Ghalamzani Engraving with Hammer & Chisel (Silverwork)
Silver is a precious metal discovered in about 600 BC. Apart from the historical precedence of Ghalamzani, most people do not know enough about this beautiful artistic endeavor. Ancient art in Persia has been a massive influence on the arts and culture of the region and it was during the Achaemenid Dynasty era that the first upsurge of Persian art occurred. Despite a lull in its popularity during the Parthian Era (c.250 BC), The Sassanaid Period saw an outstanding period of Persian Art.
The splendid art of engraving is the creation of designs by carving chisels on various kinds of metals. It seems that the history of engraving has not been too far from the time when man discovered and used the metals. The ancient samples kept in “Iran-Bastan” and other museums in the world register the engraving art as 3000 years old.
Engraving (Ghalamzani) is the art of carving superb designs on various metals such as copper, brass, silver and gold. Isfahan is the main center for engraving. These artists crafted a range of gold and silver dishes stunningly decorated with animals and scenes of hunting. Sasanian luxury art were produced from precious and semi-precious stones, silks and glass vessels. In Iran and Mesopotamia finely, crafted silver vessels were produced in large amounts. These were renowned Sasanian silverware.
Engraving Procedure and Methods
The silver would be hammered into shape and the decorative designs would be produced by using varying techniques. The artist has to use chisel and hammer to carve out every detail and make various scenes of people dancing and playing musical instruments. Due to the trading that took place via sea and land routes connections were made and production of these silver vessels took place in and became established in Central Asia.
The artistic movement of the engraver’s hand and the harmonized blows of the hammer and engraving tool will be finally led to creating a unique job. However, the decorations and embellishments are going to be performed on material which has already been shaped with hammer and anvil by another skillful artist. Metalworking masters are those who work with different sorts of metal sheets shaping them in to beautiful dishes, vases, boxes, samovars, and etc. and preparing them to be engraved. Nowadays, due to the hard job and old getting of the masters, the preparation of the metal dishes is sometimes getting performed by machinery.
After completion of the drawing of pattern by the artist, the back side of the work is covered by a layer of tar, baked with some other materials, then the main lines of design are traced by carving chisels and henceforth it takes time, even months, for the artist to give life to the whole design which once was just an imagination to him.
The intricate process of creating each and every piece requires extensive skill, talent, and patience extended by the artists. Numerous tools and materials, such as chisels, hand-made instruments, hammers, etc. are utilized by the artisans to emboss and engrave the most detailed and complex of designs on the various types of metals. Different scenes from nature, animal and human shapes, flower and plant patterns, hunting grounds, etc., are some of the many aesthetic images hand-portrayed and carved on many kinds of Ghalam Zani pieces. Application of heat, Waxes, dyes, sanding and polishing materials are some of the other processes used in creating these masterpieces. The enchanting Ghalam Zani handicrafts are made in the shape of decorative trays, plates, vases, pitchers, etc.
Many silver pieces were also decorated with the scenes of the ancient Persian state religion, Zoroastrianism. Many of these scenes detailed the Seasons, which appeared on many pouring vessels suggesting that they had a link to ceremonial meanings within the Zoroastrianism religion. In Iran and Mesopotamia finely, crafted silver vessels were produced in large amounts. These were renowned Sasanian silverware.
Ghalamzani is a combination of art, technique and industry. Today, even people who did not know much about silverworks until recently are buying silver objects to decorate their homes.
Resuming this art is due to the diligent attempts of the Late Ostad Mohammad Oraizi and the Late Ostad Mohammad Taghi Zufan during the past eighty years, which has been led to creating tens of outstanding and distinguished metal engravings on the one hand and training the new generation on the other. Fortunately, the youth are taking more interest in this old art. Today, many youngsters work with old masters of Ghalamzani to learn the secrets of this craft.