Crafts and DIY,  Vintage and Steampunk

A Necklace To Fan Over

A long time ago, I moved from Seattle to New Jersey. It took a while for me to get employed and back on my feet, so I frequently shopped at (or sold things to) a nice second hand shop. On one of my visits to the shop, I noticed an unusual necklace and it was love at first sight. I paid five dollars for it. Not a lot of money, I suppose, but at that time it meant I’d have to skip dinner. But I had to have it.

I wore it a few times, but it really did look dirty and sad, and the clasp was loose. So, it’s been tucked in the bottom of my jewelry box for… eons. This week I decided it was well past time to try to restore it to its former beauty. Here’s the ‘before’ pictures.

Damascene Necklace
A bunch of googling tells me this necklace was produced by the Amita Company of Kyoto, Japan, in the very late 1930s or sometime in the 1940s.
Damascene Necklace
It’s well-worn and shows its age, but nothing is broken. The clasp got a little loose, but it’s just a wedge of metal. I found out it was easy to bend by hand to get a tighter fit.
Damascene Necklace
I can see Mount Fuji in the background, and some cozy homes up front. I’ve now learned that what I thought was black stone is oxidized steel. Sadly, the hanging tassel is really scuffed up. It may be the first piece of the necklace I try cleaning up.
Damascene Necklace
There’s that easy-to-bend clasp. Each side of the necklace has four fans featuring birds, butterflies, and village scenes.
Damascene Necklace
I can’t wait to start cleaning this necklace up. I hope it sparkles!

Can I get a drum roll please! Here come the ‘After’ pictures! After doing lots of research, I used Q-tips, plain warm water, and ivory soap. My method: Dip the Q-tip in water, rub it on the bar of soap, then gently scrub each fan. I went over the entire necklace (including the clasp) three times. Those Q-tips looked disgusting, which I found encouraging. For a final step, I heavily soaped up my hands and picked up the necklace to give it a gentle soapy massage. Then it got a final rinse in clean water. I pinned it to a cork board overnight to air dry, and this is what I woke up to. It’s a very sunny day here, and it just glistens in the sunlight! I’m very happy. I’ll be looking for a reason to wear it VERY soon.

Restored Damascene Necklace
The large fan really cleaned up well. All the details of a fishing village in the shadow of Mount Fuji are there. The silver will always look muted, but now it stands out more clearly.
Restored Damascene Necklace
The tassle is much better. Before cleaning,the three flowers didn’t look like flowers. It’s still not perfect, but I didn’t feel comfortable scrubbing it any more than I did.
Restored Damascene Necklace
Everything shines!
Restored Damascene Necklace
A view of one side, and the clasp fastener. There are four different scenes, which are repeated in the same order on the other side. The second fan from the top has a muddy Mt. Fuji and part of the silver fan wouldn’t clean up. I notice the metal ‘handle’ isn’t shiny either. I wonder what happened to this fan?
Restored Damascene Necklace
This side, and the clasp cleaned up quite nicely. The chain looks a lot better too. Just soap and water, who knew?

If you are interested in learning more about Damascene jewelry (I know I am!) here are some links to get you going.

The History of AMITA Co., Ltd.
About Damascene Jewelry (with pictures of the process)
Vintage Damascene Jewelry
Vintage Damascene Jewelry: Three Key Traits

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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