Over many years of creating jewelry, I’ve had an unusual collaboration with a local artist unknown to me: C.C. Pflanz, of Utica, NY. In 1948, Mr. Pflanz engraved some steel plates which were likely used to decorate or emboss aluminum trays and tableware that was popular in the 1950’s. Each plate features a floral bouquet with blossoms, stems, leaves and decorative engravings. In the 1980’s, my teacher, Al Wardle, acquired these plates from Mr. Pflanz and allowed some of us to use them to ‘emboss’ sterling. This requires the silver be placed directly on a section of the plate, and ‘taped’ firmly in place. Then, a strip of soft aluminum is placed on top, which then absorbs the hammer blows necessary to emboss the silver without damaging the engraving. I often refer to these pieces as “die-struck”.
Back then, I created pieces in sterling and 14k gold: pins set with Carnelian and Peridot, and silver and gold earrings using sections of etched rose stems and petals. Other users typically used the many small flowers in the bouquets. Over time, the plates deteriorated from humidity and rust, or from carelessness during use. In 2008, Al let me access them again. After much effort to clean them, I created earrings using 14k gold-filled metal, but by this time my favorite spots had been damaged, so I used different areas that allowed for a clean impression. Those popular pieces sold out.
Recently, I “collaborated” with Mr. Pflanz once more, using the plates for several pieces, even combining different segments in designs. Some are oxidized with colorful liver of sulphur or Black Max, with others finished with 24k gold using the keum boo process. Each pair presents a mysterious and uniquely flattering appearance – and they’re perfect to wear day or night!