My first trade beads

| Jewelry, Throwback Thursday

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Many years ago, I had the chance to visit the Fabled Rice Terraces in the Northern Highlands of the Philippines. This is a beautiful region of the country, filled with majestic views of the mountains and of course, the terraces which were carved entirely by hand by the Ifugao people 2000 years ago. It’s a breathtaking place and I have beautiful memories of our trip there. I also have fond memories of the kindness of the people there. They do beautiful bead work and colorful textiles but what really caught my attention was the jewelry they wore. They had beautiful glass bead necklaces. Now mind you, this was way way before I had an interest in beads, much less the idea of creating jewelry. Jewelry has always been an abiding interest and they had some pretty special ones. One spectacular piece worn by a village elder had glass beads with real gold embedded inside. There must have been at least 10 beads in the necklace and because it was an old piece, it had the most beautiful patina. Then they explained that their beaded jewelry were family heirlooms, passed from mother to daughter in each family. And that a lot of their beads were made in Itsaly and they acquired them from the Spanish Galleon trade! I was completely fascinated by the idea of these beads traveling on Spanish galleons and making their way to these mountains. Its literally a piece of history. When I asked if there was a necklace or 2 for sale, even the most simple one, they all shook their heads negatively.
Oh well, I thought to myself, I guess it’s not meant to be.
Then on our last day, one of the women, said she might know someone willing to sell me a necklace or two and whether I was still interested. How could I not be?
She then took me to another family’s house where the family matriarch asked me why I wanted their necklace. And I said that I liked them because they were a piece of history and that I would be honored to wear it. I still don’t know why that convinced her but she agreed to sell me what you now see here.
Fast forward to now, after hours and hours of reading and research and other purchases, I know now these beads to be white hearts and simple eye beads from Venice but they will always have a special place in my collection.

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