Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I’m often asked about the difference between crystal and glass. The answer is … there’s not a whole helluva lot.
In a nutshell, crystal is glass with a certain amount of lead in it. The lead makes the glass hard and easy to cut into facets (in the case of beads) and it makes the facets refract light better than unleaded glass would.
In the bad old days crystal beads contained more lead than they do now. Because of what we’ve learnt about all the fun and creative ways lead can mess with Mother Earth and her creatures, modern crystal manufacturers have had to lower the lead content considerably.
The ramifications of the lowered lead content in crystal beads are many-fold. Many of the fabulous colours that were made in the thirties, forties and fifties have had to be discontinued or re-engineered. Many of the classic cuts from that era were abandoned as well, for without the lead, the crystal wasn’t hard enough to facet as intricately.
Then wondrous science gave us the laser, and the Chinese -- that clever and enterprising people -- produced a lead-free crystal! We laughed and gasped in amazement! Until we realised the emperor had no clothes, and that we were looking at laser-cut glass that LOOKS like crystal, with crisp clean facets and all. It looks nice, it’s affordable, it even comes in a couple of colors that real crystal doesn’t.
There’s a nifty item known as firepolish crystal. This is also glass, and is molded, not cut into facets at all. You can always tell firepolish because the edges aren’t as sharp as real (or even Chinese wanna-be) crystal.
For some reason that I cannot fathom, Austrian crystal has a rep as the be-all and end-all of all things sparkly. Tain’t so. The founders of the crystal feast in Europe were the Czechs, and they are still making fabulous crystal today. In the mid to late 1800s the Russians turned out gorgeous crystal; between 1900 and the First World War, Poland was renowned for it’s crystal production; after World War Two, West Germany cranked out some incredible crystal; and some of the most amazing contemporary crystal beads I’ve seen are coming out of Egypt, made on German machinery.
Glass or crystal, it all has a place in jewelry design. And THAT makes me happy.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Another of the things that inspire me is color. Mind you, exactly which color tickles my fancy is a day-to-day (sometimes moment-to-moment) thing. I’m delightfully fickle that way.
The one color that seems to have stood the test of time is cobalt blue. My late mother-in-law dubbed it ‘Thea Blue’ when she saw how many rooms in our house I decorated with elements of cobalt. Don’t get me wrong; there are healthy doses of other colors in most of the rooms. But cobalt blue is the dominant color in both the kitchen and master bath, while it’s a secondary color in the master bedroom, and there’s a touch of it here and there throughout the rest of the house.
It’s no surprise, then, that a great deal of my jewelry is designed with cobalt blue beads and components. This necklace, made of Indian lampwork beads, is one of my favorites.
It’s not surprising that a deep, dark blue would go so well with light colors like white, as in these earrings
Or gold, as in this multi strand necklace
But look what it does for black (and vice-versa) in this art moderne style brooch!
Cobalt blue is a very complex color; that is, it’s blue with a whole boat-load of other colors mixed in. One of those colors is purple, which is why this collar necklace is such a success.
Bye for now. I’ve gotta go make something in Thea Blue while the mood’s still on me.