Fabric Free 24-Karat Gold Vintage Beaded Suit-of-Armor
Gail Be, American, United States, 2005-2006
This dazzling sexy and strong looking woman's suit of armor weighs 17 pounds and is made exclusively from 24kt gold German glass, Austrian Swarovski crystal, 24kt gold Japanese pony beads and gold metal findings.
The gold "window beads" were manufactured in Germany in the late 1950's with a very time consuming and expensive process. Each glass bead is machine ground perfectly flat on each side. After one side is ground, it is turned by hand for the next side to be ground. This process is repeated four to eight times depending on the number of sides the bead has. The end result leaves perfectly machine polished "window" surfaces. Once the beads are smooth on all sides they are vacuumed plated with 24 kt gold.
These beads shine like no other bead ever made. Each one reflects like its' own tiny mirror, especially when it hits the brilliant shine of stage lighting—it is breath taking. The accessories are made with the window beads and Swarovski crystal. The necklace's magnificent pendant is a high-pressured electroplated quartz drusy.
I love to check out the armor that is designed for the main warriors in epic movies. Ever since I saw Brad Pitt's incredible suit of armor in Troy, with it's built in abs, I was inspired to make a female suit of armor that would depict a woman's anatomy.
But I was stumped on how to create a suit-of-armor since I am not metal smith nor do I solder. I had gotten these gorgeous gold beads many years ago and I was saving them until just the right project. The beads honestly look like they are pure gold and all metal-- but the operative characteristic for me was that they are BEADS!
And to make a female suit of armor to honor these magical beads was the absolute perfect project. They are worthy of the cost for a queen or great conqueror. But the woman wearing the armor also had to be able to move freely and quickly—the qualities of a great warrior. I also envisioned her riding a huge steed leading a group of warriors into battle.
It was spiritually fitting that upon completing this ensemble that I was asked to participate in a Minneapolis AIDS Benefit Fundraiser, where Twin Cities Fashion Designers we would dress local socialites. And not only was I going to be presenting my Golden Warrior Armor for the first time, I also was asked to make matching headgear and reigns for her horse—who's name appropriately is Queen!
The real hidden treasure isn't just in the final artistic composition I created; this dress is truly a piece of Art History because of the beads themselves. The manufacturing cost of these beads is far too expensive to be produced today, so I am humbled and pleased to be able to use them in creating this spectacular costume. I will be offering their viewing in Museums around the world with the hopes that they will be enjoyed by millions for many centuries to come because this piece looks timeless.