Drawer 40: Freshwater Pearls: White

 

“Tell it a Little More Than it is”

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 40/Drawer 40: October 4, 2017: “Tell it a Little More than it is”

Once upon a time, pearls were stratospherically expensive. Only cultured pearls existed; think of black Tahitian pearls harvested by divers, or the Japanese Akoya Oyster pearls in those luscious Mikimoto ads.

Ah, the legends: New York jeweler Jacob Driver was said to have sold a rope (36” to 54”)of pearls in the 1890s for $1.5 million.  Pearls were the most valued type of jewel in the Golden Age (See blog dated July 12, 2017 for more of the excesses of the Golden Age.) Jacques Cartier famously bought the NYC mansion where his iconic Fifth Ave store still stands for a double strand of matched pearls valued at $1 million in 1917.

That was then; this is now. In 1979, Japan and the USA developed a method to farm pearls by placing an irritating microscopic object in a mussel, forcing it to develop a nacreous coating over the object.  Freshwater pearls became available to all at reasonable cost.  In the USA, sadly, there is only one still in business, in Tennessee.  China has become the low cost producer and market leader.

“Nacreous” and “iridescent” are the words used to describe freshwater pearls, just like the inside of a mussel shell. There are many colors and shapes.

This necklace features nicely rounded large pearls in a natural white lustre. I wanted to use the copper ceramic piece to hold the pearl strands together, so since six lengths could be jammed in, the resulting necklace has three strands.  I added some dyed copper freshwater pearls in pear shapes as dangles.  And if you look at the clasp end of the necklace, there are some small sparkling glass beads faceted on the top and flat on the bottom—made in the USA for the millinery industry in the 1920s (again, see the July 12 blog!).

The ceramic piece is made by Barbara Hanselman who describes herself as a claysmith. She is smitten with creating in clay and has a fabulous website.  She is based in Cherry Hill, NJ.

This necklace is 22” long and the dangles add 4”.  Copper designer clasp.  Earrings on copper earwires with a pearl and a millinery bead are included.  The set is $149.

Drawer 39: Vintage Lucite

“Poetry and Prose”

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 39/Drawer 39: September 27, 2017: “Poetry and Prose ”

I’ve always loved buying vintage plastic—oops, Lucite—beads. In fact, most of my Lucite are from the same vendor who had a distinctive grey price tag.  Her story was she found a cache of them in a warehouse…  Who knows?  They have great colors and are easy to use.

Lucite was developed by DuPont in 1937 as a clear acrylic plastic and was widely used by the military: it was very hard and could be easily shaped.  One use was for the nose of bomber planes!  DuPont was smart enough to license this new material, and costume jewelry designers jumped on it.  Remember the name Trifari?  They were the first costume jewelry manufacturer to incorporate Lucite into their designs.  Another company of that era, Coro, followed suit.

By the 1950’s, Lucite was used for purses, stiletto heels, and jewelers loved putting rhinestones in and on their Lucite jewelry. In the ”mod” 60’s, it was big as black and white Op Art styles.  It faded and returned as neon jewelry in the 80’s.

This necklace uses up my supply of Lucite discs in black and a cerise red. There are additional red beads leading up to the Bakelite clasp.

Bakelite was another famous brand of plastic invented by Leo Baekeland in 1909. It too was used in the Thirties and Forties by jewelry artists.  It came in rods of all sizes and in great colors.  Artists appreciated that it could be carved and polished, thereby allowing them to put their marks on it, whereas Lucite designs were made in molds.  I appreciate that the clasp has more artistic expression than the beads do.

This lightweight and unbreakable necklace is 19” long and is $69.

I have a Bakelite story from our six years at a Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, weekend house. I’ll preface it by saying I do believe all 3800 citizens of this adorable hamlet pride themselves on eccentricity in themselves, their homes and their dogs.  It was a wonderful place to live!!!

Since there is no mail delivery, a daily trip to the Post Office is necessary. We always stood in the line of the Bakelite clerk:  a friendly gal with a mane of dark hair and an armful of colorful Bakelite bangles.  I too loved those bangles and had five of them, but I was developing arthritis in my thumbs and they were becoming difficult to put on. One day I asked her if she wanted to buy them and she eagerly nodded yes.  So I sold them to her for $100 in 1998.  Today one Bakelite bangle is $155 on eBay!

 

Drawer 32: Cobalt Blue

“Fact from Legends”

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 32/Drawer 32: August 9, 2017: “Fact from Legends”

This centerpiece is part of a 1940’s lampshade from Shanghai. And it is amazing that it exists at all!  Shall I tell you why?

China was ruled by Mao Zedong from 1949, when he declared the People’s Republic of China was under one-party rule, until his death in 1976. The last ten years of his regime is known as The Cultural Revolution which aimed to purge capitalists and traditionalists from Chinese society in order to impose his own communist ideology. The purged were humiliated publicly; property was seized; youth were made to go to the countryside to learn from peasants; historical artifacts, such as Confucius’ birthplace, were destroyed; cultural and religious sites were ransacked; the only movies, books and theatre allowed were propaganda.  Mao said he killed 1.5 million people; the true number is alleged to be up to 6 million.

When we lived in Hong Kong from 1993-4, I read many books on the Cultural Revolution, fascinated by the stories told. I also searched the antique shops for cultural artifacts—and found the pieces of the lampshade.  The antiquarian told me how wealthy families managed to hide their treasures, mostly by burying them in the ground.  I also purchased a few finely-embroidered patches mandarins wore on their robes in the Imperial Court which ended in 1912.

As for the necklace, the beads are mostly cobalt Czech glass. The 14 cylinder beads are pre-war Bohemia pressed glass (see Drawer 30 for that history); the four small circles, plus the earrings, are glass beads made in Holland starting in the 1800’s for trade in Africa.  The lampshade centerpiece is enamel on copper and is trimmed in cobalt blue.  The clasp is glass with a sterling silver hook I fashioned.

The two-strand necklace measures 23.5”plus 2.5” for the centerpiece and dangles. The earrings are 1.5” long.  The set is $119.

This is a necklace I made some time ago.  It features freshwater pearls, garnet and seed beads.  I removed the tassels from the top piece and added a seed bead tassel.

There are four long single tassels hanging from the top piece and three pearl and garnet  single tassels from the bottom, between the long original silk tassels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are three of the four enamel-on-copper pieces from a 1940 Shanghai chandelier that I still have for future projects.

Drawer 30: Purple

“Don’t Let Your World Get Small”

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 30/Drawer 30: July 26, 2017: “Don’t Let Your World Get Small”

This necklace focuses on the centerpiece; it is an artist-made glass petal wrapped over itself, leaving a ruffled opening for the necklace designer to embellish. I will confess I bought 6 of these in different colors from the husband and wife designers and I have no record of their names.  My apologies since I pride myself on acknowledging artists I use in my work.  I further confess I have made them all in the same style; namely, with multi strands of seed beads flowing from the center.

There should be an equal focus on the rare Bohemia beads I used in the necklace. I wanted to keep their purple color flowing in the centerpiece and was able to bring in green with a tube of seed beads that are green outside and purple inside!  The glass drops are also Bohemia beads.

“Details of the centerpiece with seed bead embellishment. Also notice clarity of large Bohemia beads in the necklace.”

In 1995-9, there was a trader called Ava who held semi-annual trunk shows at my favorite bead shop in Palo Alto. She sold exclusively what she called “pre-war pressed glass beads from Bohemia”.  They were exquisite and expensive and I was smart enough to buy from her every time she visited.

Bohemia is actually the precursor of the Czech Republic and touched Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Poland. Glass beads were made there from the 12th century but not until a trade show in Prague in 1829 were they commercially introduced.  By 1850, the Germans had invented costume jewelry and Austria became the premier producer of the finest glass crystals in the world…think Swarovski.  Pressed glass (which means molten glass poured into a mold) boomed until the run-up to WWII in the 1930’s and then ceased during the war years.

In postwar 1946, the German glassworkers in Bohemia were given 48 hours to leave. They were able to take precious little; the Czechs moved in to their homes and factories.  But the Germans soon coalesced in Neu Gablonz in a bombed out ammunitions factory.  They still make pressed glass but not of the pre-war quality they made in Bohemia.

Now take another look at the 12 large round purple beads in the necklace and the five drops in the centerpiece strands: they are pre-war pressed glass beads.  Made in a mold, but no mold marks.  They are as translucent as any finely cut gemstone.  Dark purple large faceted glass discs and small light purple faceted discs finish the 18” necklace.  The centerpiece is 4.5” long and 2” at its widest.  Gold metal magnet clasp.  Earrings to match.  $159 for the set.

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!

 

Drawer 23: Black (Shiny)

 

“Midnight in the Gardens”

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, sorted by color.

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

Week 23/Drawer 23: June 7, 2017: “Midnight in the Gardens”

These shiny black beads spoke to me because of their unique white line down one corner. These are vintage resin beads and their shine has dulled as many hands have touched them over four decades or so. They are a product of the 70’s.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the explanation for the white line had to do with the mold they were cast in and not some fabulous creative detail.  But we shall not know because I cannot find any info on these beads and if there was a story when I bought them, it is now forgotten.

 

 

Well, I’m a techie-in training, and I barely managed to draw orange arrows to show my readers the cool white lines, but I couldn’t get rid of the pesky “text” circle.  Oh, well, enjoy and chuckle!

 

 

 

 

There is a story in the white freshwater pearls: my friend Penny’s friend sent them to me to re-use.  I fell for their heft, solidity and the fine markings etched by their life in a shell in warm water somewhere in Asia.  They were re-used within a month of receipt; lightning speed for me who can hold beads for twenty years before finding a match!

I have undoubtably mentioned my need to personalize my creations with an interesting clasp so the view from behind is as creative as the front. I estimate that this is possible in half of the necklaces I produce.  This one features a black plastic elliptical circle with a black horn toggle.

Three bold components in this neckpiece: rectangular beads, hefty pearls and a strong clasp!  Just the way I like it!

This strand is 19.5” and comes with matching pearl earrings on a modified hoop. $79.

Drawer 17: Dark Green

 

“Fascinating Rhythm”

I’m challenging myself in 2017 to create one necklace a week using only the beads from one drawer of my 52 drawer Apothecary Chest.

Week 17/Drawer 17: April 26, 2017: “Fascinating Rhythm”

In the glass bead world, a hierarchy of three levels exists: American Art Glass (officially called “furnace beads”); lampwork glass which I use a lot; and blown glass (see Drawer #1).

These American Art Glass beads were designed by David Christensen, Rhode Island, and I used to buy them from him by the hundreds when I lived in California. This dark green color was attractive to me because when you look closely, it sparkles due to the silver foil with which he embellished the green.

To get wonky for a moment, “furnace glass” is an American adaptation of an Italian method called “latticinio” which uses glass canes—like all three levels do—and encases them in clear glass, then manufactures them in large scale furnaces. They are not individually made, like lampwork and blown glass.

The most predominant stone in this necklace is green aventurine, which is from the ubiquitous quartz family. Sometimes I have to look twice to identify these beads since jade comes in a similar shade of green.

Also featured are some lovely pressed glass beads made in West Germany. They were hand made from 1948 to the 70’s, when they switched to machines.  I bought these vintage beads from a CA vender in 1995, so there is a chance they were hand-made.  They are the distinctive bullet-shaped beads and the leaves with white stripes.

Green Aventurine has some interesting properties: they are the heart chakra; they comfort; they settle nausea; and they give courage to the wearer in social situations.

In my quest for an unusual clasp, I found a green glass circle and paired it with an oversize pewter lobster clasp.

This two-strand necklace measures 21” and earrings are included. It is $99.

Part of the fun of each week’s necklace challenge is journaling in my “Maker’s Notebook”. It starts on the right where I leave four spaces for data which can only be entered after I finish the necklace. The body of my scribbles are thoughts that emerge as I am designing, then stringing, then closing off the necklace and earrings. On the left, I then do a drawing and color it in. I draw after completion; my design process lets the beads percolate as I gather piles of them–a process too intuitive to draw in advance.

Drawer 11: Amber Glass

 

“Dialogue”

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 5: Green, light to medium

 

 

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“Grown-up Stories”

I’m challenging myself in 2017 to create one necklace a week using the beads from one drawer of my 52 drawer Apothecary Chest. Welcome to Drawer 5.

This week was fun to look forward to: Drawer 5 had so many shades of green from the lighter end of the spectrum that, before I knew it, a large pile had accumulated.  Pulling out four harmonious strands plus spacers, seed beads and a few accent beads was easy.  More difficult but so delightfully intrinsic to the creative process was moving the beads around my design board until harmony emerged.  Only then could I start stringing.

I worked until I had four strands of 9—10” on each side of the centerpiece. Then came the challenge of conforming four straight lines into a necklace that hangs around a neck in a flattering way. My model is Ada, a turn-of-the century mannequin I found in a Lisbon flea market in 1965 and put into service in 1995 as a neck model for multi-strand neckpieces.  I pin the strands on her velvet form and figure out how many more beads are needed to fit each strand to where the clasp sits at the back of the neck.

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A word about the centerpiece. Luminous and glowing green on top and opaque and creamy on the bottom, it is a fat lampwork glass circle which is perfect for gathering four strands.  Artist-made and acquired in California twenty years ago, it found a happy home in this necklace.  A strand of green and cream Japanese ceramic beads which I have had equally as long are also featured.  Taking them out of Drawer 5, I noticed an old paper tag which said “Made in Japan”.

Starting in the 1920’s, the U.S. Customs Bureau required imports to be labeled or marked with the country of origin. In 1952, paper tags were mandated, launching an era of collectibles referred to as the Golden Age. The tag is attached to those beads in this necklace.

Other special beads are the vintage six-sided Italian glass canes, the square Czech beads from the 1940’s and the faceted sparkling vintage Italian seed beads between the canes.

I chose a gold clasp to reflect the warmth of this necklace. I also made 2” long earrings to accompany the vintage beads in the necklace.

This four-strand necklace is 22” long. $139.00

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.