Call me what you may, but for me brass is Cleopatra (yeah, yeah, I know, people back then were not making much of it, but what can I do when my brain is soooo conditioned by old Hollywood productions? All I see is seas of collars, mountains of bracelets and rivers of anklets made of- let’s say it together- brass!!). For me, brass is not just some middle- earth, almost alchemic, copper-and-zinc concoction with unusual germicidal powers. Not the door knobs and nowadays- overly- done, overpriced Moroccan decor. Not the bells or the musical instruments. Nonono. For me, brass is jewelry- the kind of quiet, but BIG, jewelry. The kind that majestically sits without sparkling, confident, commending attention but smiling discreetly, with content. The slightly histrionic, crazy-in-the-head kind.
I feel it, I understand it, I love the color of it, I love the smell of it, I wear it often, I thrift it. I built a pretty good collection over the years, and most if not all of the pieces I own are one-of-a-kinds (I at least, so far, was not able to find any replicas). With a few gifted exceptions, everything you see below- and more like it- comes from thrift stores and was not more than $10 for the bigger necklaces. 2012 is apparently the year for statement collars like this one, but since most of them will burn a hole right through your savings, thrifted vintage brass pieces might be a healthier alternative.
Here are a few tips when looking for brass jewelry:
1. Do not dismiss any thrift stores. Some of the best pieces come from the most unlikely places.
2. Have a certain price limit in mind and always go against it. For me, it’s $12 (why 12 and not 7, or 20, I have no idea).
3. Only buy pieces in good condition- breaks and cracks are pretty difficult to repair.
4. Listen to your eye- if you like the look of it, get it. I happen to love old, tarnished pieces and rarely clean the discolorations up.
5. Once bought, rinse them in water with soap, then rub them with a clean cloth+ Worchestershire sauce. No, I’m not kidding- it’s the best thing for brass and copper jewelry. Rinse again with clean water, and enjoy.
If you have some time on your hands and like to DIY, here’s an idea for a brass necklace- napkin rings. In the below, I loved the fluidity of the shapes (they kind of remind me of the jointed metal bones of some miraculous creature), and I knew they would fall nicely if hung on a more fluffy kind of cord.
If you want to make this, all you need is:
– a few napkin rings, but this could very well work with pieces of industrial pipe, nuts, etc.
– a piece of rough cloth (linen, hemp, cheese cloth, tutu cloth in any color you like), about 2ft in length and at least 6-8in wide
How to make it:
– cut or rip the cloth on its length, until you get 2 rough edged strips about 2ft long
– use one to tie the rings to the other, right in the middle (play with it, and don’t worry if the rings are not spaced very exactly, or if the ends are not of equal length. The beauty is in the improv nature of this piece)
– once the rings are secured in the front, put the necklace on and tie it in the back. No need for 2 knots, as the rough nature of the cheese cloth will keep it from opening up
– to finish it, bring the 2 ends back in the front and pass them through the rings, crossing them back and forth, until you’ve used their entire length and you can’t see them anymore. What results is a strange cheese cloth braid-like necklace with some brass elements interspersed here and there…pretty cool in person. Really.
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