Pearls and More Pearls

The night before last, I discovered information on bead embroidery, which was becoming popular in the early 1500s. Originally bead embroidery was only used for religious projects, but Venice started a completely new glass-bead industry and suddenly bead embroidery was much more accessible.

Bead embroidery gives me a way to more thoroughly explore a theme within the gown, and doesn’t really deviate from the original design, which clearly showed embroidered bands. I’ve so far done three seashells in 3mm “pearl” beads. They’re embroidered onto seafoam satin ribbon. Each sleeve will have five seashells.

Red and aqua is an unusual visual combination, but red and green show up a LOT in the first half of the sixteenth century. My seafoam isn’t as common as hunter, but I wanted something that communicated ocean, so I’m stepping outside strict period colors.

I won’t attach the band to the sleeve until I’ve finished all the shells, but I laid it over to see how it would look.

I also found a silver pendant cast of a sand dollar and used a jump ring to attach it to a short strand of large (glass) pearls. Several of the drawings I’ve found showed short, large-bead pearl strands with round or teardrop pendants, although my sand dollar is a little bit smaller than it should be. I also picked up a hammered silver cross of a more appropriate size with dark red stones. I can wear the red cross for less themed events.

I think I got my sand dollar on a beach trip in middle school, and I bought the pearls at a department store last year. So far my total cash investment in this outfit has been the $3 I spent on ribbon.

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