Longevity Bead

June 2014
Sterling silver, 10 karat yellow gold

I made this bead for my mother on the occasion of her 75th birthday. I wanted to incorporate the Chinese character 壽 (shòu), which means "longevity," because it seemed very appropriate to such a milestone birthday. The bead form was a given, since my mother is a jeweler who uses bead-stringing and hand-weaving in her art. The bead itself has a flat back so that it will lie flat against her blouse when she wears it, and the domed face to give it depth and extra shine in spite of its matte finish.

A bonus trivia fact is that the calligraphic style of character I used for this particular 壽 character is exactly the same style that I used to carve 壽 onto a Chinese signet-seal (or chop) when I was fourteen years old. My entire family was living in China at the time and I had just started to learn how to carve chops, and this particular one—the 61st I'd ever carved (I keep records)—got such an enthusiastic response from my mother upon seeing it that it included an involuntary expletive. So I had to bring it back for her 75th!

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