Black Dragon Crafts
AMONG THE VARIOUS adornments worn by the Celts were beads. Examples dating from the earliest times have been found throughout Europe, Britain and Ireland. Some of the finest of these have been unearthed in burial mounds and chambers constructed for high-ranking Celtic chiefs and their followers.
These beads vary from the plain to the highly decorated, and they have been found made from gold, silver, stone, black jet, bone, amber and, occasionally, semi-precious stones. It is quite possible that the Celts were influenced in the making of beads by the ancient Egyptians, who were highly skilled at bead-making and used lapis lazuli, carnelian and jade in their highly polished necklaces and decorations.
Today, Celtic beads are being ingeniously created in south Wales by Annie Wealleans, alias The Black Dragon of Black Dragon Crafts.
Although Annie has come across many beautiful pieces of silver and gold Celtic jewellery, part of the ethos behind her Celtic beads was that they had to be affordable. Annie wanted to design a collection of beads with which she could produce a range of jewellery that was within everyone's reach. She has always thought it unfair that beautiful things should be the prerogative of the privileged.
In her Welsh hillside workshop, presided over by a large dragon sculpture, Annie casts her beads from pewter. Yes, she casts them all herself. In the beginning, back in 1992, they were made for her from recycled plastic, plated with a layer of sterling silver and antiqued. Annie decided to use pewter instead of plastic because the weight and feel of pewter is so much more pleasing and authentic. With the recently rocketing price of silver, the beads are now no longer plated but are plainly pewter, with an antique finish. They are barrel polished and hand finished. Her beads look fabulous and feel valuable. She also produces buttons, a couple of pendants and clasps, these are unusual and original. Beware of imitations!
The jewellery is made in a different part of the same workshop. There, everything is assembled by hand, with the help of a diminishing team of workers. Chris has been on the team for 20+ years and is now very skilled at her craft. Angie retired recently after many years of loyal service and Rob is joining in more and more - he keeps the machines serviced and is very good at filing beads. Annie rarely stops, the workshop is only 60 steps from the house!! Retirement? Ha ha ha.
Many different gemstones are used in the process, along with various filler and spacer beads, all of which are carefully sourced. All jewellery is carefully packaged and beautifully presented. It's a labour of love.