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Glass Beads Part 2
Since I mentioned Lampwork in part one, lets see what type of glass beads these are next. Again these beads were made in huge quantities for trading, but as you see, most beads actually have been a piece in the trading enterprise between Europe and the rest of the world, so this hardly comes as a surprise.
Lampwork beads are hand made one by one. No mass production here, even after the industrial revolution. This is also the bead making technique that today is most used as an artistic expression by bead artists. You no longer need a furnace to make these fabulous beads, but can make them in your own home with a small gas torch.
These beads are made with glass rods that are melted in the gas flame and spun around a mandrel. The mandrel has a release cover that will both release the bead from the mandrel, decide the size of- and make the surface of the hole in the bead.
The core is decorated with delicately multicolored glass from other rods. In this way it is possible to make beads that have a lovely design of entwined colored glass with a smooth surface, but also beads with three dimensional surfaces, all due to the extent of how the glass is molted together. The bead then has to be fired in a kiln to make it more durable. The kiln controls the cooling of the bead, so that the surface and core will cool simultaneously, making it less prone to cracking.
The making of lampwork beads has not always been as easy as it is today. How to make them was a well kept secret that was passed down in families for centuries. The torch was not available until last century, so they used specially made lamps when they made beads, hence the name Lamp work.
Lampwork beads are made around the world. Some are close to mass produced, although no beads are alike because they are hand made. There is a difference in quality depending on where and how they are made. A bead made by a glass bead artist can be an artistic wonder of very high quality, and of course a ditto price. Then you have cheaper and less spectacular beads made in huge quantities in countries like India and china. The giant bead making city of Venice produces lampwork beads of different qualities and prices. Their beads are often made with metal foils, which brings us to the next type of beads.
Foil lined glass beads:
Foil lined glass beads are lampwork beads with foil in them. A core of glass is made, and is rolled onto a sheet of metal foil. It will then have another coat of glass and maybe some more foil. These beads are not to be confused with Dichroic beads, that you can read about further down the page.
Foil lined glass beads are mainly made in Murano and Venetia in Italy, and each bead is lampworked by hand. The use of foil and colored glass is hugely varied to create lovely beads that glimmer of gold and silver, embedded in colored glass. The very popular harts that you can get close to everywhere are foil lined glass beads, and they vary in price due to how much work is put into them.
In Venice the beads are often made on copper mandrels. When the bead is finished, the mandrel is cut of on each side of the bead. The bead is then put in a bath of nitric acid which dissolves the mandrel. This way the beads have no traces of release agents and also no damage due to the removal of a stubborn mandrel. This method however is not so good with silver as the acid tends to darken the silver. Therefor stainless steel rods with release agents are also used. In that case the holes are often a bit sharp and uneven, but you can remove that with a bead reamer.
Cheaper foil lined glass beads are produced in India and China.
Dichroic glass beads:
Glass beads made with dichroic glass are small man made wonders, also called fusion glass beads. They change color when light hits their surface, and therefore appears to have many colors. Dichroic is Greek and means Two colors.
This fabulous glass is made with micro layers of metals like Titanium Chromium, gold, Zirconium and Aluminum. This causes the light waves to break displaying several colors. Multiple thin layers of metal are vaporized by an electron beam in a vacuum chamber. The vapors condenses on the surface of the glass in form of a crystal structure. This is often followed by a protective coat of quarts crystal. Up to a 100 layers can be applied to the glass.
The process of making dichroic glass is costly, therefor these glass beads are quite expensive for glass beads. Fusing dichroic glass with other glass types is quite unpredictable, therefor not two pieces made with dichroic glass are alike. If you want quality glass beads, these are the ones to aim for. And most of the time they are worth their prize.
You can see how lovely these beads can get on this photo. The bead is made by Rigadoon glass and is a Lampwork bead with silver Dichroic glass.
Dichroic glass is often used in lampwork beads, taking them to a higher quality level.
Furnace glass or cane glass as it is also called, is another artistic way of making quality glass beads. It can be made in large and small scales depending on what you tend to make. In big scale they are made in a furnace, which also gave this technique, which dates back to the 15th century, its name. Today you can make these beads in smaller scales with a gas lamp, like the one used for lampworking.
The process starts with gathering of molten glass around a punty or a mandrel and rolling it into a cylinder. Attaching another punty to the other end, the glass is stretched into the wanted length/diameter. You can vary the pattern by adding different colors and twisting them into patterns as you stretch the glass.
This is a time consuming and difficult technique, but real skilled artists use different techniques to create intricate and beautiful patterns with the hot glass. The beads are unique as the technique used gives a depth not achievable with lampworking.
You can get furnace glass beads from China which are of good quality. Designer beads from America is of higher quality though, but also come with a higher price.
These are glass beads with a somewhat exotic history. They are often mistakenly taken for being gemstones, probably because they are usually cut and polished into cabochons.
The glass is made through complex operation where copper is dispersed in glass, giving it a glittering appearance. It is made in reddish brown, which is copper in clear glass, in black, blue, purple and green which are made with colored glass. The green is the rarest.
There are several stories on how this lovely glass came to be. One tale says that it was made by glass making monks who by accident spilled copper shavings into molten glass, hence the bias Monk stone.
The most vivid story is that it was made by alchemists in the search for making gold. Perhaps that is why it is called gold stone, although it doesn't contain any gold at all, just copper.
The glass is also called Aventurine or Aventurine Marron, not to be mistaken for Aventurine Quartz. It is said to have be invented in the 17th century in Venice, by the Moretti family, which is probably the most plausible story. The story also says that the Moretti family was granted an exclusive license by the Dodge, and that the formula on how to make the gold stone was kept secret until the Moretti family stopped making glass in the 19th century.
So today we know how to make Gold stone, but the process is slow and it must be created in small batches of which only 1/3 is of good quality. Therefore it is quite expensive.
I happened to purchase a Gold stone cabochon on a trip to Egypt several years ago. Of course I did not know what kind of stone it was back then but I was convinced that it was a stone, and fell head over heal for the beautiful dark purple, sparkling cabochone. Of course I now know that it is made of glass, but back then, I was certain that I had found something truly amazing. As you can see from the photo abowe it is now the proud centerpiece in one of my bead embroidered collars.
The flickering and sparkling of these beautiful glass beads are truly amazing. I can fully understand that alchemists thought they finally had managed to make gold (if there is some truth to that story).
Today not only copper is made to make Gold stone. The purple one that I bought in Egypt has a silvery sparkle, which is probably due to cobalt or manganese instead of copper. Green gold stone has a light green sparkle from chromium oxides. It is therefor also called chrome aventurine.
As most types of glass, Gold stone are also shaped into rods that can be used making some pretty amazing lampwork beads.
Blown glass beads:
Blown glass beads are hollow and very light weight. They are sometimes referred to as marbles. They are made very much like lampwork beads. Glass in a molten state is formed around a blow pipe and then blown and shaped while extremely hot. This requires lots of practice and skill.
This technique was developed in the 16th century by the...yes,you guessed right, the Venetians. Glass beads are heated and then rapidly cooled to produce the crackles. It is then reheated and either molded or hand blown into shape. This seals the cracks on the surface, giving the bead a smooth exterior, while the crackles inside reflect light dramatically.
Cat eye beads are created from quartz fibers that are fused together and then machine cut. They are also called fiber optic beads, as the fibers are the same used in fiber optics. They got the name cat eye from the reflection of light on the surface, running through the center of the bead like the pupil in a cat's eye. The cabochons you see in the photo that have a reflection line that is curved like an S, are called Snake's eye. They are a very nice addition to these beautiful glass beads.
These cute beads are made of clear glass, that are coated with gold or silver paint and then fired. They are then color coated and re-fired, something that causes the color coating to shrink, leaving cracks on the surface where the metal coating is showing through. They got their name from the cracking of the sand in the desert.
Glass pearls are given a coating of colored or white finish that contains mother of pearl, making them shine like real pearls. The quality on glass pearls varies. Czech glass pearls are of high quality and are more expensive than glass pearls made in China.
The Chinese ones are dyed on the strand instead of individually. Therefor they often have dye/coating around the holes. You can remove this with a bead reamer.
Unlike natural or cultured pearls, the coating will wear off with time and use. Darker beads will loose their appearance faster than light ones. If you want to make lasting jewelry, but cannot afford real pearls, you can go for the next best; Swarovski crystal pearls, or cultured freshwater pearls.
Pearls organic, crystal or glass, are always beautiful in jewelry. They give a touch of class, a hint of glamor, and guess what, unless you know how to recognize real beads from fake, nobody will see the difference, until the coating on the glass beads starts to wear off.
There are ways to test if a bead is real or not, but unless you purchase something really expensive you likely will never do a test, and neither will anyone else. I am not saying that you shall sell glass beads off like real beads, that would be unethical. When you sell, be real and honest, but what you hang around your own neck is a totally different matter.
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