- Category: Gemstone Beads
Why use glass beads?
What's the advantage using glass beads to make handcrafted jewelry? Glass is not only cheaper than crystal, but offers more shapes and colors, and looks almost the same.
Glass beads come in bright colors like yellow, red, green and blue - as well as more sparkling shades like aqua, magenta and rose. Many are multicolored with abstract designs as seen on glass vases. Mix these beads with other types of gemstones when designing jewelry. A formal necklace may incorporate a few crystal beads threaded with the glass beads to give an impression of style and expense.
Most glass beads are made from matte glass, dichroic and lamp worked glass, allowing them to be cheaply and easily produced. They can be bright individually, but cost less by the strand. Old vintage glass from Europe incorporates lots of glass beads. These are usually handmade, more expensive, and hunted by collectors for customers requiring a rare piece of jewelry to be made. As other beads, glass are usually sold with holes ready to thread.
Millefiori means "a thousand flowers" in Italian, first crafted in Venice in the 15th century. Traditionally, glass rods were made like candy rock with different colors running down inside. These were then heated under the flame to cut off slices which could be pressed into mosaic patterns, producing unique high-priced beads.
However, these days a similar technique is applied to polymer clays which don't need to be reheated. Making it possible to mass produce hundreds of thousands different designs of millefiori beads at an affordable price.
"Lampwork" is glass that is moulded in a flame. Traditionally, oil lamps and blowpipes were used to melt the glass in seventeenth-century Italy and France - although glass working skills originated by the Syrians and Egyptians around 3,500 years ago. Today, gas torches are used, but the basic techniques haven't changed much in Millenniums.
What are swarovski crystal beads?
Swarovski beads are manmade, and have a greater brilliance than other crystal because they contain around 32% lead. Daniel Swarovski invented the idea of using crystal for jewelry, rather than just chandeliers, by patenting an electric cutting machine in Austria in 1892. Swarovski crystal allows light to reflect in a rainbow spectrum producing a fairytale magical appearance. This is achieved by coating half of the crystal face with a special metallic chemical. When the crystal is turned you see the crystal color on one side and the coating color on the other.
Difference between glass and crystal
Crystal is glass with lead added. As little as 1% lead is all that's needed for glass to be called crystal in the United States. However, defining the exact difference is difficult with a grey area in between, despite the molecular structure being different - and although crystal beads weigh more, glass can sparkle almost as much.
So as you can see, glass beads are the jewelry makers' friend. They allow you to design jewelry with imagination because of the variety available - and glass also allows you to sell your designs at an affordable price.