by Terrie Marcoe.
(New Paltz, NY)
I love vintage components and am always on the lookout for caches of antique beads and findings, but a few weeks ago when I happened across what I assume was an old necklace purchased as a souvenir in the Middle or Far East, I saw in the rather unremarkable necklace a series of components that were extremely attractive to me.
I couldn’t imagine how the necklace would currently be worn and make a statement. It seemed too clunky and just too “not unusual” in and of itself.
But the beads that compromised it were special. I quickly negotiated a small discount and raced home to disassemble the piece and clean the old beads(lightly scrubbing with a soft-bristled toothbrush in a water bath with just the tiniest dash of natural soap).
The dark chocolate brown beads were sumptuous and their barrel shape had a wonderful ratio of width to height. I believe they are Bakelite, but have not tested.
But it was the beadcaps that I was most astounded by, and I didn’t even realize why until I had dismantled the necklace and begun to clean them.
You see, they were each hand cut by an artisan. The were not stamped in a machine.
I found myself imagining an older man, crouched on the ground and working with his precious hand tools to create each metal cap one by one.
I saw him assembling the necklace, and also acting as salesman in a tented market on some trade route in a mountain region of the East.
The caps are embossed with a pretty design which I would say is based on the Lotus Flower, and the darkened patina they have taken on over the years highlights the pattern beautifully.
But it is the individualness of each single one that makes then so unique.
I decided to save the necklace’s large focal beads (which I have not described) for another project, and use the rest of the elements to make earrings.
The Bakelite Barrels are now the focal point on earrings, and the wonderful brass caps the supporting actor who steals the show. I also used the spacer beads from the necklace, and added brass heishi beads which are vintage from another source.
To add a bit of flair and provide the suggestion of “lantern” shape” (a favorite icon for me), I dropped the design from a larger brass ring.
These are simple earrings, but there is something about them that catches the eye.
I receive compliments every time I wear the pair I kept for myself.
I have to believe it is the intrinsic nature carried by the beads themselves, from the man who originally made them, and perhaps the woman who purchased the necklace back in the day, possibly in a memorable moment while on her Grand Tour.