More on Circles & Spheres: Synchronicity & Snow Globes

Synchronicity is a fascinating phenomenon. It can be thrilling; it is certainly thought-provoking. On a micro level, perhaps two designers decide upon the same unusual color combination or design detail, two authors get the same general idea for the subject of a book, or two people in conversation say the same thing at the same time. The experience might be that of “two great minds with a single thought,” an inexplicable coincidence. On a macro level, sometimes it seems there is a delightful more general synchronicity in the Universe. At this moment, the sphere, one of the core design elements found in the physical Universe, seems to be having its day in the sun.

The day after I posted here in my blog an item entitled “Global Appeal-3D Spheres in Jewelry Designs,” reviewing and commenting on the resurgence of the sphere as a design element, the New York Times published an article by Natalie Angier, the Pulitzer-prize winning science columnist, entitled “The Circular Logic of the Universe.” In the article, which can be viewed online, Angier discusses how a 1926 painting by Vasily Kandinsky she recently viewed in an exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, gave her pause to consider spheres in the natural world. Angier describes the painting, entitled “Several Circles” as follows:

Those “several” circles, I saw, were more like three dozen, and every one of them seemed to be rising from the canvas, buoyed by the shrewdly exuberant juxtapositioning of their different colors, sizes and apparent translucencies. I learned that, at around the time Kandinsky painted the work, in 1926, he had begun collecting scientific encyclopedias and journals; and as I stared at the canvas, a big, stupid smile plastered on my face, I thought of yeast cells budding, or a haloed blue sun and its candied satellite crew, or life itself escaping the careless primordial stew.

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Illustration: Vasily Kandinsky, “Several Circles,” 1926. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Angier writes that she learned of Kandinsky’s love affair with the circle, which he considered “a single tension that carries countless tensions within it.” She continues:

I’d like to honor Kandinsky through his favorite geometry, by celebrating the circle and giving a cheer for the sphere. Life as we know it must be lived in the round, and the natural world abounds in circular objects at every scale we can scan. Let a heavenly body get big enough for gravity to weigh in, and you will have yourself a ball.

Quite aside from the fun puns, Angier causes one to think about spheres not only as a design element but as a natural phenomenon. She discusses spheres found in nature, including eyeballs, breasts, raindrops and stars. Her article is a delightful read.

Speaking of stars, an additional jewelry collection incorporating half-spheres merits a mention. Each of the rings in the new Stars of Africa collection by Royal Asscher features diamonds that “dance, float and fall freely” within a fluid-filled sapphire crystal dome, “like snowflakes within a snow globe.” The collection was created in part to raise funds for the company’s Star of Africa charity to help build infrastructure in Sierra Leone through education and self-sufficiency programs. Sierra Leone is the source of the famous Star of Africa diamond, which was cut by the Asscher family in 1908.

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Illustration: One example of a ring from the Stars of Africa ring collection by Royal Asscher.

Snow globes are wonderfully appealing, an enchanting reminder of the beauty of the season. Our round eyes are attracted to round things, Angier writes. Perhaps the circle reminds of a face; perhaps it beckons “as a mark of human art.” She continues:

Artists in turn have used the circle as shorthand for the divine: in mandalas, rose windows, the lotus pad of the Buddha, the halos of Christian saints. For Kandinsky, said Tracey Bashkoff, who curated the Guggenheim exhibition, the circle was part of a “cosmic language” and a link to a grander, more spiritual plane.

It is intriguing to contemplate that the circles and spheres used in jewelry design relate to a cosmic language, the Universe, the divine.