Unlocking silver’s magic with bold new designs

Fortunate Moyo — part-time ­bartender, part-time musician and ­full-time jewellery apprentice at Keith White Designs in Johannesburg — does “a lot of creative work”.

His first job at White’s unassuming workshop was to work on a plain wedding band.

“Everyone starts with that,” White says. Moyo adds: “As simple as it is now, it was quite complicated. You need to develop that jeweller’s eye for detail.”  

White launched his Black & White master apprenticeship programme in January 2010, hoping to contribute to a legacy of more than just precious stones and metal. Moyo, now 21, joined him in April that year and in another two to three years he will be eligible to take his trade test.

As part of his portfolio, Moyo is required to keep a written record of his designs, including his technical drawings.

On the sketches of his plans for a sterling silver dustbin locket is a little note to himself: “Dynamite comes in small packages.”

Every element of the locket has been crafted by Moyo’s own hands  — from melting the silver granules to create the sheet that was turned into the bin’s cylinder and lid, to the grooves ground into the sides of the bin and the lid and the gold-plated dome that sits inside the bin set with silver blocks and citrines and sapphires.

“My theme came from the saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’,” Moyo says. “An artist can find beauty in things people take for granted.”

Moyo says White is a perfectionist and that every detail on the bin, including the handles and lid, had to be perfect.

White’s other apprentices — William Ngomane, Sandra Ndhlovu, Maki Maphisa and Mpho Helepi — have also created beautifully detailed lockets and rings (all made in silver), which will be on show at Tinsel in Parkhurst, Johannesburg,  until the end of the year.

Ndhlovu has made a satchel referencing the 1976 Soweto uprisings; Ngomane has a playful love letter (with moveable type inside; you have to find the words) and a tiny fish tank with a bobbing shark; Maphisa has a gold spider set with rubies hiding inside a locket encrusted with flowers; and Helepi made a ring with metal petals that close in on the central stone. Many of the pieces’ most difficult parts — tiny springs and latches — are hidden from sight, as they should be.

The Black & White student jewellery exhibition is open at Tinsel, 25 Fourth Avenue, Parkhurst, Johannesburg. Visit tinsel.co.za and keithwhite.co.za.

Nechama Brodie
Nechama Brodie works from Johannesburg . journalist. writer of books & singer of songs. black belt. feminist. PhD candidate looking at data, media, & violence. inaction is a weapon of mass destruction Nechama Brodie has over 11598 followers on Twitter.
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