Archive of ‘Bead adventures’ category

A throwback Thursday in honor of World Book Day

| Bead adventures, Reading pleasures

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Hello friends, today is World Book Day and I thought I would do a related Throwback Thursday post. By now, you’ve probably guessed that I’m a little obsessed about beads.  I’m all up for bead adventures, whether its digging for beads in some small French town, or dragging the family on a 7 hour drive to see a bead exhibit.  This obsession extends to bead books.   Now there are a good number of books on beading and how-tos but the ones I’m most interested in are the ones that deal with the stories and histories of beads and those are a little harder to come by. As I got deeper into studying  beads, it became important to build up my bead library. And I got a little obsessive about  a book called Middle Eastern and Venetian Glass Beads by Augusto Panini. It is this big and gorgeous book on antique beads and had a fairly limited run.  It was of course not obtainable in any of the bookstores I called. Looking back now, I wonder why I just didn’t look for it online but I have to confess that it didn’t occur to me at that time. Luckily for me it didn’t because what I finally did was to write to the author to ask if he had any copies left to sell. And lo and behold–he wrote back to say he had one or two left and that he would be happy to sell me one. Even better was the news that he was coming to Paris for a visit so he could actually give me the book in person. That just about made my day, as you can well imagine!

I even got him to sign my book!  Needless to say, its one of my most cherished books.

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Bead Bonanza

| Bead adventures

 

IMG_6767-0.JPG Hello friends, I hope you all had a wonderful and restful weekend! The highlight of my weekend was the Bead Bonanza. This is a bi-annual event that gathers 50 or so bead dealers and you can absolutely geek out on anything and everything bead related.    There are literally piles and piles of all kinds and colors of beads.  If you are into beads and beadwork, this is definitely one event to attend.

Despite the profusion of beads, there aren’t a lot of stands carrying the older beads that I am perpetually looking for.  This time around, I was happily surprised because there were a few stands with some vintage and even older beads.  What was supposed to be a short visit (I told the family I would be there a maximum of one hour) turned into practically a whole day visit.

One stand caught my eye because of the many strands of coral and turquoise he was carrying. But he also had boxes full of vintage Afghanistan jewelry, some of which they had taken apart to sell as individual elements. These elements of traditional Afghan jewelry made mostly of silver and glass and a few with stones and corals, have a long and proud history and the antique versions of these jewelry sell easily for thousands of dollars.    It got me thinking about how I could possibly incorporate them in my own work.

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The next stand I visited is actually one of my favorite stands  and is one that carries a lot of old jewelry and old beads.  The beads and jewelry that I saw is now merely a fraction of what used to be a huge collection.  It belonged to an avid collector of beads and jewelry and her collection spans a period of easily 40 years.   She collected everything–from tribal jewelry from all over to antique stones to contemporary chevron beads from some of the best contemporary bead makers. She even collected some of the earliest editions of bead related journals!   When it was complete it must have been breathtaking. As it is now, it is still pretty impressive and I felt fortunate enough to see what is left of it.

Here are a few examples of her bead strands: mostly Venetians from the 19th century mixed with a few Bohemian made beads..

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It boggles my mind to imagine how much there must have been. Of course, I couldn’t resist the beads. The question was in fact more of how to restrain myself from blowing my entire budget on this one stand!

So friends, stay tuned, tomorrow I will share with you my finds from the Bead Bonanza!

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Trade bead jewelry

| Bead adventures, Reading pleasures

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Trade beads are one of my most favorite beads to work with. The variety of patterns, and different colors make them interesting and different. I really think that they make for wonderful additions to one’s jewelry box and they can easily jazz up any outfit. Because they are so colorful and inevitably full of pattern, I’ve tried to make these pieces relatively simple in style. These three pieces featured here are great examples of what I mean.

The first piece (pictured above) features bright yellow trade beads with red canes running in the middle of the bead. I’ve had these yellow beads for awhile but I didn’t really know how I would style it. Then when I went to Tucson for the gem fair, I found this red bead which I realized was the exact same pattern as the canes running through the yellow beads.  The beads on this necklace date back to the late 19th century.  I didn’t want this piece to be overwhelming so I decided to go for a sautoir style necklace. I think this style makes these beads more wearable. Just layer over a plain shirt and you’re good to go.

20140513-112507.jpgThe second piece features two black eye beads from the Venetian trade and a lovely Venetian fancy trade bead. While the Venetians were master bead makers, they were greatly inspired by ancient Islamic bead makers. One pattern they took and made their own was the eye motif which was greatly prized by Africans. The eye beads were believed to be powerful protection against the evil eye. The two black eye beads featured here are the Venetians version of an ancient Islamic bead and date back to the 19th century. The yellow fancy bead on the other hand is the Venetian version of the highly prized African Bodom bead.  The Venetian versions are increasingly difficult to find and I was lucky to have found an excellent specimen.  For these beads, I decide to make a shorter necklace that’s designed to sit on the collarbone. Perfect under button down shirts!

20140505-125210.jpgAnd last but not the least is this bracelet composed of blue and yellow trade beads.  While the colors are the same, the pattern is not exactly the same.  The small football shaped beads are harder to find than the round ones and the canes used in the beads are more apparent here. Eh voila… a couple of new pieces to start the week on the right note!

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The great bead adventure, part 2

| Bead adventures, Travels

Hello friends, I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  I thought I’d start the week off with the second part of my great bead adventure!  This time, I wanted to tell you all about my favorite part of the trip–the collectible beads!

Before setting out for Tucson,  a friend told me to set a budget and to stick to it.
When I saw the collectible beads, I realized what wise counsel that was and how utterly impossible to follow. There were beads there that I’ve only ever seen in books or museums! There were strands of the rare and beautiful, the old and uncommon to the more ordinary beads. Mixed in with all the collectibles were the newly made beads and there were heaps of those. I quickly learned that the most special strands were kept in glass boxes. These were the strands that cost a small fortune. Some dealers kept what they called “pocket pieces” or loose beads sold separately and these ranged in price to 10$ a bead to 140 a bead. And I’m not even talking about the ancient stone beads!

It was really cool to see so many different varieties and to be able to hold them and see up close all the ways they are different from each other. And I realized that this is  the best way to learn how to tell whether a bead is really old or merely a reproduction. Because there such a demand for collectible beads, there are some unscrupulous people who would take advantage and pass off reproductions as old. Or there are some who simply don’t know what they’re selling. So this was an invaluable learning experience for me.

Here are a few photos of the more memorable strands and beads.  I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them!!

This first strand that caught my eye was also one of the most expensive ones at 4000 dollars. It has a several 6 layer Chevron beads, a huge German marble bead, rare Prosser chevron beads, a few  older barrel trade beads.

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One strand we looked at had a broken bead with writing on it.. the entire set consisted of three beads with the writing J Walker Co. Very rare to see one of them and the rest of the tabular beads were pretty too..

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This is a collection of unusual Millefioris including 2 stands of Moretti beads… price range of these beads from 500 to 1200+ dolla

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The pink strand was one of my absolute favorites–pink feather beads, pink eye beads and the pineapples.  I’ve never seen the blue and white with aventurine stripes in the second strand pictured here. 1400 for each of these strands.   20140221-150556.jpg

A collection of loose Millefiori beads in the rare football shape..price range 100-200 dollars per bead20140221-150740.jpg

Another collection of pocket beads..the beads pictured here are older, early 19th century or even earlier for some of the folded beads.20140221-150811.jpg

A beautiful collection of Viking era beads, the real deal as opposed to the Indonesian made replicas.

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And last but not the least,  several strands of etched ancient carnelians, price range 3000 to 7000 dollars a strand..  Very special treat to see these authentic strands as there are so many reproductions available today.DSCN4214

 

Now you see my this was my favorite part of the whole trip!

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The great bead adventure, part I

| Bead adventures, Travels

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For about three weeks in February, the town of Tucson, Arizona is taken over by  jewelry, beads, rocks and minerals thanks to the Tucson Gem and Mineral show.  The name itself is a bit misleading as there are, at last count, 38 shows during the show. It is the biggest fair of its kind in the US. Over 55,000 people come from all over the world to gather with other like minded afficionados. For someone with an interest in gems, minerals, beads and jewelry, this is the place to be. Nowhere else in the world would you see such variety and the sheer number of things on display is staggering.

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The show that began it all, the Tucson Gem and Mineral show, started out, humbly enough in 1955, when a group of mineral and rock collectors from the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society decided to hold a free exhibit at a local school. It was such a success that they decided to hold another one the year after.  Now, this Gem Show has moved to the Tucson Convention Center and a host of different shows have sprung up in various locations in town. It has gotten so big that even such institutions like the Smithsonian and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History have booths showing a portion of their collection.

One of the many giant amethyst rocks

One of the many giant amethyst rocks

I first heard about Tucson more than 10 years ago when I bought my first strand of sugilites from a dealer who came from Tucson.  He had a dazzling array of stones, some of which I’d never seen before.  And he told me that Tucson was where I could go and find everything and anything I could possibly want in gems.  Fast forward to present times and I found out that even my beloved trade beads could be found in Tucson. Now I really  wanted to go. Miraculously enough, a way was found, a few days  carved out of daily life’s routines and I could spend a few days being in bead heaven.

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What I found far exceeded any of my expectations.  One thing I learned fast was that its impossible to see everything. And I wanted to see everything!! A friend who has done the show at least twice and has been to all the shows, put it in perspective “you can see all the shows, but it doesn’t mean you can see every booth there is.”  There’s just so much to see.  There were 38 shows when I went but each show had numerous sellers and booths, with the bigger shows hosting easily 100 vendors, maybe more.  The trick is to decide on your priority and to stick to it.  I wanted to see antique beads and gems so I duly limited myself to the shows carrying the best selection.  All told I went to about 10 shows.   Not bad for a first timer I thought.

Even by limiting myself, it was so easy to get overwhelmed by the shows I did get to visit. I found myself gawking at everything.  There were huge mammoth tusks and fossils from all over the world. And tubs and tubs of every kind of gem and mineral that could possibly be mined from the earth.

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Another favorite--the tourmaline embedded in quartz

Another favorite–the tourmaline embedded in quartz

Rows and rows of fossils.

Rows and rows of fossils.

And while there were plenty of rough gems and minerals, there was no shortage of the finely cut, high end gemstones as well. I had the pleasure of meeting John Dyer, who has received numerous awards for his work in cutting gemstones and the selection he had on display was magnificent.20140219-165639.jpg

I love gems in the pink spectrum and he had the biggest morganite I ever did see.  The morganite  is the pink stone in the middle and the the spinel (the big read one next to it) was not too shabby either–22 karats big and a whooping 269,000$!  I got nervous holding on to their cases!!!

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Just thinking about them makes me weak in the knees. Whew!

So far I’ve talked about gems and minerals, but I haven’t yet told you about the beads.  That’s another story altogether. Tune in tomorrow for the next installment….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel Thursday

| Bead adventures, Scenes from our travels

Hello friends, today I thought I’d mix it up on the blog and do a travel post instead of a Throwback Thursday post. Wherever I am, I always find myself checking out local bead shops. It’s always interesting to see what’s available and one way or another I always come away inspired.
Sometimes I’ll even get lucky and find some old beads I can use for my own jewelry.

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This time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I am right smack in the heart of bead street. I got positively giddy when I realized that Corso Vittorio Emanuel in Palermo has so many bead stores lining its entire length. I haven’t walked the whole stretch of it but the short distance I covered already had 5 stores! Of course my euphoria was a bit tempered because all the stores carried the whole spectrum of gemstones and semi-precious stones but not one of them had the antique beads I was looking for.
Still and all, there were so many wonderful gems and beautiful findings that I could have easily spent the whole day in these stores. Oh I did stumble, just before heading back, on one store that had some vintage silver charms. Maybe I should get one of them…

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Life on a String

| Bead adventures

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People often ask me how I know the stories behind the beads I use.  And the answer is always the same. I try to read up as much as I can on beads and their history. I talk to a lot of similarly minded people and learn from them.

And whenever possible, I visit museums with bead exhibits.  One recent road trip was to the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York where…drumroll please they had a special exhibit on beads.  When I read the title, I knew I had to go.

And it was well worth the long drive to the Museum. Though to be fair, the area we drove through was quite beautiful,  since the Museum is nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes district.  The Museum I have to add, is worth a visit in itself for their wonderful collection of glass. But this particular visit was all about beads and was I a happy camper to see so many in one place!

There were fantastic examples of little seen beads like the Islamic beads on this  which date back to the 12th century.

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Or this example of a Chevron bead from the 15th century!

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Then there were more familiar yet no less wonderful trade beads like these on the right..IMG_0208

and what I like to call the Tic Tac Toe red beads. IMG_0205

And because the exhibit was all about beads including the different ways beads have been put to use in many different cultures, there were other wondrous things like this traditional fully beaded handmade jacket from the Bagobo people of the Philippines.  Isn’t this beautiful? IMG_0211

And these gorgeous beaded belts from Cameroon and Kenya.IMG_0210

I wonder where the next bead exhibit will be? If you have any ideas, don’t hesitate to let me know!

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Beads from Briare

| Bead adventures, Travels

DSCN2026Most of you now know that I go to a lot of antique and flea markets to find my beads.  But one of my more unusual bead finds literally, involved, digging into the ground to find beads. This took place one fine weekend in the spring when I decided to drag the entire family for a bead adventure. I had heard about the town of Briare (about an hour and a half away from Paris) and how this was once the site of a huge glass making factory. At its heyday in the mid-19th century the Briare glass factory established by Jean-Baptieste Bapterosses  produced 600 tons of buttons and 496 tons of glass beads! Bapterosses was an innovator who was one of the first to figure out how to mass produce buttons and beads.   Unfortunately decline set in during the early 20th century after the demand for porcelain buttons went down and the factory has long since been sold.

But what intrigued me was the site just behind the factory where defective buttons, tiles and beads were dumped.  The idea of beads just lying below the surface of the ground was of course irresistible so we set out to hunt for these Briare beads.

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We walked through a passage of trees to emerge into a wide clearing covered entirely with tiles.

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After bead production was shut down, the factory turned to the production of tiles for which they are still known today.  And while I was worried about trespassing and all that, luck was with us that day. Several families had the same idea and were busy digging for tiles and filing bags with them.

And true enough, there were beads to be found just by digging a little through the surface filled with tiles.

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Just check out our haul from that day! Gorgeous beads that looked as fresh as the day they came out of production. Briare beads are distinctive for their slightly glossy finish and by the equatorial band running all along the bead.DSCN2072

I even found some pretty tube beads.DSCN2069

I came home pretty satisfied with my find. And I finally got around to making a piece with my Briare finds. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!

 

 

 

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