Abigail Adams Pendant: Making Historical Pieces

A few years back, the John Adams television miniseries was being filmed in the area where I live. A metalsmith friend was asked to create jewelry for various scenes. One scene involved John Adams giving his wife, Abigail, a scrimshaw pendant which is housed in the Adams Museum in Massachusetts. Since ivory can no longer be legally used by artists, my friend asked if I could reproduce it using the faux ivory technique in polymer clay. Of course I could! And since there was so much detail in the carving on the pendant, I could instead incorporate xerox transfer and save a boatload of time. The finished piece was placed in a gold plated sterling silver setting with a beautiful gold chain. And as is always the case, the scene in the miniseries wound up on the ‘cutting floor’.

I asked my fellow collaborator if she would mind if I made the pendants to sell. They would not include such an elaborate setting, but rather be more simple. She said to go for it.

To make a long story short, which includes the fact that my sister is a docent at a historical plantation, the museum heard about my pendants. And now for about six or seven years, the John Adams Museum includes the pendants in their shop. And I am tickled pink!!

The top three 'fails' are examples of using old, 'unfresh' copies.

The top three ‘fails’ are examples of using old, ‘unfresh’ copies. The bottom is a successful transfer, but backwards!

Black polymer clay is added to the successfully transferred pieces.

Black polymer clay was added to the successfully transferred pieces. The edges were sanded.

Since buffing is not an option, gloss is applied to give it a sheen.

Since buffing was not an option, gloss was applied to give it a sheen.

Next, a black polymer border was applied. I then formed a sterling silver bail with a s.s. bead, drilled a hole in the pendant, and adhered the bail to it.

Next, a black polymer border was added. I then formed a sterling silver bail with a s.s. bead, drilled a hole in the pendant, and adhered the bail to it.

To complete the historical 'look', I  used a ribbon necklace with sterling silver components.

To complete the historical ‘look’, I used a ribbon necklace with sterling silver components.

By the way, although I have never seen the actual piece on which these are based, I know two amazing facts about it. First, it has a glass cover, even though it is ivory. Second, the reason for the cover is that the leaves in tree are made of human hair. Amazing!