I recently obtained some lovely vintage earrings to repurpose from a small antique shop here in Virginia. The tag was marked “Shakudo” and, of course, I had to look that up! I found the history of these pieces fascinating.
Shakudo is an ancient Japanese technique of inlaying gold, silver, and copper into a darkened copper base. It was quite popular in Kyoto, Japan in the 1600-1800’s and was primarily used to decorate sword handles.
Introduced to the Western civilization during the mid 19th century, Shakudo was originally thought to be unknown outside of Asia. However, modern researchers have suggested that similar techniques were used in Ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt.
Eventually the technique was used in jewelry making - usually depicting temples, fans, landscapes, flowers, or Mount Fuji. By the end of WWI, more than half of the Shakudo jewelry produced in Japan was exported by UK and American tourists.