Drawer 13: Beige

“Find the Edge”

My Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment there. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 13/Drawer 13: March 29, 2017: “Find the Edge”


I didn’t have to worry about beige being boring when I explored the Number 13 beige Drawer: the calcite reached out to me! It is a very textural stone:  faceted, sparkling yet soft and complex in its coloration (sounds like a fine wine, doesn’t it?) but there is something mysterious going on inside all those white markings.  I confess I knew nothing about this semi-precious stone, and was surprised to find it is related to chalk, limestone and marble!

The spacer beads are soft and rounded and called sunstone which gets its warm color from copper. This mineral is the official gemstone of the State of Oregon and is said to bring good luck as well as make you feel lively and enthusiastic.

The broach has some history with me: at a California outdoor Art Festival, I fell in love with its clean lines and the interesting wire wrap on the surface.  I enjoyed wearing it on my business suit throughout the Eighties.  Yes, we dressed for work in those days!  When I retired, I reinvented it as a centerpiece and it remained there until last week.  The crystal on top sure looked like calcite to me, so I selected it to make this necklace great.

This necklace is 21” long with a brass clasp. The broach is 2” x 2.5”.  Wear your gold earrings with it. $85.


Drawer 12: Carnelian

“legendary Heroes”

Week 12/Drawer 12: March 22, 2017: “Legendary Heroes”

I do love carnelian. It is a semi-precious stone that is found in all shades of brown, almost every one tinged with orange.  Now you know why I love it!

I probably say I love this or that bead in every blog. I suppose that’s why I’m still beading 23 years on!

Carnelian is a member of the Quartz family. It is considered the stone of creativity, individuality and courage.

This necklace started with the centerpiece, named a talhakimt. Over the years, I have purchased every interesting one I have seen and parcel them out into necklaces every few years.  They are always based on the triangle/circle design.  I have only one more truly interesting one left plus about 5 smaller ones that were originally men’s rings.  The design feels very graphic and crisp to me; contemporary rather than ethnic.

Talhakimts such as this one were carved of large banded agate in the nineteenth century in Idar-Oberstein, a famous stone cutting center in Germany, a location that means more to bead nuts than the less-obsessed. They were favored by the Tuareg people, pastoral nomads who controlled several Sahara trading routes, and are descendants of the true Berbers who predated the Romans in their settlements.  This rare talisman adorned Tuareg women’s hair.  I found it interesting to learn the Tuaregs are a matrilineal society.

It is always a design challenge to figure out how to attach the unusual centerpieces, which I love to collect, to my necklace. From the get-go I knew this necklace would be pure carnelian:  therein was the attachment answer.  I found a bag with some very old carnelian (see above photo) which was also small in size.  No two alike…all the better to see the varying colors of carnelian!  Also notice their patina (wear)…visualize them a century ago in a Tuareg’s bag in a camel caravan travelling across the Sahara to a trading bazaar at the next oasis!

It should be no surprise that beads were money in many sociieties, from the Tuaregs to American Indians who invented heishi [pronounced “he she”], which are the small brass spacers used in this necklace. Our forebears, however, used shell as their money.  Today heishi are any small round beads made by hand from natural materials.

The necklace itself is designed with highly polished carnelian nuggets separated by brass heishi.

This necklace is 23” long with a brass clasp. The talhakimt is 3”.  Wear with your gold earrings.  $99.


Drawer 11: Amber Glass



My Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment there. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 11/Drawer 11: March 15, 2017: “Dialogue ”

There are two drawers for Amber and only a small section is dedicated to amber-colored beads. I was immediately drawn to the glass “horn” and found some wonderful vintage beads and a section of chain with amber and pearl drops to create a very asymmetrical neckpiece.

The asymmetry of this creation will drive my structured friends crazy, but I had a lot of fun designing it. The large faceted bead is sort of the center point.  The off-balance side contains some fabulous vintage beads given to me 20 years ago by Topher Delaney, the top San Francisco landscape designer I was lucky enough to convince to create our Menlo Park, CA, garden (and come down to San Luis Obispo to set the design concept for the house we were building in a vineyard!).  I found the asymmetry to be incomplete until I added the recycled chain.  It hugs the top of the inside and importantly drops below the outside strand.

Topher’s beads are really vintage: the type our grandmothers were given by their mothers; the quality of the faceting reveals a craftsmanship of bygone days.  The chain held a surprise also:  green amber, a type of bead I have never worked with before.  The chain, which contains dangles of honey-colored and green amber and pearls, was also used for the earrings.

This is the third “horn” I have made over the past 23 years; one black one remains from my long-ago purchase from Olive Glass in Washington. I find it fascinating the way it hugs the neck and love the design challenge!  It is lampwork glass, made in front of a flame with a cane of colored glass in one hand and a steel rod in the other which manipulates the molten glass into the desired shape.  Such talented artists!  BTW, it’s a large glass piece; it will break if it falls on a hard surface.





I used Ada, my turn of the century mannequin, to make the elements fit and drape. The clasp is a purchase from my trip to CA four months ago; again, something new to me.  It is gold plated over base metal, bold, and in a classic “S” shape.



This necklace is 16” long. Earrings are included; the dangle is 2” long. $140.


Drawer 10: Amber

“The Beauty of the Baltic”

My Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment there. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 10/Drawer 10: March 8, 2017: “The Beauty of the Baltic” 

I had a chance to discover amber early in my bead artist career. In 1996 my husband and I cruised from London to the Baltic.  Most port stops were well known places in Germany, Russia and Scandinavia; but squeezed into the middle of them was Estonia.  The first person we met as we strolled ashore was selling amber beads:  I declined since I couldn’t tell if they were plastic or amber.  So we poked around Tallinn’s quaint square and wondered what will we do?  I saw the Amber Market and cajoled my husband into looking.  I learned a lot about amber and bought several interesting strands.

Over the years as I got deeper into bead acquisition, I met traders who were always exotic looking and as colorful as their beads. They sold large pieces of amber and showed me how buyers checked to be sure they weren’t imitations by sticking a heated needle point near the hole.  True amber will melt slowly and smell sooty; false amber, which is usually the opaque younger “copal”, will melt quickly and be fragrant.




Amber is fossilized tree sap well over one million years old. Wearers of amber love the air bubbles, water, and remnants of plants and insects that can be found within the bead!

A dangle, Left Photo, top left dangle,  in this week’s necklace clearly shows an air bubble. All 13 dangles are from a gift of broken or outdated jewelry given to me by my friend Tess whose parents moved from Lithuania during World War II.  I made good use of the cufflinks and charms!  Thanks Tess!


Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia make up the Baltic States which are full of beautiful people, rich cultures, and plentiful amber.

This necklace is 31” long. Besides the dangles with their [unknown] stories to tell, it features a very faux plastic clasp with a sterling silver toggle.  The necklace consists of very large chips of a deep variegated color from the Lithuanian Market.  It will look nice with your sterling silver earrings. $115.

Drawer 9: Brown


“Mistress of Spices”

 Week 9/Drawer 9: March 1, 2017: “Mistress of Spices” 

As I wrote last week, Drawers 8 & 9 are labeled Brown, but there is not a lot of traditional brown color; rather there is honey, root beer, caramel, brick and mahogany. Drawer 9 features some beads of the traditional brown color.


The longer strand is obsidian with a clever polka dot lampwork glass centerpiece made by a friend named Rich from Arroyo Grande, CA. The shorter looks like the same organic obsidian but it is man-made.




Polka dot centerpiece; note similarity between natural and man-made strands; three unpolished obsidian beads on bottom left.


Obsidian possesses the same texture of any of the semi-precious stones I love to use, but it is actually volcanic glass, always dark in appearance, and often imbued with iron which creates the brown/black mottling.  Its formation dates to the Neotholic Age; it is found in many places in the world, including a whole mountain of it at Mammoth Hot Springs (Yellowstone area); and was used for arrowheads by the Chumash Indians who hung around San Luis Obispo long before I did.

I had just a few unpolished matte chips which I added for visual attraction to the polished outside strand.

The man-made inside strand consists of Wonder Beads which are multiple layers of transparent lacquer over a basic acrylic bead, producing the mesmerizing effect of light floating through the surface of the bead. The title of this necklace only extends the mysterious elements.

It is 20.5” long and earrings are included. $75.