About Masako

Designs by Masako

- Story -

I started making bead jewelry for myself in 2017. Why? Because suddenly I noticed that the jewelry which I had no trouble wearing before began to give me problems with my shoulders and neck. My jewelry was simply too heavy to wear all day long.

The search was on to find new jewelry that was light-weight yet looked chic. My treasure hunt was unsuccessful and I quickly realized that it was time to leave the retail market search and start making my own jewelry. My friends and colleagues began to admire my hand-crafted pieces and asked me where they could buy them.

That’s how Designs by Masako was born! For the past 5 years, it’s been my pleasure to design and create jewelry not just for me but for you too! If you’d like to see my jewelry in person, please visit me at any or all of the craft fairs listed in the Events section of my website. I would love to meet you at one of my shows!

My Jewelry & Beads

I hand-craft each piece of jewelry using high-quality, beautiful glass beads, crystals & other materials from all over the world, including the U.S., Japan, Italy and Austria. However, the jewels of my collection are the Hotaru-dama, Tombo-dama and Tensha glass beads exclusively made in Japan & the Venetian Glass Beads from the island of Murano, Italy. They are exquisitely unique and elegantly worn. Let me introduce you to these four glass beads used in many of my jewelry designs.

Hotaru-Dama (firefly ball) Beads:

Hotaru-Dama beads are handmade glass beads produced in Okinawa, Japan. Hotaru means firefly. Dama means ball. The firefly effect is created by the silver which is embedded within each bead. The Hotaru-Dama beads are known for their rich deep, blue color, but they come in a few other colors such as pink, red & green.

Tensha Beads:

These rare handcrafted beads with lovely artistic patterns are each individually made in Japan. “Tensha” means to transfer. To transfer the beautiful artwork, each delicate design is carefully placed on top of a durable acrylic round, then fully lacquered with another layer of crystal-clear acrylic to protect the artwork from abrasion. Each bead features an intricate decorative pattern of flowers, swirling feathers or other organic nature.

Tombo-Dama:

Tombo-Dama beads are Japanese handmade glass beads decorated with colored glass patterns. Tombo means “dragonfly” and Dama means “ball.” The name came into being because when molten glass is applied to the core bead, it resembles a dragonfly’s eye.

When you put on a piece of jewelry made of Tombo-Dama beads, you are truly wearing a piece of time-honored history!

Tombo-Dama beads existed as ornaments during the time of the ancient Egyptian dynasty and were revered as a charm against evil, a bead of hope, and a bead of wishes.

In addition, Tombo-Dama beads were commercially traded and were actively produced in European countries from the 16th to the early 20th century. They were brought to Japan by Dutch ships in the Edo period (1603-1867) and came to be made in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Okinawa. In prior centuries, these beads were also used for Japanese Kimono accessories and ornamental hairpins.

Venetian Glass Beads (the Murano Glass Beads):

The Venetian beads, also known as the Murano beads, are one of the most sought-after glass beads in the world. All of the glass used to make the beads originates in the island of Murano. But because Venice is much more widely known than the island of Murano, people continue to refer to the beads as the Venetian glass beads.

Venetian beads are made from a type of glass known as soda glass. The beads start with glass rods which have been made in Murano. All of the beads I use for my jewelry are made from the famous Moretti Canes.

Beads made in Venice are handmade and only so many can be made in a day compared to the machine made beads. There are a limited number of people still working this ancient craft in Venice - so supply is also limited that makes these beads special.

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