Tuesday, January 04, 2005

More creative shopping

As I've said before, I discovered early on that a big part of making replicas of historical rosaries is "creative shopping." What's available from ordinary bead and jewelry sellers is not necessarily what I need to match the style of historical pieces.

Goodness knows I'm thoroughly immersed in other projects these days, but I'm threatening to learn pewter casting (even took an introductory class in it, thanks Diane and Mark!) because I simply can't find the metal parts I need. I don't have any experience trying to sculpture things in three dimensions, but most of the period examples look amateurish enough that I suspect I could do about as well if I had the equipment.

Crosses are a particularly acute problem because I'm always looking for pre-Renaissance and "primitive" styles for the rosary kits I sell to classes. For kits, I'm looking for crosses that cost under $2 apiece, which means my favorite source for unusual crosses and medals, Rosary Workshop, is out. They have wonderful things, but they tend to be in the $6-$12 range, and I do buy them for my study collection pieces.

While I haven't seen anything quite like them on period examples, I've settled for a couple of styles that seem plausible, such as the ones pictured here:

(Some of these were one-time buys, but Fire Mountain Gems and other sellers pretty regularly carry the two on the left in either "antique pewter" or "antique gold" finishes.)

A funny thing seems to have happened to cross styles since the Renaissance. Almost none of the Renaissance crosses I've seen have expanded ends to the four branches of the cross. (There are a few that have tri-lobed ends, but I've only seen that in drawings.) The branches of the cross are quite straight and constant in width. But modern crosses almost always have expanded ends -- for all the net searching I've done, perhaps 99% of the ones available do. This makes shopping for Renaissance-like crosses at least as hard as for medieval-like crosses, if not harder.

However, what really drives me to consider casting things in pewter myself is the nearly complete absence of medieval-like medals and other tokens. There are exceptions -- Rosary Workshop does have some medals that look quite medieval, although their originals are usually undated, or sometimes 19th or 20th century. I've also gotten some good medals from eBay online -- though often what's for sale is a group of assorted medals of which you have to take all or none, still they're usually inexpensive enough that that's not much of a burden. You also have to wade through an abundance of several extremely popular and post-medieval images, such as the Sacred Heart (Jesus with a burning heart on his chest), the Miraculous Medal (showing Mary with her arms outstretched), which dates to the 1840s, and St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized in the early 20th century.

At the moment my preoccupation is with "Passion" rosaries, which come in several variations, but which often include a number of 3-dimensional metal castings, such as detached hands and feet, a little cluster of nails, a circular crown of thorns and so forth. Nobody seems to be making such things for sale anywhere, let alone in any style that looks medieval. I realize that at the moment, the market for such things would be extremely limited, but who knows: with my usual luck, two years from now they'll come back into fashion. Probably just about when I've given up and laboriously made my own.....