Clearly, it was my lucky day. Until this time, I knew virtually nothing about old beaded purses, and I have been rummaging around on the internet trying to find out something about my beauty.
This purse is beaded with the tiniest beads you can imagine. Each bead is approximately 1 mm long and 3/4 mm wide. The hole in the centre must be minute, but what about the needle used for it? And what about the eye of the needle, and how could anyone have threaded it? And what superfine but strong thread did they use? I still don't know the answers to any of these questions, sorry to disappoint.
Something else that puzzled me about the purse is that the beads appear to be made of a type of plastic, yet the purse clearly looks to date from a time before plastics were readily available. The "jewels" in the clasp are glass, but the beads are definitely not. The design makes me think Art Deco, but the purse doesn't look 1920s to me. The 20s purses are so distinctive, usually with beaded fringes, and usually made of glass beads. I thought it must be 30s, still Art Deco. However, my Vintage Fashion Consultant (Mother!) commented "Maybe even older." At first I was sceptical about this, but now I am thinking it's a strong possibility that this purse dates from the first two decades of the 20th century - 1900-1920. Maybe even Art Nouveau more than Art Deco??
Some internet research on early plastics and their uses confused me, but also surprised me in that I discovered that there were early forms of plastics around at this time. I knew about Bakelite and celluloid, but now I know about milk beads. Did you know that you can make plastic from milk? I even found a "recipe" for this casein plastic that an amateur can make at home. I don't know whether this plastic had any other uses other than for making beads.
Another thing that intrigues me about this purse is the tiny little chain strap. A modern woman would wonder what possible use it could be, but apparently one used to thread one's middle finger through the loop and dance, while your hand and gorgeous purse rested decoratively on the gentleman's shoulder. These purses are sometimes called Tango Purses. Ladies' also used to thread their gloves through the loop so they wouldn't lose them.
This purse was made in France, as stated on the tag on the silk lining. It's in good condition. There are five jewels missing from the clasp and the lining is soiled. There are a few dirty spots on the beads which look like someone's drink spilt. I am tempted to give them a gentle rub with a toothbrush and mild detergent, though my consultant has warned me not to.
Here are some other interesting purses I found on Pinterest:
Knitted Pie Crust Purse. Rare and in pristine condition, this one dating from the end of the 19th century is for sale for more than $10,000!
Read its interesting story:
This little beauty is simply described as an antique purse.
I have decided not to sell my purse. I have no idea where I would ever wear it, but it's so beautiful this bower bird is keeping it in her bower.
If you know the answer to any of my unanswered questions, or if you can make a guess about the era of my purse, please contact me.