- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

The silver globe tells the story of the U.S. Air Force.

Carried by the Air Force Band's drum major, the "mace" features four plates of silver, each depicting flying machines of their time: a B-52 bomber from World War II, an F-80 from the Korean War, an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane from the 1960s and a Stealth bomber from today.

The mace was made by Washington, Va., artist Edmund Kavanagh, as were all of the ceremonial staffs used by the U.S. military bands. Maces globes of sterling silver or 14-karat gold set atop wooden poles are often carried by royalty. They are also used by drum majors to lead military marching bands.

Mr. Kavanagh, a native of Dublin, bristles at giving a figure on how many hours he puts into his intricate designs.

"I can't say that a design takes 150 hours, because if it's been 150 hours, and the design is not finished to my liking, I continue," he said.

Each mace is individually designed and made to depict heroic scenes of battle and the history and insignias of the military branches that commission them.

Mr. Kavanagh has made a name for himself and his shop, Jewelry by Edmund, by creating maces for many facets of the U.S. military, including the U.S. Army Concert Band "Pershing's Own," stationed at Fort Myer.

In his 50-year career, he has made more than 130 for such groups as the 562nd Air Force Band in Port Hueneme, Calif.; the Continental Army Band in Fort Monroe, Va.; and the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps, headquartered in the District.

Mr. Kavanagh "is the man to go to for maces," said the Pershing's Own drum major, Sgt. Maj. Mitch Spray. "We've used two of his maces for the past 30 years."

Mr. Kavanagh's work also includes trophies, figurines for royalty and jewelry for tourists walking in off the street.

His proudest work is a golden bowl he made for President Dwight D. Eisenhower to celebrate the former president's 50th wedding anniversary. Eisenhower personally wrote to thank him.

"They presented it to him early, when he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack," Mr. Kavanagh said. "They weren't sure he would make it to his actual anniversary date."

Mr. Kavanagh is an expert in the lost art of repousse, a technique for decorating in three dimensions. With tiny chisels, he beats out elaborate designs, involving flowers, vines and other floral themes, from the inside of silver vases, bowls, maces, and goblets. After raising the design from the inside, he pours pitch, a sticky, tarlike substance, into the objects. Pitch is a mixture of beeswax, plaster and motor oil. It holds the thin sheets of silver steady so they are not damaged while he hammers out his designs from the outside.

These days, Mr. Kavanagh makes about two to three maces a year. They range in price, depending on the amount of work and detail. An average mace goes for $5,000 to $6,000.

"You're not buying something factory-made. You're buying a work of art," he said.

He also has designed a golden, jewel-encrusted dagger for King Saud of Saudi Arabia, a miniature palm tree figurine made of solid green gold for the Shah of Iran and a silver tea set for King Constantine of Greece.

He has made the amateur championship trophy for the Amateur Golf Association, the Prince Philip Challenge Cup for the annual Henley Royal Regatta race in England and other awards. Tiffany's commissioned him in the 1970s and 1980s to work on the National Football League's Vince Lombardi Trophy, including the inscriptions. The trophy is given annually to the Super Bowl winner.

After an apprenticeship in Dublin, Mr. Kavanagh moved to London. There, he befriended a Hungarian silversmith who had come to England seeking freedom.

That man, Anton Rubesch, now in Alexandria, worked alongside Mr. Kavanagh and helped him hone his talents.

While in England, Mr. Kavanagh had a growing desire to relocate to the United States. Another Hungarian friend referred him to David Webb, a New York jewelry-store owner who encouraged Mr. Kavanagh to fulfill that dream by sponsoring him for legal residency in 1967.

"I am deeply indebted to Mr. Webb," he said.

Mr. Kavanagh's wife, Bridie, is a model for his jewelry designs and a sales clerk in his shop. Not surprisingly, when he proposed to her, he gave her an engagement ring he made himself. They have been married for 44 years, and have two grown sons, Edmund II and Thighe.

Mr. Kavanagh has no plans to retire.

"Joe Public won't let me," he says. "But I love what I do."



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide