Lagniappe for Jewelry Design: The Value of a Little Something Extra

That little blue bead hanging from the clasp of Lorelei Eurto's Oxford Circus cuff provides the lagniappe.

This month I've officially been a southwest Louisiana resident for one year. What a year! The music, the food, the people, the environment–sometimes it feels like being in a different country, and I just love it. I've slowly picked up the vital terminology, such as "chere" or "cher" for a term of endearment for a loved one, "sha" when you see something incredibly sweet or precious, the French "mais non!" when something simply won't do, and "lagniappe" for a little something extra.

The turquoise-colored cord provides a little lagniappe in Erin Siegel's Indigo Forest necklace.

The idea of lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap) has been around for centuries. Mark Twain writes (hilariously, of course) about learning the "limber, expressive, handy word" lagniappe in his 1883 book Life on the Mississippi: "We picked up one excellent word-a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get. . . . We discovered it [in] a column [in] the Picayune the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth."

Twain writes that when a child (or an adult, even) buys something in a shop, the typical response is "give me something for lagniappe," to which the shopkeeper tosses in a little something extra–an extra piece of candy, or bread, or whatnot, "gratis, for good measure."

Tracy Statler's Sari Summer design would have been great with just round wire chain and beads–but the colorful ribbon running through it provides the lagniappe.

Lagniappe isn't just an extra thing, though; it can be added compliment, affection, or feeling. Twain continues, "When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans-and you say, 'What, again?–no, I've had enough;' the other party says, 'But just this one time more–this is for lagniappe.' When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady's countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his 'I beg pardon–no harm intended,' into the briefer form of 'Oh, that's for lagniappe.'"

Lorelei Eurto's Batik Boutique necklace would've been cute and stylish even without the button, but that extra touch makes it sing!

I've become so enamored by the sweet idea of lagniappe–especially during a time when everyone is cutting back instead of giving–that I try to carry it with me everywhere I go and expand the idea to every part of life. It even applies to jewelry design.

I might have lost you just then–but hang with me. About a year ago, I wrote about jewelry lagniappe when we were discussing brooches, which to me are the "little something extra" of jewelry. But within a single jewelry design, sometimes it's that little something extra–the small contrasting punch of color, a bit of sparkle, some soft fibers or ribbons–that brings a piece full circle and completes the design. It's hard to describe it, but you've all felt that little click when your jewelry design just comes together. You know it when you see it.


The lagniappe red bead draws your eyes to the light-colored focal bead in Erin Siegel's Simply Peaceful necklace.

When designing a piece of jewelry, sometimes it takes some experimenting to discover just what the lagniappe will be, but no piece is complete without it. It could be ribbon that softens a wire or beaded jewelry design, a shape that adds balance to the whole piece, or a pop of color that draws your eye into the details of the design. Even the simplest jewelry designs have it, and sometimes there's more than one.

For me, the little extra touch that brings my jewelry designs together recently is color, and that is most often achieved by the addition of ribbon or other fibers. When I participated in the Bead Soup Blog Party last fall, my necklace had three lagniappe jewelry design elements in it: the addition of a short piece of ribbon knotted onto it, a surprising punch of red among all the green, gold, and blue hues; and the idea of four focal pieces that allowed the wearer to choose from "four fronts."

Sometimes the lagniappe is the final element that you test in your design when you finally know it's right, or it could be the element that a friend points out specifically when commenting on one of your jewelry designs–something like, "Oh cher, I like that necklace! I love the bit of blue ribbon," or "Sha! Look at that cute little bird on your bracelet!" That's how you know your jewelry design is finished, with lagniappe!

If you want great ideas on ways to add some lagniappe to your jewelry designs, check out Lorelei Eurto and Erin Siegel's book, Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry: 50 Designs Using Leather, Ribbon, and Cords. The colorful, nature-inspired jewelry designs in this exciting new book show that Lorelei and Erin understand the idea of lagniappe or a little something extra in jewelry design.

In their introduction, the authors share, "A few years ago, we both started adding leather, ribbons, and cords to our jewelry designs to set them apart in the crowded sea of bead and wire jewelry. Today, the contrast of soft fibers against beads and metal continues to captivate us." That's lagniappe! That's the little something extra that will set your jewelry designs apart. Lorelei and Erin include a ribbon/fiber and specialty findings guides in their book, to help you understand dozens of kinds of fibers available for use in jewelry designs, how to use and care for them, and the special findings that these jewelry design elements require. Order your copy of Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry . . . because who doesn't love that little something extra, chere

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