Photo by Gus Bennett
Alpha Award 1997
My name is Anne Renée Timmons-Harris and I have collected antique glass beads and unusual beads of all kinds from around the world for over forty years.
My introduction to beads and jewelry came early. Our family's landlady had come to America after narrowly escaping the Nazis. She had rescued her personal collection of antique Venetian glass and African trade beads, and she kept them in several small trunks that looked just like a pirate's treasure chest. We admired them together; Mrs. Kaplan shared her knowledge of bead designs and the history of beads. She passed her love for these exquisite little works of art to me.
Growing up in Hyde Park district of Chicago, I could spend lots of free time at the Oriental Institute of Chicago, and I became an avid student of ancient Egypt. In sixth grade, my research project on King Tutankhamen accidentally turned into the first biography ever written about him, though much had been written about the treasure found in his tomb. I was fascinated that a child about my own age had ruled a fabulous country and wielded so much power, if only for a short time. The Oriental Institute included my paper in their stacks.
Formal study of jewelry craft began during my high school years. In college, I studied Greek and Roman archaeology, anthropology and physics. During my senior year of college, while studying in Oxford, I had the opportunity visit the Ashmolean Museum often and view their extensive collection of antique beads. The Jewel Room at the British Museum was also a frequent haunt. I have continued to expand my knowledge with courses from the Gemological Institute of America.
I use antique and modern glass beads with precious and semi-precious gemstones to make necklaces and other unusual ornaments. Gold findings of the highest quality are used to accent. Quality craftsmanship distinguishes my work from the rest.
Wear your beads in good fortune!
Many of the beads I collect and trade are malocchio beads (Italian for "evil eye") and millifiori ("thousand flowers" a stylized variation of the eye theme) beads. Eye beads reflect a tradition dating back to 3000 B.C. These beads were worn to promote good luck, and for protection from misfortune (the evil eye or malocchio). Archeological evidence suggests that concepts linking eyes and protective magic to beads evolved in western Asia and Africa, and were carried west and east with developing trade routes. The oldest eye beads made were drilled stones like agate and carnelian.
The evolution of glass beads began with human discovery of glass making techniques in ancient Egypt. Beads were incorporated into jewelry, personal adornments, and everyday utensils of Egypt, the Hebrews, China, India, Persia,and Italy.
Millifiori and malocchio beads are still used and admired in Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia, as well as the Americas. As in ancient times, they adorn people, homes, pets, livestock and vehicles as protective talismans. Today, unfortunately, many of the old techniques for making millifiori have been lost. Yet the best beads are still manufactured today as they have been throughout the ages, individually handmade of glass.
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