I’ve just returned from a trip to D.C., where naturally, I managed to take in some jewelry related sites.

Sunny Day in DC

Check out these clear blue skies. We lucked out with terrific weather. If you’ve ever visited in the summer, you know the crowds and the heat can be awful. We had none of that.

I visited the Bead Museum, located just one block from a Metro stop. We saw their current exhibit, The Sacred Bead and other Symbols of Faith. You can see it on-line, but of course it’s not the same as it is in person.

The Sacred Bead and other Symbols of Faith

This show is interesting on many levels — the beads themselves, the metalwork that is in some of the pieces, the larger cultural information. I found it interesting that so many cultures have a variation on prayer beads.

Timeline of Bead History

In addition to their special exhibits, library and gift shop, the bead museum also has a Timeline of Bead History, not to be missed by beaders and other bead and jewelry-obsessed types. This is part of the permanent collection, so it will still be there when you get there.

The Bead Museum is a short walk away from the National Archives and the Navy Memorial, so it’s easy to fit it in on a tour of D.C. Thanks to the bead museum for permission to take pictures and post them here.

What else to see while in Washington, D.C.? Of course you might stop in and say hello to the Hope Diamond, part of the gems collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. (also a walkable distance from the Bead Museum.)

See a picture and article about the Hope here. A multimedia presentation on gems and more is available here.

So those are two of the biggies, in addition, I suggest you visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s a huge building containing workspaces and galleries, in yes, a former Torpedo factory. It’s a terrific model more towns should copy.

Complete directions are available on their website, and there’s plenty more to do and see in Alexandria.

Of course, beads are everywhere. I found more beads at the National Museum of the American Indian, in their brand new building on the Mall.

Up on the 3rd floor there’s a terrific display case of Native American bead work. Under the case there are pull out drawers, with more. The drawers have old warehoused seed beads on cards, and one of my favorite drawers had the whole process of creating beads from shells and then completed beaded work.

Right now and running until August 2008, they have a exhibition up called “Identity by Design,” on women’s dress. Naturally, the clothing has lots of bead work and is a facinating show if you’re interested in beads or clothing. It includes many present day pieces. Definitely worth a stop on your tour of D.C. You can read the signs from the show here.

Have a favorite jewelry store, boutique, gallery, or place to learn in the D.C. metro area? Please post a comment. Thanks!

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