Monday, February 09, 2015

From The Repair Desk - Rewiring A Beaded Collar

We are starting a new feature here on the blog, From The Repair Desk. While we often have the opportunity to do repairs on amazing costume jewelry here at our store in Raleigh, we rarely get to show off the fabulous pieces we repair. We decided you needed to see what we were seeing, and maybe our write-ups about the repairs will help you in your own costume jewelry repair. 

This project came to us from a Raleigh native who admits she LOVES this piece. This dramatic beaded collar is made of several layers of Czech glass tubes and seed beads, with freshwater pearls mixed in. The entire piece was woven out of very thin-gauge wire (we estimate it at a 30 gauge!) so it is very flexible. If you've ever used very fine wire, you do know that flexible can also equal fragile. This lovely piece lost the central pearl as you can see in the top picture. We were able to re-attach the pearl using a bit of 28 gauge wire, laced through and knotted onto the other wires.

This is a contemporary necklace, but the design reminds me of several pieces from Mid-Century designers such as Miriam Haskell. A simple technique, used with elaborate layering. 


This is the back of the necklace. You can see the basic pattern of the beading here. It is my opinion that this design was built up from the back, starting with this layer and then adding the smaller beads on the second layer.



















These two shots show the spot where the pearl was missing. The crystal beads were wrapped around the pearl using wire, and then there was a wire threaded through the large pearls to attach them to the base collar.


While doing this repair we also looked carefully at the other bead joints for damage or wear. Working with thin wire can be dicey...too many twists and it breaks, quickly. While we didn't find any other joints that were compromised, we can't guarantee that one won't break in the future. I'll instruct the wearer to be cautious about wearing this piece of costume jewelry on her next mountain climbing outing.

This piece illustrates a principle of elaborate costume jewelry that is often forgotten by contemporary makers. The construction method on this is really fairly simple - just wire woven back and forth through groupings of beads. There is not a base or structure underlying the beading, the beading IS the structure. This kind of work requires a trained artisan working under the supervision of a designer. It's not really big factory work because the beads and pearls don't fit together exactly each time. As a whole, it looks amazing, and it is amazing. Often, our contemporary costume pieces, mass-produced in factories in 10 color ways, are constructed over specially manufactured findings. This means that YOU couldn't make one yourself. With the construction in this piece, just wire and beads, it can easily be reproduced by anyone with enough beads and enough time...by YOU!

This necklace was a joy to repair. Once it was finished I imagined it gracing the neck of our customer at her next gala...