Drawer 27: Vaseline Beads

“Things Rare and Strange”

 

 

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

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

Week 27/Drawer 27: July 5, 2017: “Things Rare and Strange”

 When I found these opaque aqua beads in a section of Drawer 27, I gasped at their beauty, mostly due to the intensity of their color. As I fondled them, I realized there were subtle differences in their aqua shades; I also observed they were so old that their faceted surfaces had become smooth! They are trade beads, after all. These discoveries made this strand mysterious—what secrets were they sheltering?

Since the secrets are unknowable, let me address “What the heck are Vaseline Beads?”

Beads have been made in Bohemia (Czechoslovakia) since the Romans occupied it in 400 AD. Until 1400, they mostly made rosary beads.  In the 1500’s, a major expansion in bead-making began, attracting Spanish, Italian and English traders.  In 1800, the Industrial Revolution invented machines that produced pressed glass beads in great volume, different designs, and at lower prices.

One of those innovations was fluorescent Vaseline glassware and beads. The fluorescence was created by the adding uranium salts to the glass.  They kept lowering the amount of uranium to the 1-2% that worked.  It actually shone in the dark!  Today, with electric lights, a black light is needed to see the fluorescence.

Vaseline beads had their heyday from 1900 to 1920 and continued to be made until artisans lost their ability to buy uranium when governments became universal procurers in the 1940’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Typical Vaseline beads are transparent in color and usually yellowish green.  The short strand third from left look to me like they may be shine-in-the-dark variety! 

 

They were so named because their color resembled the petroleum jelly sold in the 1900’s under the Vaseline label.  Doesn’t that sound so mundane for beads made from uranium?

My opaque aqua beads are called Vaseline Beads, but they are a variation: during the Depression, iron oxide (a glass-ceramic) was added to the formula to create opacity.

Today’s collections of Depression glass, milk glass, Fire King tableware, etc. all have roots in Bohemia, uranium, and iron oxide!

Before closing, let me name the other beads I used in this necklace: aqua serpentine which is a cousin of jade; Czech glass “spades” drops; round matte glass which looks like ceramic due to iron oxide.  Also I was quite pleased to find an aqua glass circle in my “creative clasp stash” and made a sterling silver toggle for it.

The necklace is 20”. $115.

Drawer 26: Recycled Glass Beads from Indonesia

“Adventure of Sea and Sky”

 

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

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

Week 26/Drawer 26: June 28, 2017: “Adventure of Sea and Sky”

I remember the first time I saw recycled beads: probably at the giant quarterly San Mateo Gem Show (still ongoing) in the late 90’s, and my eyes popped at recycled Coke bottles—remember that shade of green?—made in Indonesia.  Due to my policy of never hesitating at the odd or the beautiful, I bought them.  In those days, they were made in Indonesia, now Ghana seems to produce a lot of recycled beads.  Pictured below are some of that original stash:  pretty unsophisticated as quality beads go, but screaming Coke bottles!  I also have some of the early blue ones made from old-style TV screens.  Both colors are relics now.

My journal notes as I string Drawer 26’s necklace. Also three of my Coke bottle recycled beads from my collection. Too bad they stopped making those green bottles!

I favor the long rectangular bars, 2” x .5”, since they are the most contemporary and I found a photo of a necklace I made around 2000 and allowed myself to be inspired by it. Most recycled glass is transparent although there are opaque dark blues and browns in my collection.  Here I have paired the transparent glacier color bars with diamond shaped beads featuring a smooth glassy top and rough etched edges.  The Indonesian recycled beads are handmade, easy to verify since no two are quite alike.

Instead of dark compliments as in my earlier version, I found a strand of grey freshwater pearls with subtle blue and green iridescence and made my decision. I used two different seed beads with similar iridescence (the colors are silver AB* and Japanese glass triangles with aqua outside and shimmering gold inside) and wove them through and around the diamond cut recycled glass as I did 17 years ago.

This necklace is 21” long with earrings to coordinate. $99 for the set.

*I learned something I wanted to pass on: AB is Aurora Borealis, a finish invented by the famous Swarovski company, and, in my world, they always connote crystals with an iridescent surface.

Cate Blanchett Elevates Turquoise to an Oscar Win!

Cate Blanchett Elevates Turquoise to an Oscar Win!

Cate Blanchett Elevates Turquoise to an Oscar Win!

 

No news can ever be too old in my bead world. So here is my take on the Oscar 2015 jewelry. Just one take, really: Cate Blanchett!
She wore a stunning choker-length bib made by Tiffany (who knew they were into beaded jewelry?) featuring turquoise, aquamarine, and diamonds. Perhaps they were attached to a net backing since I saw no stringing materials.
I noticed her early on the Red Carpet (didn’t you miss Joan Rivers?) and my first thought was that she was wearing a multi-strand of various-sized turquoise beads. Being ever so smarmy, I thought “way too casual”. Fortunately, she hung around for many shots and I caught the sparkle of the diamonds. How original! How daring! Thank you, Cate, for putting beads in the spotlight!
Other watchables were Scarlett Johansson’s teal bib going from her neck to her décolletage; Viola Davis in pearls and diamonds; and Margot Robbie wearing an incredible vintage sapphire and diamond piece.
I plan to let the turquoise and pearls inspire me as I make my Spring, er, March return to my studio.
You’ll see them here and at Open Studios, July 11-12 and August 22-23.
On the personal side, I chose to sit this winter out. Lucky choice, it turned out, to have selected this year for my knee replacement. I am snug as a bug staring out at the massive snow banks instead of walking and driving in them. Lots of physical therapy and connections with friends near and far has made it work for me. I am progressing well and actually venture out into the whiteness on March 9. Let life re-commence!
Studio life returns on March 2. After a general tidying-up, I am going to do a few winter-white-cold weather-snowdrifts visible out the window-type necklaces in rock crystal, pearls, moonstone. Thanks, Robin! I was complaining to her about the cold snowy views getting in the way of happy beading when she suggested I just let them inspire me!

 

Tiffany Necklace Blanchett 2015