SILVERSMITH’S CRAFT IN LEFKARA
“Argyros”, the known
silver, is a white, soft metal that –among other things
–has the property of not rusting. It is included in
the precious metals.
In ancient Cyprus, apart from the
copper mines, there also were gold, silver and other
mines. Strabo also mentions mines of copper and silver
in Cyprus, drawing this information from Eratosthenis:
he writes that from of the thick forests of Cyprus they
would cut timber both for building ships and for melting
copper and silver. Cyprus is described as a country
with mines of silver and copper.
It is probable that both gold and silver were discovered
in Cyprus a little after Copper was discovered (3000-2500
B.C.). We must however assume that the scarce quantities
of silver were not enough to cover the local needs.
Nevertheless, since ancient times silver was used in
Cyprus for the making of a number of items –as it is
made evident by many archaeological findings.
silversmith’s craft: The making of silver items
in Cyprus can be proven –at least –since 2000 B.C. For
Example, pins and clasps have been found in tombs dated
in 1500-1200 B.C. A marvelous silver cup, decorated
with gold and “niello” (a mixture of lead, sulfur, and
other metals), was discovered in Egkomi and it is considered
an excellent specimen of the silversmith’s craft.
The craft of silver-plating was widely
used in Cyprus during the Christian years, many icons
then being covered with silver leafs while at the same
time this metal was also widely used in the making of
ecclesiastical vessels (chalices, oil-lamps, etc.),
in the making of crosses, in the construction of decorated
covers for gospels, etc.
the craft of the silversmith & the goldsmith in
Cyprus combines the long tradition with the modern trends
and conceptions. Specimens of this modern art are presented
in well-established, annual exhibitions.
At the same time, the Cypriot folkloric craftsman –
silversmith still exists in Cyprus. Unfortunately, today
only one such craftsman –silversmith works in Kato
Lefkara, working silver in the traditional
way of the hammer (forging) and manufacturing the traditional
Cypriot, ceremonial items –such as the censer, the holy-water
sprinkler, and several other folkloric art items.
It is probable that the silversmith’s
craft first appeared in the region of Kato Lefkara in
the beginning of the 18th century. The above conclusion
is reached due to the testimony of the history researcher
Aristeidis N. Koudounaris and based on the dating of
the collection of old silver-items that he has (buckles,
bracelets, ear-rings, and crosses that he purchased
from the known Jewish goldsmith of Larnaca, Leon Algazy,
items which came from the region of Lefkara). Indeed,
as the same person stresses, the silverware items were
coated with enamel.
The craft of laying enamel, which
also goes back deep into ancient times, seems to have
also been known to the inhabitants and the silversmiths
of Lefkara. Besides, from the entries in the «CODEX»
of the church of “Stavros” one reaches the conclusion
that silver ecclesiastical vessels such as oil-lamps
were made in Lefkara in the middle of the 18th century
(1742). Moreover, they brought over a craftsman from
Rodos along with his apprentices and constructed the
icon-screen as it now appears -chiseled –as well as
the throne of the priest, the High Altar, and a silver
oil-lamp with the expenses paid by the church.
So it seems that the craftsman
from Rodos was not only a «wood-carver» but also a silversmith.
Indeed, it is not entirely impossible that some apprentices
from Lefkara studied under him and were initiated in
his craft. From the description of Basil Grigorovich
Barsky, a Russian monk, who visited Cyprus and the region
of Lefkara in 1734, we receive the information that
the Holy Cross of the church in Pano Lefkara was –as
the time –made of silver.