Vintage Glass Pearls
A Frenchman by the name of Jacquin observed that when fish were in a barrel of water, a resulting film of silvery pearlescent particles on the water’s surface was quite lovely. Skimming these particles and dehydrating them, he discovered a lustrous powder that captured his imagination; he had a most unusual iridescent pigment and began experimenting in the early manufacture of faux pearls. The pigment stayed on the glass surface only when applied on the inner surface of a bead, injected in one hollow end of the bead and allowed to drain out the other end. When applied to the outer surface, of course, the necklace wearer’s body heat and oils dissolved the coating, but the trade secret of coating the inside of the glass sphere was closely guarded until 1716, after which this manufacturing technique became common in Europe and Asia and glass pearl beads produced in this manner decorated historic costumes in the centuries to follow.
The luster of some lipsticks and shimmery makeup products were due to the addition of this essence.
Vintage glass pearls were then made in this way in Japan in the early 1900s. Later methods of producing simulated pearls included coating solid glass beads with layers of pearlescent coatings, made with more durable lacquers and finer fish scale powders. The more coatings, the higher quality the faux pearl. Pre-war Japan glass pearls have a lovely luster and coating and are of high quality. The colors, much like natural pearl colors, range from pure white to cream, champagne, ginger ale, mauve, silver, peach, pale sky blue, lavender, black, and beyond that, whatever color the manufacturer fancied, adding color to the powder. The quantities of old glass pearls are limited, although they can still be purchased readily at many bead sellers specializing in vintage beads.
I find the luster of these pearls to be, in some cases, superior to naturally occurring sea pearls.
A testament to their superior manufacturing secrets, they have endured as well and as long as natural pearls and can be worn with confidence.
Top photo: Golden toned vintage (circa 1930s) glass pearl is paired with an opalescent blue crystal, silver plated components.
Middle photo: Two different vintage glass pearls from 1930s are topped with tiny real freshwater pearls, silver plated components.
Bottom Photo: Vintage glass puddle pearl with solid copper components.
©Copyright 2009 Chris Dec Jewelry