Thousands of people visit this site and arrive at a specific post via a search engine without seeing the main page. Please click on the PrivateCollection logo at the top to go there. The site is maintained as a Tribute to Susan as a small part of her legacy. Nothing on the site is for sale. Questions are sometimes answered, time permitting. PrivateCollection is the Photo Blog for Susan Dods, a long time antique dealer and collector. The site features photographs and commentary on very special pieces of Chinese Jewelry. View ALL of the posts in the archive with our exclusive PictureBook format.     相片书

Susan Claire Dods…

She lived with joy, grace and beauty

…and will forever be at peace – in eternal beauty.


Photo by John Dods

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Simply Susan…

This is tough to write …

Susan has begun the final phase of her life after almost 2 years of dealing with a very rare bone marrow disease—Aplastic Anemia. She is resting comfortably at our amazing community hospital’s palliative care unit. After almost 120 transfusions and endless hours receiving them at the centre, always with a smile and sharing the inner joy that is simply Susan, she decided that it was time to begin her next journey — where I am sure that there is an eternal supply of stuff to pick and beads to string and people to bring joy to. I am posting this so that the thousands of her friends and fans around the world will know what she has kept private for so long… while holding me to a promise not to tattle.

Susan is one of those people who simply made the world a better place …by her presence in it. When I told her last night about how the community was sending their love and wishes, she asked ‘what did I do?’ she also never really grasped that her community stretched around the world. It was ‘simply Susan’ who was anything but simple… (her accomplishments of working with women’s groups in mental hospitals or her community activism to save them from the wrecking balls of corporate expansion, are seldom mentioned, overshadowed by her passion to find beauty and share it with others in her persona of a ‘junk-tycoon’).

She was someone who found joy in each day—and shared it with so many …in so many different ways. Susan is simply going to leave us all better for knowing her…being touched by her spirit.

At this point she would say: “Bobby, hey that’s enough!” I will listen to her…

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Beads Beads and More Beads

Many of you who have read my past blogs know that I have been a bead collector for many years… the extraordinary Chinese beads are what led me to collecting Chinese Jewelry. Beads are not as easy to display as some of the other collections… they cannot be put in albums like coins or stamps or postcards…


When a large number of special beads appeared, I would always string them and wear them… then a friend taught me to knot…great hobby and a kind of meditation …when you are finished you have a beautiful piece of jewelry to wear…that solved the problem of how to display the beads… well, almost!

There were still thousands of beads left …all different shapes and sizes… Eventually it occurred to me that I could combine all the odds and ends …the way that women make patchwork quilts… these proved to be very popular when I took them along to antique shows.

Then there were the Chinese beads… great unusual beads…carved gemstones, wood and nuts, early enamels, Peking glass, but I often had only 1-4 beads of each… too few to make a necklace…but they are so fabulous they deserve a better fate than being kept in bags in a drawer or in all of the old suitcases piled on the floor.

But when I tried to string them together, it was impossible to make the knots because there were so many different hole sizes… (beaders will relate to this!). Then one day the light dawned on me because I have a friend who makes bent sterling silver wire jewelry… so I started to assemble my Chinese bead necklaces on sterling wire…


Not only did it solve the problem of the different hole sizes, but it allows me to change a bead (or two…or three) without restringing the entire necklace…

Display problem solved …but now there are all of these neck forms on the dining room table… I will have to get my husband to put in more shelving before we can sit down to eat!

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos.

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Chinese Imperial Yellow Porcelain Beads

In my September 2011 blog I wrote:

“The Emperor’s Beads” … these are the only beads that have ever made me cry … I bought them online four  years ago… and when I opened the package I found out that Customs had opened the box – unwrapped the beads and had broken 21 beads… I was so upset that I put the box in the back of the closet and didn’t look at them until a few months ago…. These are the most amazing beads that I have ever owned …”


[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

Well, in a half hearted attempt, I started to restring them but after an hour or so put them back into the drawer… and there they sat… again for years. Bob has been working with Michael Cook on the Mandarin Court Restoration and Michael created a run of white plied silk for him.

The other day he asked me to come out to the studio… and there they were… strung as they once had been… on a neck form where I could see them every day!

Now I have a different name for them… The Beads that finally made me smile!

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos… many in larger formats.

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Chinese Dress Clips-An overlooked Treasure

Over the years, we have watched the market for Chinese Ornaments soar along with their prices. I am not sure what I would do today if I wanted to begin collecting in this fascinating area. Along with the costs, there is now the added problems of fakery …as some people exploit the demand and the lack of knowledge of new collectors.


What are commonly becoming known as ‘dress clips’ actually have several different varieties and eras. The oldest form, appears not only in China but in the Victorian era in Europe as well. These were designed to be worn at the waist and hold an assortment of tools – often for sewing or grooming. The construction of the clasp and dangle are designed to be sturdy… as seen in the image below. That utility did not prevent beautiful decorative ornaments of many different materials to be used.


This group of ‘clips’ represent some of the finest skills of the Chinese artisan- whether it be carving, enamelling or silver work. Each is its own piece of art …often with the rich symbolism of the Chinese culture.

Over time, ‘utility’ gave way ‘beauty’ and  having clips that would not put holes in garments the way broaches do. In the 1920’s …with the popularity of Chinoiserie in western fashions… ‘fur clips’ became popular and the settings became more secure …shown by the beautiful repurposed jade plaque last in the photos.

[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

0103 0026
0019 0009
0057 0058
0030 0036
0006 0077
0018 0022
0029 0051

While many dress clips were repurposed into broaches or pendants, many have survived in their original and beautiful form. They are a very affordable entry point for collectors or for someone who would just love to have a beautiful piece of jewelry and Chinese culture. I have to warn you …collecting them can become rather addictive!

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos… many in larger formats.

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