Jewelry and adornments of all kinds have served as charms and protective gear for as long as humans have twisted a special plant around a wrist to ward off evil or worn metal plates to repel arrows. Religious medallions worn around the neck are meant to safeguard believers from harm. In many cultures newborn infants wear jewelry to keep them safe from witches and elves. Wearing a lock of hair taken from a deceased loved one is still a powerful memento mori. And soldiers and professional fighters have always worn body armor for protection and to intimidate opponents.
These are some of the ideas behind “Protective Ornament: Contemporary Amulets to Armor,” now on exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum. Curated by Suzanne Ramljak, Editor of Metalsmith magazine, the show was organized by the Metal Museum in Memphis. In Tacoma the show includes eighty pieces—it is somewhat smaller than it was in Memphis—made by metalsmiths from around the country. Some of the artists represented in the show are among the most distinguished metalsmiths working today.
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