Thursday, June 3, 2010

Glass Pearls. A Bit of History and Leonardo da Vinci's Recipe For Making Them

June, the month of roses and weddings and pearls.  This week, as we enter June, seemed like a good time to share a bit of what I have learned about one of my favorite beads of all time, the vintage glass pearl.

Glass, or faux pearls have been around forever.  According to "Pearls. A Natural History" by Landman et al., there are records of imitation pearls as far back as the Roman Empire, through the Middle Ages and into Renaissance Europe. Techniques for making them have varied.

Here is Leonardo da Vinci's recipe for glass pearls:

If you wish to make a paste out of small pearls, take the juice of some lemons and put them to soak in it, and in a night they will be dissolved... Then wash the said paste with clear water a sufficient number of times for it to lose all trace of the lemon juice. After this let the paste dry so that it turns to powder. Then take white of egg, beat it well and leave it to settle and then moisten the said powder with this so that it becomes a paste again. And from this you can make pearls as large as you wish, and leave them to dry. Then place them in a small turning lathe and polish them, if you wish, with a dog's tooth, or if you prefer a polishing stick of crystal or chalcedony.

Moving forward to the 20th century, vintage glass pearls that are currently available for design and/or collecting were usually made with ground fish scales providing the luminosity, although sometimes you will find pearls made with ground mother of pearl (shell) used for the nacre, the pearl's coating. Glass pearls are such interesting vintage treasures to work with, each decade seems to have its own characteristic appearance, which must be in part related to the type of fish scale used to make them.  At Bumbershoot Supplies, we have some glass pearls that are very old, like these 1940's - 1950's beauties from Japan.

...and these buttons, estimated to be from the 1930's.

We have others that are newer, like these 1960's to 1970's beads, also from Japan.

And then, of course, there is vintage mother of pearl, from shells.  Looking at these mother of pearl pieces from Bumbershoot Supplies, you can see why mother of pearl might be used to create a faux pearl.

My birthday is in June.  I have always felt an affinity for pearls of all kinds.  I love the real ones, the glass ones, and mother of pearl.  You can see a small sample of the vintage glass pearls I have in my studio, here. I love to have them visible where I can see and enjoy them, and I frequently use them in my designs

So, you can expect to see a continually expanding number of glass and mother of pearl items at both Bumbershoot Supplies and Bumbershoot Designs - after all, a girl can't have too many pearls...

1 comment:

  1. oh wow! everything here is so beautiful...all these charming pearly items! i want some!!!

    thanks for stopping in...come by and see my Jane Austen Sketch!

    have a great and creative day!
    ciao bella
    creative carmelina