Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Victorian Aesthetic

As you'll soon learn, there's several things recurring in my work:
1. I'm influenced by history
2. I love anything that looks antiquated and
3. I have an unhealthy obsession with pocket watches, gears, and cogs

well, 2 of my 3 obsessions come together beautifully in this long Victorian-inspired necklace made using 4mm fire polished topaz round beads from Artbeads.com and pieces from the Madame Delphine collection available at Michaels Arts & Crafts.

Now, for those of you who don't know, a fairly good sized snow storm hit the east coast this past weekend and dropped a good 2 1/2 feet of snow on my parents house and we lost power all weekend. As a result, I didn't have access to my sewing machine so I couldn't work on Christmas gifts but I had this project that I'd set aside, waiting for my beads from Artbeads.com to arrive and since they did, a few days before the storm, it was the perfect opportunity to try something I've been wanting to attempt for a while- working with chains.

I love big pendants, I love multiple strands, and I love anything that looks like it's been through many hands over the years. I find the story behind an object to be just as important as the object itself (I'm addicted to Antiques Roadshow) and thus this necklace is a culmination of everything I look for in pretty much any jewelry I make for personal wear.

So, yeah, this necklace is made with the Madame Delphine chains which can be found here: http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayProductPage?productNum=bd0872 and the pendant, also by Madame Delphine is available here: http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayProductPage?productNum=bd0867

I like a consistency in the colour between my chains and my findings, so I also made use of the Madame Delphine Oxidized Brass findings: http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayProductPage?productNum=bd0869

To compliment the fiery orange of the stones set in the pendant, I used amber-coloured glass round beads, also by Madame Delphine: http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayProductPage?productNum=bd0866 and 4mm fire-polished topaz round beads from Artbeads.com: http://www.artbeads.com/druk-mtopab4.html

Now that I've introduced you to the material, I'll tell you how I made this. You'll need a pair of wire cutters and needle nose pliers as far as tools are concerned. I used 2 strands of both the Rolo Oxidized Brass chain (the skinny one), as well as the amber-coloured glass beads. You'll also need a length of beadalon wire.

First, I started by deciding how long I wanted this necklace to be. I like long strands and I wanted this to hang long, so I measured out about 35 inches of the skinny brass chain, cutting off the excess with my wire cutters. I then attached both ends to "O" rings, using my needle nose pliers and my fingers. Then on one end, I added a lobster claw clasp and on the other, I added a 2nd "O" ring.

Next, I took the remaining length of chain I had cut and cut it again, again attaching an "O" ring to both ends of it. To one end of the chain, I attached the amber-coloured glass beads, to the other, I threaded through the "O" ring that also held the lobster claw clasp. I then repeated the process on the other side of the strand to close the necklace. I wanted to stagger the lengths of the different chains used, so this chains markedly shorter then the long skinny chain. However, you can make it as long as you would like, or as short as you would like. For me, the chain's about 30 inches.

After I attached the chain containing the large circular glass beads, I then turned my attention to the pendant. The pendant's a bit heavy, it's actually magnetic and opens, though it doesn't actually contain a watch face (much to my disappointment), but I had to keep it's weight in mind when stringing it, because the chains needed to support it's weight and that's where the larger chain of alternating circles and rectangles came into play.

The length of chain I had itself wasn't long enough to be a complete strand on it's own so I solved this problem by removing an additional rectangular piece to make it an odd-numbered (5) strand, that way the pendant would hang dead center.

However, hanging the pendant comes last, because otherwise it just gets in the way. On both sides of the large chain links, there's two long bars, enabling it to be a double strand. On both sides of thick chain, I attached another length of the skinny chain to the bar on the inside of the circle and ran that up, connecting both ends to the previously mentioned "O" rings that contained the clasp findings.

After connecting the thinner chains, I then went back and using the left over chain lengths and cut them into two 2-inch segments, attaching these via "O" ring to the bars on the outside of the circle links. After attaching them, I then threaded a piece of beadalon wire through the other end of the chain, onto which I then threaded the 4mm topaz beads from Artbeads.com. I tend to count the beads when I'm threading them so you'll find 25 topaz beads on both sides (I ended up using about half the total strand I had purchased).

Once I had threaded the beads, I then attached the remaining length of chain to the ends of the beads, pulling the beadalon thru and securing it with a crimp bead to keep the beads in place. I repeated this process on both sides of chain, again securing the other ends of the chains to the "O" rings on the clasp findings.

Now for the last part, attaching the pendant. The pendant itself hangs in such a way that you can't just thread it on some beadalon wire and call it a day without it hanging sideways and
getting twisted around. To solve this problem, I attached a larger "O" ring to the pendant itself then used the same "O" ring to attach the pendant to the center link in the larger chain, using my needle nose pliers to close the "O" ring.

After I had assembled the necklace, I did have to go back in and straighten out the chains so that they weren't tangled, that was simply a matter of reopening the "O" rings on the clasp findings and rearranging the ends of the chains but it was trivial and if you like your chains tangled, you can leave them that way.

I like my chains to lay flat and even so I took a few extra minutes after I had finished assembling the necklace to straighten it out.

So yeah, there ya go. You have yourself a lovely Victorian inspired, slightly steampunk in appearance necklace of modern design.

Skill Level: Moderate, the beading skills are basic but the skill (and patience) needed to work with the chains takes a little more beading experience.

Total Time: Approx. 4 hours, time will vary though, depending on your experience as well as trial and error. It took me about 4 hours to complete this piece, largely because I was without power and had to work by the light of a head lamp.