I wanted something striking for this wonderful piece of black jade. The red, black and silver theme, for me, achieved that effect.
A conch shell is frequently used as a design motif in Chinese Jade. It is an emblem of communication because it is said the Buddha used such a shell, as a sort of megaphone to spread the word of his doctrines. But for the Chinese, it is also an insignia of royalty, as well as the symbol of a prosperous voyage. This is quite a large, vintage piece of natural black nephrite jade, at 2 ¼ inches long and at its widest point, an inch across. As it has 2 holes at the back, it indicates that this was intended to be a toggle, like a netsuke, in which a cord would pass through the holes so that the shell could act as a fastener to hold something, perhaps a purse. It is robustly carved in this wonderful black jade.
To me, this called for a Chinese court necklace design, with a contemporary twist. So I have used rich scarlet bamboo coral beads; two near the pendant are small carved melon shapes, at 1.5mm by 9.5 mm; to large beads which show the texture of the coral (these are not breakages, but how the coral comes out) and these are a whopping 26.5 mm; and 2 very thin slices towards the top of the necklace at 19 mm. The natural colour of bamboo coral is a creamy white. These have all been dyed, but have been treated with a sealer to secure their colour. I have used this dyed coral many times (I buy it from a reputable dealer) and the colour has remained. Bamboo coral comes from the deepest part of the sea and forms tree like branches with joint nodes that resemble bamboo.
Four black lacquer beads, at 23 mm, make a striking contrast to the red. They are carved with the “shou” character which means in Chinese, long life.
The handmade, hammered silver beads, as well as the silver toggle clasp are made by the Karen hill tribes of Thailand. One pair of beads are 18.8mm and the second pair are 16.9 mm. Karen hill tribe Fair Trade silver is nearly 98% pure silver. I mostly choose to use their silver because each piece is like a miniature bit of sculpture, individually crafted and created. I know that artisans in Northern Thailand produce this unique silversmithing in small villages, involving whole families in the process. Their work is fairly paid, and as a result, their beads are much more expensive. But a family is supported and wonderful beads and jewellery are produced in high quality silver.
To continue the Chinese motif, I have used a black silk/polyester cord which I have knotted using the traditional “button” and “flat” knots. This is not only a classical Chinese technique, but it lightens the necklace and makes it quite comfortable to wear. It also sets off the design.
I have used a silver toggle clasp, again made by the Karen hill tribes of Thailand, in which they have twisted the silver. Toggle clasps are easy to use and quite secure. My silver name label is attached at the clasp.
The necklace comes, like all my necklaces, with it's own silk brocaded pouch bag, made by the Shanghai tailor.
The necklace measures 18 inches long, with a 2¼ inch pendant drop.
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