewelry.
Besides that it requires mastership, it takes a long time for production, for it are required discipline and patience. But they are worthwhile as the result in brilliance and sophistication is really unmatched.