Metal, throughout history and cultures, has been an integral part of both ornamentation and utility. Shimmering metallic tones may call to mind the beauty of an ancient coin or a priceless piece of jewelry but do you ever ponder to think about the historical relevance of these same shades?
These same hues are akin to the exact same shades of green, browns, reds and blues that humans have rested their eyes upon for thousands of years. You could claim that our development as a society is closely related to the continued improvement of metalworking skills gained and used over time. This renders metalworking more than a strictly utilitarian skill, it’s also an art form in a sense. We believe this art form as fundamental to the human experience as tempera paints are to the Renaissance movement.
The Human-Metal Partnership
Somewhere, in the British Museum, there’s a stack of bones, lying rather uninspiring sprawled across a pile of fake gravel. The Skeletons of War Deadexhibit, shows two people, or rather their remains, as they lie curled together in a rather harmless position, except for their story is anything but harmless. They’re actually the skeletons of one of the oldest wars ever fought. They date back to 11,000 BC in Egypt and they’re some of the oldest evidence of war. While these particular weapons were made by crafty, sharpened stone spears and not metal, they marked the beginning of the age old struggle between individuals, families, tribes, territories, states, and countries.
As civilizations progressed so did the need for better weaponry. Thus begins the incorporation of metal into the human existence. Though it’s always been a piece of warfare, whether it was swords or spearheads, bullets or the barrel of a tank, it’s also opened other doors for our species in countless areas of progress, including the formation of art.
The Best Time Capsule
Since metal is so resilient, it’s served as one of the best storytelling elements for historians and archaeologists alike. In Troy, they found utensils to eat with and metal tools that were used by ancient Greeks. They even found evidence of the beginnings of viewing metal as a way to beautify items. When researchers started excavating ancient Egyptian pieces, they found gorgeous decorative gold and bronze pieces, as well as other weaponry and ornaments.
After The Ancient Period
Although jewels, face masks and weapons were the extent of metal art in ancient times, that changed as time progressed. While the medieval period opened up metal filigree work on armor breastplates and other ornaments, it also opened up options for beautiful gates, interior design furniture and decor and so much more. Notably, locksmiths and other metal workers rose in social status because of their skill with metal working and their work on imposing cathedral ornamentation. The French began incorporating metal work in carved metal hinges, clocks, furniture with gold bases and bronze that still mark the era with beauty and elegance.
It’s true that metal art has influenced cultures and history since the dawn of modern civilization, and it’s also true that we’re still reaping those benefits today.
Check out our beautiful, modern metal art made with 18-gauge American cold-rolled steel now.