Drawer 45: Lapis Lazuli

“May There Always Be Something Left Over”

 

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s 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 45/Drawer 45: November 8, 2017: “May There Always Be Something Left Over”

The first time I ever heard the words Lapis Lazuli (lapis is Roman for stone; lazuli is Persian for blue) was when I was matriculating at Emmanuel College, Boston, looking forward to becoming a junior and wearing our class ring which is gold with a rectangle of lapis as its centerpiece, designed by Tiffany in 1920.

I was late to the lapis game. The inhabitants of NE Afghanistan knew it in the 7th millennium BC.  It was Egyptian King Tut’s funeral mask in 1323 BC.  The Western world didn’t catch on until lapis was imported to Europe in the Middle Ages where its powder was the choice of the great painters.  I’ll refer to my favorite:  Vermeer.  Check out the “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”  That blue paint is known as Ultramarine.  The color is still on every painter’s palette, but the ingredients have been synthetic since the early 1800’s.

Lapis is prized for its deep celestial blue color. It is a rock, not a crystal.  It is found in Afghani caves, not mines.  It sparkles with…gold?…no…with Fool’s Gold or pyrite.  There is an inferior form of lapis with white calcite streaks which I learned to avoid.  Just pay more for the gold flecks.

This week’s necklace has flecks in every piece of the larger beads. The smaller beads, which I had to add to keep the weight down, is a brighter blue with few sparkles (and no white!).  The sterling silver beads are a pleasing shape and further reduce the weight.

The centerpiece is magnificent for its large oval lapis, with lots of gold and a short streak of white, and for the Tibetan sterling silver base, carved with rich flourishes on the front and the back.

While living in Hong Kong, I loved browsing the many English bookstores. It was still British until the 1997 handover to China who promised “one country, two systems,” referring to the financial, free-market and democratically-governed systems of Hong Kong.  In my opinion, the promise is eroding.

One of the books I treasure is “A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols” and I looked up the fish symbol which is prominently featured on the centerpiece. The well-carved pair of fish on the front are slightly worn, leading me to envision the wearer rubbing it as a talisman.  Fish symbolize wealth which is so significant for Buddhists that it is one of their 8 symbols.  I named this piece for the colloquial phrase for wishing others wealth.

When fish appear in a pair, it signifies harmony, and is often given as a wedding gift.

On the back of this piece is what I interpret to be a stylized fish. Pay attention to the design skill of the silversmith:  beautiful flourishes, curves, almost rococo flair, expert three-dimensional detailing.

The necklace measures 19.5” and the centerpiece is 3.5” long by 2.75” wide. It weighs 8.2 ounces.  After test driving it, I would say it is not heavy/not light, but average.  Some of my necklaces are “three-hour”, this is a five-hour necklace!      Wear your silver earrings with it.  $139.

Drawer 44: Turquoise

“109th Mala”Week 44/Drawer 44: November 1, 2017: “109th Mala”

I remember buying this large Tibetan piece in the early 2000’s in New York City in a shop well-known for ethnic beads and objets.  The price tag still stuck on the bottom said $150, but my note on the plastic bag said I paid $140…not my best negotiation!  It was sold as an ear ornament from Gujarat.  I accepted it as an ear ornament but when I looked up Gujarat, and learned it is in India, I doubted that was the true provenance.

This was clearly Tibetan. I’ve been there twice and have made necklaces with many pieces of their inlaid silver or brass with turquoise or coral:  I know their style.  So, I conducted a lengthy internet search and, after scrolling many pages on www.indianamulets.com.au, I found it! It was the only such piece out of a couple hundred images!  To improve my negotiating image with my dear readers, allow me to inform you it was priced at $375, hanging on a silver chain.

On the keft, I present you the 109th mala (prayer bead).

 

Buddhists and Hindus pray with 108 beads knotted and strung. One prays by meditating, touching a bead and saying this mantra,

“All is well.

Everything is perfect.

Wisdom and compassion uphold every atom!”

then on to the next bead, until one reaches the 109th bead; called a stupa bead.  A stupa is a Buddhist prayer hall and its steeple is in the exact shape of the centerpiece of this necklace.  The 109th serves a very special purpose:  a pause.  The pause offers silence, a moment to offer gratitude, and a practical way to keep count of their mantras and chants.  Faithful Buddhists don’t just go around the mala once; they can meditate for hours.

I was interested to learn the significance of 108 beads: it is a mathematical (12 Zodiac houses x 9 planets) metaphor for the omnipresent universe which is also our most innate self.  I would need to meditate for a long time to understand that metaphor!

The necklace features turquoise cylinders from Drawer 44 separated by sterling silver beads with a silver clasp. I made a nautilus-style sterling silver loop to attach the mala to the necklace.

The centerpiece Tibetan stupa bead is mixed metals—silver and brass—rising in a pattern to the pinnacle which is modeled after a Lotus flower with six petals inset with turquoise and coral cabochons.  This 109th mala was owned by someone who had the means to commission some very nice design and workmanship.  It is strong, sturdy and magnificent!  It is not heavy since it is hollow.

The necklace measures 25” and the mala is 5” long. Wear your silver earrings with it.  $199.

Trunk Show

Trunk Show December 6 & 7 2013

Hail West Coasters!

Hope to see you for my THIRD ANNUAL TRUNK SHOW…

 

Treasure

The two strand "Treasure" necklace is strung with heavy turquoise thread and “woven” through three turquoise beads every few inches.  It ends with a coral clasp around a vintage button. It measures 21” and the centerpiece is 3” long.  It is priced at $155 which includes shipping and insurance.

The two strand “Treasure” necklace is strung with heavy turquoise thread and “woven” through three turquoise beads every few inches. It ends with a coral clasp around a vintage button.
It measures 21” and the centerpiece is 3” long. It is priced at $155 which includes shipping and insurance.

 

Back in 1995 when I was learning how to make necklaces, the second class I took was called “Treasure Necklace” and I remembered how much I love to make them when my friend Penny gave me a broken down necklace of turquoise, jasper and pearls.

A treasure necklace is full of special things.  This necklace has Penny’s beads, supplanted by coral twigs, Czech glass reddish barrel beads, coral seed beads, a button clasp from my Mom’s button box…and those are minor compared to the centerpiece gems.

The dangling centerpieces of a ring and a Buddha are amazing!

The ring has a silver setting with decorative sterling silver balls around the base set with a coral bead, commonly traded among Tibetans.  I bought it from a Tibetan woman in an informal market in front of the fabulous Jokhang Temple in Barkhor Square, Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.  While we were bartering, pilgrims behind us circumnavigated the temple which is a holy destination for Tibetans.

The ring is so large, it was obviously her husband’s whom I envisioned as a warrior of great girth.  I bought it in 1993 since when it has been a much touched talisman; but I could never figure how to place it in a necklace…until now. To say it is a treasure underestimates it.

Well, since I am a person  compelled to fill spaces, I stumbled across the “Laughing Buddha” and didn’t he just fit in the ……space?!  It is a contemporary bead, bought locally and made of resin.  However this Buddha has a long history:  in the Song Dynasty, China, in 1000 AD, the Laughing Buddha, symbol of naïve geniality, became the most popular god in Eastern Asia.

The two strand necklace is strung with heavy turquoise thread and “woven” through three of Penny’s turquoise beads every few inches.  It ends with a coral clasp around a vintage button.

It measures 21” and the centerpiece is 3” long.  It is priced at $155 which includes shipping and insurance.