Downtown shopkeepers delight in baubles, textiles and beads from all over the world


October 06, 1991|By Linda Lowe Morris

For years jewelry-maker Penny Diamanti hoped that someone would open up the kind of store she longed to shop in: an extravaganza of beads from all over the world plus jewelry, textiles and crafts -- a tidy little version of a bazaar you could imagine somewhere along the East Indian trade routes.

She finally got tired of waiting and two years ago opened Beadazzled on Connecticut Avenue in Washington.

Now she and her partner, husband Erik de Widt, have brought Beadazzled to Baltimore. Just two weeks ago they opened the new shop in a bright and airy building -- a former bank -- at the corner of Charles and Franklin streets.

The walls of the high-ceiling space are hung with Indian block print saris, silk ikats from Thailand and Cambodia, batiks from Indonesia, and weavings from Africa.

There are several kalagas, wall hangings from Thailand which are heavily embellished with beads and sequins. And just recently they acquired a collection of mirror-studded textiles from Gujarat in India.

In addition to the textiles, they have decorative masks from Japan and Bali, Indonesian shadow puppets, baskets from Africa and Asia, African carvings, decorative ceramic plates and jars from Peru, carved bird gourds also from Peru, pillows from Panama, fanciful carved wooden cats from Indonesia and some beaded wall hangings. They also have a selection of books on jewelry, jewelry making, textiles and crafts.

"I'm always looking for new and different things. The beads are our bread and butter, but I've always loved the crafts. And with a space like this to display them, I'm in heaven," she says.

Ms. Diamante and Mr. de Widt chose the building because they wanted to be near other galleries and like the idea of being close to the Walters (in whose gift shop Ms. Diamanti's jewelry has often been sold).

"Apparently when this building was first built, in about 1905, 1910, it was a silversmith's, so I sort of feel like it's come full circle," she says.

Ms. Diamanti was originally a journalist whose last job was at National Geographic magazine. She gave that up to make jewelry, which she sold to museum stores and galleries around the country, and to run a wholesale bead business.

Her husband, a mircrobiologist at the time, began traveling with her to buy beads. "Pretty soon," she says, "playing with beads just looked like more fun to him than being a microbiologist. So here we are."

Yearly trips abroad are still part of their business. "We usually go once to South America, once to Asia or Africa. We go to Europe for beads and to the Southwestern part of the United States for beads and jewelry.

"We import most of our things directly, so we have things no one else has."

The beads start at 2 cents and go up to about $30 for their most expensive bead. While there are a few spectacular textiles in the shop that are priced over $500, most are under $100. Many items in the store are under $30.

"I try to get things that are accessible," she says.

The hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m on Sundays. The shop is closed on Mondays.

Beadazzled is at 421 N. Charles St. The telephone number is 837-2323.

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