Well-known member
Another one I thought I'd posted in Sculpture.

The Snowcap, aka White-crowned Hummingbird, is a rare species from Surinam. The males are the only hummers that have a pure white crown (as usual, the females look completely different). I had photos of a study skin for reference and was surprised at how big and stout their toes are compared to the tiny feet of a ruby-throat.

The eyes are black jade. The bill (beak) is inserted mammoth ivory, for most of its length it's .030" wide, widening to .040" at the base and tapering to .020" at the tip. The toes are inserted boxwood with steel claws. The tree is two-part epoxy putty over a wire armature, gilded. The opal which the bird seems to be guarding is crystal opal from the Lightning Ridge field in Australia. The water droplets at the base are moonstones. I cut the opal myself; the eyes and droplets are commercial cabochons. The base is snakewood, an extremely hard wood which, like the bird, is from Surinam. It is very prone to checking and I had to glue the sections together, which shows from one view, but what the hell.

The gold accents on the throat and wings are shell gold--23KT gold powder in gum arabic. This was used in some Medieval illuminated manuscripts and ain't cheap. I added a drop of acrylic dispersion to toughen it up. The bits of soil and stuff between the tree trunk and it's base are painted acrylic modeling paste.

We named him Schweppes, after Commander Whitehead, who used to shill for Schweppes Bitter Lemon and Tonic Water in TV commercials.

He's 2 3/8" from crown to tip of the tail.

Schweppes, 2004
Shell gold
Mammoth ivory
Black nephrite
Epoxy putty
23.75KT rosenoble gold leaf
Lightning Ridge opal
Acrylic modeling paste
Around 7" high






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You are really put big effort and mind into it. well done. beautiful work.
Beautiful work. That's so much detail on such a small subject. I like the gold on the feathers, to show a touch of irridescence.
Holy amazing jebuz! This is outstanding! You know how to knock it out of the universe musket. This is so beautiful, it's made for royalty! ♥️ ⚡ ♥️ ⚡ 🎇
Thanks for the props!

Actually, that was sorta the idea.

I did the hummingbirds with a target audience in mind--well-heeled guys (you know, investment bankers, high powered attorneys, rock and pop stars and other big bucks types who are more or less today's royalty) looking for a unique gift for the wife, girlfriend or mistress--or the other way around. Or just rich women--powerful men would probably prefer a raptor.

Not that my motives were purely mercenary, I do like hummingbirds, but lots of people do realistic hummingbirds with realistic "habitat." So, keep the realistic birds, but ditch the realistic habitat--after all, the birds are often called flying jewels, so why not combine them with real jewels? It worked. Every piece sold for very good money, in New York of course (and yeah, one went to a hedge fund manager).

Had I been able to continue, I probably would have started using actual metals instead of gilded wood or epoxy putty. And fancier stones, black opal, emerald, aquamarine, high grade lapis lazuli and chrysoprase and so on. Anything to add the kind of perceived value that impresses these types. My ultimate goal was to have these pieces on display in the window of Tiffany's for ten times the dough, because there ain't a much better place for perceived value than that window. This would also have meant learning new stuff far as metals go, and would have kept my lapidary chops in shape.

Alas, the best laid plans...
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This is just lovely !

Thank you for sharing all the details too ! I had not heard of 'shell gold'
and didn't know it was used in some of the beautiful mediaeval illuminations.

Thanks Patricia and ams.

I first learned about gold powder in one of my fave books, Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting, by Daniel V. Thompson. Great book for any materials freak. The manufacture of powdered gold is difficult, since gold is damn near infinitely malleable (gold leaf is only 1/3,000,000" thick-- a hundred times thinner than a human hair), and tends to stick to itself.

Its use wasn't limited to manuscripts; it was also used in egg tempera painting and listed as a pigment by Cennino Cennini, whose book Il libro dell'arte, written around the turn of the 15th Century, was translated by Thompson as The Craftsman's Handbook. Later, I read The Practice of Tempera Painting, also by Thompson, and learned that gold powder was usually sold in a mussel shell back then, hence the term shell gold. It definitely looks better than so-called gold metallic paints.

I bought my shell gold from Kremer Pigments (where else?) in the late 90s. At this time, 0.4 gram costs $49--it's 23.75KT, the equivalent of rosenoble leaf, not 23KT as I thought.

I love arcane stuff like this. I truly do.
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