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.

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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.

 

OPEN STUDIO.AUGUST 16-18.HULL,MA

COME BY TO SEE NEW WORK.

SHOULD BE GREAT WEATHER FOR ART-STUDIO-HOPPING.

ALL WEEKEND I’LL BE CELEBRATING MAKING MY 3000th NECKLACE, BRACELET OR EARRINGS.  IT ONLY TOOK 24 YEARS.  HA!  BUT WHAT FUN ALONG THE WAY!

FRIDAY, AUG 16 FROM 6 TO 8 PM.  wine and cheese to celebrate 3000.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY, AUG 17 & 18 from 10 TO 4.

CATALOGUES FOUND AT HULL BUSINESSES.  ALWAYS FREE.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019

In New England, Valentine’s Day is inexorably linked to the weather which is usually snow, sleet or ice. I started making these necklaces during the weekend of the Martin Luther King holiday. Ice was the weather horror of that weekend. With a forecast of snow followed by rain followed by single digit overnight temps, I planned for a forced two-day homestay by shopping for tasty food. I stocked crab cakes, cod which I cook Mediterranean style, lobster meat for a Lobster roll as well as sautéed over angel hair pasta. I did not forget Chardonnay and Merlot!

The three necklaces shown below were strung on the sofa in front of a fire with the dog Max curled up on his spot. It was a pleasurable two days with no broken bones since the furthest I went was to the deck gate to let Max out…after pouring hot water to defrost the gate latch.

I decided to string simple seed beads and save the excitement for the dangles that are such fun to assemble. Descriptions follow, left to right.

  • Red glass “pony” (a big seed bead) necklace, 22” long with a gold metal heart clasp. Dangle of 4” with large gold metal circle as the connector. Featured beads are Murano red glass with foil interior; red glass hearts and assorted gold metal charms. $47.
  • Small gold metal round beads make the 19” long necklace and simple hook and eye clasp. Dangle of 3.5” featuring an off-white heart plus 4 gold metal hearts plus an angel making music. $39.
  • Sparkling red glass seed bead necklace, 21”, with a creative silver metal clasp. Dangle of 3.5” featuring two Murano foil glass hearts, assorted red hearts and a sterling silver and crystal small dangle. $42.

A search of my “HEARTS” box produced three gems that I could just put on a chain and present at a low price because my labor is negligible (unlike stringing those seed beads). I show them in the second photo. Again, from the left.

  • Blue and white Murano glass bead on a 20.5” on a silver mesh chain. $20.
  • Large (2.25” wide by 2” high) lime green with copper and silver foil designs embedded on a 36” copper “key chain” which I (or you) can easily make shorter. $20.
  • Simple and contemporary 18” silver chain with a stylized silver heart and gold patch. $20.

 

 

 

 

 

Certain dog-loving readers have asked for more Max photos. I shall graciously let him steal the spotlight every other month. This is Max on the sofa, which is for play as well as rest in his mind.  He is just shy of 9 months of age.

Welcome 2019 and the American Sleeping Beauty Turquoise

“American Sleeping Beauty”

 

I remember when I was first introduced to American Sleeping Beauty Turquoise at one of my beloved bead shows in Northern California.

Whether it was Oakland or Santa Barbara; what the exact date was; I have no recall. I saw the clarity of a robin blue strand of really big faceted turquoise beads, and just like the first Tiffany boxed gift you receive, you are transfixed by the color and you know you are in the presence of something iconic.

The strand was expensive ($39 per bead), but I intuitively knew it was worth it. And guess what? I never saw turquoise from the American Beauty mine in Globe, Arizona, again. After my research for this blog, I know why: the mine closed in 2012*.

Close-up of the front of the centerpiece showing artistic use of boring ole electroplate. There are two pieces: the flower shape on top and the rectangle of dyed magnesite on the bottom.

Turquoise mines in that area date back to the Anasazi era (200 BC to AD1500) of Native Americans. The Navajos mined it into the 1900s. An American entrepreneur took it over in the ‘60s and closed it in 2012 to mine copper.What made this necklace possible was my discovery of the creative centerpiece at my favorite Boston area bead show this past October. Currently it is the only show I attend since I am well-stocked after 24 years in this endeavor! But like all acquirers, I can’t stop looking! And buying….

The vendor didn’t tell me the name of the designer even though I asked, so I can’t give credit. I have two more to use later. Can you see me smiling?

What attracted me to this centerpiece was the creative use of copper electroplate, usually seen as smooth and sleek. This inspired artist made it to the consistency of mashed potatoes and just piled it on, with a few balls of pure copper accenting the bumps. S/he picked dyed magnesite (often confused as turquoise, and, worse, often claimed as turquoise by unscrupulous vendors), then cleverly added a “flower” in the spirit of more is better. There is even more: the top bead of frosted rock crystal is artistically embellished, crowned by a generous circle to attach to a necklace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back of the centerpiece:

electroplated copper on dyed magnesite.

 

 

 

The third component to this magnificent piece (forgive my abandonment of humility) are the Swarovski pearls which the world-famous crystal producer made by using a crystal instead of the usual shell irritant, resulting in faux pearls in a myriad of colors! So this necklace is the classic high/low I often see in home design magazines. They are reasonably priced, but a quality pearl: the low to the above two highs.

Now for the summary: this American Beauty Turquoise necklace is 20” plus a 3” long centerpiece. $259.00 including earrings.

 

*Not to say American Beauty Turquoise cannot be found. Many people, especially the miners, have stashes of it. Prices have increased, as they do for all scarce commodities.

GOLDSTONE

“Grand Illusion”

As I reach the end of my second regular blogging year (weekly in 2017; monthly in 2018 and onward…), this Goldstone research produced my first big “Aha!”

For almost 25 years, I have assumed Goldstone was one of my beloved semi-precious stones found in Nature.  It’s called stone, right?  But no!  It is a glass product cooked up by artisans!  I am not disappointed, dear readers, because it still is a fabulous glittering glass and it makes a great necklace.  I am now informed!

The original goldstone manufacturing process was developed in 17th century Venice (and Murano) by the Miotti family and exclusively licensed to them by the Doge.  The ingredients include silica, copper and other metal oxides to produce glass containing tiny crystals of metallic copper.

I have also used blue goldstone which I now know substitutes cobalt for copper.

This 22″ necklace contains two sizes of facteted goldstone with a center bead called a briolette, also faceted, which plays up the glitter very nicely.  Copper clasp and matching earrings.  $69 for the set.

 

 

 

 

February 15: Cut some Ball Chain, Add a Centerpiece!

My Blog Plan for 2018 is based on a first of the month posting of a special necklace and its story which was also 2017’s plan, only weekly. I also thought I might post a more lighthearted piece of work mid-month.

There is nothing more lighthearted than ball chain. My first exposure to it was a lucky rabbit’s foot I received as a birthday present as a kid. Today such a gift would have PETA picketing outside our family home. I just attached it to my pencil bag and petted it for good luck.

Otherwise folks used it to keep their keys together. Maybe it should have been called key chain? Or dogtag chains? Or pull cord chain?

My selections from the top include fancy sterling silver ball chain with the Egyptian Ankh and Nefertiti pendants.

Then three brass ball chain 24-6” long, with picture jasper, brass and copper, and ceramic snake pendants.

 

 

 

Next, 36″long ball chain with faux Amber resin and lamp-work glass with silver dots.

Finally, ordinary ball chain with picture jasper, lampwork glass and pewter in 24-6″.

Ball chain really keeps prices down!  They range from $11 to $25.

The top two sterling silver are $35 and $38, left to right.

 

 

 

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 15: Peach & Gray

 

“Emotionally Rich”

 

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 15/Drawer 15: April 12, 2017: “Emotionally Rich”

Since I had just a few peach and gray beads, I put them together in Drawer 15 and they have co-existed over the years. While rummaging through the drawer, I was excited to find two strands of gorgeous peach aventurine to feature this week.

Aventurine is a crystal with a lot of quartz in it, mostly opaque and often green, leading some to incorrectly identify it as jade. Peach is a lesser known aventurine color which is achieved by the presence of the minerals orange mica and pyrite (aka “fools’ gold”). These minerals are said to enhance creativity.

When I found the four large peach aventurine ovals, I knew I had enough to make a two-strand necklace! Notice how the sparkle of the coppery seed beads brings out the brightness of the minerals.

The highlight of the necklace is the lampwork glass creation of Gail Crosman Moore. Gail is special to me: a familiar face at the many CA bead shows where I shopped; she is from Western MA; and she is a redhead!   Mostly she is a truly creative artist as she wields colorful glass canes in one hand and in the other hand, she shapes the molten into a unique bead, all while wearing protective gear in front of flame!

Shaped like a bell, the centerpiece is peach with striations of green and blue. The bottom has beautiful blue pods waiting for your caress.

Read Gail’s website and be sure to note her shop in P-Town!

This necklace demanded a copper clasp and is accompanied by a simple pair of copper and aventurine earrings. It is 20” long.  $115.

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.