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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I would have loved to do a Thursday Book Club on Queen Min, the last queen of Korea, but it’s very hard to find information about her in English. She’s a hotter topic in South Korea, where there have been books, a TV show and even a musical. Unfortunately, my fascination with Korea has not inspired me to learn the language because I’m lazy. What? I’m not ashamed. I’m here, I’m lazy, get used to it.

Poor Queen Min was only in her 40s when she was murdered by Japanese assassins in 1895. Her body was burnt afterwards, and that’s the happy version of the story. According to other accounts, she was burnt alive. The Hugh le Despenser-level goriness of Min’s death is not what fascinates me. It’s her elusive image. Even though she lived in the age of photography, no one is 100% sure what she looked like. There are some photos and drawings that are tentatively identified as her, but there is still reasonable doubt, as we Law & Order people like to say.

This painting of Min was done after her death

The mystery of Min is what inspired my Queen Min Ring. The elegant crane is carved into one side of the lemon quartz. Depending on which way you turn the ring, the crane’s reflection appears or disappears in the other side of the stone.

Queen Min Ring © Wendy Brandes 2007-2008
Photo by John Muggenborg

To give the ring a Korean feeling, I designed a setting that looks like a pagoda. This shot gives a clear view of that at the top of the ring.

Queen Min Ring © Wendy Brandes 2007-2008
Photo by John Muggenborg

The brown lines at the bottom that give the impression that the crane is standing among reeds are part of the natural coloration of the quartz. Whoever buys this ring gets something unique, because part of the design was done by Mother Nature, and she’s usually not too cooperative about re-ordering.

The yellowish color of the lemon quartz (as well as the long, skinny shape it was cut into) reminded me of an Asian scroll painting, which is why it seemed especially well-suited to my Queen Min concept. However, I will use a variety of stones and carvings in future Queen Min rings.

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32 Responses to “Queen Min the Mysterious”

  1. Miss Janey says:

    That ring is beautiful! Miss J loves cranes, & MUST begin to save some $ for one of Miss WendyB’s divine rings.

  2. enc says:

    Ah, rutilated quartz is it? This is the cleverest piece I’ve seen yet, for so many reasons. You always do a fantastic job of taking the theme all the way without making it OTT. I love the carving. I’m wondering how you got that done? Of course, I know magicians don’t reveal their secrets.

  3. hebden says:

    Gorgeous! I love intaglio…I have a Victorian gentleman’s signet ring but yours is so much more ladylike and sumptuous.

  4. WendyB says:

    Miss Janey, better get a new piggy bank.
    ENC, I would tell you but then I’d have to send Japanese assassins to kill you.
    Hebden, thank you! This ring actually isn’t a classic intaglio, with the carving done on the top surface of the stone. The carving is done on a bottom facet and is seen through the uncarved table facet. Just because I like to be different.

  5. Live Fabulously says:

    love that ring! reminds me of an image from japanese playing cards. i’m ashamed to say that i know nothing about korean history…and, yes, i’m korean, 🙁

  6. Becky says:

    Dear God, that is beautiful. I’m swooning while I type this – I hit my head on my tea mug. I really love the stories behind your pieces and I am all for ladies that inspire musical theatre and sumptuous jewellery. Your stuff is so inspiring!


  7. Jen (MahaloFashion) says:

    Burned alive? fucking terrible.

    Have you read about Shanda Sharer? it will make you cry.

    lovely jewlery as always;)

  8. Kori says:

    I think this is my favorite piece of yours yet! I am fiercely coveting it. That’s something to be truly cherished by some lucky girl. And if only that lucky girl were me…Sigh…

    I love the way there are stories behind your jewelry.

  9. Ashe Mischief says:

    I was completely entranced by the story of Min, and wish that you had lovely books to share with us about her! 🙁

    However, I am amazingly glad that you shared your ring inspired by her; it truly is probably one of the most stunning and unique pieces I’ve ever seen and certainly my favorite of your collection (that I’ve seen).

    Color me tongue tied.

  10. the iron chic says:

    I’m going to start being more mysterious!

    *the word verification spells obopoo

  11. Princess Poochie says:

    Gah!!! Gorgeous.

    I covet in the true seven deadly sins way.


  12. Melissa & Emmitt says:

    Hi Wendy!
    Your work is exceptional!

  13. Megan says:

    That is absolutely gorgeous! you are genius at your work and I find it hard to believe that a lazy person knows so much history and can design like you do but if that is lazy, sign me up!

  14. Nadine says:

    Oh what beautiful rings!

  15. riz says:

    The reflection effect is brilliant…

  16. Moira says:

    Wendy –

    You’ve outdone yourself. Brilliant and beautiful tribute to Queen Min. I’m sending this post to the producers to see if we can get the movie rolling!

  17. jaimehwkns says:

    you make the most lovely jewelry. i especially love the pagoda-like setting of the ring above! if i was rich i’d own all of your pieces. whilst i’m imagining, i’d also go to the oscars, and have you do my jewelry! and when ryan seacrest asked me where my lovely ring was from i’d say “WendyB!!!”

  18. Lynn says:

    You’re such a genius! Have I mentioned that enough? This one is just out of the world!

  19. CDP says:

    Beautiful ring. Thanks for the introduction to Queen Min and to English Chosun.

  20. WendyB says:

    To everyone who left a sweet comment: Kamsahamnida.

  21. Chic and Charming says:

    so, so fab! that stone is amazing and I love the way you set it.

  22. editor says:

    omgd this ring is so gorgeous it’s ridiculous.

  23. pistols at dawn says:

    Quit making me like the design of jewelry by makin’ history all purty. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.

  24. Blue Floppy Hat says:

    Take one standing ovation, Wendy!

    Seriously, that is one cool ring. It’s just so…amazing. Not too overtly traditional (that’d make it look costumey), though it’s no surprise since you have a fab way of making these things look fresh.
    I hope this comment gets posted, since I sat and gawped at the ring’s coolness for a bit before starting to type- hope the word verification doesn’t expire..

  25. In Yr Fshn says:

    This is awesome and the post was incredibly tasteful and you did an overall amazing job! Love it…

  26. Lady Smaggle says:

    Holy crap. I can’t believe you just lemon quartzed me. You bitch. That ring is so beautiful I think I am going to cry…

  27. Fashion Tidbits says:

    i def love that queen min ring! if i ever get a job in the future, i will buy that ring!!! argh!

  28. iesther says:

    As a Korean myself, I am so happy to see that part of its history has inspired such a beautiful peace of art- because the ring is and art. The intricate design astounds me. If you have any questions about Queen Min-better known in Korea as Myung Sung Wang Hoo- lj me =]

    It’s the 1st time I am leaving a comment, but I wanted you to know just how beautiful I think your works are. Now if only I can afford them =p

  29. WendyB says:

    Thank you so much, iesther. I am always interested in hearing more about Queen Min (and I suppose you can understand why I didn’t want to go with the full name!)

  30. expatprincess says:

    Stumbled onto your blog after researching Queen Min who was mentioned in the Anchee Min novel, The Last Empress. LOVE THE RING. I can only imagine what you could do with a nice big tourmaline…

  31. WendyB says:

    Expat, sorry I didn’t have more solid information for you. There’s practically nothing in English about her.

  32. Aficiando says:

    That is a truly beautiful ring.
    The design is absolutely brilliant and unique.

    As a Korean myself, I always wanted to find more books on the last Empress of Korea, Queen Min, but no luck here.

    To expatprincess… just as a friendly FYI, the Queen Min in Anchee’s book is a queen in Chinese history. She is unrelated to the Queen Min in the last dynasty of Korea.