museums&MORE Spring 2011
Artist Spotlight: Sergio Lub

The Art of Copper
Artist remains mindful of timeless traditions, creates modern-day alchemy

While some may be drawn to silver and gold, Sergio Lub had other ideas for his jewelry designs when he began his trade more than 40 years ago. After experimenting with everything from steel to titanium, he realized that he truly loved working with copper.

“As a young artist I worked with every metal I could put my hands on, even lead and mercury before I knew any better,” Lub said. “Gold is beautiful, but I soon found that having it around made me distrustful and paranoid. Silver is elegant, but feels cold and vain. The warmth and malleability of the red metal is unique.

“Being so close to copper, I believe it makes me more compassionate and generous,” he continued. “Therefore I feel happier, since happiness is proportional to our capacity to care for others.”

Lub has traveled through every continent learning his craft. From the Andes to the Himalayas, he met master craftsmen who taught him ancient metal working techniques and their deep beliefs of wearing metals for health and vitality. As a result, an important part of the Sergio Lub Jewelry mission is to preserve these traditions by incorporating them into designs.

These designs are presently sold in several hundred craft galleries, gift shops and museum stores as not just a fashion accessory, but also as an accessory to physical wellbeing.

After studying fine arts and architecture in Buenos Aires in the 1960s and ’70s, Lub realized he loved to see the world. In an effort to travel light, he kept shrinking his designs. When he was just 19, his gyroscopic pendants had novel articulations for which he was granted an International Patent. Being the youngest inventor in Argentina, the U.S. Consulate sought him out, gave him a special visa and invited him to move to the North.

“This coincided with me falling in love with a Pan Am hostess that lived in Sausalito, Calif., so I came to visit in 1976 and decided to stay, becoming an American a few years later,” Lub said. “In California I formally studied jewelry at the California College of the Arts and Business at the JFK University. I also met (and continue to meet) with master craftsmen whenever I go, over 100 countries by now, where we often communicate – not much by words, but by making jewelry together.”

While visiting a master Tibetan jeweler near Katmandu, Nepal, Sergio noticed an intricate bracelet with a double silver spiral being worn by his old teacher. The master noticed Sergio’s interest and shared how to make it, along with its meaning.

“‘During deep meditation, if I feel lost while exploring, I just follow the cord back to myself,’ he said through our interpreter,” Lub said. “In that old Tibetan design the double spiral represents the umbilical cord connecting body and soul. Those seeking deeper levels of awareness have traditionally worn it.”

In 1999, Lub took some of these designs back to the Himalayas where he had the honor of working for a week with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala, India. At the farewell encounter, Lub gave the Dalai Lama one of his Tibetan-inspired designs. An elder rinpoche that witnessed the offering approached Lub to ask how he had learned a technique that they thought was lost and asked him to show this technique to their jewelers. Lub readily agreed, and passed along the technique to two talented young Tibetan jewelers before leaving.

“As I explained the design and its purpose to identify those pursuing higher awareness,” Lub said, “I myself became conscious of how intimately interconnected we all are and how each of us, through our everyday actions, can help preserve this peaceful culture.”

While he does have a line of light gold and silver rings, for the last half of his 42-year career Lub has worked primarily with pure copper and two of its alloys for added colors: jeweler’s brass and German silver, which are respectively 85 percent and 65 percent copper.

All of Lub’s designs are handcrafted the old fashioned way, starting from solid metal wires. They use no plating, no casting and no machine stamping – all industrial techniques that save time, but that Lub feels compromise quality.

“The final result of a handmade versus a machine-made bracelet may look alike without a microscope,” Lub said, “but it feels much different.”

A stamping machine applies many tons of pressure on a piece of copper to stamp a desired shape, intimately deforming the microscopic crystal lattice of the metal to make it rigid and more rock-like. Lub said a craftsperson making the same pattern by hand will gradually work the copper to its final shape, taking the time to heat the metal repeatedly so the vibrating molecules can realign themselves and relieve the stress produced by the changes made.

“This carefully executed process of heat treating metals to relax their crystal structure so they can maintain their malleability is called annealing,” Lub explained. “Our wires harden as we braid and shape them, and some complex patterns are annealed several times in order to have a finished bracelet that is easily adjustable and fits comfortably with optimum metal-skin contact.”

Lub said that since he started in 1969, science has discovered that copper is an essential mineral that gets absorbed through the skin, and that it’s needed to have healthy articulations and a large list of vital functions – including mental health, since copper deficiency is suspected to give us the blues.

“Curious enough,” Lub said, “a prescription to use copper for inflammation is found in the earliest known medical text, the Ebers Papyrus from Egypt, a health tip believed to date back to 3400 B.C.”

Retailers who have the most success with his products are those who adjust bracelets onto the wrists of their potential customers, telling Lub they sell at least one bracelet for every three they adjust.

“We have a video on our website showing how to do it right,” Lub added. “This is because most people do not know how to try on a cuff bracelet, and therefore believe erroneously that they are not for them. Trying a bracelet on changes their question from, ‘Will it fit me?’ to ‘Which one looks best on me?'”

Lub realizes his is a very old craft, so rarely is something really new.

“Part of the pleasure of my craft is in using all the advances in metallurgy and techniques to make available intricate designs that until recently were only affordable by kings,” Lubs said. “And while we do this modern day alchemy, our challenge is to remain mindful of all the timeless traditions received from our teachers, honoring their beliefs of wearing metals for health and wellbeing.”

By Abby Heugel
Managing Editor

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