A Silver Lining: Radu Ion

Words: Jack Mahoney
Images: Matei Plesa

January 31 2016

In the quiet suburbs of Romania’s sprawling capital, inside an ordinary turn of the century home, a workman sits at his workbench. The sun is fading outside, and his half drunk tea has grown cold from neglect. His eyes watch closely as his hands and tools turn white-hot coils of frenzied metal. There’s an old lamp at the edge of the table, and small drops of silver flicker and shine like moon lit ripples on a darkened pond.

Radu Ion, known as Nevers, is a silversmith, and has been all his life. He learned the craft from his father, whose tools he remembers playing with at the age of eight or nine — twisting scraps of metal into rudimentary forms. He made his first ring at thirteen, his father anxiously watching as his young hands engraved the arched inner face. In effect, he was carving out his future. Together, they casted the anvil that Radu still uses today. He twists a loop of glowing silver around its horn and taps it with a hammer. “We crafted it together when I was fourteen,” he says. “It has great sentimental value for me.”

The anvil forms the core of his creative life, the results of which shimmer on his workbench. “I get great satisfaction from seeing the objects in my head come to life,” he says. Others certainly appreciate it — Radu sells to local and international markets, and recently collaborated with Austrian designer Nadja Zerunian on a series of bronze and silver jewelry. They were put in touch by Meșteshukar ButiQ, a Romanian foundation that supports traditional Roma craftsmen like Radu. Meșteshukar ButiQ coordinates the distribution and supply of materials, and sells a silver bracelet under Radu’s name. It’s one of the many shapes Radu draws from his argentate clay. He remembers days spent working in his studio until two in the morning, sculpting the curves that danced in his mind. “Turning your ideas into what you imagined,” he says, “that’s true satisfaction.”

This piece originally appeared at Freude von Freunden. Special thanks to Effie Efthymiadi.