A few years ago, before I even had the idea of selling jewelry, I accompanied a friend to a closing out sale. My friend had heard of someone who was closing her business and needed to liquidate her inventory and materials. The artist was quite creative and her creations ranged from bags to textile art and jewelry. Her atelier was filled to the brim with feathers, uncut leather, tools, sequins and other odds and ends. I was quite curious as to why she was closing and she told me that despite her love of her craft, it was hard to make a living out of it. She said that most people didn’t appreciate the efforts that went into her creations and that after years of struggling, she was ready to give it up. The sale of the things she used to create would help her start afresh.
I certainly wanted to help her but I didn’t really see anything I could use. I decided to go one last time around the atelier and then I spotted some jars sitting high up on one of shelves. There were two jars filled with buttons and another half filled with beads. From the various beads stashed in the box was a strand of these green beads. My eye was caught by the vibrant color and pattern of these beads. She explained that they had been in her family for a long time and that they had come from Africa. She’d always wanted to do something with them, but for one reason or another, never managed to. I figured it wasn’t part of the sale so I put it back. But to my surprise, she said she was willing to sell it. She said, it was time for them to be with someone else. Someone else who could make something with them, rather than sitting in the dark, collecting dust.
I happily took them home, that thought ringing in my mind and as I learned more about beads, I learned that these were Venetian Millefiori trade beads. They had been around a long long time. They were part of the massive trade of beads that made their way from Venice to Africa in the 19th century. These particular ones were probably made in the latter half of the 19th century. These beads were in gorgeous condition; no chips or cracks to mar their surface. I made a very straightforward necklace with them, the weight of its history carried in the simplest of forms.