Category Archives: Jewelry Architecture


Egyptian collars are heavy. To improve comfort and wearability, the ancient Egyptians added a counterpoise to the broad collar. This piece hangs between the shoulder blades and serves two purposes: it offsets the weight of the front of the collar, making it more comfortable and stable; and symbolically it protects the wearer from danger from behind.

I may reweave the top of the arch to make it smoother, if time permits.

Sun God’s Eye

Some designs are the culmination of many different desires: to make something beautiful out of someone else’s beautiful work; to challenge myself technically; to make use of knowledge I’ve collected over the years; to commemorate a friend. Sun God’s Eye is that sort of jewelry.

I’m fascinated by lampwork beads. Glass can take so many different shapes, colors, textures, and effects. Amongst the many glass artists I admire on Etsy, I’m captivated by the work of Rebecca Jurgens at LandS Arts. She creates vivid animal portraits in her glass beads (as well as fine art paintings and intricate sterling “multi-media” pendants). In my hunt for interesting black cats to use as focal pieces for necklaces and bracelets, I discovered one of Rebecca’s cats:

Silver Grey Tabby pendant by Rebecca Jurgens

Silver Grey Tabby

When finances allowed — and before she stopped accepting custom commissions! — I asked her to make me an Egyptian Squib.

Egyptian Squib custom lampwork bead
Egyptian Squib custom handmade kitty cat lampwork bead pendant SRA “Reserved”

The original Etsy listing.

As soon as I saw it, I wanted to somehow make it the center of an Egyptian Eye of Ra. I spent a month honing my use of a technique called cubic right angle weave, which lends itself to the geometric flavor of Egyptian art. But the bead is large. Adding a hieroglyphic frame around it left me with a pendant that’s about 4″ square. Not everyday wear.

The Eye of Ra completed. The curved top component — the eyebrow — is a prototype. It’s mounted into the frame of the Eye in the final piece.

My success with the Eye of Ra convinced me that I was finally ready to tackle a long-standing goal: creating a piece of seed bead jewelry to enter in Bead & Button Magazine’s annual competition, Bead Dreams.

I’ve watched the Bead Dreams finalists and winners avidly for years, and wanted to create something competitive for about that long. The 2019 competition became my excuse for taking everything I know about ancient Egyptian art symbolism — and jewelry — and turning it into something wearable. My intention is to produce an Egyptian broad collar — what you probably think of when you hear the phrase “ancient Egyptian jewelry” — that combines the meanings of colors and shapes from Egyptian art, and the symbolism of Egyptian religion, with modern bead weaving techniques and design aesthetics. The idea is that an ancient Egyptian would recognize my design as a wesekh collar, freighted with religious meaning, but I could wear it with a dress and not looked like I robbed a museum.

My goal for Bead Dreams is humble: I’ll be delighted if I make it past the jury. The initial submission consists of up to 5 photographs, submitted over the web, no later than April 8, 2019.

Because the Eye of Ra, built around Rebecca’s lovely Egyptian Squib bead, is the centerpiece of my collar, I’ve named the project Sun God’s Eye. The Egyptian cat goddess, Bast or Bastet, is frequently portrayed as a black cat, and is referred to in Egyptian religion as the Eye of Ra herself:

Bastet, the Great One, the Lady of Bubastis, the Eye of Ra, who is in Behedet, who sits on the throne, who smites the enemies, who is protected by the gods. [From “Goddess on the Water: the Sacred Landscape of Bubastis” by Eva Lange-Athinodorou & Tobias Ullmann, in Egyptian Archaeology, vol 47:17-19 (January 2015) — the line is part of a hymn transcribed at the temple of Hathor at Edfu.]]

Adding a tubular clasp to a woven bracelet

In the world of “no warp ends” bead weaving, I’m a throwback. If I’m making a bracelet, I will weave the warp ends in to finish the piece unless I’m in a screaming hurry. Yes, it’s time consuming — but it’s not much worse than hand hemming a dress, or blocking a lace shawl, or any other thing I’ve spent time and effort and money to create. The end result looks great.

There’s an invisible benefit that’s even more useful. Weaving the warp ends back into a bracelet reinforces the strength of the “fabric” exactly where it takes the most wear and tear: on the ends, where the clasp is attached.

After all the tedium of end-weaving, I want the clasp to be consistent with the rest of the workmanship. It has to be secure, both in terms of staying attached to the bracelet and in keeping the bracelet around my wrist. It needs to be attached elegantly, or at least in a way that doesn’t detract from the quality of the design or the weaving — I don’t want to see the stitches that hold the clasp in place on the front of the bracelet.

[My last requirement is inspired more by repairing torn clothes than reweaving broken jewelry. I’d like to attach the clasp in a way that minimizes stress on the thread I’ve used to weave my bracelet, as well as on the individual beads. If the clasp is sewn directly into the thread (without going through any beads), the movement of the bracelet as it’s worn will eventually cut through the thread. And if you’re sewing the clasp through your beads, are your beads strong enough to take the stress? I don’t use Delicas for their structural integrity…]

You can deal with all these issues by lining the whole bracelet with embroidery backing or denim or some other sturdy fabric, and then sewing the clasp to the lining. But you can get the same benefits, without the added weight and drape of fabric, by attaching the two halves of the clasp to a small tab of sturdy fabric and then sewing the fabric to the bracelet.

I’ve used this trick on loom woven bracelets that are sized about a quarter of an inch shorter than the length I wear, so it presumably can be used for no-warp-ends loom weaving without much modification. I haven’t tried it on other bracelet styles, but that’s probably only a matter of time…

I want to add this 5-ring clasp to my cat yoga bracelet. I tried just sewing it together and it looked like cr….awful. So instead, I’m sewing each side of the clasp to its own little piece of embroidery backing, which I’ve cut to the same width as my bracelet (not including the edge embellishment).

clasp-tabs-1The tabs are the same width as my bracelet, but the clasp isn’t. So I (roughly) centered the clasp piece on the fabric tab, and then stitched the clasp to the tab.

After I attached the tab to the first half of the clasp, I slid the clasp back into one piece:

First hafl of claspThis lets me position the second half of the clasp on the second fabric tab, so the pieces will line up correctly when they’re attached to the bracelet.

Positioning second tabI trimmed the tab on the left so it was a closer match to its partner.

Both pieces of clasp attached to fabricFinally I attached each fabric tab to an end of the bracelet. I stitched the short ends of the tab through the edge Delicas, and stitched across the long edges directly across the warp threads. The fabric tabs distribute the strain of the clasp across the entire tab. The “protective layer” between the clasp and the weaving minimizes the risk of damaging the weaving through normal wear and tear. The image below shows me sewing through the edge Delicas.Attaching first tab to bracelet

I kept an eye on both sides of the bracelet as I attached the tab. Otherwise I might not have noticed that the black tab is starting to show at the bottom of the bracelet — I can adjust its position as I sew around the tab.

Tab out of position

Sew the second tab onto the bracelet, checking that it’s in the right position relative to the first half. Here’s what the finished piece looks like:

Finished bracelet - frontFinished bracelet - backIt’s a great fit, and the clasp stitching is invisible.

I hope this helps, and if this has been documented anywhere else please leave a comment so I can add the reference.