Ben Cohen Jewelry


Athena's Diadem

One of our Pratt assignments was to create a diadem based upon a myth or a story. In June 2016 I visited the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. At the top of the Acropolis stands a single olive tree that is a symbol of the goddess Athena. Seeing this lone tree on an otherwise rocky, barren mountain top impressed me and the story of how that tree grew there stayed with me. The legend of this tree is that Zeus proposed a contest between Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War, and Poseidon, God of the Sea, for patronage of the city. Poseidon raised up his trident, smashed it on the rocks of the Acropolis and out sprang a salt spring. Athena also struck her spear into a rock but instead produced an olive tree which could be used for nourishment, shelter and fuel. Zeus chose Athena as the winner and named the city after her, i.e. Athens.  Folklore says that an olive tree has remained in that same location ever since.

The olive tree is a central part of the lives of Athenians – athletes, generals and kings use the branches and leaves as crowns; olive wood is used to construct boats and homes; and the fruit is used for fuel, food and as an export industry.

In choosing to create my diadem I wanted to incorporate all of the features of an olive tree into a new crown for Athena. I cast real olive branches to form the main portion of the crown, and then created spear heads to represent leaves. In using spear heads I am reminding viewers that the olive tree grew from the strike of a spear. Athena is typically depicted with a helmet but I think that a crown from the olive tree and spearheads better suits this fearless and wise goddess.


Olive branches - Ancient Bronze

Olive leaves - Oxidized Bronze

Black Olives - Hematite, Oxidized Silver

Green Olives - Enameled Copper, Silver