The Great Jewelry Making Makeover!

Jun 5, 2012

I really do have the best friends in the world. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a huge box, full of antique jewelry that had belonged to her late stepfather's first wife.

Before I go into detail about the jewelry, I want to tell you a little bit about her stepfather. Joe was what you might call "eccentric". Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was well-educated and traveled the world while in the Army during the 1930s and 1940s. By the time I met him, Joe was in his 60s, and his little quirks had become downright peculiar and hilarious. A hater of vegetables of any sort, he would suspiciously eye the spoons with which my friend and I cooked dinner to make sure that none of them had become "contaminated" by the eggplant or the peas. At restaurants, he made sure to wedge several bread plates between his dish and any dishes containing vegetables. On the days when the municipal garbage collectors came around, Joe could be found sitting in the garage, singing their praises as they emptied bins and cans into their trucks. One Christmas, he even went so far as to tell us to refrain from putting up a live Christmas tree, since he believed that its green branches would suck all the oxygen out of the house, thereby asphyxiating all of them as they slept. And I'm sure my friend and I will never forget the time that we left a box of vanilla-flavored dog treats on the dining room table, only to come back later and find that Joe had eaten this entire box of delicious "vanilla sugar cookies" without actually reading the label on the package.

But Joe was deeply in love with his first wife, Dorothy. He kept many of her things, and they were handed down to my friend when Joe passed away in 2011. So when my friend asked me if I would like part of the collection of antique jewelry, I was thrilled and honored to be the recipient of part of this collection!

As I tore through the many boxes she sent, it felt like I had struck gold at an estate sale. I picked up piece after piece of ethnic, silver, and antique jewelry, and couldn't take my eyes off the colors and shapes that danced in front of me.

My friend had suggested that I re-purpose much of this antique jewelry into other projects, but after looking at it, I knew that with my jewelry making skills, I could most likely repair almost all of it and restore some of it.

The easiest way to start was with a couple of pairs of earrings.These beaded earrings were hung from antique screw back earring findings, but I've always found those to be incredibly uncomfortable. It only took a few minutes to remove them and hang them on new pair of fish hook ear wires.

The first pair of beaded earrings was made with Mummy Beads, also known as Egyptian faience. Ceramic beads of this type have been found in some of the oldest ancient Egyptian tombs, and some faience beads are still made today with a combination of ceramic and glass bead making techniques. Despite the size of the earrings, and the number of beads that they were made with, the faience is actually as light as a feather, and the earrings are comfortable to wear all day.

I instantly recognized the second pair of earrings as vintage Mexican silver. These earrings, with their carved green gemstone cabochons, are now affectionately known as my "Little Green Man" earrings.

What's next for my jewelry making skills? There are several pieces of beaded jewelry in here that could use a little tender, loving care. There are more earrings that I want to try to recreate using crystal pearls and glass beads into necklace and bracelet components; strands of vintage Japanese glass pearls that need to be restrung; a necklace made of brightly colored shells that can be turned into a new beading project; and a bracelet made with large, chunky, faceted carnelian beads that needs some repairs.

Watch this blog for my weekly updates on what I'm doing next to take these vintage and antique pieces of jewelry and use my jewelry making skills to transform them!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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