For more than 70 years, blacksmith Philip Simmons was one of Charleston, South Carolina’s most prolific and skilled ironworkers. In a city famed for its wrought-iron gates and fences, he came to be the most celebrated Charleston ironworker of the 20th century.
Simmons grew up on the Sea Islands, speaking the Gullah language and learning to fish and farm, but he spent the school years in Charleston, where he became fascinated by the ironwork he saw on his way to school. In art class he’d sketch the designs, and by age 13 he was apprenticing with local blacksmith Peter Simmons (no relation, despite their shared surname). Over the rest of his nine decades, he created more than 500 iconic pieces, some of which are now in the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of American History, and other collections through the country.
This sterling silver heart and key design is adapted from Simmon’s double heart gate that stands at the Menotti Street entrance to the Philip Simmons garden at St. John’s Reformed Episcopal Church. Simmons designed all the wrought iron work at the garden, which was built when he was 85. His cousin and nephew provided the fabrication in the workshop that Philip had inherited from his mentor Peter some 50 years earlier.
Handcrafted in Charleston, South Carolina. Sterling silver. Pendant: 2"L x 3/4"W; 17 1/4–20 1/2"L adjustable necklace with spring ring clasp.