I have been seduced…it’s taken some time, but I have finally succumbed…I bought a big hole bead bracelet. You know the brand names, Pandora, Troll, Amore & Baci, Chamilia, and so on. ‘What’s the big deal?’ you ask…well…for a time, UK lampworkers got hot under the collar about big hole beads and quality, and mass production and bad working conditions for the makers in foreign countries and the prices charged for a bead over here compared to what people got paid for making them ‘over there’. They can be found for ten a penny on eBay, which suggests that they were not properly annealed and may therefore crack, they can be unlined, or lined in base metal, and I recently sat mouth agape at the prices of sterling silver lined beads straight from China – cheap, I tell you! And of course one can find them beautifully presented in shiny stores in malls where prices are higher and overheads need to be met, which is fair enough. There is the tricky business of charging a sensible price for beads made in the UK, one must take into consideration UK fuel costs (gas and electricity go into beads) actual glass, time, and then there’s skill and artistry. There are many people who appreciate the lampworker’s skill, and then some who expect everything practically free, ‘I could get these at Claire’s Accessories’ was one memorable comment I had at a fair, ‘umm…no you couldn’t’ I thought to myself, it was almost funny. I mean, it would be wrong to correct someone who doesn’t care about seeing the difference, because to them, the beads are the same as from the high street, they don’t care if they are made from plastic or glass. Leave them to it I say, if they are happy, life’s too short. Just as long as they don’t waste my time telling me nonsense while I’m trapped behind my fair table obliged to be nice.
Anyway, my mum had one of these bracelets, she wore it without beads on it, and I thought it was lovely on her. So I followed her lead, and bought the same brand with a basic lock thinking that eventually I might buy a beautiful fancy lock and change it. I had considered making myself a bracelet thereby avoiding buying into the branded market (some sort of snobbery going on there, bad me) but, I happened upon a sale online and knew I couldn’t match the quality if I made one from scratch, especially as I am a complete novice at silversmithing, even if I do have the tools and very basic skills. When I unwrapped the bracelet I was so delighted and impressed with the quality and workmanship, it felt like a real present to myself, I’d have been happy to have paid full price for it, I almost felt guilty for not doing so. Initially I had thought getting one was mainly for taking photos and testing out the things I make to go on them, but I find it is so much more than that.
I totally get the charm collecting thing, I think it is very sweet that people will go out and treat themselves or someone else to a bead, a charm, or receive one as a gift on a special occasion, the whole concept of these jewellery systems is brilliant. I loaded my new shiny toy with all the big holed beads I had made, and showed my husband, who pulled a face and shook his head,’no, it’s not you’ he told me, and my heart sank a bit because I wanted it to be ‘me’, but I’m one of those ‘less is more’ people unfortunately, and I had to agree. It did look a bit like a weapon on me, I’m not exactly sylph like as it is. I kept them on most of the day to see how much of an encumbrance a giant bangle would be, and I found that it wasn’t at all. I made a small pink cat bead up into a charm, took all the lovely rattly glass beads off, and popped it on, and I love it. I really like seeing the light catch the glass, it is jewel like, I keep looking at and admiring it, slightly surprised that I made it. I don’t really experience my beads made up into jewellery, and I’m enjoying it.