The Necklace

Each necklace is what I would define as a bespoke design. It is customized to my own requirements, my own vision. And no necklace will ever be the same. Even if I wanted to reproduce what I had designed before, the same elements I originally used are simply not available. Each pendant is unique; all the stones, metals, even colours cannot be found again. I can repeat effective colour ways or designs, but the materials and pendants will be different.

 

The downside of a one-off design, is that a necklace you might want to buy, will not be available. The upside to a unique necklace, is that ONLY you will have your chosen necklace.

 

I do however, now take on bespoke orders for clients. This is joint activity, in which the client explains what is desired in a necklace, and I then produce rough designs and measurements, which I photograph and email to the client. It is a give and take process, but the client is always consulted and will know what the final necklace will look like. A bespoke order can take anywhere, from 6 weeks to 12 weeks to complete, depending on the complexity of the necklace.

The price will be agreed upon before proceeding, and a 40% deposit will be required. Price depends on the materials, and again, the complexity of the work.

There are a number of elements and features to my necklaces.

 

Bands & Chains:

 

I sometimes use handmade silk/polyester bands and chains, which I attach a melange of pendants and elements: a rich hit of fascinating colours, shapes and textures. These bands and chains are made in China, but these are fiddly, hand crafted necklaces and not mass produced.

 

Chinese Knotting:

I also apply Chinese knotting to some designs. Using a silk/polyester cord, I have sometimes opted for this traditional technique because it is a link to the Chinese past. But it can also set off a design, highlighting stones and elements so that nothing overwhelms the actual design. And of course, using less stones, makes a necklace lighter in weight, which, in turn, creates a more comfortable necklace to wear.   The cord is washable. For instructions, please look under the section “Care”. But it is not detachable, as it is integral to the whole necklace.

This magnificently crafted Chinese knotting is made with such care and expertise by my colleague Conchita San Pedro. Originally from the Philippines, Conchita has made Britain her home for over 23 years. She has learned this complex knotting skill, and takes it in her stride. But it is, nevertheless, a difficult technique to master.

I must also add that Conchita operates as my “quality control” officer.  If a bead is missing or the size is wrong, she courageously alerts me to “the problem” causing an emission of grumbles from me, because it means I have to re-string the whole necklace.  But the necklace must be right. Without her sharp eye for detail, my necklaces would be missing their lovely finish. More importantly, having known Conchita for over 30 years, she is not only a dear friend but also a remarkable woman for her readiness to respond to new challenges, her tireless energy and her recognition of when a necklace has achieved its potential beauty. With her unerring eye, I have always been able to turn to her whenever I am in a pickle.  And always, Conchita comes up trumps.


 

Three Elements I Use Often:

These three elements are wonderfully, handmade items, artworks of sculpture on a tiny scale.

One element is the Karen Hill Tribe silver from Thailand. Each bead uses very pure silver, 98% silver in content, and is crafted with great pride and skill. I have never come across silver beads, unless made by silversmiths in jewellery, with such imagination and attention to detail. This is Fair Trade silver. The artisans work in their villages in Northern Thailand, often involving the entire village in the craft.

The second element is hand blown glass. Recently, on a heavenly trip to Venice, I discovered by chance, a wonderful glass blower making beads in his own Venetian studio (not in Murano). I was completely bowled over. He is an artist and a glassmaker who actually welcomes visitors, not as a tourist attraction but as a working artist, engaged in his chosen form of art. He devotes his talents to the small form of bead making rather than anything grander. But what beads!

Known as “il Muanero”, Moulaye Niang is the first Senegalese immigrant to become a master in the art of glassmaking in Venice. Originally from Senegal, he moved to Paris to study art at the Academy and then moved to Venice where he was blown away by the Venetian skills of glassmaking. He studied at the Abate Zanetti Glass School in Murano, and his mentor was the master glassmaker, Egidio Costantini. For over a decade, Moulaye has been creating glass beads. He continuously experiments with techniques, often creating matte surfaces by applying an acid to the beads, and then adding silver and numerous coloured canes to just one bead. He can work on a bead for hours.

Moulaye grew up breathing art, but his art was uniquely fueled by his African roots. His glass work aspires to evoke the colours and atmosphere of Africa, with the techniques and traditions of Venice. One romantic review wrote that you can almost hear the birds flying over the plains of Africa, when you look at his richly endowed beads. Perhaps, but whatever you sense in his beads, his work exudes beauty, originality and integrity.

The third element (which I describe under the section Materials) is the traditional, handmade gold work from Afghanistan. I first came across this gold work in Asia, about 15 years ago.

Because it uses 18ct gold, it produces the yellow gold effect of ancient Roman gold jewellery. It always enriches and flatters the stones that it is next to. The beads are once again, all handmade. I am always amazed at the amount of work that goes into these beads. The Afghan artisans used a traditional technique of taking 18ct gold and rolling it, like a sheet, onto a hardened beeswax resin bead. After which, the goldsmith etches on or gadroons a design on each bead. This technique came from the Greek artisans who accompanied Alexander the Great, in 330BC. when he invaded Afghanistan as part of war against Persia. So many Greeks settled in Afghanistan, including the goldsmiths. These skills have been handed down through the generations. The beads are lighter than solid gold, and certainly less costly. But they are not inexpensive because they are crafted in 18ct gold, and it is time consuming work.

Clasps:

All of my clasps are of the toggle design. They are made of hand-crafted sterling silver; gold filled which is a process of using 14ct gold, plated over silver, 4 times, (vermeil); 14ct gold plated over brass; or occasionally, a 14ct gold toggle clasp. All clasps are described with the necklace.

Silk Pouches:

All of my necklaces and earrings come with a silk brocade pouch which I have had made in Hong Kong by a Shanghai tailor. I choose colour coordinated bags for the jewellery, or colours that will make a striking contrast. The pouch is a good travel or storage bag. But necklaces must not be crammed into the pouch, as it will put too much stress on the threads.

Earrings:

I have often been asked why I do not make earrings or bracelets to coordinate with the necklaces. The reason is simple: overkill. Because the necklace is a statement in itself, a simple matching pearl, gold or silver earring is just the right balance. I do however, now offer a range of earrings that complement the necklaces, or can be worn on their own. Some are antique earrings, or earrings that use antique materials. Others are silver or pearl earrings. These are now available in the Online Shop.

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© 2020 by Barbara Acton-Bond