Take a good look at your clothing and shoes. What colors do you favor? Do you like a sleek professional style? A smart necklace of Swarovski crystal and gold or silver beads might complement that old suit perfectly. If you favor a 1960s peasant or “hippie” look, try bracelets, headbands and longer necklaces of ceramic and natural wood beads. Bright neon and glowing pastels go with the colorful, relaxed trends of the 1980s. Men should consider stud earrings, beaded watch bands, and short necklaces of metal and gemstone beads.
For subtle class and elegance, turn back to ancient Egypt. In the late 1970s, the famous King Tutankhamen exhibition brought Egypt back into focus. Copies of authentic Egyptian styles were everywhere, and can still be found today. Wide bracelets and collar necklaces in gold, turquoise, coral and jade green look lovely for evening wear. The ankh or key of life, the winged sun disc, the goddess Isis and other symbols are still frequently worn as charms today by both men and women.
The appeal of the American Southwest is never out of fashion. Consider turquoise, coral and silver beads with silver medallions. Look for gemstones carved in the shape of Zuni animal totem figures. Abalone and other shells commonly found in the desert are used by Indians for money as well as jewelry and decoration. Sterling silver beads can be used like pearls to dress up an outfit. Sometimes called Navajo pearls, they are still made by Native craftsmen. The Zuni use inlaid gemstones cut into geometric designs. Buy authentic Native American jewelry if you can. It’s higher quality and supports the tribes.
If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, it’s time to start designing your own bead jewelry. Look again at your outfits, then check locally owned bead shops. Making your own jewelry will open up your choices into millions of possibilities.
Local bead shop owners love new customers. You can spend hours looking for the right beads or just browsing about. Many shops offer classes in bead stringing, weaving, gemstone wire wrapping, the use of components and elements and much more. Get a few basic books on beadwork. Even children‘s books and kits can be very helpful. You’ll be amazed at what you can turn out in a few minutes.
Boys and men can do beadwork too. Make short necklaces, watch bands, rings, hatbands or bracelets. People of Native American heritage can reconnect with family and tribal roots by learning beadwork and making their own jewelry in traditional styles.
There are hundreds of bead shops online with fabulous selections, but if you’re looking for exact colors to match your wardrobe, don’t rely on web images. Instead, contact the online store and ask them to send you samples. Most will comply with your request because they want your business, and they might make helpful suggestions.
Get more ideas by visiting museums. Don’t just look at the jewelry on display but check out the paintings, sculpture and clothing designs. Learn something about art styles and philosophies from around the world. These can all go into your bead jewelry.
Beading is one of the easiest and most fascinating crafts. With just a handful of beads, a needle and thread and a few elements and charms, you can create a unique look that not only matches your wardrobe but will draw attention and admiration from other people. Some of the most complex designs are among the easiest to make. Creating your own jewelry can give you a sense of pride and accomplishment. Even the simplest bead string looks like a designer piece — and that’s what it is, jewelry designed by you.