A coral necklace. Felicity, the American Girl had one, and as I intend to re-create Felicity’s dresses for myself, clearly I needed one too.
Coral necklaces were fashionable in the late18th and early 19th century, so one would be something I could wear with multiple history ensembles, not just the Felicity outfits I’m slowly (very slowly) making.
With this in mind I bought 3 different sizes of red glass beads (much more readily available and affordable than coral) and some silk cord to string them on. I did a bit of reading and learned that the cord should be knotted between each bead. I saved extant coral jewelry on Pinterest to get an idea of what my necklace should look like. Then I did more reading about the types of knots I should make between each bead. And finally, about a year after I bought my supplies, I began stringing my beads and making little knots between each one at the end of 2020.
I threaded two needles with the silk cord and threaded each bead on both pieces of cord, then knotted the two cords together between each bead. And I utterly failed to get a single picture of the process.
It’s was a very slow and tedious process. I’d intended to make a double strand necklace like I’d seen in Regency portraits, but with each little bead I strung that seamed more and more overwhelming. Eventually I decided just to make a double stranded bracelet instead, and I finished that at the end of 2021.
Yeah, that’s right, it took me a YEAR to make one little bracelet. Admittedly, it only took that long because I kept deciding the project was too tedious and abandoning it for months on end. I most likely could have finished it in a timely manner if I’d only put my mind to it and done it. But I had no motivation to do that.
Once the bracelet was done I decided to forget about the necklace idea for a while. If a bracelet had taken me a year to finish, how long would a necklace take?!?!
Only a day it would turn out. Less than that actually.
In May of 2022 my husband brought Covid home from work so we had a nice 10 days of being quarantined at home. (As sucky as being sick is, the introvert in me rather appreciates an excuse to stay home.) For the most part during that time I felt well enough to get a lot of fun sewing projects done, however, there was one day I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. So after resting, reading, and napping, I pulled out the red glass beads and set about stringing and knotting a coral necklace for myself.
I decided to do a single strand necklace for myself this time rather than attempt a double strand like I did for the bracelet. (I’m referring to strands of beads here, not strands of silk cord, each bead is still strung on two strands of silk cord.)
And by the end of the afternoon that necklace was done! Not perfect at all, some of my knots and the gaps between the beads are far from even, but done nonetheless!
I now had a set of coral jewelry! I might go back later and mark a nicer necklace with more even knots, now that I know the technique and have proved to myself that one little piece of jewelry doesn’t have to take a year to make, but for now I’m thrilled with this set.
I wore it with my 18-teens dress for the Federalist era fashion show I participated in back in September.
And again for my Pet en Lair photo shoot in December.
And when I finish the next installment of my Felicity series (very close on that actually) I’ll wear the necklace with that too!
To finish the story of my coral jewelry off, the necklace was my entry for challenge #3 of The Historical Sew Monthly last year:
What the item is: Coral Necklace
The Challenge: Non-Woven - there’s nothing woven here! Just twisted cord, knotted between each bead, glass beads, and a metal clasp.
Material: Red glass beads
Year: Late 18th century and Early 19th
Notions: Heavy silk thread and necklace clasp
How historically accurate is it? The thread/string material is correct. The beads would most likely be actual coral during that time, not glass. The clasp style is not correct as far as I know. My knots are not very pretty, and I’m sure they would have looked better in the era.
To summarize: the look is mostly good, there’s no plastic, and the string type is correct. We’ll say 60%
Hours to complete: 2-3
First worn: September 3rd, for a 1799-1820 fashion show
Total cost: probably $10ish, but it’s been over two years since I bought the materials so I really can’t remember.