Selected excerpts from
Restoring and Collecting Antique Beaded Purses
by Evelyn Haertig
Book
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Chapter 2 ~ Tools and Techniques
Page 29 - Needles

Presently needles are made of high grade, hardened, carbon steel wire, drawn out to a required thickness and length. They are plated with nickel, which is rust resistant, but not rust proof. Needles left in damp locations may become difficult to work with, but beading needles are unfortunately not durable enough to worry about longevity and the onset of rust!

Page 36 Helpful Tools
There are many tools which will prove helpful in restoration work. They are not absolutely essential and most of them will be found in the average household. Even those which might have to be purchased are quite inexpensive. ....

1. ... the most valuable tools are fine, small pairs of scissors. Years ago miniature scissors were found in manicure sets. They did not have high quality steel blades, but were so small that they can be positioned closely to the surface of the body and do not leave long, unsightly residue threads. .....

2. Tweezers with very sharp points can be purchased at lapidary shops. These are used for resetting stones in the jewelled frames, in sorting beads, in holding silk thread in place, in short, any time when working space is confined and/or difficult to reach. There are several sizes and widths....

Page 40 Silk
Silk thread is an important element in the construction of needlepoint, fabric and beaded purses. Spooled silk differs greatly in texture and appearance, from a dull linen look, to a highly polished sheen...

Silk thread may not deteriorate for 200 years, but it is the weakest link in the beaded purse. Frames may bend out of shape, steel beads may rust, lining tear and become soiled, and glass beads may break, making restoration or replacement not only desirable but imperative.

Chapter 2 ~ Knowing About the Glorious Beads
Page 45

Probably the most appealing thing about beaded purses is the beads themselves; but, owing to the antiquity of manufacture and a host of other factors, there are few subjects more complicated to deal with than the beads which we will investigate.....

Glass is made from a relatively simple compound of elements which has changed little over the centuries. It is composed of fine sand or silica, soda or potash, lime or lead, and a cullet (broken glass shards). While being formed, the molten glass mass appears colorless. Colors are obtained from the addition of various chemicals and/or ores before the pipe is blown. Copper oxide produced green; chloride of iron produced a wide range of iridescents; uranium produced yellow; manganese produced blue.........

 

Page 52 Jet Black Beads
Jet Black beads are commonly, and incorrectly, referred to as "jet". Jet is a natural organic product mined much like coal and with properties similar to coal. It was mined extensively in Whitby, England. Following the death of Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, it was favoured by her in place of more colorful gems, and the fashion was adopted by all genteel ladies for nearly a century. It can be distinguished from black glass beads which have a shiny surface, are much colder to the touch, and much harder, in addition to being much heavier. Jet was used chiefly in jewelry, but possibly in its heyday was used in small purses. It is rare today and costly. The popularity of mourning purses in the 19th century accounts for the availability of black beaded purses today.

Chapter 4 ~ Fringing The Finishing Touch
Page 63
The easiest technique in purse restoration is fringing. Unless some simple precautions are taken it can be a frustrating experience. No matter how carefully approached it takes a long time to gain real speed, particularly if very small beads are involved.

1. The first thing to determine is the size of the beads used in the construction of the body. Let us say the beads are 20/0's, and the pattern is a large, varied floral in vivid colors with a background done in the same size crystals. Here crystals refer to colorless, leaded, transparent glass beads with a high refractory capacity. Crystals do come in an assortment of colors, but in this manual, crystals mean colorless beads, unless otherwise noted. The crystal bead is the backbone of purse beading, because it allows the great mass of the body to be plain and gives emphasis to the design, which in the more costly and elegant purse, is usually colorful and complicated.

Page 69
How to Restore Damaged Fringes

Restoring damaged fringes is more difficult than creating the fringe. Occasionally a single strand or two will be damaged in an otherwise perfect fringe. There is really no way to tie the ends together or use some other makeshift repair which will be satisfactory. Removing the entire fringe will take a great deal of time as well, so the following directions will be valuable for this aspect of fringing.

Chapter 6 The Importance of Frames and Linings
Page 105

..... Careful consideration should be given to the material used in linings. Early purses were often lined with whatever fabrics were on hand. Needless to say, it was seldom the best choice unless the lady had a scrapbag of dressmakers' silks, satins, muslins and linens "left over." These scraps were often wildly patterned in vivid colors, which while serving the original purpose, detract from the color scheme or design of the purse.