Here are some photos of my recent Mozambique Fusion jewelry designs. I combine local materials like trade beads and precious hardwoods with pearls, gemstones, sterling silver, etc. The holiday season was great for my jewelry business, despite the fact that I opted not to participate in the year-end edition of the National Crafts Fair. I thought it would stress me out too much, given that I am now trying to balance jewelry creation with a full-time consulting job!Custom design set using 500-year-old trade beads found in Mozambique Island. These beads are incredibly special, as they are unlike any I have ever seen coming out of Ilha before. They are made of carnelian agate (semi-precious stone) and, based on my research, were likely hand-crafted in India. This type of bead most frequently turns up in West Africa, in places like Mali.
A friend bought these beads in Ilha, and the man who sold them told her they were originally found in a shipwreck off the coast. A company called Arquenautus has been exploring the shipwrecks off Ilha for several years. It is a very sensitive subject, because many of the treasures - Ming Dynasty porcelain, gold coins, beads, etc. - are either not being properly catalogued (and sold directly to international collectors), or the artifacts are put in the small museum on the island only to "disappear", or they are blatantly sold to tourists on the side.
This is a different story from the regular glass trade beads and shards of pottery that wash up on the shore. The local boys who dig for these items sell them to tourists, but they are generally of lesser value and are not being formally excavated from shipwrecks off the coast.
I have very mixed feelings about acquiring artifacts that have come from the shipwrecks - I feel they should remain in Mozambique and be part of the country's historical and cultural patrimony - however, the reality is such that the artifacts can't be properly protected or preserved in the present conditions of the Ilha de Moçambique museum (or the politics of the shipwreck salvaging trade).
The corners of the diamond shape have worn away from the beads from being at the bottom of the ocean for so many years.Matching earrings with sterling silver accents. Bracelet with beautiful swirled beads. Despite the turbulent history of these beads, this necklace is one of my favorite pieces I've ever created. The client was extremely happy. 3-strand necklace with black glass Ilha de Moçambique trade beads and white pearls. I love working with the trade beads - each one is different, irregular, but still very beautiful. Sterling silver wire wrapped ring with blue glass trade bead from Ghana. I made a series of necklace sets using monochrome Ilha de Moçambique beads mixed with other materials. This one features white Ilha beads made to look like porcelain with freshwater pearls and sterling silver chain. Detail of porcelain-style glass trade beads. The faceted transparent trade bead in the middle of this design was a treasure to come across. It's increasingly rare to get large, transparent Ilha beads in good condition with no chips. Red monochrome Ilha de Moçambique set. I made a similar one for myself that I still need to photograph. This set mixes trade beads with coral, handmade Indian glass, carnelian and sterling silver. The focal trade bead in this design was stunning - the most perfect shade of cherry red. Cluster earrings with mixed red Ilha de Moçambique beads on sterling silver chain.
Mixed turquoise-colored Ilha beads in a cluster design on sterling silver. Pau rosa (Rosewood) discs from Nampula, finished with a 14kt goldfill wire spoke design. Pau preto (Blackwood) discs finished with 14kt goldfill wire. Monochrome blue set with Ilha de Moçambique beads, mixed gemstones and silver. Along with the trade beads, I used sodalite discs, lapis lazuli tubes, and faceted iolite beads. These faceted tube-like trade beads are known as "Russian Blues". Cluster earrings with turquoise Ilha beads and a turquoise teardrop focal bead. Cadet blue Ilha trade beads finished with silver freshwater pearls. 14kt goldfill wire-wrapped black trade bead tubes with rose goldfill beads, goldfill stardust rounds and swarovski crystals. Mixed black Mozambique Island beads with Hill Tribes sterling silver beads.