By Hank Gerba
If his measurements were not perfect, the piece would have to be scrapped. Carefully marking a sheet of copper, Jack Cooper ’14 finalized the design of the necklace he was working on.
Cooper spent last summer in a jewelry shop just outside of Rome, a job which satisfied his desire to work with his hands, he said.
Cooper’s family has always had deep ties to Europe. His mother was born in Holland, and for the past 14 summers, the family traveled there to visit friends and family. Because of the amount of time he has lived there Cooper is fluent in Dutch. This past summer, Cooper wanted to have a new experience.
“I told my parents that I wanted to spend the summer in Rome,” Cooper said.” “I wanted to make something. I remembered that when I was seven years old Diego told me that when I was older he would give me a job at his shop.”
Diego Percossi Papi, a family friend, owns a jewelry company called Percossi Papi and gladly took Cooper in as an employee.
Waking up every morning, Cooper had breakfast with his father before arriving at the bus stop. After a 45-minute bus ride out of Rome he arrived at his workplace, a small workshop with 12 desks, one for each worker.
Cooper mostly worked on necklaces and occasionally earrings. After cleaning and sanding a thin sheet of copper, he drew lines on it to make sure his measurements were perfect. He then traced designs given to him by Diego or Diego’s son. Finally, strips of copper were used to form the shapes from the design.
“It has to be perfect to a fraction of a millimeter,” Cooper said. “If anything is off, even by a little, it really shows.”
The strips were glued down to the baseplate. Stones or other ornaments were then glued in place. Finally the piece would be electroplated, covering the piece in gold or a variety of other metals.
“I usually left work around 2 p.m., which was early enough that I could still do all the sightseeing that I wanted to do. So, it worked out pretty well.”
Because he no longer has access to the equipment he worked with in Italy, Cooper has shifted his focus from metalwork to projects that he can accomplish at home.
“A friend of mine described a wood necklace that was in the shape of a mustache. It had broken, and I thought to myself ‘you know, I could make that with stuff I have at home,’” Cooper said.
After cutting the wood to the correct shape, sanding the edges to round them and coating the piece with lacquer, Cooper attached it to a necklace and gave to his friend.
For about a year Cooper has been making bracelets out of paracord, a lightweight nylon rope consisting of a sheath with seven inner yarns. Extremely durable and flexible, it is perfect for intricate weaving. He has learned several knots and bracelet patterns, some by memory.
“I really started using it on a whim. I had known it was out there and that it was a greatly versatile material,” Cooper said. “At some point I found a blog which gave instructions on making different types of knots, and from there I started applying them to bracelets and experimenting with combining them.”
In the coming summer, Copper might be working for a company in Holland which constructs yachts and other small ships.
“It would be a great way of pulling together the skills I’ve gained recently, and hopefully I can make it happen.”