Mica – The Iridescent Mineral

17 May 2017 Posted by Marion

Mica is among the most beautiful materials nature has provided. Neither a stone nor a resin, it belongs to an important class of rock-forming minerals; silicate. Mica’s unique iridescence, shine and translucent lustre have made it popular across a myriad of applications since antiquity. 

 A block of raw mica, also known as muscovite, before it is split into sheets and cut into shape. 
 Mica sheets in gold, black and other tones upon a lacquer tray in our workshop.

In powder form, its use can be traced back to pre-historic cave dwellings, Teotihuacan in Mexico City and ancient pottery by Native American Indians. Also found in a natural layered texture, mica can be delaminated into thin sheets and its opacity ranges from transparent to opaque. It is also called muscovite glass as it was a popular window material in Russia in the past. Today, mica can be found in makeup, car paint, electrical, wall-coverings and has a huge use as an insulating material to prevent fire. Furniture is a small, exclusive niche of mica’s use in today’s modern world as to work with mica requires skill and experience. 

Jean Michel Frank’s low table in oak and mica, circa 1930. Photo from Sotheby ecatalogue (left), Jean Michel Frank Lamp circa 1930 with mica covered base (Galerie L’Arc en Seine, photo).
A mica table in the forefront sits in this hugely important interior showcasing some of the treasures of the modernist Art Deco decorators – the gypsum cabinet in the corner was sold in 2014 in Sotheby’s. On top of it sits a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti and a gouache by Pablo Picasso. The walls are covered with straw marquetry and parchment and rock crystal are also visible. The interior was shown in Le Décor d’aujourd’hui in 1938. 

Some early twentieth century designers appreciated and worked with natural ‘humble’ materials lending them new applications as rich surfaces to furniture, lighting and accessories.

Alexandria Side Table in amber mica and polished bronze. 

We introduced mica as a new finish on our Alexandria Side Table design last year. Tones of pewter and amber were chosen to give beautiful options inlaid as irregular linear surfaces. 

Alexandria Side Table in pewter mica. 

At our Spring launch in Milan this year we introduced a dramatic new chandelier – the Sapucaí – using natural sheets of Mica carefully cut and suspended to animate and reflect the light being emitted. The chandelier was designed by our Brasilian friend Antonio de Motta. Iridescent, lustrous and reflective, the Sapucaí – available in black and gold mica – creates an extraordinary statement in drawing out the butterfly-wing quality of mica and also as a moving, filament-like sculpture that emits light. 

“All that glitters is not gold”… some things are even better!

The Sapucaí Chandelier in black mica and black powder-coat steel.
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