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!

 

MURANO ISLAND RISING IN MY STUDIO

"Social Success"

Titled, “Social Success”, this creation joins Murano glass beads with six 1960’s vintage Lucite beads. The clasp is dyed and carved from sustainable water buffalo horn with a toggle I made from sterling silver wire. The necklace is 20″ and is accompanied by Murano glass asymmetrical earrings of one square silver foil glass bead and one twisted bead tied together with black seed beads. The larger bead, a tad over 1″, hangs 2″ from the ear piercing. The square bead earring is 1.75″ long.
The set is priced at $148 including shipping costs.

I took a baby step this summer and designed a very small Murano pendant (see previous posting) from my new acquisitions. Now taking another step with this lively necklace in lime and clear/silver foil-lined glass beads from Murano. This winter: some real adult steps working with the big boisterous boys; stay tuned!

I usually start designing in my imagination as I am buying beads and this purchase was no different, except for one big thing: they were going to be two separate necklaces. But the beads bonded in my suitcase during the rest of my Italian journey and emerged as one necklace with black seed beads to make the lime and clear colors pop.

The necklace was a bit short so I searched for appropriate companions to join the Murano glass and found just six of these 1960’s vintage Lucite (fancy for plastic). Serendipity! Ditto for the clasp: dyed horn carved from sustainable water buffalo horns and a toggle I made from sterling silver wire. The necklace is 20″ and is accompanied by asymmetrical earrings in silver foil glass beads, also from Murano. Asymmetrical, in this case, means I had one square bead and one twisted bead tied together with black seed beads. The larger bead is a tad over 1″ and the earring hangs 2″ from the ear-piercing. The square bead earring is 1.75″ in length.

The set is priced at $148 and includes mailing and shipping costs. I have titled this creation “Social Success”.