The Darklings Cometh : My Obsession with Victorian Black Jewels

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With the days shortening and the air cooling I’m looking forward to the evening more often. My newest collection is inspired by all things dark.

I’ve been a collector of Whitby jet since I discovered it back in my teen years. My very first piece was this wired choker made of Vulcanite and Whitby Jet tied with velvet ribbons that I bought in England. I was smitten. From then on, not only was I hooked keeping an eye for an usual piece but I was also obsessed with learning about it. At that time research was limited to libraries or bookstore. The quintessential text of the time was Helen Muller’s Shire Edition Jet Jewelry and Ornament.

img_0020Muller blissfuly released a new book about ten years ago focusing on Whitby Jet. Both are slim volumes giving a great overview of jet.

img_0022Esoteric antiques were mostly learned about by word of mouth, examination of pieces. With the world of Victorian mourning jewelry it really helps to see the different materials used to make jewelry to get a sense of what to expect and their peculiarities. Growing up we had to rely on what you might find at an antique fair or jewelry shop. With the advent of eBay, the world changed. Now Victorian mourning jewelry could be viewed and reversed easily with a quick Pinterest search.

Mourning Jewelry has been around for a long time, but it surged into vogue when the beloved Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861. The demand for jet was high and because it was a natural product there were limitations on how much could be mined, cut and polished then set into jewels. This article gives a great insight into the period.

img_0017With the industrial revolution at full go, alternatives to natural products were invented. Vulcanite or Ebonite (the rubber version not the mineral) was discovered around 1851, giving the eager buyer of mourning jewelry other options.

The main “black” materials used in making Victorian “jet” or mourning jewelry were

Whitby Jet – A fossilized coal mined in Yorkshire. You can learn more about the history of Whitby Jet here:.

Gutta Percha – an early plastic latex rubber

Vulcanite or Ebonite – a hardened rubber product

Vauxhall Glass – Similar in look to French Jet, it’s a shiny black glass with a mirror backing that was often set in a japanned (blackened metal) frame. UK made black glass is generally called Vauxhall and other countries mirrored-back glass may be referred to French Jet.

French Jet – Black glass often beads, used extensively for clothing trimming – the non-shiny version is known as Crepe Stone.

Bog Wood – a fossilized wood found mainly in peat bogs of Ireland and England. More commonly known as Bog Oak in jewelry though pine, and yew are also found in UK peat bogs. This gives a great overview of Bog Oak history 

Wood – Ebony or other naturally black or blackened/stained woods.

Bois Durci – A colored sawdust/wood flour mixed with blood and a binder an then molded

Onyx Stone

Horn – horn a natural product pressed into a mold.

Shell – often tortoiseshell which is not “jet-like” but there are darker shells which fall into the category. Some are inlaid with metals called pique.

Enameled or blackened metal. 

Hair – woven into chains or earrings or under glass in lockets or rings.

You can learn more about the history of Whitby Jet here.

Lots of examples of pieces of the different types here.

Beyond the enthralling history, what I love about these vintage pieces is the handwork. In the jet it’s the smooth finishing and the design, but in the bog oak it’s the carving. When I discovered Bog Oak Abbey brooches for the first time, I was awe-struck by the delicate sawing. I have a small treasured collection of some very fine pieces and I’ve decided to share a few photos with you, and make a few of the treasures available in this shop update. I can’t wait to show you the pieces I’ve selected.

Always Hunting Dragons

Teasers from the Darklings collection available at 5pm PST

In the HuntingDragons Etsy Shop

And Now For Something Completely… New

 

Melted Pocket Watch
Tubbs Fire Melted Pocket Watch – photo by J. Morgyn White

A few of you know that the Santa Rosa Tubbs fire destroyed the Hunting Dragons Etsy shop.

The business cards? Gone. The packaging? Gone. The raw materials? Gone. The tools? Gone. The jewels in progress? Gone. The pieces I had yet to list? Gone. . .

I’ve had nine months of healing and introspection. It’s hard to start over, and it’s harder to decide what a fresh start should look like. I’ve spent years curating a collection and to have it disappear overnight is—well, crushing.

I like to think of myself as a positive person. In that light, I wanted to re-launch HuntingDragons but to make it a phoenix rising experience. I had to wait until I was ready.

Here’s my vision to begin:

It’s going to being small.

A few exceptional pieces of vintage and one or two personal creations.

It’s going to be precious and thoughtful.

I see stories in material items. I’ve always loved a good story. Some may come with one, some I may create.

It’s going to be about unique and eclectic.

Don’t expect more of the same. I’m creating one-off pieces and offering once-in-a-lifetime finds. Think about hunting dragons…

It’s going to be personal.

Every piece I will offer had hands on it, either in creation, re-creation or the hands that pass through the years.

Mark your calendars for August 26th. I’m launching with the full moon energy.

If you would like a preview, I’d love you to sign up to the left for my newsletter. Either email at huntingadragon at gmail dotcom or sign up to the right.

Newsletter followers will have a shop preview a few days before the launch.

Interested in being teased?

Follow HuntingDragons on Instagram – Hunting Dragons or Facebook – Hunting Dragons.

See you in August, with full firey flaming feather wings stretched.

The Conundrum of Repairing or Restyling Vintage Jewelry

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If you have been following me, you’ll know that I love old things. Vintage and antique jewelry is a long time love of mine, and something that I find inspiration from. It’s not just about wearing jewelry; it’s the history and the story. Materials which followed a location or design that followed fashion. Lately I’ve been focused on learning some repair techniques for vintage pieces. The passion to restore and repair is strong, but when presented with an old piece which is not quite at its best, I’m faced with a dilemma: do I restore the piece to as close to its original state as possible, or do I modernize it and make it more wearable or do I turn it into something completely different?

I try and let the piece speak. In the case of some Art Deco pieces which are mostly intact, I fully intend to restore them to their original splendor.

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Vintage 1920s Neiger Bros Czech Beaded Necklace in need of repair

But what about the necklace which is too short, or too dull, for modern tastes?

In this particular case I rescued a broken necklace with beautiful brass spacer beads. The purple glass is lovely but frankly I thought a bit dull. At just about 15″ it’s also too short for me – and for most people to wear elegantly.

Enter the redesign. Some lovely genuine Swarovski crystal aurora borealis bicone beads picked up the brass and the purple tones and allowed the length to creep closer to 16″ After considerable thought I decided to go with modern softflex wire in a purple hue which would show through the clear glass seed beads in the original necklace, and definitely show that the piece had been restrung.

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The last decision was to whether to replace the clasp. It was in excellent original condition and stamped with Czechoslovakia. Again, I while I have no interest in misleading anyone, I think the clasp looks lovely with the piece, so I chose to retain it.

Here’s the finished necklace.

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It’s available in the Hunting Dragons Etsy Shop until I realize that I can’t really part with it and put it into my jewelry box. 🙂

Two others I’m working on are going to be completely redesigned into new necklaces that incorporate vintage beads. A black and amber one features genuine Whitby Jet and carved Carnelian.

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Whitby Jet and Carved Carnelian Beads

Another is going to be wedding cake yellow beads are vintage Art Deco and I’m likely going to pair them with freshwater pearls and Swarovski crystals, but I haven’t settled yet. It takes a while to make the final decision… I choose some designs and then I let them sit for a while. When I come back I tweak the pattern or change out the beads and then let it sit again. It may be months or days or hours.

In this case I took a family heirloom amethyst crystal necklace and restrung it exactly as it was – but I added a new clasp.

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Here is another project which I recently completed.

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These gorgeous amber glass beads are really heavy.  The necklace came to me broken and I’m guessing it is from the 1930s or 1940s. It was originally strung on silk and knotted in between each clear space. I considered restringing it on silk which would make it slightly longer, but I decided the weight would really suit the more modern heavy wire. The clasp took a long while to decide upon. Sterling Silver or Vermeil were my top choices. I thought pure gold to be too much and in the end went with silver. The 2 part barrel shaped hook clasp has this great lotus leaf pattern which I really think makes this beautiful necklace even more special.

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Vintage Graduated Amber Glass Beads 28″ Necklace – Sterling Silver Clasp – original vintage beads – ginger rootbeer – honey –

Would love your thoughts!

Spring is coming! – Etsy March Trend Report from the San Francisco Bay Area Etsy Team – SFEtsy

My Pendant was featured today in the Trend Report- March
curated by SF Etsy: San Francisco Bay Area Street Team on Etsy
Adorable Sparrow Pendant - recycled silver - bird - wren - chickadee - nature - woodland wildlife - bird-watcher - spring - forest creature
Adorable Sparrow Pendant – recycled silver – bird – wren – chickadee – nature – woodland wildlife – bird-watcher – spring – forest creature

I made this chubby little sparrow pendant in .999 fine silver (more silver than sterling – fine silver is 99% silver – sterling is 92.5% silver). He looks like he’s ready to fly off with his branch!

The pendant is abut 1″ in both dimensions. The bail has a vine like design. There is an oak leaf on the reverse.

It is a heavy piece with good weight to it.

This pendant will come ready to wear on a black satin cord. It does not come with a chain.

If you would like a sterling silver chain as shown in the third photo it’s available here:
https://www.etsy.com/shop/HuntingDragons?section_id=10583400

Look for more handcrafted and vintage items in my Hunting Dragons Etsy Shop:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/HuntingDragons