The Darklings Cometh : My Obsession with Victorian Black Jewels

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 Hunt For The Perfect Daily Planner

I like to make plans, even I don’t always meet every goal. With the fresh energy of the new year, it’s easy to jump on the plans-for-the-new-year boat. Every year that I’ve started a planner I’ve ditched it part way through. Usually, March or April and then I pick up in August or September, and I’m done by October. Daily journaling takes up too much time in my chaotic life. I don’t have a chance to plot out more than the timed appointment on a regular basis. The week ahead goals are the best mode for me, but as a writer, homeschool mom and with the thirty other hats I wear, planning takes a ton of time that I don’t have to spend. That said, I want more organization in my life. I want my goals stated. I want to check off little boxes and hi-light triumphs. I want the gorgeous bullet journal that I don’t have time to make.

Instead, I took the time to compile a list of specialized planners. Some of the sites have a free download or two. Right now I have a couple of favorites. Within my writing group, it seems like the passion planner has the most followers, which makes it attractive, but doesn’t mean it will work for me.

I almost bailed on the whole idea after doing this research. I printed sample pages and figured I could piece-meal the planner along until things fall apart naturally, then pick up the momentum again. But after watching Simon Sinek speak,

I revised my position. Sinek suggests that the dopamine boost you get from meeting goals drives you to the next goal. By visually planning your goals and visually meeting them by crossing them off, you feel energized to meet more goals and forge on.

So, back to the planner search phase. I filled out the Brilliant weekly planner I already have and realized that it’s inferior to my needs. It doesn’t have the big goal list, and it doesn’t have enough space for weekly/daily/monthly tasks. It does an excellent job of keeping the weekly tasks in front of me at the keyboard, so I expect it will end up being used as a complement to my bigger planner. With a set of colored pens and a tiny window of time blocked out for Sunday night planning, I think I can do it. In fact, I will make it a goal—to use and update the planner. I’m not ready to dive into bullet journaling, but I’ve included it for others.

If I’ve missed a much-loved planner, please message me! I’d love to hear about it.

Here’s the list I chose from – in no particular order:

Law of Attraction Planner

I hate the instant play video on the home page, and that the planner is displayed to make me want to place an order. I love the covers. In the end, I don’t think this is the right planner for me – but it’s hard to tell, as they don’t show you the rest of the planner pages to make a decision easier.

The Passion Planner

Expensive and might be worth it. I can see the attraction. I like that they are upfront with what’s inside.

The Novel Planner

This might be fantastic if I needed a planner to plan a particular work. I’m working on too many projects to make this useful.

The Writer’s Year

It’s free, and it looks really helpful. I have my free pages printed out and ready to fill in.

Free Planner and Submission Tracker

Edited Year Planner 

This one looks too open for possibilities for me. The colorful set up actually turns me away from it, where others might be drawn. But you can try out pages – I like that.

Freebie sample Freebie planner sample:

Author’s Essentials Planner

Difficult to tell what I’m buying from the small photos. It looks like it might work for me, but I can’t tell.

Panda Planner

This looks open format enough it might work for me. I like there is an updated version.

Author Life Planner

Might be interesting. I didn’t like that someone in a review of it had to go get it spiral bound to use it effectively. I also don’t like that I can’t see what I’m buying.


This looks more collegiate than I need. I’ve had planners like this that I’ve ended up with most of the pages blank at the end of the year.


Ink & Volt 

(also known as the Kickstarter Spark Notebook)

This system looks really attractive. I’m not sure if it will work for me, but I might be willing to give it a shot after perusing their site.

2016 Free Pages:

Free Monthly Calendar Sheets to test

Planner Pads

These look interesting, but the website doesn’t tell me enough about them.

Momentum Planners

They offer some free pages as well and some specialized productivity tool worksheets:

The Dream Book

More on the big picture taking – but an interesting perspective and layout. Not for my current lifestyle.

Franklin Covey

I’ve used this system in years past. It’s detailed and what worked best for me was the weekly compass. The daily pages didn’t work in my chaotic life. I kept it going for a while, but when the year had passed by I shredded the pages and kept the Weekly Compass folder – which I still use.

Writer’s Planner & Motivation Guide

Bullet Journal System 

(Not a pre-made planner – do it yourself) Look on Pinterest for lots of ideas!

Free Author Monthly Planner

I love the format of this – more big picture.

Brilliant Weekly Planner

Not Dated: I have this one, and it works well in a format for plotting the week ahead, and it sits in front of my computer standing up.

Prism Weekly Scheduler

The Productivity Pages

Free Planner Sticker Template

A bunch of writer worksheets here.

Pinterest has a plethora of boards that have worksheets. I found a bunch that I printed out to work on specific projects.

A great list of Writer’s Tools

And my favorite pens:


A Journey to Stonehenge with Richard Salley

Two intensive days of melting scrap and fusing metals to create texture and interest. This is my 6th class with most amazing metal smith Richard Salley at the Art Is You artist retreat. I cobbled together five pieces in two days with a big project to work on at home started. There is still much to be done on finishing but very pleased with the results. 

1. Large Ring with Dinosaur bone with Sterling and copper 

2. Yellow dendritic opal ring in Sterling. 

3. Sterling band with bronze.

 4.Pendant with serpetina, aventurine, Sterling, copper and bronze 

5. Copper panel bracelet with Sterling silver, bronze and carnelian. 



A visit to the Brooklyn Art Library – @sketchbkproject #sketchbookproject


Our NY adventure finally allowed time for a stop in Brooklyn Art Library to visit our Sketchbooks. My first sketchbook was completed in 2011 and I have 3 sketchbooks and 1 fiction project book that I had the opportunity to flip through once more. I was so pleased to see them in such good condition! It was hard to give them back 🙂 If you are in Brooklyn, NY be sure to stop by. We had a wonderful time looking at our own books, but an equally wonderful time looking at other sketchbooks by other artists as well!




















The Conundrum of Repairing or Restyling Vintage Jewelry


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.

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.

20130522-112727.jpg 20130522-112700.jpg20130522-112714.jpg

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.


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.

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.


Here is another project which I recently completed.


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.

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

Would love your thoughts!