Leaves of Glass is having a 20% off sale all weekend – Friday, November 26 – Tuesday, December 1. Item listings in my shop have been edited to reflect the sale prices, and all orders will be shipped on Wednesday, December 2 to arrive in plenty of time for the holidays. Happy shopping!
For this week’s episode of my Dark Gardens glossary, I chose the Destroying Angel mushroom, the inspiration for my earrings of the same name. It’s a gloriously tempting name for a plant, but one that warns in no uncertain terms of the mushroom’s deadly properties. This elegant mushroom was first brought to my attention through (surprise, surprise) a starring role as a murder weapon in a British mystery series.
From the Cornell Mushroom Blog: “The nightmare of inexperienced mushroom hunters everywhere, the Destroying Angel occupies the coveted position of one of the most deadly poisonous mushrooms known to mycologists. The mushroom gets its common name from its infamously pure white fruiting body. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to identify in its mature and button stages, with a little effort. It is equipped with most of the features that a mushroom can have, including a skirt on the stem (annulus) and round cup-like base (volva). It displays a beautiful white cap, stalk, and gills, and deposits a white spore print. These white spores can be the crucial factor between life and death for someone who is trying to distinguish a Destroying Angel in its button stage from an edible, brown-spored, white button mushroom (Agaricus campestris)….
[Destroying Angel] will cause gastrointestinal distress (diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain) after five to twelve hours. However, symptoms typically remit after that, and one might assume that the worst has passed without going to the hospital. By the time the symptoms get worse again, after a day or two, it will probably be too late for the victim, who will likely suffer liver and kidney failure and enter a hepatic coma, ending in death. …
The best way to avoid amatoxins is to learn to identify mushrooms like A. bisporigera, and not to rely on old wives’ tales. Don’t rely on single characteristics like color or shape in isolation. Instead, look for a combination of features including the white spore print, the skirt-like ring (annulus) around the stalk, the white gills that stop just shy of the stalk, and the cup-like volva at the bottom of the stalk (often underground). Fear of destroying angels should not prevent you from mushroom hunting, as any responsible mushroom hunter can learn to identify and avoid them. The destroying angels and their deadly sister the death cap (Amanita phalloides) are awfully good mushrooms to learn first.” Mushrooms are seductive, but mind your P’s & Q’s, and know exactly what you’re looking at before you eat it!
My Destroying Angel Earrings are harmless to the liver and digestive system, and their most severe side effect is a tendency to cause temporary swoons due to extreme sparkle. Vintage Swarovski emerald crystal beadballs hang from tiny bright sterling silver hoops, and a double length of delicate chain stands in as a symbolic mushroom stem. Lightweight, shiny and devastating on a dance floor.
Most of my inspiration for my summer collection comes from actual plants, but for the sake of fun I took some liberties along the way. The names for the two pieces below were taken from Stella Gibbons’ humorous Gothic novel, Cold Comfort Farm. The main character of the novel is Miss Flora Poste, who goes to stay with distant relatives at the slovenly and mysterious Cold Comfort Farm. Hilarity and enlightenment (for the relatives – Flora is already quite enlightened for a single woman in 1932) ensue. I named the little rosette studs Flora in Miss Poste’s honor. The necklace is called Sukebind, after a fictional weed which blooms in spring on the farm, unleashing rampant sexual urges and inevitably resulting, year after year, in the maid’s pregnancy. In 1995, there was an enchanting movie adaption of the novel, starring Kate Beckinsale as Flora. Well worth watching for the funny, the dresses, the hats and an unforgettably smoldering Rufus Sewell.
The Sukebind Necklace is a single, stunning Art Deco molded and faceted lavender glass circle, hung on a double length of vintage brass faceted ball chain. The Flora Posts are vintage pearlized plastic roses with tiny rhinestones in the center, securely attached to sterling silver posts.
“The foliage and berries are extremely toxic, containing tropane alkaloids….It has a long history of use as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery, and it was used as a poison by early men, and ancient Romans, including the wives of two Emperors, and by Macbeth of Scotland before he became a Scottish King.
The genus name “atropa” comes from Atropos, one of the three Fates in Green mythology, and the name “atropa bella donna” is derived from an admonition in Italian and Greek meaning “do not betray a beautiful lady.””
From botanical.com: “According to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leisure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the witches’ sabbath. The apples of Sodom are held to be related to this plant, and the name Belladonna is said to record an old superstition that at certain times it takes the form of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness, whom it is dangerous to look upon, though a more generally accepted view is that the name was bestowed on it because its juice was used by the Italian ladies to give their eyes greater brilliancy, the smallest quantity having the effect of dilating the pupils of the eye.”
My Nightshade Earrings are, I hope, equally seductive, but are not deadly. They feature vintage cobalt glass lampwork flowers, anchoring swinging chains of bright sterling silver, a bright brass link of oval chain, and a creamy vintage Lucite faux pearl.
I was so busy when I launched the new Dark Gardens collection that I didn’t really have time to write about it the way I wanted to. To make up for that, I’m planning to do a series of short posts on the origins of specific pieces so that some of my favorites can have a little space to shine.
The Dark Gardens collection is inspired by poisonous and medicinal plants, with a healthy dose of fairy tale and child heroine thrown in for good measure. Most of my designs in this project feature unusual vintage beads in a dark palette – cobalt, plum, chartreuse, emerald and black. The dark tones are offset with bright metals – sterling silver, goldfilled chain and bright brasses – that give the designs some sparkle and represent the seductive allure of my deadly and entrancing inspirations. I’m very proud of this line (although I’m still arguing with myself about the new photographs – I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100% comfortable with my product photographs), and I hope my customers find it as appealing as I do.
My short glossary series begins with an elegant little pair of earrings called Blue Pimpernel, pictured above. The pimpernel was once used medicinally for several purposes. Botanical.com offers a little background on the medicinal lore of the pimpernel:
“This blue variety (Anagallis cerulea) is described as growing in beautiful little tufts about the hills of Madeira.
The plant appears in the Herbals and Vocabularies of the sixteenth century as ‘Bipinella,’ a name originally applied to the Great and Salad Burnet. It was much used as a cosmetic herb. Howard, in The Old Commodore, 1837, says: ‘If she’d only used my pimpernel water, for she has one monstrous freckle in her forehead.‘ The plant was also said to be a remedy for the bites of mad dogs and to dispel sadness.
- ‘No heart can think, no tongue can tell
- The virtues of the Pimpernel.’
Pliny speaks of its value in liver complaints, and its generic name Anagallis (given it by Dioscorides) is derived from the Greek Anagelao, signifying ‘to laugh,’ because it removes the depression that follows liver troubles.
The Greeks used it for diseases of the eye, and Gerard and Culpepper affirm that ‘it helpeth them that are dim-sighted,’ the juice being mixed with honey and dropped into the eyes.
It is ‘a gallant, Solar herb, of a cleansing attractive quality, whereby it draweth forth thorns and splinters gotten into the flesh.’
‘Used inwardly and applied outwardly,’ Culpepper tells us, ‘it helpeth also all stinging and biting of venomous beasts or mad dogs.’
And again, ‘the distilled water or juice is much celebrated by French dames to cleanse the skin from any roughness, deformity or discolourings thereof.’
Another old writer says ‘the Herb Pimpernel is good to prevent witchcraft, as Mother Bumby doth affirm.'”
My version of the blue pimpernel doesn’t boast of any medicinal properties, although I do hope it possesses the power to please and cheer. These earrings are made with vintage black plastic teardrops, a vintage cobalt glass flower, and a length of beautiful geometric vintage brass chain, and hang 2 1/4″ long from oxidized sterling silver French hooks.