Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Gallo-Roman necklace saga . . .

The saga of the Gallo-Roman necklace is over!  I have to finish writing my documentation for it, but the piece is complete.  On a whim, I went to one of my local bead stores (Beadazzler Beads in downtown Overland Park, Kansas), and looking over their selection of Hill Tribes metal, I saw these rather oval-shaped beads.  Sure, they're not exactly what I was looking for, but to capture the essence and the feel of the original piece, they're perfect.  These beads are made of brass, not gold or silver, due to the current prices of precious metals.  (Gold is currently, as of this writing, at $1576, which is down from the high of $1970-something that it was at during Christmas 2012.  Silver is also quite a bit down, as well, at $28.48.)  While the Hmong prefer using silver, as the owner of Beadazzler Beads was telling me, they're expanding their work to brass, given the prices of metal at the moment.  And I am so glad they're working in brass - it keeps my investment costs much lower, and I don't have to learn a new technique if I don't want to.  (I do want to, but not everything needs to be a learning curve.)

Making the clasp was a little less painstaking than I thought it would be.  I used 18 gauge non-tarnish brass wire, the Hill Tribes beads, and the rest of the necklace.  The first thing I started work on was the looped link, as it follows the same technique as the rest of the necklace, making sure that I kept my loops very large.  After this was completed and attached, I started work on the hook.  With the hook, it was better to connect the necklace, thread the bead on, and then shape the remainder of the wire into a hook shape.  The hook also has another loop on it, so that it does not get caught on anything or scrapes skin.  There will be a tutorial on this in the future, so please, look for this.

At any rate, this is done.  Next major project will probably be some illumination based on either the Rabbula Gospels or the Codex Argenteus, unless I get derailed by some other side project.


One of my other great passions in the name of the Society, while out of period for my persona, is paternosters, after stumbling upon a few years ago.  I finished one last night, and used coral, quartz, and quite a few charms, in the same vein as this one from the V&A.  I did end up using different materials, and it does look considerably different, but yet entirely similar.

Paternostering is a relatively easy (and relaxing) A&S activity, though much of the research is still being done, given that grave finds rarely have a complete strand of beads strung in situ.  That being said, I've recently uploaded my documentation (found here and here) from a competition I was in that was based around a monk's life.

There will be a few more entries on other types of prayer beads as I get more research done on these, though these resources are proving to be a bit more difficult to find.  That being said, beads are a wonderful expression of both modern and medieval faith, and it's a great way to outfit a complete SCA kit.  Paternosters are one of those great little items that no proper medieval person would have gone without, both to show piousness and to show wealth as well.  And, if you couldn't bear to wear one with a cross, you could always wear one with a tassel on it instead.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gallo-Roman Necklace - DONE! (well, mostly.)

I finished the Gallo-Roman necklace.  It took about six hours (I did take frequent breaks, so that's some of it), and most of my 24 gauge copper wire, but that was from wrapping all the links.  The time-consuming part - the links - is done.  You can see some of the reason this was so time-consuming in the photo to the left.  Each section required three separate lengths of wrapped beads, connected to a singular link.  In addition to this, the smaller beads are quite a good bit smaller than what I normally wire-wrap, and pearls are quite a bit softer and more easily marred by errant pliers.  That being said, this part is done.  The bad news is that there's still more that I need to do with it - and that is make a clasp.  I have a temporary clasp (because I did wear this to the office to have my coworkers ooh and aah over it), but if I'm going to enter the piece into A&S competition, I want something that is plausibly period - and I want it to look the part.  So, I want to have a clasp that looks right.

So, you see, it's a bit difficult to find beads that look like the original's elongated heart/spade/arrow shape.  I know.  I looked.  You can get kind of close, but I want something that could be a near-perfect replica with the modern materials that I have available.  After talking with one of my friends, who happens to be a Laurel, he suggested that I look at getting gold-clad brass sheet, cutting out the shapes, putting a crease in those shapes, soldering both sides together, and then running the wire through to complete the clasp.

I've never soldered.  Most of the metalwork I do involves cutting and wrapping wire around itself.  That being said, provided I can get assistance and help, this could be doable.  Hopefully, once I learn this technique, I can move onto other ones, like piercework, which was also used in Byzantine jewellery.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Oooh! Purple!

I found some gorgeous amethyst a few days ago that I'm using in an interpretation of the Gallo-Roman necklace.  The original piece uses emeralds, according to the Louvre, but emeralds are a bit cost-prohibitive right now, and amethyst is found world-wide.  There is even a variant of amethyst that's called rose de France, which is a rather light shade of purple.  Now, the amethyst I have is emphatically not this shade of purple, but this is where I'm going to be a bit more creative and take a few more liberties with the process.  The larger pieces of amethyst are from my veritable hoard of amethyst, and it pairs decently well with the darker purple of the smaller pieces. 

At the same time, I've finished another piece - the bead-along piece.  It will be headed off to its owner soon (my friend Anna, of Anna's Rome).  You might notice the change in the green materials - I found some agate or bloodstone (I can't remember which it is) and used this as my emeralds still have not been recovered.  I find it interesting the simplicity of this single strand between locations in the time-space continuum, but at the same time, the similarity of materials only affirms the Roman aesthetic and use of colour between cultures.  It is utterly fascinating to me.
So, back to the Gallo-Roman piece: it's very nearly complete.  I will need to do another set of the freshwater pearls, and then another set of the amethyst, and then I'll have to figure out what I'm going to do about the clasp, as I haven't found an acceptably-shaped bead yet.  If needed, I may see what I can do about getting some Precious Metal Clay in gold, and make two leaf/blade-shaped beads to put on wire and to use as the clasp.