Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What I'm Working On - Atelier Beads

Anybody who makes jewelry--or wears it for that matter--has had to
face up to the fact that there are gems and gemstones we simply cannot
use any more. Their use may involve wanton destruction and the
suffering of animals, as with ivory. Or it may have resulted in the
wholesale destruction of habitats and populations, as with
Mediterranean coral. Or, tragically, it may involve man's inhumanity
to man, as in the terrible suffering of the men who mine for Burma
jade (jadeite), now often referred to as "blood jade." Although these
gems have been used and prized for millennium, as ethical, caring
people we need to turn our backs on them rather than being the cause
for further exploitation.

Although this is a very gloomy opening for a blog post, I've been
having great fun for about a year now with frankly faux versions of
these three prized substances. I've found in my travels that Japanese
glass makers at one point had a brisk business in turning out versions
of all sorts of carved precious stones in wonderful, intricate glass.
There was a booming business in turning out these pieces in the late
Thirties. It went dormant during World War II and enjoyed a resurgence
during the U.S. occupation of Japan from the end of the war until
about 1953 or 1954. Vintage Japanese glass from this era is available,
and we can enjoy seeing how masterfully the glassmakers re-created the
originals. Most of these little stones were created to be turned into
"costume" jewelry or buttons, and it's still possible to find terrific
uncirculated examples. Here are my three "forbidden fruit" stones of
the moment:

Coral: These tiny (10mm) stones have a beautifully incised design of
flowers and ferns. There is some gradation in the color of the glass
for a natural effect.

Jadeite: Here's a wonderful recreation of the finest Burma jade. As
with the coral, there are some subtle gradations in the color. The
design incorporates flowers and ferns.

Ivory: These "ivory" glass stones are some of my favorites. They come
in a variety of sizes and are pure white, with a design of daisies and

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Hi i heard that turquoise is going to become very scarce because the mines in China are closing for environmental reasons. Have you heard this? I was thinking of using turquoise in my work since I am Native American.