Goldsmith Nancy Troske is a local Princeton artisan who uses ancient techniques in jewelry-making and “re-interprets them for the modern world.” Her painstaking process brings her joy as she endeavors to create stunning pieces destined to become family heirlooms for today’s audience.
Troske adopts many of the labor-intensive methods used in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt when creating her exquisite line of jewelry. Evidence of Greek goldsmithing dates to the first millennium. Troske points out that the methods she uses today, such as granulation, filigree work, and cloisonné enameling, are highly specialized arts. They have disappeared, and then reappeared many times over the centuries. Today, these prized techniques are experiencing a strong resurgence amid a renewed appreciation for handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces.
“I love the continuity with an art form that could have been lost,” Troske said.
Her meticulous work takes shape in the form of hand-woven gold and silver chains, granulated and wire designs, and one-of-a-kind rings with hand-rolled bands and unique rich stones. She also creates clay impressions of Roman coins to use in her unique bracelets, rings, and earrings.
With drawings in her sketchbook serving as a “road map” for her designs, Troske begins her work by melting down pure gold and creating a custom alloy with high gold content – typically between 18 and 24 karats.
Her rolling mill is used in the first step in the process. Depending on the project, she may flatten the gold into sheets to be decorated with thin wire designs, which is known as filigree. Or, she may create and then fuse tiny gold balls with her torch, which is known as granulation. Long gold strands also are formed on the mill. The strands are thinned out, and the wires are stretched through holes in separate draw plates until they reach the exact gauge for which Troske strives. Wires then can be cut into granulation or twisted into filigree and soldered onto the gold sheet for a permanent design.
It often takes dozens of granulations to make a single piece of jewelry, Troske said. Each grain is set into place on the gold sheet using a paint brush, either to create a linear design or to fill in a geometric shape. The piece is then heated in a small kiln to fuse the granulations into place. “I keep working in stages until it’s done,” she says.
Troske’s beautiful chains are created by meticulously cutting and shaping the gold wires into hundreds of small loops. She then pinches and weaves the elliptical links into a braid. The process could take weeks or months to complete, depending on the intricacy of the weave and the length of the design.
After earning a fine arts degree, Troske studied ancient jewelry making under Fredricka Kulicke and Joseph English in the 1970s in New York City. Kulicke was an apprentice to her father, Robert, who was an accomplished Manhattan-based painter. He taught his artist friends to translate their paintings into small cloisonné enamel jewels.
Robert Kulicke had opened a New York studio to teach this ancient craft in 1964, and later opened, with Jean Stark, the Kulicke-Stark Academy of Jewelry Art in New York. The original school has changed owners several times, and is now called the Jewelry Arts Institute. Nearly 25 years ago, Fredricka Kulicke branched out on her own to start The Fredricka Kulicke School of Jewelry Art, located in Parsippany, New Jersey. Nancy Troske has served as an instructor there for many years, and continues to teach locally at The Paul Robeson Center.
During the summer of 2016, the Museum Store was privileged to film Nancy in her studio plying her craft. We invite you to view these wonderful windows into her working process to see how beautifully the jewelry is made.
|Making Jewelry with Ancient Coins
|Ancient Techniques: Chainmaking
|Ancient Techniques: Granulation
Nancy said she loves the fact that she can walk into museums such as Princeton’s or the Met and see ancient jewelry which her pieces resemble. “It’s a nice sense of bringing the past into the present and, hopefully, into the future,” she said.
The Princeton University Art Museum Store has presented Nancy’s work since 2013, to enthusiastic visitor response. We continue to showcase pieces from her ancient Roman coin collection, as well as her beautiful one-of-a-kind 22k gold rings and necklaces with precious and semi-precious stones.