Drawer 49: Aventurine, a semi-precious stone

“Seductive Lure”

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 49/Drawer 49: December 6, 2017: “Seductive Lure”

It is fitting that the Aventurine drawer is next to the Jade drawer because I used to have a lot of green aventurine which can be close to jade in color, and was my reason for making those drawers neighbors, but there are many other aventurine colors—blue, yellow, orange, and a brownish called red—which I have collected over the years and now outnumber the green.

This necklace features red aventurine which I paired with a bug-eyed koi fish. At first, I chose white jade to fill in the Aventurine and it wasn’t working.  A closer look at the fish showed me its underside was the palest of lavenders.  I really had to suspend belief in color theory to go with Mother Nature’s combo of lavender and red aventurine.  The results charmed me.

Then my research told me why the colors worked: Aventurine is a form of quartz.  The koi fish is agate which is one of the most common materials used in the art of hardstone carving and agate is also a quartz.  If you are confused, it’s easier to say  aventurine and agate have the same parents.  Additionally, they both channel abundance in the world of crystal properties.

The Chinese are very fond of Koi or goldfish and keep them in bowls in their homes or in ponds in the temple gardens. The Chinese words “jin yu” meaning goldfish are phonetically identical with the two words meaning “gold in abundance”, thereby making the goldfish/koi symbol a traditional wedding gift.

The necklace measures 18” long plus 2.5” for the goldfish.  I just found two more Red Aventurine beads and can make earrings to match.  $69 plus $15 if earrings desired.

 

Guess what else I discovered about quartz? It accounts for 12% of the Earth’s crust.

I found my koi/goldfish cultural interpretations in the same book I referred to last week : A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols by Wolfram Eberhard, first published in 1983.

Drawer 48: Jade

“Momentum” 

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 48/Drawer 48: November 29, 2017: “Momentum”

To me, Jade is Hong Kong. Worn by many citizens, seen in shop windows, handled at the Jade Market:  it is the heart and soul of Hong Kong.  I became very attracted to it.

When I discovered the Jade Market, I walked there from our Kowloon apartment, frequently slipping into the Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium, a large department store on Nathan Road, to find curios and objets for my growing Asian collectibles.

Approaching the Jade Market were countless small jewelry shops full of Cantonese-speaking shoppers, men in the street hawking big chunks of jade from their small pick-up trucks, and a few Westerners like me with anticipation glistening in our eyes. The Market is really a tent, permanently erected, and certainly the size of a football field.  I walked around until something I saw drew me in.  The vendor rushed around with a low stool, a tray and a smile.  I could sit for an hour, choosing the beads I deemed suitable for a necklace.

Don and I lived in Hong Kong for 18 months in 1993-4 and the memory of the Jade Market is still fresh. Unfortunately, what material I have left from that era isn’t enough to make a necklace.

So here is this week’s necklace: Suzhou jade, also called new jade, in a dark to light variation with two carved beads on each side  separating the two shades.  There were no leftover beads, so wear your silver earrings.  A nicely carved turtle, 2” x 2.25”, is the centerpiece.  Sterling silver clasp.

The tortoise is an enigmatic creature for the Chinese, “concealing the secrets of heaven and earth”: they see its shell as the vaulted  heaven and its underside as the flat disc of earth.  It also symbolizes steadfastness.

The necklace measures 18.5” long plus 2.25” for the tortoise.

 

While still in Hong Kong, I started using my Jade Market finds. I found a helpful book to explain the meanings of carvings such as the tortoise above: A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols by Wolfram Eberhard, first published in 1983.

Drawer 46: Silver: Thai Hill Tribes

 

“The Singular Spirit”

Week 46/Drawer 46: November 15, 2017: “The Singular Spirit”

For years I have bought “hill tribe” silver and only knew it was a recognizable style of workmanship made in Northern Thailand. Now I know so much I fear I shall bore you with my focus on the six tribes who make pieces like this fish centerpiece.  Read on.  Some names will be familiar to you.

First of all, they work in a special silver which, at 97%, is in between sterling (92.5% silver content) and fine silver (100% silver). High silver content produces a softer metal which tarnishes less.

Second, there are six tribes who, over the past 200 years, emigrated mostly from China and Tibet through thick forests and mountainous terrain to the “Golden Triangle” where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet.

Third, the tribes retain their traditions in their clothing, their abundance of silver adornment, and their methods of making beads and jewelry. Their tools and processes are simple: silver ingots are flattened into sheets by pounding with a hammer.  Then they pound the sheets into a mold and something like this fish emerges.  They detail the piece—see fish scales—in their own signature style.

The most populous tribe at 300,000 is the Karen, originally from Myanmar. They live in stilt houses with their animals beneath.  They are expert elephant handlers (think logging and tourism); very friendly; and called the “long necks” due to the silver necklaces worn from collarbone to chin.

Next largest are the Hmong, many of whom were welcomed as refugees in the USA after the Vietnamese war. They came from the icy regions of Tibet and Mongolia; settled in Chiang Mai, a large and lovely city; and are identified by their traditional clothing of pleated skirts and black baggy pants, both with lots of embroidery.  Besides being silversmiths, they are dry rice farmers and may cultivate opium poppies.  They are very independent, preferring to live above 3000 feet.

The last tribe I’ll describe is the Mien (also called Yao) whose women are often photographed for their elaborate costumes and headpieces. They are considered the aristocrats of the region and have been making silver jewelry the longest. They are the only hill tribe with a written language and they use silver as their currency. They originate from Southern China, bringing their medieval religion, Taoism, with them, but many have converted to Christianity or Buddhism.

The remaining three are called Akha, Lahu and Lisu. All proud silversmiths.

The Drawer 46 necklace is full of trade beads, all with varying patina (read bumps and bruises from years of being traded), sterling silver and Naga shells (how I would love to tell you about the Naga tribe in the land-locked Himalayas who trade with shells and adorn themselves with shells, but no time for that story!) The fish centerpiece is a Karen Hill Tribe silver creation.

The necklace is 20“ long and the fish is 2.5“long.  Wear it with your silver earrings.  $99.

Trade beads are described in Drawers 12, 32 and 43.

 

Drawer 34: Cinnabar

“Illusionist”

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 34/Drawer 34: August 23, 2017: “Illusionist”

Cinnabar is an intriguing name. Sometimes I call it “Chinese Red”, especially if I am referring to furniture or antique wood items.  It is a terrific color for bead jewelry since it seems to flatter all skin tones.  I buy cinnabar whenever I see it.  The more typical beads are carved, but my favorites are these large smooth and very light beads from Drawer 34.

Cinnabar has been used in China since the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) when its name evolved from “red cinnamon”. Cinnabar is found in every mineral deposit that contains mercury.  The Chinese avoided the toxic effects of mercury by coating it with lacquer, thereby creating their famous lacquerware.  Today the toxic pigment is replaced with a resin-based polymer.  All the famous Renaissance painters  loved their scarlet pigment called vermillion made possible by mercury; today’s artists use the polymer version in their oils or acrylics.

In this necklace, I separated the cinnabar beads with some Kris rings I found in Bali.  Needless to say, they have an interesting history also:  they are one of three components in the dagger found in Bali (also Thailand and a few other places); between the wood or silver hilt and the iconic wavy blade sits the Kris ring, historically red rubies, but glass and brass in my version.

The oversize brass hook-and-eye clasp suits the large cinnabar beads which are 1” in diameter…but let me emphasize they are very light in weight. 20” long. Small cinnabar earrings included (or wear your own gold earrings).  $95.

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 14:  Bone

“Birdsong”

 

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 14/Drawer 14: April 5, 2017: “Birdsong”

Having lived in Asia for a year and a half, I enjoyed using bone beads and buying beautifully carved bone centerpieces.  Bone beads are popular all over the world and come from organic antlers or horns from animals such as oxen, cows, camels, and water buffalo who died naturally.  In Hong Kong, I found three variations of bone beads:  natural white, tea-dyed, and otherwise dyed.  Later on, visiting my husband’s son and his family in Bozeman, MT, I bought some beads made from deer hooves which looked like a dark wood.

This drawer features natural white oval beads and spacer beads. The clasp is a bone ring and a toggle charmingly “painted” brown which I thought spoke to the centerpiece.

The centerpiece is 2” x 2.5” with a lovingly carved scene of birds in leafy tree branches.  It is inlaid into a piece of rosewood, also well-carved.  Turn it over and the artist, proud of his work, embedded his signature in a perfect circle.  This is the only Chinese carving intended for jewelry I have ever seen signed.

The Chinese started carving bone in the 5th century BCE for use as tools.  Attracted to its natural beauty, they evolved their carvings to adornment.

“Birdsong”

The necklace is 18” long plus 2” for the centerpiece.  Earrings included.  $75.

Picaresque

 

 

Necklace "Picaresque"

 

I intuitively named this necklace “Picaresque.” Upon thinking of the meaning as rogue or bohemian, it is really appropriate. This necklace is all about the centerpiece; I made it in a class in the 90’s, wore it in the bohemian era on a cord, and put it aside.

Recycled, reused and re-invented, it is happy now with yellow jade beads tying the centerpiece to the necklace. Only after living in Hong Kong and becoming a regular at the Jade Market did I realize how many colors of jade there are! This strand is a honey mustard shade, interspersed with the same ethnic beads as the centerpiece. It is finished with a gold metal clasp.

Let me describe the delicious beads featured in the centerpiece: The most roguish are the two irregular rounds of ram’s horn—the first and only time I had a chance to buy ram’s horn; from Morocco’s Atlas Mountains as I recall. My next favorite beads are the jasper and yellow striped beads. They are trade beads from Mozambique that I bought in a Lisbon, Portugal flea market in 1965…long before beading was a word that had even drifted through my mind!

You’ll also notice a conical wood bead in the same honey mustard shade, two ethnic jasper beads of unknown provenance, green sand-cast glass African beads, and glass jasper spacers. The framework for the centerpiece is brass wire.

The necklace measures 22” with the centerpiece 3” wide by 3 ½” long. The price is $215 including shipping.

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.