Updated: Jun 17
Why are glass beads so popular?
One overwhelming reason is that it is far cheaper than crystal.
Crystal is glass with lead added. Did you know that?
Glass beads can:
- look very similar to crystal beads
- be just as sparkly
- be produced in so many colour options .
This is why they have become increasingly popular nowadays and you will find that many crafters are turning their hands to producing the most beautiful and attractive glass beads.
Glass bead design
Glass beads can come in any colour you want.
Some are produced in multicoloured shades with designs ranging from the abstract to floral designs in Nature themes.
A common use for glass beads
Combine them with other types of gemstones when designing and making jewellery pieces.
A way to sell affordable pieces of jewellery that have a feel of quality to them is to select a few semi precious stones or crystals beads for a necklace.
Thread the remaining part with carefully selected glass beads to give the piece of jewellery a feel of style and expense. An example of mixing beads is in the photo below:
Rather than stringing this piece solely using Agate beads, I have used contrasting glass beads in blue. This allows for more affordable pricing, as natural stone and semi precious stones will increase your product pricing.
What are the popular types of glass beads?
Mostly made from dichroic and lamp worked glass.
These can be cheaply and easily produced
The more intricate designs though, such as those with floral designs incorporated in the glass, are handmade by skilled glass workers.
These are more expensive but if you have pieces of jewellery containing these types of beads, you know that you have a - more often than not - unique, rare piece of jewellery.
Names of different types of glass beads
A glasswork technique which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware.
The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words "mille" (thousand) and "fiori" (flowers).
Apsley Pellatt in his book Curiosities of Glass Making was the first to use the term "millefiori", which appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1849; prior to that, the beads were called mosaic beads.
The term "millefiori" is now most frequently associated with Venetian glassware.
Millefiori means "a thousand flowers" in Italian, first crafted in Venice in the 15th century.
What process did the Venetians use?
Glass rods were made - similar to what we call 'candy rock' - with different colours running down the inside of the glass.
The rods were then heated under the flame to cut off slices which could be pressed into mosaic patterns, producing unique high-priced beads. See the photo below
The technical knowledge for creating millefiori was lost by the eighteenth century, and the technique was not revived until the nineteenth century.
Some truly unique and beautiful pieces are produced this way, featuring stunning colourful beads and pendants for jewellery making.
Lampwork glass is probably the most exciting for me. There is no end to the wonders of design in this aspect of glass working.
Modern lampwork bead makers use fuel torches to 'flamework'.
A flameworking torch is usually "surface mix"; this means that the oxygen and fuel (gas) is mixed after it comes out of the torch.
The torch is fixed, therefore the bead and glass move in the flame.
The lampworker moulds the glass in the flame to produce their glass beads.
This use of glass working skills can be traced back to the Egyptians and Syrians and has continued down to this day using basic techniques that have generally remained the same in principal.
Becoming ever more popular these days are the bracelet / wrist wraps.
Whether you make them using leather cord or faux cords, the creativity that goes into designing each wrap using a wide variety of small glass beads such as Preciosa beads gives endless opportunities in design.
Glass bead combinations ranging from :
Vintage to Retro
are very popular and jewellery makers these days are having so much fun making them.
They can be :
- make a lovely Boho accessory.
- used worldwide to make wrap jewellery.
How are Wraps made?
The beads are threaded using:
can range from simple to quite elaborate.
Wrap bracelets fall mostly in the Boho Jewellery range in which glass beads are a feature.