Drawer 28: Taupe

“Social Circumstances”

My Chinese 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 28/Drawer 28: July 12, 2017: “Social Circumstances” 

Twenty years ago, at the San Mateo (CA) Gem & Bead Show, I noted a large bag of sparkling metallic beads sold by the pound. I was impressed that they were labeled as “1890’s glass briolettes made in France”.  I said I would take the bag.  The vendor said “That’s $50.”  I told him I would think about it.  $50 was a lot of money to a beginning beader.  But I was a Francophile also, having lived in Paris for a year after college.  I quickly returned and paid for my exciting find.

The 1890’s were La Belle Époque in Paris and ladies wore outlandish hats, so I figured these beads were used in the millinery trade. Milliners, largely female, were the “queens of fashion” in that era and thus could dictate the next trend, charge high prices, announce the next novelty, charge high prices, ad infinitum.  There were about 1000 milliners.  Supporting them were 24,000 fleuristes who made the flower adornment, as well as many plumassiers  who worked with bird feathers.

These women, especially the milliners, were befriended by artists and accepted in high society. Degas painted 27 known canvases where the hat captured the viewer’s eye.  Recall also that the character Mimi in Puccini’s “La Boheme”, premiered in 1896, was a fleuriste.  Coco Chanel, born in 1883, became a licensed milliner in 1910.

Alas, the millinery fashion rage turned into a sensitive subject when it became known how many birds were killed for the sake of a hat. Then the outbreak of World War I in 1914 changed the world and millinery was no longer necessary for everyday life.

Beads like these briolettes played a very small role compared to flowers and feathers. But I am happy to have made this two-strand necklace and still have a lot of them left in Drawer 28 for future projects.

A briolette is an elongated pear-shaped gemstone cut with triangular facets and top-drilled to hang like a bead. They are quite brilliant, reflecting light from any angle.  To add to the bead’s sparkle, I found a gold-plated clasp and heart centerpiece last November in a memory-lane visit to the San Mateo Bead Show while visiting Sandra in San Jose, CA.

The necklace is 21” long and $129. Sandra claimed it for herself as soon as she saw it!

 

BROOCH FANTASIA

I will accept commissions combining your favorite brooch, contemporary or family antique, with my orphan pearls and appropriate other beads, probably seed beads and crystals.  The cost would be approximately $139.  We can exchange photos of your brooch and I’ll give you a firm quote.

I will accept commissions combining your favorite brooch, contemporary or family antique, with my orphan pearls and appropriate other beads, probably seed beads and crystals. The cost would be approximately $139. We can exchange photos of your brooch and I’ll give you a firm quote.

 

 

Time for something different! This is a beautiful Beadleful necklace and I am not ashamed of my pride because every time I wear it, I get many compliments. I shall tell you its story because I would like you to have the opportunity to have one of your own.

Over the years, when pearls, the freshwater variety I love to use, wouldn’t fit through my regular beading wire, I put them in a jar. Around the same time, I acquired this colorful brooch that my friend, Kyung and I bought in Christian Lacroix’ shop in the exclusive Carleton Hotel on La Croisette in Cannes. While we browsed, our husbands waited outside by the sea, watching the bathers. Needless to say, they weren’t bored.

We each found an irresistible brooch featured in Lacroix’ end-of-season sale. I used to wear mine to work on my suit lapel–so 1990’s. Fashion changed; I retired; the brooch went into my drawer.

Around 2010, my last year in California, I put the orphan pearls and the neglected brooch together. The pearls are of all sizes and shapes, drawn randomly from my stash, but strung on finer than normal bead wire. I used Japanese glass seed beads, fine and shiny, as well as crystals to add interest to the pearls. It takes five strands at a minimum to look good! I made an investment in a real gold or sterling silver clasp because this is a personal heirloom.

And I can do the same for you.

I will accept commissions combining your favorite brooch, contemporary or family antique, with my orphan pearls and appropriate other beads, probably seed beads and crystals. The cost would be approximately $139. We can exchange photos of your brooch and I’ll give you a firm quote. There’s only one disclosure; you must be aware that the fine bead wire I use means it’s fairly fragile, so handle with care.

 

Caption: This 18” long necklace of pearls and a favorite brooch is a show-stopper.