beads


A while back, I wrote about these gorgeous CZ drops and a necklace I made using four of them.  Well, I started out with six CZ teardrops and had two left – one red and the other amber.  I didn’t want to use them together again since I had already done that.  I also thought one of them might look a little sad alone, so I looked for a companion and found this little black glass piece with a red splash.  He said he wanted to play so I said OK.

I love the pairing and I call the piece dash dot.  I realize that technically it’s maybe more of an exclamation point and dot, but at this point the dash dot name has stuck.

I used black beads with white spots and black glass for the main body of the necklace and for some reason, brown crystals seemed right for the front.  A few tiny shell squares and two silver crescent roll beads complete the design.

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I love the simple sweetness of this bracelet.  There are three red white heart Venetian trail beads at the center.  “White heart” beads are ones where a color – red in this case – is layered over a white core (heart).  In the days when these beads were made, colored glass was harder to make and more expensive so this was a technique used to keep the beads more affordable.  I find the white heart also gives the beads a touch of luminosity.  I kept the design simple – jet crystal, black glass, aquamarine teardrops and darkened sterling silver chain.

Sometimes when I make very simple jewelry, I question whether I’ve done enough.  At times, I will ask my boyfriend what he thinks.  He always says the same thing – more notes don’t make a better song.  And he’s right – there can be just as much artistry in a simple, clean design as in one with a lot of complexity.

Gray is a favorite color of mine.  I love it whether it’s soft gray sweaters, furry gray kittens, or beautiful gray beads.  Gray is a sophisticated neutral that makes a statement in a quiet way.  The idea for this necklace came when I saw the gray agate tubes sitting next to the gray fresh water pearls.  It was one of those happy accidents that occur from time to time.  I loved the light and dark gray pearls with the agate tubes and made all the dangle segments, not really sure at the time where I would head with the necklace.  All of the links were made with sterling silver wire that I darkened to a matte finish that I think shows the beads off better than shiny silver would.

When I went to bring the necklace together, I remembered I had these matte finish hematite beads and felt they were just perfect.  They brought another aspect of gray into the design and look wonderful with shiny dark gray pearls interspersed in short intervals.  Given that the necklace was made using a single color – shades of that color, shape, texture, and finish had to bring the visual interest and artistry that I seek to create in each piece of jewelry.

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This is a photo of my work table yesterday.  I was having one of those days when ideas were just flowing – multiple ideas for multiple pieces of jewelry, all in a rush and tumble, almost all at once.  Some are captured as sketches, others have enough beads pulled together to give me the main idea of the piece.  Do I have way too much going on?  Probably.  Should I reign it in and work on one piece at a time?  Yes.  And I will.

But when the ideas are flowing like this I let them flow, even if it means temporary chaos.  I do what I can to capture each idea and then begin to focus on the actual development of each piece, evaluating each idea for soundness as I go along.  I’m excited, I did get some soldering done yesterday.  I need to get on my jeweler’s bench and get some sawing, drilling, and filing done today.  I can’t wait to see the ideas become reality.

My birthday is in January and garnet is my birthstone.  I think garnets are beautiful gemstones and enjoy working with them.  They are gorgeous as the main element in a piece of jewelry, they also can add warmth and contrast to a piece made primarily of other colors without bringing in too much red.  I remember growing up not liking that garnet was my birthstone.  I wanted March (aquamarine), June (pearl), or July (ruby).  I also wanted my name to be Lisa or Cindy.  I eventually grew into garnet and Charlene and would not change either.  Funny how sometimes what we think we want isn’t at all what is right for us.

And so, I love garnet.  I got the centerpiece for this two-strand bracelet at a bead show in Maryland.  I thought it was unique and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it since then.  It took me a while to figure out how to use it.  I envisioned it as a pendant but once I opened my mind to another possibly, I quickly saw that it worked so much better as the focal point of a bracelet.  I used garnets in two shapes – faceted teardrops and faceted round beads.  I added garnet toned glass pearls and little red spacer beads.  Keeping an open mind and seeing possibilities, always good things.

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This is one of the newest additions to my bead stash – a huge strand of carnelian shapes from the early to mid-1900’s.  It’s hard not to respond to the sheer mass of the strand, it’s about 42 inches long, contains roughly 100 pieces, and it’s heavy.

What’s really special is the unique beauty of each individual piece – there are lovely variations in size, in shape, and in coloring that make each piece special in its own right.  I plan to approach designing jewelry using these beads by doing some sketches first.  I’m not sure where I’ll head yet, it will come when I sit down and commit to the design process.

Newly manufactured carnelian beads are available as well.  Many of the ones I have seen have been treated by heat and other means to enhance their color.  The resulting beads have a deep red color but often lack any variation whatsoever.  I still buy them and use them, but it’s not the same as these rustic, weathered beads.

Maybe what I see happening with carnelian and other gemstone beads is like a microcosm of our society – one where the same stores and restaurants are increasingly found in every city and town – they have their place and purpose – but tucked away here and there are unique, independent businesses – gems of our communities.


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This strand of beads belonged to my dear friend Frances Wright.  Frances loved beads and jewelry making, had a huge wonderful personality, and was one of those people who always made you laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes.  Frances was a member of the Bead Society of Southeastern Virginia, and I have been a long-time member myself.  We lost Frances suddenly few years ago and were all shocked and saddened.

Her family had no use for her beads and sold a lot of them to the Bead Society.  We used quite a few of them to initiate a project in her honor.  We named the project Frances’ Beads and made jewelry to donate to a local organization that helps women enter or re-enter the workforce by giving them an interview outfit.  Frances’ Beads has gone on to become an annual event.  I know Frances would be proud.

I remember bead shopping with her.  We were in Maryland at a bead show and we were both looking at some African beads.  Frances said I love these beads so much but I never use them.  I told her I loved mine too but I used mine and asked her why she didn’t use hers.  She said the strands were just so beautiful that she could never bear to cut them.  This strand of African beads is one I purchased from the beads Frances left behind.  It hangs in my workshop, it reminds me of her, and will remain a strand uncut.

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