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 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 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.

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”.

 

Three Necklaces

“Chic Thrills” features a charming koi fish centerpiece I have had for a long time, waiting for the right mix of beads to show it off. Well, when nearly matching vintage orange Lucite (what plastic was called in the 1960’s) beads came into my possession, I had the answer. But what contrasting color to use? An odd green, don’t ask me why. I was so excited by the time I assembled the large faux pearl, the beetle wings and the small faux pearls, that I can’t remember how the colors all came together!
The fish is Asian in its origin as indicated by its large popping eyes and its elaborate tail display. It is a vintage piece perhaps made of resin with lots of nice carving marks on it.
The five beetle wings are iridescent and pointy and most unusual. A great conversation piece.
The necklace is almost 19″ long and the centerpiece dangle is 4″long.
Hammered gold-colored metal clasp, gold-filled wire connections in the dangle.
The price is $159 which includes earrings featuring green and orange beads with a beetle wing.

“A Smashing Good Time” is a classic sterling silver and turquoise necklace with a contemporary spin that the silver used here is a special basket weave pattern mastered by the Hill Tribes of northern Thailand. The clasp is also sterling silver by the Hill Tribes.
The turquoise chunky beads mix smooth and veined specimens of Chinese-mined turquoise stones.
The necklace is 23″ and the basket weave medallion is 2″ in diameter.
It is priced at $135.

“Flash Forward” is also color-forward: semi-precious amethyst beads matched with lime-dyed branch coral. The branch coral is bezeled with an electroplated gold bail for a shiny, blingy look. It is attached to the amethyst necklace and secured by two vermeil (gold plate over metal) beads. The necklace ends with more electroplated gold beads and a gold metal clasp.
Think of this piece as a fabulous good luck charm and wear it well!
The necklace measures 18″ and the centerpiece is 3″.
The price is $129.