Sunday, 28 March 2010

Big mistake...

On a jewellery-making forum, shrink plastics came up in conversation and one person wished it'd be possible to run it through the printer (good idea if one can't draw well) and of cause there are shrink plastics that can be used that way. So I wanted to add a link, showing an example. A fast googling later, I ended up at Crafty Computer Papers in the UK.

Thing is, while I'm not exstatic about shrink plastics -- but want to buy one or two black sheets for making jewellery parts -- I ended up finding a lot of other more or less unusual things to put in the printer: iron-on papers for dark fabric/t-shirt transfer (Sherri Haab uses these for leather jewellery), fabrics (silk, cotton, cotton organza, linen), wood veneer, rub-off decal papers, water-slide decal papers, fuzzy paper, magnetic paper (that I actually have used before). And now my head is buzzing with ideas for how these things could be incorporated in my jewellery! As if my wishlists and things-to-try lists aren't long enough...

I can understand why it has become popular to use a computer in crafts these days!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Etched goldstone

I was given a jar of Etchall Etching cream by a generous fellow beader not too long ago and so I've been experimenting with it a few days now.

One thing I tried to etch was this goldstone nugget that I bought in a new age shop a long time ago. In those days I didn't know goldstone was glass and that sure wasn't the impression the shop gave either. But I loved it for the shimmer, not the material, so no harm done. Since then I've grown less fond of goldstone so I didn't mind "sacrificing" it.

And I must say I'm pleased with the result. I love matte glass and, even more so, matte metal. This have both. The copper shavings give a lovely sublime shimmer now. Kind of like eye shadow made from mica pigments. Not sure how well it shows up in the photos, though. (One thing I'm sure you see in the pics is the dust/lint I didn't see when I took the photos...)

Now I consider sacrificing my brown goldstone nugget too. It has much more copper in it so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. More of my etched glass and stone beads coming soon -- or check out this forum thread it you can't wait.

Bead blog recap week 12

No blogging on Monday means only six posts at Manekis Pärlblogg this week.

Fashion Colorworks Beading Contest
A new international beading contest, hosted by Zoya Gutina of My Lovely Beads, where you will make a creation based on one of three colour palettes presented: Amparo blue, turquoise, and pink champagne; Tomato puree, fusion coral, and violet: Dried herb, eucalyptus, and aurora.

Trendy leather or rubber cord bracelets
Two types of leather (or rubber) cord bracelets have become popular, at least partially inspired by brands such as Pandora and BLOG by Aagard with large-hole beads and charms on jump rings attached to cord. Use braided cord for a simple bracelet or doubled leather/leather imitation/rubber for a chunkier type that can also be made twice as long for a wrap bracelet.

Make jewellery chains
Projects and tutorials for making you own jewellery chains. Many require just basic wirework tools while other types may require a torch to ball, fuse and/or anneal the wire. Includes chain maille.

Message theme contest
A Swedish bead shop announces a new jewellery design contest on the theme message and text. Use jewellery parts with words or texts -- or make your own.

Primula bracelet tutorial
How to make the bracelet in the pic above, using lucite (acrylic) flowers. Technique based on Shaggy loops.

Glues and tape
A short presentation of different glues used in jewellery making and beading, such as epoxi, E6000, G-S HypoCement, super glues, white glue, decoupage glue, and hot glue. Also discusses different types of tape that can be used: masking tape, packing tape and double-sided tape.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

More spring flowers

The flowers keep blossoming, one species after the other. So I just have to show a few more pics.

First our blåsippa. Liverleaf is the English name according to Den virtuella floran. Based on the scientific name hepatica, I'm sure, but if doesn't sound very pretty. Blåsippa means something along the line of blue anemone. In Sweden, it has a special place in the heart for many as it figures in a very well-known children's song about spring.

Then a couple of more photos of our crocus.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Primula bracelet

I made this citrus-coloured bracelet as I wanted to think of happy things, back when the days were grey, I felt bad and worried about dad. At at once. I began making it a few weeks ago, but it was just finished last weekend. Seeing it in the pic in front of me right now, I just can't stop thinking about primulas when I see it -- though the shape of the flowers are more like lobelias. So Primula bracelet is the name my until now nameless bracelet will go by on this blog.

For it I've used 78 tiny lucite flowers together with gold-plated findings. I'm normally not a big fan of these type of bracelets, but thought the flowers would be perfect for something like this. If you want instructions, I just published them at my other blog. In Swedish though.

It really is spring

It's been a lovely spring day today. Yesterday was windy and cold, but today the winds have ceased and you can begin to feel the spring warmth. 8,5 degrees and the paper promising up to 10. And the flowers love it.

Remember how they looked last Sunday, when the first ones began to blossom? Today I captured this out in our lawns. No rain today either so the flowers are dry this time.

Still some snow left though, especially on the northern slopes, as you can see in the pic below. Compared to how it looked earlier this winter, though, it's nothing. Soon it has probably dried up enough to begin the spring sowing, even.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

More books! More inspiration?

Well, I'm not sure the novels I recieved today will inspire my jewellery, but maybe I'll find a mood that'll reflect in my work. Or am I just writing that to have a reason to mention my reading habits in my bead blog? Well, regardless, I just hope they are good reads. I've read som good things about them so I have expectations. What books I finally bought?

  • Ekaterina Sedia: The Alchemy of Stone
  • Hope Mirrlees: Lud-in-the-Mist
  • S. M. Peters: Whitechapel Gods
  • Catherynne M. Valente: Palimpsest

By now you've probably guessed what type of litterature I'm in to. Yes, as far as I'm concerned, novels should be fantasy (or new weird, magical realism, surreal, whatever) or written in the19th century.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A handful of beads

This is the second beaded ball I've ever made. The thing I like about it is the size: it's about 4,5 cm, making it ideal to hold in my hand and play with. To that, I've used soft "unfinished" wooden beads and matte glass drops so it feels very nice and soft to hold.

The bead is a basic 30-bead ball. After it was finished I added large drop beads to each "joint" where the thread was visible between the beads. Not only did they cover the thread, but I think they added a bit to the design as well. My reason for using large beads was to be able to use them as home décor, inspired by a cover of The Bead Book Magazine where large beaded balls made from a variety of beads were used almost like fruit, placed in a bowl.

I can't say I enjoy making these bead balls, but I kind of like them enough to probably make a few more in the future.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Vernal equinox

Today's the vernal equinox (vårdagjämningen) and would you believe the snow seemed to get the hint. Yesterday it really began to thaw away, but due to the fog it still came as a surprise today when I saw how much of the snow is gone. We now can see our lawn. It felt like such a sudden change. And with so much snow gone, the flowers began to blossom. We've got winter aconites and snowdrops. The crocus is beginning to bud and I can see the daffodils beginning to sprout through the grass.

It's very moist though: rain in the air and deep puddles on the ground. Many farmers fear the crops will drown. And it's too wet in the fields for the machines, meaning potato planting is still far away (which means it will be a long time before I get any incomes this year = no beads). And it's not a warm spring yet: in places, the snow is still a couple of decimetres deep. But now it's beginning to thaw rapidly.

And time for an inspection of the greenhouse. The snow has done some damage this year: look at all that glass... But to be fair, much of it actually came down already during the autumn storms. And the cats are probably responsible for some of the damage.

Bead blog recap week 11

Soft Flex Company presents the Flex Your Creativity Beading Contest

This has been an up-and-down week for me personally and it might perhaps reflect in this week's postings on Manekis pärlblogg.

Bridal jewellery contest
Design contest by Swedish bead shop Fru Pärla with a royal flair: make a necklace and earring set that would suit the crown princess Victoria on her wedding this summer.

Wire trees
Make wire trees that you can embellish with gemstone chips ("gem trees"), beads, glass or just keep as they are. Some trees are suitable to use as jewellery displays.

Russian style netted flowers
How to make pretty russian flowers in netting, using seed and bugle beads. Also includes tips on other beading techniques associated with Russia: russian leaves, russian spiral and St Petersburg stitch.

Beaded easter eggs

Eggs -- real or imitated -- can be embellished with beads in many different ways. Why not make some new Easter embellishments or be inspired to do some easter crafts this year?

Tso stitch
Tso stitch is a new stitch developed by Hsiao-Hsuan "Eddy" Tso, based on peyote and RAW.

Metal hole punching pliers for square and oval holes
Eurotools has launched hole punch pliers that not only make round holes, but squares or ovals. For any easy way to make hole shapes you can get by just drilling.

Fire Divas quarterly jewelry challenge
Make a creation using a bead from one of the lampwork artists in the Fire Divas group for a chance to win gift certificate in their shops.

Metal hole punch
A hole punch for metals is a handy tool that makes it quick and easy to pierce holes in sheet metal. There are two basic types: screw-down punch and punch pliers.

How to finish loomwork bracelets
Different ways of finishing loom-woven bracelets.

What is bead porn?

Bead porn is a word that keeps coming up. It's not sexually related, but a way to refer to yummy bead pics and the way they are viewed upon by bead addicts.

SoftFlex contest with steampunk theme this year
SoftFlex company is announcing its second annual Flex Your Creativity Beading Contest. This year the theme is steampunk. (Click banner in top of post to go directly to the contest homepage.)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


No, I wont be talking about family issues and personal worries here. This is another change, a very minor in comparison, but big within the context of the blog. I went from this to this. I like the first one for the neutral colours and pretty roses. I like the latter for the splash of colour, but I'm not sure. Maybe it's too much?

*Update: yes, I'll change it back. At least for now.*

Flowers and leaves

It's not just roses I mix with "sepals" for a look that is more me -- I also use larger metal leaves together with flowers. Mostly I use enamelled/coloured flowers and leaves, but as you can see above, I also use some of the smaller leaves together with aluminium roses.

I have already shown you a flower-and-leaves combo in my Winter aconite necklace, but here are a few other pieces I've put together. So far I haven't decided how I want to use them though.

Purple, green and copper are my colours -- baby blues mixed with odd vanilla tones and greenish dark tan as below are not. I still had to mix these as I thought the shapes looked perfect together like this.

These two pieces are about twice the size of the rose and leaves in the first pic.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

First flower of spring?

Ok, I admit to being slightly obsessed by seeing the first flower of the year around here. I need spring flowers right now. Most of our garden is still covered in snow so while it might be mid-March we still haven't got even one snowdrop. Nor any of the winter aconites that normally blossom already in December. I see signs of spring around here though. Above is a pic of what it looks like near the foundation by the Western wall of our house. Tiny, tiny leaves have begun to sprout.

But no flowers. So I had to make my own.

It's just a sweet white lucite flower on a blackened copper wire (with balled end acting as stamen).

Monday, 15 March 2010

A bead orchid

This little "orchid" is a bead photo I made for a post, referring to a blogger, Jean Campbell, writing about a slightly different way of utilizing the "powers" stones are said to have according to crystal therapists and new age people. The blog post that inspired this photo can be found at Beading Daily. The bead combon shown in the pic is one she calls "Honey, I just crashed the car" with garnet for protection, rose quartz for acceptance of self and peridot to heal marital relationships.

It's not the world's greatest bead photo. I just wanted to show it as some sort of inspiration for what you can do with a handful of beads and a camera. To begin with I just wanted to arrange the beads in a pleasing way, choosing the beads for the material rather than shapes that would go well together, but soon it morphed into a flower. I didn't see it until I had the camera in front of me and had already snapped a few pics...

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Roses and leaves

I sometimes use metal (aluminium) roses, not least since I found them so cute when I began making jewellery. But it wasn't until I began adding sepals (the small leaves behind the flower/petals) that I felt they really became "my thing".

Using coloured metal sepals add to the natural look of the flower and it can also be used to enhance both the shape and colour of the roses. Try to imagine the ring and necklace below with just roses and pearls. It would work, but the roses would seem more artifical. On the other hand, the roses might also seem more "clean" without sepals so it really depends on the design. But, as I said, I always prefer the naturalistic look.

The components can be found in many different colours and sizes so there's bound to be some to fit a specific rose. I got my enamel sepals from Sleeping Dog Studio at Etsy, where you can also find other sellers stocking similar components. Some metal bead caps could also function as sepal (compare my Copper Anemones).

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Text books

In 2006 I left the universities after six years of studies and with degrees in three different disciplines. Six years mean I've accumulated a lot of text books. Seeing how I've been unemployed for the last years -- a common situation for academics in social sciences -- it's easy to forget many of the things once learned. So I thought I'd re-read some of my books. After all, I took all those courses in human geography, environmental science, ecological economics, and business administration because I loved it. It's worth taking the time to refresh my knowledge of them every now and then. Just because I don't work with it, doesn't mean I should let go of it.

So what books have I taken down from the book shelves? This is my first "batch":

  • Kotler: Marketing Management
  • Söderlund: Den nöjda kunden. Kundtillfredsställelse -- orsaker och effekter [The Satisfied Costumer. Costumer Satisfaction -- Causes & Effects]
  • Lidskog et al: Samhälle, risk och miljö. Sociologiska perspektiv på det moderna samhällets miljöproblem [Society, Risk, and Environment. Sociological Perspectives on the Environmental Issues of the Modern Society]
  • Nyström: Planeringens grunder. En översikt. [The Basics/Foundations of (Spatial) Planning. An overview.]
  • Rubenson: Miljöbalken. Den nya miljörätten. [The Environmental Code. The New Environmental Law.] (slightly outdated -- the MB was new in 2000 when I took the course)
  • Crang: Cultural Geography
  • Macnaghten & Urry: Contested Natures.
  • Dicken: Global Shift. Reshaping the Gobal Economic Map in the 21st Century.
  • Atkins et al: People, Land, & Time. An Historical Introduction to the Relations Between Landscape, Culture, & Environment.
  • Moberg et al: Miljösystemanalytiska verktyg -- en introduktion med koppling till beslutssituationer. [Environmental System Analysis Tools -- An Introduction Linked to Decision-Making Situations.]
  • Ricklefs: The Economy of Nature. (a book on ecology)

Does it sound like fun books? My sis don't think so. She isn't interested in academic work. But I love cultural geography and landscape studies, am intested in economics, care for the environment, am fascinated with planning, and find marketing both fun and interesting.

In fact, I wanted to become a marketer before I got disillusioned: it just ended up being about how to manipulate people into buying all sorts of things. I got tired of the manipulation and consumerism. That was at the same time I began to get more interested in environmental issues, human rights and international justice. Which led me to the universities -- I've studied at two different ones -- and six years that turned out to be the best in my life.

Bead blog recap week 10

Another week at Manekis Pärlblogg.

Haute Couture Beading Contest

Good Quill Hunting has announced the 2nd annual Haute Couture Beading Contest, open for international entries. Get your seed beads out and begin beading a bold piece of jewellery inspired by haute couture designs.

Decoupage pendants
A tutorial on how I make my decoupage pendants and charm, using Decopatch papers on metal blanks.

Handpainted cat and dog beads
Artbeads (and also Fire Mountain Gems) have a range of lovely hand-painted russian onyx beads. They include five cat races, five dog races and three types of parrots. Expensive, but a perfect gift for a cat, dog or parrot lover.

Lava stone
Lave make rustic and slightly unusual stone beads with its many cavities and rough texture. Did you know lave beads can be painted with silver clay paste?

Greek ceramic beads with metal finishes
If you like the look of metal and slighly chunky beads, these ceramic beads might be of interest. Silver, antique silver, gold, bronze, copper, copper brown patina, and copper turquoise patina are finishes you'll find at e.g. British The Bead Site and Swedish Meleagris.

Etched stone beads
Did you know etched stone beads have been made for at least 4 000 years? Egypt, India and Persia (todays Iran) were countries where the methods were utilized. Today you can find etched stone beads from China and Tibet as well as Western art beads.

Introduction to off-loom bead-weaving
What is off-loom bead-weaving? What beads to use? How to selecet needle and thread? Where to find instructions? What weaves are there? All these answers are discussed in this introduction to the inspiring world of seedbeading.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Pearl Fishing in Sweden: From the Middle Ages to the 20th Century

This is an English version of my post Pärlfiske i Sverige -- från medeltiden till nutiden. Please regard this as a first translation, most likely in need of revisions.

I will write more articles in the future, both translating writings from Manekis Pärlblogg and doing new texts especially for this blog. If you have any suggestions for themes, please don't hesitate to ask.


Sweden isn't especially well-known as a producer of freshwater pearls, but the fact is that pearl fishing has occured in different parts of the country during centuries. It didn't cease until the freshwater pearl mussel became protected by law in the 1990's due to a rapid decrease in population.

(The pearls in the photo above are not Swedish, they are -- as most freshwater pearls today -- cultured Chinese.)

The freshwater pearl mussel
The highly coveted pearls are formed in the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritfera margaritifera). The scientific name, margaritifera, means pearl bearer. This mussel live across the Northern hemisphere, mainly in temperate zones, but has its main distribution in Northern Europe. Here it lived fully or partially hidden i sand, stone or gravel bottoms of unpolluted, clear and streaming waters. It is today an endangered species and larger colonies can only be found in Canada, North-western Russia and Eastern Scandinavia. In Sweden, the most famous habitat is Pärlälven (Silbbaädno) in Jokkmokk municipality in the North. Pärlälven literally means the pearl river.

The species as existed for 80 million years on Earth, but it has dramatically declined the last 100 years, partially due to overfishing in the hunt for the valuable pearls. In Sweden, it has disappeared from every third known habitat. In the agricultural areas of Southern and Mid Sweden it has more or less totally disappeared.

The mussel is one of the most persistent molluscs and it can live for over a century -- the oldest found mussel became 256 years, which could be read from the "annual rings" of the shell. How old a mussel can get depends on the environment of the habitat: natural changes in the waters mean that mussels get older in the North than in the South. Pearls only form in mussels older than 20 years. Growing a pea size pearls takes another 12-20 years.

Pearls are formed when a foreign particle, e.g. a parasite, enter the mussel while it inhales water for breathing and filtering out organic particles for nutrition. If the particle can't exit the mussel again, the mollusc protects itself by covering the irritant with layers upon layers of nacre from the mantle, a soft tissue on the inside of the shell. Nace mostly consist of crystalline calcium carbonate and an organic horn-like compound. Nacre is also known as mother-of-pearl (in Swedish pärlemor, meaning exactly the same) because of this.

It is not common for mussels to grow pearls, which makes non-cultured pearls very rare, no matter the size of the mussel or oyster population. About one in 50 mussels contains pearls (usually 1-3 in each), but only about one in every 2 000 or 3 000 contains aesthetically pleasing pearls that can be used in jewellery. Due to the long time it takes to grow a pearl, large specimens are uncommon. The largest pearl ever encountered was close to 13 mm i diametre. The shape can vary greatly while the colour is usually blueish white, but it can also have tones of pink or baby blue.

Illustration from Alfred Edmund Brehm's Tierlieben (1864-9).

The history of pearl fishing in Sweden
Already during the Middle Ages, pearls were sought after in Scandinavia. In those days Swedish pearls came from Finland, which was for centuries a part of the Swedish kingdom. It was said that Karelian peddlers fished for pearls while travelling across Österbotten. There was a lack of domestic pearl fishing so most of the demand for pearls by the court, rich magnates and the church was satisfied by imports.

But there was an interest in avoiding this import. Gustav Vasa, (Gustav I, king of Sweden 1523-1560), issued a passport and letters of recommendation for a russian citizen, Demanth Riiss, who was in Stockholm at the time. He was ordered to return to his homeland and there obtain pearl fishers with diving experience. The fishing was also stimulated by offering privileges for citizens (burghers), allowing them to trade with pearls in several Swedish and Finnish towns. In 1544, Vasa called for the bailiff (fogde, vogt) of the provinces of Ångemanland and Medelpad to buy all pearls that was found. Simon Andersson Skrivare was sent out to investigate which Northern rivers might contain pearls and to purchase the pearls on the behalf of the king. The local pearl fishers were banned from selling their catch to anyone but the royal envoy, according to the orders the bailiffs received from the king.

The interest in pearl fishing took off in the early 17th century, perhaps stimulated by a 1643 book, depicting what richness the mussels in the country could pose. The Crown began to employ "pearl and gemstone fishers" of its own and later, in 1691, the pearl fishing became a royal privilege. In Stockholm a senior inspector of pearl fishing, överpärlfiskeinspektör, was installed and there were also several local officials stationed to keep control.

The province of Västerbotten (today's Norrbottens and Västerbottens län) was absolutely dominant and in the end of the 1690's purchases from any other places in principle ceased. The fishing was as most intense during a few years in the end of the decade in Lule lappmark, were it probably came to play an important role in the Swedish colonization of Norrland, the Northern parts of Sweden. The Saami did not fish for pearls in the same degree as the settlers did.

But the fishing wasn't always very fortunate. The last years before it ceased to be a royal privilege in 1723, the pearl fishing had ended in almost the whole country, with the exception of Northern Norrland. There it would continue a few years into the Age of Liberty (1718-1772). It was only during a few initial years that the Crown had made a slight profit. The remaining time was directly unprofitable. In addition, the pressure on the mussel populations depleted them in several ares. In the early 18th century, it was reported to be the case in the Northern coastal areas. Further from the more densely populated coasts, the fishing continued during the 1720's and in 1731 the pearls once again became a royal privilege. In 1734, Karax -- an area including the afore mentioned Pärlälven, was considered to still be of a certain interest for pearl fishing.

When Carl von Linné (Linnaeus) visited the area in 1723, a decade before, he noted that the populations of freshwater pearl mussels were almost depleted by the fishing. He was told that a man could open up to 1 000 mussels to find one pearl. All this made him start experimenting with pearl farming in the Fyrisån river in Uppsala where he worked at the university. He was inspired by the pearl farms known to exist in China. The method he developed consisted of drilling a hole in the shell of the mollusc and, using a silver wire, insert a fragment of limestone to stimulate pearl growth. The experiments can be seen as part of the trends of the time, when many efforts were made to try and produce luxury goods within the country, which otherwise could only come from dependence on imports or having a large empire. Others tried, in vain, to grow saffron in Norrland, attract Russian sable by planting trees, or grown mulberry bushes for silk productions. More successful examples included cultivation of tobacco, medicinal herbs and potatoes. Linné received a reward from the government for his attempts in pearl fishing and his idea was sold on to others, but it never came to any form of practical use.

The period 1691-1723, organized pearl fishing seems to have led to a rapid and very serious depletion, and again in the 1770's the Crown gave up its monopoly on the fishing due to non-viability. But there is an indication from the 1860's, showing that the state of the mussel populations in Pärlälven was much better at that time. The then crown prince Karl could at that time buy pearls from two deep dishes, which he had made into a full set of jewelry (including tiara) for his crown princess. During the 19th and 20th century, the fishing was conducted privately and in some places it could still be a profitable business.

Pearl fishing in the 20th century
During the last century, pearl fishing was conducted in several rivers all over Sweden. But extensive fishing is mainly attested from Pärlälven and Råneåälven (Lappland), Västerdalälven (Dalarna), the waters in Jämtland, Svartån (Östergötland), Emån (Småland) and Lagan (Halland). In other words, river in both Northern and Southern Sweden. From Lagan's lower reaces, it is told, that pearls for close to 30 000 SEK was found during the summer of 1911. Close to the river lived crafter Paulus Cederholm, who made jewelry and trinkets from the mother-of-pearl discarded by the pearl fishers.

In Älvsborgs län, the pearls were an ancillary to the salmon fishing and agriculture. Fishing pearls was especially suitable as a mean of additional income as it could easily be combined with the work on a small-scale farm. When log-floating and mowing required much time and labour, the water levels were too high for gathering pearls, but at the same time of the year when the most intense work on the farm was over, the water levels receded to appropriate depths. The fishing could sometimes make a significant contribution to the family's economy, together with the agriculture, log-floating, fishing and forestry. Especially as the prices of pearls were high at the time. In the 1950's, a pearl fetched 100 SEK per millimetre in diametre in Northern Sweden. That could mean a couple of thousands during a summer, a pearl fisher told, even it it also could mean weeks and months of work just to find one prima pearl. A rich farmer family was considered to have gained its wealth through pearl fishing in Emån river. The most famous pearl fisher, Oskar Skoglund from Eksjö, found about 150 pearls during 44 years of searching, resulting in an additional income of 7-8 000 SEK.

At various scales, the pearl fishing exsisted well into the second half of the 20th century, eventhough for example the Pärlälven was protected by law in 1914. It wasn't until the freshwater pearl mussel was protected throughout Norrbottens län that the fishing actually ceased there. In Lagan, professional pearl fishing carried on in the 1930's. In 1994, the mussel was protected nationally and pearl fishing hence became illegal.

How pearl were fished
As you see, I keep referring to the act of harvesting pearls as pearl fishing, while most people have only heard of pearl diving. The common practise in Sweden was not to dive for pearls, but rather use special tongs to pull the mussels from the bottom of the rivers.

In order to fish pearls, the fisher would wade into the water -- a common method, especially in smaller streams -- or sit in a boat. Regardless which method he used, he needed two tools: pärltång (pearl tongs) and pärltub (pearl tube). Sometimes he also had a bag to collect the mussels in. The "tube" was kind of a homemade "underwater looking-glass", that could also serve as a basket to collect the mussels in. The tongs were used to pick up mussels -- as you can see in this authentic footage -- and they were usually forged by either the pearl fisher himself or by a blacksmith. The iron tongs were equipped with long wooden handles that could be extended to up to seven metres depending on the depth of the waters. Some tongs instead had a shaft and spring that was controlled by a rope.

The origin of the pearl tongs was a clamp, used since medieval times. The clamp ws made from wood or bamboo and had a forked end, which was pressed over the mussel. At low tide, mussels could also be collected by hand or by sticking a pointed stick into the opening of the mussel, making it close the shell and thus remain clamped on the stick while it was pulled from the water.

Residents by the rivers had the advantage of using boats for fishing, which meant they could reach depths were no one else had already been searching by wading. Around Pärlälven special pärlekor (pearl rowing boats) were built. They differed from other boats by having straight end in both stern and bow. The pearl tube was fastened to the bow, using a bolt so it could swivel. Usually there was two men in the boat: one man to pull out the mussels using the tongs and one man operated the boat using a pole. It is said that boys could be made to jump from the boat with a stone in the arms to pick mussels from the bottom of the river, like Asian pearl divers. In Jämtland they also used pärlhåvar (pearl nets), that were dragged by boats like bottom trawls, to gather the mussels.

At this time, some organized expeditions to Lappland and Norrbotten with divers and equipment. The divers could reach greater depths, but they were not more effective than pearl fishers using traditional methods in the end.

Pearl fishing continued also during the winter. Either a hole was cut into the ice so tongs and tubes could be inserted or men would wade into the open wells, forming in the rapids where the ice would not freeze -- places impossible to reach during summer.

When the mussels had been gathered together on the beach, the pearl fishers would sit down and open all mussels using blunt knives. A blunt edge was used so the knife would harm any pearl that might be inside. Some fishers used mussel shells instead of knives. After the mussel had been inspected, it was thrown back into the water. Opening a mussel like this kills it as the muscule is cut off. Milder methods using special pliers that didn't kill the mussel so it could be re-introduced to the waters exsisted, but they were rarely used. The practise of killing mussels when opening them was an effective way of depleting the populations.

There are many different claims as to how many mussels a fisher would pick in a day: so say 100 while others say 20 000. It could take a couple of thousand opened mussels just to find one pearls -- and it was even more rare to find large specimens. The fishers had tricks to recognize pearl-bearing mussels, called pärltecken (pearl signs). It could be damages or deformations on the mussel shell, rugged surfaces, a stripe along the shell etc. However, it is questionable how useful these signs were.

Photo by Joel Berglund (via Wikimedia Commons), used in

Protection and environment
Already Linné, while travelling through Dalarna, was worried about the freshwater pearl mussel becoming extinct through the extensive fishing. In the 20th century new threats appeared, besides the overfishing. The mussel need clean and unpolluted waters and at that time, a dirty industry began to have adverse effect on nature, as did agriculture and forestry. Water pollution, the cleansing of river bottoms for log-floating, water regulations (dams), acidification, and eutrophication has made it hard for the mussel to survive. Since the fishing was banned in 1994, forestry, acidification, and eutrophication are considered the main threats to the Swedish trout, which plays an important part in the mussel reproduction. Forestry contributes to an increase of particles in the water -- leading to sludge clogging river bottoms that choke young mussels -- through drainage, cultivation and driving in or close to the waters. The trout is also threatened by the sludge and acidification as well as beening injured by the cleansings for log-floating, thus being an indirect threat to the mussels' survival.

Today the mussel is protected by law throughout the EU and in Sweden it is classified as vulnerable. Actions are being taken to prevent the extinction of the species. Pärlälven is today, at least partially, a part of a Natura2000 area called Pärlälvens fjällurskog. The purpose of this nature preserve is to preserve the character of the landscape and let the ecosystem evolve in a natural way. The river is also popular with anglers.


Awebro, Kenneth & Thomas Öberg: Pärlproducent och miljöarkiv. In Pettersson et al (eds.): Människan och naturen. Etnobiologi i Sverige 1. Wahlström & Widstrand.
Folklivsarkivet, Lunds universitet: Pärlfiske
Landell, Nils-Erik (2001): Sveriges välstånd om det vill. In Pettersson et al (eds.): Människan och naturen. Etnobiologi i Sverige 1. Wahlström & Widstrand.
Länsstyrelsen i Norrbottens län: Välkommen till Pärlälven!
Sveriges Radio: SR Minnen -- Pärlfiske. Om pärlfiske i Jämtland. From August 27, 1940.
Wikipedia: Flodpärlmussla [Freshwater pearl mussel]
Wikipedia: Pärla [Pearl]

Decoupage pendants

Yesterday I wrote instructions for how I make my decoupage pendants in my other blog, Manekis pärlblogg. Text is in Swedish but if you're interested at least there are some pics (and you can always translate using Google Translate -- checkout the "share" button at the end of the post). And I might be translating it for this blog later.

For the pendants and rings shown I've used Decopatch papers on Vintaj's brass blanks and steel (?) rings from Bra Pärlor. If you like the rings and you're Swedish, you might want to check out that shop. They have 50 % off as they close down on Sunday (14/3).

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Like mother, like daughter

I have a DIY light tent for taking photos on those cold, rainy, windy and/or dark days I can't be outdoors with my jewellery, beads and camera. As a light source I use a 500 w constructions light (lamp) and of cause the cats love it. Unfortunately.

We do try to keep our cats from the "bead room" for several reasons, but sometimes we let them in. And what happens when I let one of them in while photographing? When it's cold outside, there's nothing better than jumping up and get all warm and cozy under a hot lamp. What's that? Dirty paws ruins those crisp white background papers? And you can't sit on jewellery? Knocking beads over the edges? Who cares?

Above is a photo of Mimi (Mimsan) and below is her daughter, Randa. Two girls that always make sure they get what they want.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Vote for me?

This isn't bead related or perhaps it is because I want to win the money in order to buy beads (preferably by going to Paris).

Anyway, it's a chewing gum contest from Läkerol where I need to charm people to vote for me (pretty please). I've just created my own chewing gum mix. I love their chewing gums so of cause I had to give it a try. Licorice, toffee and passion fruit -- salty, sweet and slightly sour. The name? Well, I couldn't come up with something good...

To vote for me, click this link -- or click the button in the pic above -- and then click the button below to the right in the speech bubble. If you're Swedish you can also participate: by using my link I get bonus points (a favor I'm willing to return).

Apples in a bowl

A couple of days I go I made a comment on the Vintaj blog about beading on filigree. Which made me think of this little objet d'art I made back in October 2008. The bowl is a piece of dapped brass filigree ("Garden Trellis" from Vintaj), 40x40 mm, and the apples are made using 6 mm round soo cho jade beads with Toho 11/0 seeds in matte opaque chocolate. The beads are simply stitched to the filigree base using brown K.O. Beading Thread. I just use it as a small decorative item, but others have suggested it'd also make a nice brooch.

I thought the "jade" was just the right autumn colours for apples, eventhough the seed bead "calyx" make them look a tad like ripening currants in the end. Well, at least now I know how to make bead currants.

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