Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rose Beads--An Illustrated Guide

A few people have asked me about making rose beads. I found out about it by searching for something else entirely on google (I cannot even remember what), so there are other sites, but, hey, I feel like writing up the instructions anyway.

1) Plant lots of roses. Grow them without systemic pesticide (do you want to give your friends poison-laced necklaces? I thought not). Alternatively, you can beg petals off of environmentally minded friends or relations, but that isn't nearly as much fun.

Or, you can ask total strangers, but they tend to give you funny looks when you start inquiring about the amount of poison they use.

2) Gather roses off of the bushes and from vases around the house. You do have some in the house, right? If not--why not? Leave some roses for the bees (they've had a rough few years), add some to the vases. I'm told the best time to gather the roses is in the morning when they are at their most scented; I haven't done a comparison.

3) Spread the roses out and admire them. Notice how the patterns on the petals vary and how many colors there are. Do not omit this important step.4) Start taking the petals off the roses so you can grind them. I've used a food processor in the past; a mortar and pestle is quieter but takes much longer. These days, I'm using the blender which grinds more finely but takes more water. Both blender and food processor require some water in order to grind, something the sites I visited did not mention. Please to note: I have a super-strong blender and it does strain sometimes. It's a good idea to keep a close eye (or rather ear) on the motor to make sure you don't kill it. After all, you'll want it for smoothies later.

5) Grind them very, very fine--much finer than in the picture. Store them in a jar in the fridge until you are ready for step 6.


After you have ground the roses, use some of the rose water to make something tasty. Rose cookies are good--you can follow an official recipe or you can make sugar cookies & substitute rose water for the vanilla and some of the liquid.

I like to leave a bit of the ground rose petals in the blender, add some rose water, and make a smoothie. Chocolate and roses are a perfect pair, but I should imagine citrus and rose would work as well.

Sit out in the shade, preferably under a tree with rustling leaves, with the smoothie and a good book and enjoy a few minutes of peace.]

6) Here's where there starts to be options.

a) You can heat them on the stove; keep them at a very, very low temperature so that they don't boil. Apparently, the Victorians did this for days.

The modern method is to put them on for an hour every now and again and store the mush in the fridge between times. If you want black beads, add some rusty iron--nails work fine--to the mix. Otherwise, you'll get brown beads, no matter what color the roses were to start with. One possible exception is red--theoretically, red petals ground and heated in a non-reactive pan will dry red-black. I haven't had enough red roses to try this so far.

b) The other way, the way I'm trying now, is to grind the petals very find, put the mush in the fridge, and then grind them again the next day, adding any new petals. Do this for a few days in a row, then drain the petal-clay. The beads still come out brown, but it is a slightly warmer brown, and there is more scent left.

c) You may want to add salt to your final mix to help preserve them and to keep them from growing mold before they dry--I had to throw away one batch because they did not dry fast enough. Leaving them out in the sunshine each day seems to help. Probably they could be dried in an oven at a low temperature, too.

7) Drain the bead/clay in a fine sieve. Lining it with a double layer of paper towel helps. The mush in the picture is iron-laced; it does produce nice beads, but it also makes the rosewater unusable, which is a shame.

8) Shape the beads.

9) Cover a piece of cardboard with wax paper; pin the beads to the paper.

10) Leave them somewhere to dry. Here, where it is humid, it's important to get them out into the sun (see 5c for the reason).

11) Once they're dry, they'll be nice and hard and ready for making into jewelry. So far, I've only made bracelets, but then, I discovered rose beads in the late fall--not the best time for gathering rose petals. They'll keep some of their smell, too. Rumor has it that the smell lasts for centuries, but I have no way of testing that.

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