Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Antique Strung Rosaries

Although unfamiliar to the eyes of rosary users in the United States, antique strung rosaries are common in Europe and descended from the earliest of rosaries. Wiring a rosary didn't come into fashion until the 1700s so in the vast history of prayer beads, it is a rather modern development! The common 5decade rosary is frequently found strung in France, Belgium and Germany, but the most famous of the strung rosaries are the 5 and 6 decade rosaries from Bavaria with their gorgeous antique filigree silver crosses and Pater beads. Note the second cross above the main cross- this is the Credo Cross. Some of the main crosses have enamel on copper inserts, the oldest of these have wood and mother of pearl crosses in the center of the silver filigree. Because of the amount of use these rosaries got, the string would often break and need to be replaced. Sometimes beads were lost and replaced over the decades. This is just part of them being authentic antique rosaries.These are truly collector rosaries, yet are still produced in Bavaria and are exceptional in their beauty.
Fifteen decade antique strung rosaries can be found in France, often with wood or bone beads.

 This is a beautiful example of an antique Bavarian rosary. Several beads have been replace on this one and the string may be from the mid-1900s, but the rosary originated in the 1800s. This one is a six decade rosary, quite common with Bavarian Rosaries. Find original antique Bavarian rosaries at The Sacred Bead.
 Beautiful silver and enamel work highlight the main cross. Note the smaller Credo Cross.

 This is a simpler antique Bavarian rosary without the enameled inset in the cross.
 From the 1800s, this full 15 decade antique French rosary has bone beads and bone cross with a brass corpus. Lovely antique rosary, still intact after more than a century!

Sweet little Belgian strung rosary. I believe the beads on this one and the cross are celluloid or similar early man-made material. I just love the little bow that has been tied there for decades. Currently, this is the featured rosary on The Sacred Bead.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Magnificent Givre Bead and Sterling Rosary

Without a doubt, this is one of the most fabulous rosaries I've had. Note the hand cut givre beads with a black core and clear outer layer. I believe these are Murano glass beads, made on the famous glass-making island of Murano Italy, renowned for its centuries of bead making. Along with the incredible beads, this large rosary has all sterling metal parts. Especially gorgeous is the large detailed crucifix and the lovely spacers on either side of the Pater beads. Each exquisite spacer is detailed with a rose and leaves. This is an exceptional antique rosary, beautiful and finely crafted. It would make a spectacular gift, to be treasured for a lifetime. This lovely rosary is from France, where some of the world's finest rosaries have been produced.

I never clean or polish rosaries, you will see that the silver has an antique patina. The new owner may polish or not depending on their tastes.
See this and all my other fine antique rosaries on The Sacred Bead, the largest source for antique, vintage, and designer rosaries on the internet!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Skulls on Antique Rosaries

Many antique rosaries used by nuns and priests had a carved bone, wood, ivory or other material skull attached, a Momento Mori, a reminder that we are mortal. The top two photos are from a European rosary from a convent and the skull does not appear to be bone, rather I believe it is jet, a very light carbonaceous natural material similar to coal that was highly prized during the late 1800's and used in mourning jewelry. Most antique "jet" beads are actually French jet, which is just black glass, this is because jet was rare and costly. This skull seems to be either bog oak or jet. The second skull is attached to a 15 decade rosary from a convent in Belgium. This rosary is now in a private collection. Note that the skull is of wood. This is the way authentic skulls should appear on the rosary, they are almost always attached as part of the chain, not dangling to the side.

Please be aware that there seems to be a rash of modern inexpensive Chinese/Tibetan bone skulls being added to historic rosaries. I get too many questions asking about the authenticity of skulls that interested buyers see on auction sites and it bothers me a lot that people are being deceived, whether intentionally or not. Please ask sellers questions about the origin of the skull, was it added recently? I have several modern rosaries in the designer section at The Sacred Bead that are made of modern bone skull beads, but there is no deception intended, they are modern, I made the entire rosary and I am not trying to pass it off as antique.

I firmly believe that antique rosaries should be left as they were found unless you are keeping them solely for yourself and then you may do as you please of course! The problem with this deceptive practice- adding skulls and other items and not explaining that they are recent additions- is the new buyer generally pays more because of the skull, medal, or the most recent addition I've been seeing is a red bead resembling a drop of blood, and they are sometimes led to believe that it is an original part of the rosary, which it may not be. I feel very strongly that sellers should know their materials and clearly explain any recent replacement parts or additions, assuring that the buyer knows exactly what they are getting. 

These are, of course, exceptional examples of skulls, not all the authentic original skulls of of this quality, some are much more humble. Remember that it is certainly worth the small effort to ask a seller if the skull is a recent addition.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Antique WWI and WWII Rosaries for Soldiers

 Note that all the centers on the Antique WWI rosaries are the same. Each one has a profile of Mary on one side and Jesus carrying the cross on the reverse. Every single one of the rosaries has this center. The crucifix is entirely another story. They vary greatly, from wood crucifixes to simple brass ones.

Accurate histories of rosary types are very difficult to come by- there are few with general knowledge on this topic, as rosaries have only recently become collector items. Prior to modern times they were solely devotional objects, and these soldier's rosaries exemplify that. These were official issue rosaries during WWI. The story goes that so many were produced there were plenty remaining up until WWII. Made to be durable, they are constructed of "pull chain" designed metal balls. Nearly indestructible, they were carried by our soldiers to battle.

Because of their extreme durability, they make wonderful rosaries for daily use. I have seen similar versions coming from nun's estates. Perhaps they were given to an aunt or sister who was a nun by returning soldiers, or maybe some were intentionally made for convent use.

Currently, I have one that has an old field repair on The Sacred Bead. This one is very special, as it must have quite a story to tell. It needs to go to a WWI history buff or someone who appreciates the endurance and devotion that rosaries have had. They are not all shiny and new! Many of the antique rosaries on my website have had over a century of loving use and repairs. But, that is the only WWI rosary I have ever seen with a repair, testifying to their extreme durability.

Most of these rosaries are solid brass. A few have silver plating, these are said to be the ones reserved for the chaplains. Some are worn through the plating, again testifying to their endurance. With constant handling, the old patina on the brass is gently worn away and they begin to glow again. I never clean rosaries, leaving that to the new owner. Some like the original patina, others like a polished look. These are absolutely gorgeous when polished. Although I have seen some sellers claiming the silvered ones to be sterling, none are marked sterling and they were made after the laws went into affect that silver and gold must be marked. I doubt that there are any that are sterling, so beware of sellers claiming that one is solid silver. Testing silver only reveals the surface material so silver plate will test the same as solid silver unless a file mark is made through the plating- which of course, ruins the rosary.

Czech Art Glass Beads on Antique Rosaries

 Beautiful blue beads with a bit of iridescence; each has a cross image inside the glass. Superb example of the skill of Czech bead makers.
 Antique French rosary with extra medals and delightfully subtle caramel colored, molded glass beads.
 Incredible deep caramel color swirled Czech glass beads adorn this antique rosary at The Sacred Bead.

 Lovely violet and pink beads.
Exceptional Czech art glass beads made to resemble precious tiger eye. These beads fool many who think they are natural stone rather than glass.
 Beads are in the shape of roses- just lovely combined with the enamel work and extra medals between each decade.
 This type of bead was made to resemble natural gemstones- many owners and sellers of these rosaries do not realize that these are art glass beads and believe they are natural stone. They were produced in a wide range of colors to mimic tiger eye, carnelian, and agate. The clue is the light band around the equator of each bead- natural stone will not have that. Absolutely gorgeous beads! If you are thinking about buying an antique rosary, find an exceptional number of beautiful antique rosaries in all price ranges on The Sacred Bead.
Czech bead makers have been masters of interesting beads, molded beads that resemble everything from cats to roses, and art glass beads with swirling colors. Long established as a source of glass beads, Czech beads were a popular trade item to Africa and Asia. Beads resembling coral, agate, and amber were highly regarded by those who couldn't afford the real material.
Antique French rosaries often have Czech beads as they are beautiful and were not overly expensive. Fine bead stores today have a multitude of interesting Czech beads- it is interesting to see that many bead makers are still producing the same beads that they were 100 years ago!