Friday, 26 April 2013

Swarovski in Fashion, Art and Modern Culture

Swarovski crystals are such a versatile and essential part of any craft persons’ materials.  Swarovski themselves have proved that their brand are at the forefront of fashion, art and modern culture, from the clothes and accessories through to stage and screen design.  There are even gigantic pieces of art, large enough for people to walk inside, made entirely from the crystals.  The beauty of light catching the crystal and the colours it produces is intoxicating.  International Craft  appreciate the magic of these crystal beads and feature a range large enough to satisfy any craft designer.

Some of the more recent high profile events featuring Swarovski include:-

Creatures of the Wind, New York Fashion Week, Winter 2012/2013

Designers Chris Peters and Shane Gabier use Swarovski Elements as an extension of their designs.  The pastel colours within the jewellery complemented the clothes perfectly.  This is the third year the designers have used Swarovski.

‘Oz- The Great and Powerful’ – Disney

Witch in 'Oz'
(pic courtesy
Oz  is a blockbusting sequel to the 1930’s Wizard of Oz, where the focus this time is on the power of the witch.  The costume designer, Gary Jones, uses thousands of Swarovski crystals within the costumes for ultimate impact.

85th Academy Awards, 2013

Swarovski had a large part to play in this year’s Oscars.  The stage design featured a sparkling curtain made from 80,000 Swarovski crystals, designed to catch the lights, reflecting the old time glamour of Hollywood.

At this link on YouTube you can see Derek McLane explain the reasoning behind the huge Swarovski presence at the Oscars.

London Fashion Week, September 2012

Philip Treacy designs feat.
Swarovski Elements
(pic courtesy
Designer Philip Treacy,  renowned for his hat designs, uses African influence and the clothes of Michael Jackson to create a stunning show at London Fashion Week.  Swarovski Elements gave the finishing touches in the form of hats and gloves (remember Michael Jackson’s famous glove?)  along with African style jewelled accessories.

These are just some of the ways in which designers have used the Swarovski crystal to take their creations to a new level and for the craft person the design opportunities are endless.

For more on the Swarovski crystal beads at International Craft, click here.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

What are Freshwater Pearls?

Freshwater Pearls are created using fresh water mussels who live in a non-saline water found in lakes, rivers and ponds.  The pearls are produced mainly in China using a farming technique.  Japan and the US can produce them too, but on a much smaller scale and pollution has played an unfortunate part in the demise of the industry in these areas.
Freshwater Pearl Beads (white/cream)

When produced on a large scale Freshwater Pearls have to be referred to as ‘fresh water cultured pearls’ as stipulated by the US Federal Trade Commission.

China is believed to have harvested pearls from as early as the 13th Century and now produces 1500 tons of the freshwater pearls with the Hyriopsis cumingii mussel and several hybrids.  Outside of Asia, a pearl farm in Tennassee was able to cultivate the freshwater pearls.  However this became unsustainable and is now a tourist attraction. 

The farming technique is a process involving the grafting of a donor mussel carried out by a technician, this can be carried out up to 50 times per shell.   The Chinese prefer to use the triangle shell which is the Hyriopsis as although the volume of pearls are lower, they are considered of better quality.   The molluscs are returned to the fresh water where they are tended for 2 – 6 years.
Technicians using the traditional farming
technique (pic courtesy of Wikipedia)

More information on the freshwater pearl industry can be found on the forum of,  'Innovation continues in Chinese Freshwater Pearl Culture'.

How are they processed?

At a first-stage factory the harvested pearls  are cleaned and sorted by size and shape.  At the processing factory they are pre-treated in a warm and cold chemical solution and bleached.  If the pearls have a strong colour, they do not get bleached.  The pearls are then drilled and polished with a wax and cornmeal mixture.  To keep the pearls in good condition for onwards sale they are placed onto temporary strands and matched into hanks (a composition of 5 – 10 temporary strands).

What is their appeal?

Freshwater Pearls appear in a wide variety of natural colours and shapes.  They are less expensive than the salt water variety and are popular with young people and designers because of this.  They are solid and durable, giving a longer life with more resistance to chipping, wear and tear.

Freshwater Pearls (silver/grey)

For a wide variety of freshwater pearls at International Craft and more information, CLICK HERE