Spelling Secrets with Semi Precious Stones


In the current issue of Perles et Cetera, a premier French publication for jewelry makers, we have a new semi precious project step by step.  This is the English translation.
Designed by Carmi Cimicata for John Bead Corp. and Perles et Cetera.

Spelling a word by using gemstones is a style of jewelry called “acrostic.” Similar to acrostic poetry, when the first letter of each sentence creates a word, acrostic jewelry uses the first letter of a gemstone to also create a word. It creates a hidden meanings or messages in the design.

As an example, LOVE in an acrostic jewelry piece might be a Lapis bead next to Opal, next to Verdite next to an Emerald. In England, one of the most popular words to spell out was REGARD, which usually featured Rubies (2), Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, and Diamond. They also used DEAREST or the name of a person in sentimental jewelry for engagement rings or anniversary gifts. Antique rings, bracelets, brooches and pins featuring unique gemstones may in fact be acrostic jewelry and you would have never known.

Napoleon Bonaparte designed the jewelry that ultimately exposed me to acrostic jewelry. He worked with a jeweller in Paris and always enjoyed marking special occasions with both large and small keepsakes. The Nitot jewellery house became the official jeweller of Napoleon in 1802. (They eventually were renamed the House of Chaumet.) The son of the founder, François Regnault created jewelry, crowns, sword hilts and more for Napoleon, both his wives and his court.

It is the gifts that he created for his second wife Marie Louise that caught my attention. He had the jeweller spell out his birthday, her birthday and their wedding anniversary in three beautiful bracelets. From the moment I saw these bracelets I was enchanted. I can’t think of a more romantic way to memorialize an important day. It becomes a secret between the gift giver and recipient and when worn, a constant reminder of their private celebrations.

Napoleon 15 Aôut 1769
Natrolite, Amethyst, Peridot, Opal, Lapis, Emerald, Onyx, Natrolite [15]
Agate, Opal, Uranite, Turquoise [1769].

Marie Louise 12 Decembre 1791
Malachite, Amethyst, Ruby, Iris, Emerald, Lapis, Opal, Uranite, Iolite, Sapphire, Emerald [12]
Diamond, Emerald, Chrysoprase, Emerald, Malachite, Beryl, Ruby, Emerald [1791].

27 Mars 1810, 2 Avril 1810
[27] Malachite, Amethyst, Ruby, Serpentine [1810], [2]
Amethyst, Vermeil, Ruby, Iris, Limestone [1810].

Creating an acrostic jewelry piece is a lot less expensive today than the pieces jewellers created in the 1800’s. Designers, jewellers and weekend hobbyists have access to many semi precious stones by simply visiting a local bead store or by placing an order online. Sometimes gemstones are even less expensive than glass or resin.  I work for one of the largest distributors of gemstone beads in Canada and we even have an Outlet attached to our warehouse that has many of these strands ready to purchase, at great prices.

For this project I decided to create a set of jewellery that features my own name. It will be a secret just between you and me. People will only notice the pretty gemstones and will never know that it carries significance. I have a plan to create sets of acrostic jewelry for friends and family using their names or special dates. I can’t wait to see the look of surprise when they read the notes I’ll include explaining why I used the gemstones I did for their gifts.

My project began with a review of the Crystal Bible by Judy Hall. I wanted to make a list of gemstones that had first letters linking to my own. The first letter of my name “C” was simple; Carnelian is a favourite. The last letter of my name “I” was a little harder. This letter is usually a descriptor for a gemstone such as Indian Topaz or Iris Opal. I then wrote my first alphabet gemstone-shopping list.

I settled on these strands after reviewing all the possibilities in our semi precious bead category at John Bead.

Carnelian for the C,

Amethyst for the A,

Rainbow Agate for the R,

Mookaite for the M and

Iron Zebra Jasper for I.

Once I knew which gemstones I wanted to use, I started to select the shapes. This took some thinking. Did I want big square beads, rectangles, rough cuts, round or chips? Sometimes having too many options makes designing very difficult. I settled on three shapes; ovals, rondelles and round. I knew that these would work well for a set of jewelry that also included earrings.

I also selected round wood beads for the body of the pieces. Wood is lightweight, fairly inexpensive and would allow me to just use a few semi precious beads per project. My stash of beads to match the alphabet will need to include one or two strands per letter of the alphabet. That means I have twenty-one more gemstones to select to complete my alphabet and the hunt is part of the fun for me!

Last but not least I gathered rhinestone rondelles. Who can resist a little extra sparkle? In the bracelets Napoleon designed, the diamonds and gold created the most beautiful frames. I wanted to bring some of that glamour to these simple stringing projects.

Once my gemstones were in the right order, spelling out CARMI, I made several sets for a necklace, bracelet and two earrings. I used various sizes of stones and spent some time deciding which colours worked best. All gemstones strands have various shades throughout, so I was able to select lighter Mookaite beads and even one that looked marbled. The necklace I strung with bead wire. The bracelet was made with elastic cord and the earrings feature the semi-precious beads stacked on a headpin and added to a pre made earing shape.

My jewelery set is unique, lightweight, sparkly and it was fairly inexpensive to make. Now I just need to decide which family member names I will work with next. Happily, that will mean more trips to the bead store for gemstones!

All products shown are from John Bead Corp.

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2 Responses to Spelling Secrets with Semi Precious Stones

  1. Beth Bianchi says:

    How meaningful and thoughtful. I love the organic look of the necklace/bracelet

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