Once you start examining antique and vintage beads more closely, it becomes evident that some of them are individually hand made – and are really quite spectacular. Historically, due to the small size of beads, and the fact they are non perishable – they quickly became an ideal product for barter along the various trade routes.
Since the beginning of time – beads have made their way around the world to be deposited on beaches, in attic trunks, old jewellery boxes, thrifts stores and flea markets. Like old buttons – some of the creations are obsolete and thus coveted all the more. The best of what has made its way to North America from Europe and Asia – are now treasure troves among collectors and designers.
The distinguishing features between African, Asian and European antique beads are obvious in some cases, but less distinguishable in others. The rare lamp work necklace featured in today’s post is exceptional in colour, gradation and symmetry. It would take considerable heat and finesse to make the beads so even, uniformly graduated, and smooth. The lighter coloured rods used to make the beads are visible inside each bead. Each one is joined with petal-like metal accents with a finely dispersed patina. The clasp is a unique cylindrical screw, with a small floral motif. Made In France is imprinted on one end. The bracelet appears to have had the clasp replaced at some point with a more contemporary sterling silver clasp.
Although one can assume these beads were made in Europe, I wondered if they possibly came from Czechoslovakia. But after doing some more research, and knowing this set was Made in France – I concluded the beads were probably made in France as well. Especially so, since each bead is joined with metal to the adjacent one, so the necklace is a unit as opposed to being a string of beads.
France and Italy have renowned historical and traditional lamp work techniques and artistry surrounding glass bead making that can be traced back many centuries. Master craftspeople in family owned businesses, and partnerships of the seventeen and eighteen hundreds – knew the techniques involved in this sophisticated artistry, and kept them as carefully guarded secrets.
The necklace featured in this post is somewhat difficult to date. It looks like something that would have been very fashionable in the thirties. However, the visibility and lighter colour of the glass rods inside each bead – indicates it might be earlier than the thirties. Historically, as lamp working techniques developed, the artisan had the option to use coloured glass rods. In this case it is unknown whether the whitish rods inside were an intentional element of the design, or if it was all that was available at the time.
The light is distributed so evenly in this beautiful colour of blue – it draws you into its depth. This extraordinary vignette of translucent gradient lamp work beads ~ showcases an ethereal embodiment of icy cool blue light.