Shell Games [pt 1]

Sometimes a bracelet is just a bracelet, and sometimes it’s an obsessive-compulsive need you didn’t know you had.

On my recent California road trip, I fell hard for a kicky, perfectly-fitting abalone bracelet that began its life in Mexico circa 1940 or so. Unfortunately, the shimmering shell links will have to spend yet MORE of their days locked up in a souless glass case because I was too stubborn to pay the original asking price (or the “the best I can do” price OR the “final offer” price). And the proprietress too stubborn to accept my my terms, of course. Not a tragedy, but a waste.

As it happens I was both too stubborn to pay any of the three asking prices when we were going south, and too stubborn to pay them when the-I’ll-grant-you-a-bit-long-suffering-in-this-case Mr Vix and I were returning north.

After I left empty-handed and grousing the first time, Mr Vix rather observantly said, “I’ve never even heard you mention the word ‘bracelet’ in the last decade. So I don’t get why you are going on and on about this one.”

Since I’d never SEEN a fabulous vintage shell bracelet before AND most bracelets are annoyingly big on me (the yang to most shoes feeling annoyingly tight in odd places) I thought it was perfectly clear: I couldn’t be kept down on the farm now that I’d seen gay Paree.

I mean I may not have a signature cocktail, but I have a signature fixation. Show me something made of shell or reminiscent of a shell’s pearly interior, and I will start evaluating whether the design itself suits my purposes.

Sometimes I feed the fix with small things. Like vintage mother-of-pearl buttons, a pair of opalescent lamps, or a bowl inlaid with shell.

A few years back, I celebrated the last sanding of my buffet-and-table refinishing project by indulging my love o' shells

Confession: I glued the buttons directly to the glass after I got fed up with trying to be more crafty

Sometimes the shell-based projects get more ambitious. And expensive. But when one’s gutting a small bath in need of big-money structural work, why not mix a dab of brown lip shell in with cheap pale yellow field tile? It guarantees a smile once the walls go up and the checks clear.

Brown lip shell tile zips around the Vix Household's Rectilinear Romance bath

F supervising as we wind up our Rectilinear Romance bath

Sometimes iridescent glass bears enough of a resemblance to shell that it’ll do. With our lack of winter sun, staring at the play of light—my first AND last tiling project to date—keeps me from losing my mind completely. Call it backsplash therapy, baby.

Vix Household's post-reno backsplash...a far cry from the usual vintage-inspired choices, but a wink and a nod to LC Tiffany's iridescent mosaic work

The world's smallest work triangle doesn't meet NKBA standards, but by god I made sure it had lots of shiny stuff in it!

And it’s not like the bracelet would have been my FIRST shell-based accessory.

A shell purse (with horn strap) brings memories of Maui '07, while a wedding guest ensemble gets dainty dangles of inlaid shell

My truly teensy-weensy vintage coin purse will only hold a few folded bills and some loose keys

Then of course there’s my indispensable, $10 shell pendant previously seen with Ole Stripey.

And yet, and YET, when given a second chance to slip-and-skip with that California antique dealer’s vintage delight, I stuck to my ($75) price point and left it behind. Even though my mother’s holiday check would have covered it, and I would have made her so happy by saying “Thanks for the bracelet!!” instead of “Thanks for the er, week of groceries!!”

Now I am seriously just this side of being a sociopath when it comes to being able to rationalize my actions. So obviously it was something besides pride or price keeping me from buying.

Yes, it was a niggling, wiggling sense the the bracelet, whilst beautiful, was what those from more genteel backgrounds than I sometimes refer to as Not Our Kind, Dear. In short, I feared the jewelry violated my Minimalist Magpie ethos.

The design was much like the lovely one below—though the shell was gorgeously multi-colored vs blonde. In the end, however, I’m afraid the silver cake decoration-y elements were just too, too, too…gallumping.

The California clasper had multi-colored abalone instead, but otherwise the design was quite similar to this (SOLD) one; try seller Mercy, Maude! on if you like it

But with the taste of gorgeous vintage shell bracelets now in my system, what was I to do? Besides test the “You can find that same bracelet much cheaper on eBay” advice of Mr Vix’s well-meaning but undeniably frugal relative, that is.

Next: Part 2 of Shell Games, aka Proving Mr Vix’s relative wrong


6 Responses

  1. Hey you! Oh. I love seeing the glimpses of your gorge abode! And the shell…sucha a timeless and elegant quality it has to it! That little coin puse is absolutely delectable!

    Thanks for your input on credenza…still no idea. This is a busy week…maybe when I can think a bit.

  2. Thanks Linda…I posted that table/buffet just for you and your table, you know. [Ok, partially for you.]

    They are the ones I sanded down and refinished using the infamous Danish Oil (in Black Walnut).

  3. YES! I did see it…and they look lovely…AND I did happen to see danish oil at lowes yesterday!

    Thanks, girl!

  4. Ooh, I love your kitchen wall color and backsplash, what a gorgeous room! My cabinets and work surface are actually similar styles/colors but (gulp) I think I like the rest of yours more!! Ours is very safe and dull by comparison.
    So did you glue those buttons onto the outside of the glass, or inside? I have a few bits and pieces I need to frame but I’m not quite sure what I’m doing with them.
    Sorry you didn’t get the bracelet; sometimes it’s hard to know when to splurge and when to walk away.

  5. Ms Linda– Thanks! I will stay tuned to see what you get up to.

    [In your super-colorful and creative MAGAZINE-FEATURED home! <—- go read her blog]

    Struggler — I glued to the outside of the glass; didn't want anything interfering with the buttons' iridescence. That's reflection on the glass, BTW, not glue, ha.

    Your kitchen is a GREAT place to work and looks very cohesive; ours works for me but wouldn't for most.

    [With a smallish budget–most of which went for plumbing and electric– and 4 doors, we did what we did. And we did it 8 years ago knowing the next owner would probably (re-)gut it, so we've got our money out of it.]

    I'm biased so you know I'd like to see a little more color in your kitchen to set off those pretty materials. Or maybe a creamy ceramic backsplash or a pale grey glass to add a little texture whilst keeping the Mr happy? The floor is gorgeous and wouldn't be bad repeated as a backsplash.

    If you really want to "go there" I know your readers would have a ton of ideas.

  6. Thank you, Ms Vix! So original to put something on the outside of a frame.
    And while I’ll be hanging onto your kitchen pics in my favorites, I don’t dare “go there” with the hubby. In fact there are other parts of my house that distress me far, far more than the kitchen – I’ll save that for a day far down the road when he has forgotten how much we spent on it 🙂

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