Sixth Century Byzantine Necklace Supply List

As I’ve stated in my first post, I’m passionate about Roman and Byzantine jewellery.  One of the wonderful things about the Information Age is that museums like the V&A, The Met, and The Walters have digitised most, if not all of their collections.  For those of us who can’t afford to make a trip out to the museums, it saves us not only money, but these photos are often available to researchers of all levels, from hobbyists to professionals.  What’s even better is that sometimes, they’re under Creative Commons licensure, so, blogs like this (and pinterest, and pretty much anything involving the blogosphere) can use their photos with attribution.

So, I got a commission to make something very similar to this necklace, using as many period materials as I could get my hands on.  The best part is that the materials used in this piece, with the exception of the clasp, are relatively easy to get a hold of.

Here’s your supply list so you can make this necklace alongside me.  Most of the parts I got at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Fire Mountain Gems, Michaels, or Joann, or most craft stores.  If you’re lucky to have a bead store in relatively close proximity, that is also not a bad place to look for your supplies, but beware – sometimes the boutiques can charge more than the big box or the internet retailers.  Comparison shop.  It will help keep your costs low.

Freshwater pearls
Tumbled amethyst chunks
Green glass beads or rough cut emerald beads
4mm jumprings
Round-nose pliers
Needle nose pliers
Wire cutters
20, 22, or 24 gauge gold coloured wire (I’m using copper wire)
Bead reamer – not necessary, but may be nice to have on hand

One of the things I’d like to note with materials is that you can fake any of this with cheaper materials.  I prefer using freshwater pearls (and in the photo below, you can see that I had my choice between type of pearls.  From the left – small freshwater button pearl, larger freshwater potato-shaped pearl, small glass pearl, and lastly, a much larger Swarovski pearl), however, use what you have on hand.  If you like Swarovski pearls, or are making this project for a singular event, don’t spend a lot of money on something that you’re only going to wear once or twice.  That being said, I can find, locally, in my midwestern American city, 16″ strands of freshwater pearls anywhere from $2-$4 in the sizes that I need.

Another fun thing is that occasionally, places like Walmart can occasionally surprise you and have what you need in stock.  A couple years ago, at my local Walmart, I found tumbled amethyst chunks for $2 a strand, and I hoarded as many of them as I could get my hands on.  Occasionally, depending on trends in jewellery, beads that are useful for a particular historical period become popular.

Sandcast glass beads
Emerald beads

Since my client was given a choice between emeralds and glass, and chose emeralds, I’m posting photos of what you can use.  The original uses rather tubular pressed glass, but I’ve made similar necklaces using sandcast glass, and in this case, emeralds.  The great thing about looking at the geological makeup of the area (and consequently, the Empire’s trading partners) is that it’s reflected in jewellery of the area.  Again, the glass I got on sale, something like $0.99 a strand at Hobby Lobby.  The emerald was a gift, but Fire Mountain sells rough cut emerald beads for relatively inexpensively (though, they will totally be, more than likely, the most expensive part of your project, especially since you need three beads for it).

The closure can sometimes be the most difficult part of the piece.  Unless you’re into doing piercework on gold (and as of the writing of this entry, the price of gold is $1,761.25, so not feasible for many SCAdians), or can find hooks that work (and I’ve had a very difficult time finding those that might work), toggles are sometimes a great compromise point, especially since most people won’t look for the toggle in the first place.  I specifically chose a toggle with granulation, as this is a period technique.  This brings me to the point of jumprings, and why I have them listed.  I like using jumprings to attach the necklace to the toggles, as it can be difficult to allow enough room for the toggle in the technique of wire-wrapping the links.  By using a jumpring, it allows flexibility to use the toggle in opening and closing the necklace, reduces the chance of metal fatigue on the link, and if one wishes to replace the toggle with something else (like a hook and eye closure, which is more similar to the one on the extant piece), they can.

The wire is just as important as anything else you’re using.  This particular piece needs a fairly hefty wire, especially as wire in period is a bit more coarse than the drawn wire we have now.  The original (based on what I can guesstimate), probably used what we would call 18 gauge wire.  It’s thick, hefty, and again, made of gold.  Modern beads are often not drilled wide enough in most cases (and as much as bead reamers can help, drilling amethyst can be a pain.  So, I used what wire I had that would easily and cleanly pass through the beads.  (Reamers can still sometimes help, but bear in mind that they can only do so much.)

Finally, the tools you need.  If you have a set of rosary pliers, you can use these to get some fantastic loops, but I find that I have issues in cutting the excess wire off close to the base with their side cutters.  I have a pair of end cutters that help me get nice flush cuts, but before I had my end cutters, I had a pair of side cutters that I will still use to help me get the excess trimmed to size.  I use two pairs of pliers, round and needlenose pliers to help with the wrapping technique – the round to get perfectly round loops, and the needlenose pliers to help me shape the wire further.

Whew.  That’s a lot.  I hope this is detailed enough, and if you have questions, please feel free to comment – I’ll try and answer why I’m using the things I’m using.

Next in this series is the construction of this particular type of necklace!



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