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jade hookSAVE 20% WITH SAVE20 COUPON for this and anything else in the shop. This is a lovely hand-carved pendant of natural Nephrite Jade from New Zealand. The hei matu, or fish hook, has endured since pre-colonial times (prior to the 18th century) and symbolizes abundance, and a respect for sea. The design represents the special relationship Maori people have with fishing (historically they lived from fisheries and depended on the sea for food gathering) and Tangaroa, god of the sea. Designs range from the ultra-realistic through to more conceptual styles, and wearing one is said to bring good fortune when traveling across oceans.

This beautiful piece measures approx. 45 mm long (approx.. 1 3/4") x approx. 23 mm. (just shy of 1") at its widest point. Thickness is approx. 3 mm. Hole at top for hanging is approx. 3 mm. wide.

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native american beadwork

With Thanksgiving and other Harvest/Fall celebrations coming up, I thought I'd re-share this article from some time ago. I never cease to be inspired by incredible native beadwork and seed bead artists from around the world. I hope you enjoy --

Some Natives have termed Thanksgiving 'a national day of mourning', since many tribes encountered by early Americans are now either extinct due to diseases carried by Pilgrims and/or Puritans, as well as war and genocide. Weetamoo (c. 1635–1676) was a Pocasset Wampanoag Native American leader, whose husband (one of five that she had over the years) was a participant in the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. Her name means "Sweet Heart". According to the Tiverton Four Corners website, "the squaw sachem, Weetamoo" governed the Pocasset tribe, which occupied today's Tiverton, Rhode Island in 1620. Weetamoo joined "with King Philip in fighting the colonists" in 1680, in King Philip's War, also known as "Metacomet's Rebellion." Her adolescent life was made into a children's historical novel in The Royal Diaries series, entitled Weetamoo, Heart of the Pocasetts: Rhode Island-Massachusetts, 1653. Weetamoo also appears in print in Mary Rowlandson's The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Rowlandson, who was captured 1676 and held by Weetamoo's relative Quinnapin for three months, left a vivid description of Weetamoo's appearance as well as personality:

"A severe and proud dame she was, bestowing every day in dressing herself neat as much time as any of the gentry of the land: powdering her hair, and painting her face, going with necklaces, with jewels in her ears, and bracelets upon her hands. When she had dressed herself, her work was to make girdles of wampum and beads."

mixed pearlI am no expert on pearls, but in this post I will share with you a bit of research I have done on pearls. Anyone seeking more detail or clarification would be well advised to consult with a certified gemologist and/or GIA (Gemological Institute of America). But here are a few interesting things I have found --

(side note:  Many thanks to Jeffery Bergman on LinkedIn, who found some needed corrections and shared them with me...)

A pearl is an object produced when a mollusk produces layers of nacre (pronounced NAY-kur) around some type of irritant inside its shell. In natural pearls, the irritant may be another organism from the water. In cultured pearls, a nucleous is inserted (by humans) into the mollusk to start the process. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes (baroque, oval button and drop) can occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Because of this, pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and valuable. The necklace to the right is made with multicolor South Sea & Tahitian pearls, assorted gemstones and 24K Gold Vermeil; from OrientalEmpire on Etsy.

Natural Pearls

Historically, many natural pearls were found in the Persian Gulf; unfortunately, today, most have already been harvested. Natural (or wild) pearls, formed without human intervention, are very rare. Many hundreds of pearl oysters or mussels must be gathered and opened, and thus killed, to find even one wild pearl; for many centuries, this was the only way pearls were obtained, and why pearls fetched such extraordinary prices in the past. Today, natural ‘pearling’ occurs mostly in seas off Bahrain (a country in the Middle East). Australia also has one of the world's last remaining fleets of pearl diving ships. Australian pearl divers dive for south sea pearl oysters to be used in the cultured south sea pearl industry.

Cultured Pearls

Cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms. The mollusks are raised until they are old enough to accept a nucleous, generally a polished sphere made from freshwater mussel shell. Through a delicate surgical procedure, the technician implants the nucleous and then the mollusks are returned to the water and cared for while the pearl forms. Not all produce a pearl; and not all the pearls are high quality. Over 10,000 pearls may be sorted before a 16” single strand of beautifully matched pearls is assembled. Pearls can be found in saltwater and in freshwater. There are also different types of mollusks that produce very different looking pearls.

keshi pearlKeshi pearls, although they often occur by chance, are not considered natural. They are a byproduct of the culturing process, and therefore don’t happen without human intervention. They are very small, typically only a few millimeters. Keshi pearls are produced by many different types of marine mollusks and freshwater mussels in China. Keshi pearls are actually a mistake in the cultured pearl seeding process. In seeding the cultured pearl, a piece of mantle muscle from a sacrificed oyster is placed with the nucleous (or bead) within the oyster. If the piece of mantle should slip off the bead, a pearl forms of a different shape. Therefore, a Keshi pearl could be considered superior to cultured pearls with a standard bead center. (Lovely Keshi pearl bracelet to the right is from TheSpiralRiver on Etsy.)

Tradenames of cultured pearls are Akoya, white or golden South sea, and black Tahitian.

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Akoya

Akoya pearls are the specialty of Japanese pearl farms. Because Akoya pearls are a high-quality pearl, you'll find them set with gold posts and clasps, and you'll find they are well matched for size, shape, and color. You'll also find few blemishes and a deep, beautiful luster. The Akoya looks very similar to the Freshwater pearl. But on average, Akoya pearls are larger, smoother, rounder, and more lustrous than Freshwater pearls. A wire Wrap necklace of Iolite Moonstone and cultured Blue Akoya Pearls shown to the left is from RohrJewelers on Etsy.

yellow pearlSouth Sea pearls are the color of their host Pinctada maxima oyster – and can be white, silver, pink, gold, cream, and any combination of these basic colors, including overtones of the various colors of the rainbow displayed in the pearl nacre of the oyster shell itself. South Sea pearls are the largest and rarest of the cultured pearls – making them the most valuable. They are prized for their exquisitely beautiful luster. The beautiful golden South Sea Pearl and diamond earrings to the right are from OrMana on Etsy.

 

nancy stoneSince I came of age in one of the great times of women's liberation and the feminist movement (60's - 80's), I truly appreciate the recent resurgence of passion for women’s rights and empowerment. We know we still get paid less than men in many cases, and we're frequently harassed and attacked simply for being women. We get labeled and stereotyped, and much of society still resists the idea that a woman can be a legitimate, competent, respected, and powerful leader.

So I particularly enjoyed this snippet I ran across while perusing Facebook -- from Nancy Fahey McCune. She said:

Here's another little story about me...

I ran a multimillion dollar corporation in Miami. Behind my back I was called the dragon lady. When I had had enough, I retired and began making artisan jewelry. I called my new business Dragon Lady Bling.

I loved this story because I used to run -- not a multimillion dollar corporation -- but a very large college. Behind my back I learned they called me "The Benevolent Dictator". But my two beloved secretaries gave me my favorite 'to my face' nicknames -- "Girlie", and "Sheila Monster" (think 'Gila Monster')...

nancy 2So Nancy and I have something in common, and I decided I had to feature her here. She was gracious enough to agree, so here's a bit of what I learned about her and her lovely jewelry.

What made you turn your back on the big bucks and get into jewelry design & sales?

I really did not have much choice. When I was hired I was not informed that the former manager was demoted to operations manager and I would be his boss. I had encountered tough management situations previously but this was the worst. Despite the issues, I took this branch of the company that billed out 30k a month (not enough to keep the doors open) to 1.3 million dollars a month, and we dropped 28% dead net to the bottom line. I created a new arm of the business and it was profitable from day one. But because of the unpleasant personnel situation, I knew I didn’t want to stay. And I had reached an age that I knew my employment chances in other big business venues were slim and none.

And then one day a good friend was coming to Miami for a bead show and wanted me to come have lunch with her. I did, and I bought about $300 in bead supplies and began stringing beads.

porcelain podsHave you seen or worked with porcelain beads or pendants? They are often hand-painted, some with exquisitely detailed patterns. Each is one of a kind, so there are always slight variations due to the handmade nature. This can be a fun and beautiful component for unique jewelry designs. Here is a bit more about porcelain.

Porcelain is the finest among all clays. It is the purest and finest textured clay found on earth. It is made from Kaolin clay and other minerals that were found in China around 700 AD. Originally, most of the fine pottery and ceramic products were exported from the orient and they were primarily made from this elegant clay. Chinese artisans found a way to fire the clay to the hottest temperatures (up to about 2500 degrees Farenheit) which is necessary to mature it to a very hard and non-porous state. Fired porcelain is glass-like and impermeable.

porcelain earrings

It is believed that porcelain was named by the French who compared its translucent beauty to part of a seashell that they named “little pig” porcellana (cowrie shell) or porcelain. For many years, China porcelain was highly sought after for its beauty and delicacy. Traders shipped it all over Europe and it became high demand around 1200 – 1400 AD. Until sometime in the 17th century, the only place to get porcelain or china was from China. Only in relatively recent history have the mysteries of working with porcelain and other locations for natural resources become available to the world outside of China.

No matter how it is painted, porcelain is elegant. Chalk and translucent paints are also beautiful on porcelain.

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