Deciding how to set the touchstone was a major design decision. In ‘As You Like It’ Touchstone is most comfortable in Court, the Forest of Arden is his unusual setting. But how was I to show that in jewellery?
I wanted to ‘set’ a touchstone in my piece and it was important to set it in a way that reflected the character of Touchstone in the play. Whilst other characters change in the play, Touchstone never fully embraces life in the Forest of Arden and I therefore decided to retain the stone’s original functionality.
So I created a precious metal testing kit: A silver box pendant with a swivel hinge opening that holds a fragment of a real touchstone, which can be removed and used with the Touchflower pendant to test precious metals.
Many of the fools I looked at in past productions of the play wore the traditional ‘motley’ patchwork of a Court Fool. This ‘harlequin’ patchwork inspired the diamond shape of the box. The fretwork pattern common to both pieces was inspired by the embroidery on the costume worn by Touchstone in the RSC’s 2000 production. The fretwork lines around the edge of the front and back of the box were inspired by the marks made on real touchstones during testing.
The Touchflower was inspired by historical images of decorative touch needles, its shape being reminiscent of a flower that appears in an Elizabethan tapestry depicting a forest scene. The tapestry was inspiration for the RSC production that I researched for this piece. Each petal of the flower acts as a touch needle for a known alloy: 925 sterling silver, 9ct, 14ct, 18ct and 22ct gold.
As a set, the Touchflower represents the Forest of Arden and the box pendant represents Touchstone trapped in his Court persona. He is able to step outside his ‘box’ on occasion to enjoy the freedom of the Forest, but he always returns to the comfort of what he knows.
The quote that appears on the back of the box – “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (Act V, sc i) – is to me both a good illustration of Touchstone’s character in the play and a great reflection of the actual role a touchstone plays in the identification of counterfeit or sub-standard precious metals.
Please note: Although I have taken inspiration from its productions and costumes, the Royal Shakespeare Company has not endorsed my jewellery collection or had any direct involvement in this project. I would like to thank the RSC for granting me permission to use images obtained during research as part of this blog.