Fact & Fiction: Suzhou Jade

“Fact & Fiction”

For 5000 years, Imperial China used the word jade as something precious and beautiful.  Today, more jade comes from Burma than China, but the Chinese are considered the master carvers.  However, jade (think the green kind), became expensive and that engendered more affordable and clever uses of the word jade.

Such is today’s necklace made of ”Soochow” jade.  It is not jade but serpentine named after the city of Suzhou, 60 miles NW of Shanghai.  I’ve bought it for years in earthy shades of green, brown, tan and cream.  But I always put it in the serpentine drawer, placed next to the drawer holding the shimmering green real jade.  I always thought of serpentine as jade’s first cousin.  And after all the research I did for this blog, I shall continue to hold that opinion because serpentine is nice on its own and doesn’t require the false tag of jade to be attractive.

Actually, naming it after Suzhou was a big compliment to serpentine when you consider the city is called the Venice of China.  There are images of gondoliers pushing their boats through the narrow waterways of the Yangtze River Delta.  But no research revealed serpentine was ever mined in Suzhou.  Pure Marketing BS!!!

Fact and fiction aside, this two-strand necklace is made from two different strands and three sizes of brown-tone serpentine beads…note the earrings contain the three sizes.  Try to find two beads of the exact same tone and markings; nearly impossible.  For me that is the charm of serpentine–it’s mixable and matchable.  The centerpiece is made from an archer’s ring [worn to protect the finger against the pullback of the arrow.  When I first touched one , asked what is this, and hearing the answer, I bought a dozen of the nicest ones.  Two decades ago, I thought they were so cool.  Still do.]

My drawer of carved serpentine revealed this nice carved arrowhead and I used gold plated wire to attach it to the archer’s ring.  Brass clasp.  19″ necklace with 3″dangle.  Earrings included.  $90 plus $7 shipping.

A Max Moment


Just two years ago, I started reporting Max was growing attached to his “blankie”, a 50″ x 60″ throw I put on the sofa to protect it from him.  He loved it, snuggled into it, licked it, soft-jawed it, ran with it.  So cute.  Then came the destruction:  chewing, tearing, and swallowing it.

He stills runs with it except it is a 20′ long trailing fleece mess.

HELP!  I need advice from doggie Moms and kiddie Moms:  how do I get rid of it????

A Gau Box and a Tibetan Bead Adventure

“Tibetan Gau Box”

 

In 1993-4, Don and I lived in Hong Kong.  I discovered ethnic beads at the fabulous bazaars located in alleys and byways and became enamored of the giant orange and yellow beads that were described as those worn by Tibetan nomads.  I asked Don to take me to Tibet on one of his business trips to Beijing.  Ha!  Impossible since it is located on a 5000’ high plateau in distant southwest China.

So I convinced him to have an adventure travel vacation in Tibet.  Be informed adventure travel translates as difficult travel, as in one-star or no-star accommodations, toilets that range from pots under the bed to blackened porcelain with no seat, mattresses that feel like plywood, walking a lot, crossing the Himalayan mountains with a view of Everest in a jitney without any shock absorbers…a trip to Katmandu, Nepal, that took 24 hours including the overnight accommodations described above.

The pleasures of adventure travel are close-ups of the native population, interesting food, cultural immersion, different religions.  And beads.  No bead shops, just go to the village square and the traders find you.  Whew.  The first lesson is to push away the crowds, establish some control, and patiently look, point, and bargain.  What wild memories!

These Gau boxes were my most unusual finds!  Today’s necklace features an excellent specimen.  I paid $100 for it and it is $490 on Etsy as I looked for one today.  As you know, I don’t mark up the original price I paid.  No need to, since you, my dear readers, are looking for an interesting necklace, not a collector’s item for a display case.

Gau (sometimes Gao) boxes are antiques today, less than 30 years after our first visit.  We returned again in the late 90’s and the change was sad—China had infiltrated Han Chinese into Tibet in a massive relocation program to dilute Tibetan culture.  As a result, many Tibetans have crossed the mountains into Nepal where they are respected in their enclaves

These boxes contain Buddhist paper prayers and relics folded into the box, and worn around the neck, near one’s heart, by Tibetan nomads or travelers.  It also is an amulet to ward off negative energy and attract blessings (just like those fluttering strings of flags placed in the mountains).  Like any antique, they have patina, the fancy word for wear marks and nicks over time.

This necklace is 24” from clasp to bottom of box which is 2.5” diameter and 5/8” thick.   The clasp is hammered pewter.  The necklace weighs 7.7 ounces.  The set is $195.

The beads are dyed coral shell pearls.  These pearls are made from the lining of oyster shells, ground, shaped, dyed, and coated with a lustrous shine.  They do not lose color or shine due to sweat or perfume.  I also like them because they come in large sizes for a reasonable price.

At the beginning and end of the necklace and in the earrings are other Tibetan beads with silver decorative endcaps.  The beads in those endcaps and the center of the Gao Box are the same orange beads I first saw in Hong Kong…seems they come in all sizes. 

These are two other Gau Boxes I bought on that trip.  They are shaped like shrines which is another use of the Gau Box.  The large one is a wonderful speciman with many cultural icons carved in the silver and a wonderful polychromed deity in the window.

The small one is so old the silver plate wore off to its copper base.

 

 

 

 

 

A Max Moment

I dare not disappoint Max’s followers.  Here he is trying to dismember his stuffed  toy, but his smart Mom bought him a leather toy and it takes a really long time for him to destroy it.  Approaching 28 months.

_________

Postscript:  I imagine there are prayers and relics still in these boxes but I am afraid of ruining them if I attempt to open/close the boxes, so I don’t.  I just imagine.  I encourage readers to use their imagination also.

Daydream

Created during the Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place which commenced on March 15, 2020 for Massachusetts.

It’s been easy to daydream. There is no pressure to get anything done, no place to go, so why not dream up things to do in my studio?  Or make lists of where to go when we are allowed back out.  Or pull out Unfinished Projects…yikes, I found six pillow tops I quilted back in that phase of my life 15 years ago. Nothing is going to motivate me to finish them, so my Project is to hire somebody else to do so.  Or that intimidating 4′ by 3’canvas which I started 2 or 3 years ago and am now daydreaming how to finish.  And so on…

My worktop has a half-dozen semi-finished necklaces featuring beads from my new bead stash (Helen’s old stash. See January 2020 blog). I daydream over them. I’ll get them done when it warms up a bit. In the meantime, I’ll daydream-design another half-dozen.

“Daydream”

This is April’s necklace. I think the centerpiece is a new-tech collage overlaid on a bead and sealed in resin. I thought it was glass until I examined it carefully. The choice of pearlized Czech glass interspersed with faux turquoise Czech glass feels right with the unusual center bead. Brass clasp. 23.5” long. Wear your gold earrings with it. $49 with free shipping.

 

I checked to see if I had any real turquoise necklaces in my inventory. I found only one and talk about real turquoise! This necklace features four faceted cuts of what is called America’s finest turquoise! It is from Arizona’s Sleeping Beauty mine. Check it out in the January 2019 blog.

 

A MAX MOMENT

Max’s favorite toy delights him as he hogs the ottoman while I read my Wall Street Journal and drink my coffee before our day starts.

 

POSTSCRIPT

I send prayers and empathy to all the great Americans touched by this relentless coronavirus. While many have and more will recover, for those who have not, I wish for the repose of their souls.