You’ve anticipated this special night out for a long time now, and it has finally arrived. Everything has been well planned in advance and you even bought a new dress. But now you have that huge decision … what jewelry do you wear? My favorite is always something truly unique made with lampwork beads.
Why Handmade Glass Beads Are Better
Recently, lampwork beads have become more and more popular among jewelry makers, and there are increasing numbers of artisans making these stunning beads at their own studios. That is good for the rest of us because we have so many beautiful beads to choose from with each artisan adding their own flair to the glass beads they make.
Despite the name, these beads have nothing to do with actual lamps as we know them today. They are made from glass, and it is no surprise, because glass is an artisans dream. Each bead can take an artisan hours to create by heating a glass rod and winding it into the shape of the base bead, then intricate patterns and colors can be added to the bead with nearly limitless design possibilities. The bead is then annealed to make it less fragile. Mass produced beads often are not annealed so are more prone to easily break.
Handmade lampwork beads are created one at a time over a torch, the modern form of the age-old art of ‘lampwork’, using mass manufactured glass rods, called canes, which are available in a huge variety of colors. Depending on the type of bead being made the canes may be hollow or solid. Each bead can vary slightly, remember it is handmade, but that is also what gives it such appeal. The beads are created in various shapes, plenty of colors, different sizes and, of course, with lots of personality.
Once the basic bead is created some will then have intricate designs etched over them with surface treatments including electro forming, fuming metals and acid etching to create exquisite designs. Some techniques give the beads a vintage look.
There are also Venetian glass beads which are created in Venice using techniques dating back to 1291. These glassmakers have refined technologies such as crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo) making their glasswork world renowned. Wedding cake beads, Fiorato, which are decorated with glass overlays featuring roses, swirls and dots and Venetian foil beads, with their fusion of color, gold and silver foil, are just two of the kinds of beads made using the lamp-work method.
The millefiori beads are made using the hollow cane and six layers of glass starting with white, blue, white, brick red, and finally blue. After layering with these colors the beads are ground to product patterns of five concentric stars with twelve points. The canes are then chopped into individual beads.
Lampwork glass beads are beautiful when complimented with Swarovksi crystals and glass pearls. Combining colors such as pale purple lampwork with amethyst Czech flower beads makes an interesting statement jewelry piece.
Glass Jewelry Artisans
But enough of the technical aspects, we just like to admire the beauty of these beads once the artisan has created them. So, have fun selecting that perfect lampwork glass bead piece for your special occasion, I am sure you will not be disappointed!
Explore the creative world of alphabet beads, commonly called letter beads. These beads are made from a variety of materials including sterling silver, pewter as well as wood and colorful plastic. Use these beads to make name bracelets, friendship bracelets or gifts for newborns.
The most common way to make these bracelets is using elastic so they stretch instead of using clasps at each end of the bracelet. This is a great project for kids but don’t for a minute imagine that alphabet or letter beads are only for kids.
Key Chains and Friendship Bracelets
These beads can be used to adorn clothing, for key chains and for bags. Your imagination is your only limitation when it comes to creating with these fun beads. The best are ones with contrasting letter colors so they show up better.
Imagine the delight when a new Mother receives a bracelet with her new baby girl’s name on it? What a beautiful way to memorialize this truly special event.
Bracelet Clasps (optional)
Select the size of thread that will fit the hole in our selected beads. Make sure that the elastic is not too thin. If the bead holes are too small, use other beads or change you design to include some regular beading wire.
Measure your wrist and add a little to the length to allow for the beads, adding more if the beads are chunky.
Lay your beads out in the order that you will want them in your bracelet design. Use a beading board or cloth to prevent them from rolling around or off the table.
Stretch out your elastic once before measuring it to avoid spaces between your beads. Make a knot at the end of your elastic or put in a stop bead.
String the remaining beads and when you are done measure with your wrist but be sure to hang on to the elastic so you do not lose all your beads. Add or remove beads so it fits comfortably on your wrist.
Tie a secure not, using a surgeon’s knot works great. Cut of excess and stop bead if you used one.
Put a drop of glue on the knot.
Enjoy your new fashion statement using alphabet beads!
Find great suppliers of seed beads for sale in RitzyToo’s free magazine. To many, handcrafted jewelry enthusiasts seed beads are their choice for many of their projects. These glass beads are actually tiny pieces of cane tubes heated until they are smooth and their uses are seemingly endless.
Sized by number with the higher the number, the smaller the bead. For instance size 8º is larger than a size 15º. Most are manufactured in Japan and the Czech Republic with subtle differences between the two. Ones from Japan are typically more consistent in shape and have larger holes which allows more passes of thread when needed. Popular manufacturers are TOHO, Miyuki and Matsuno.
Those made in India, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China tend to be poorer quality, less uniform in shape, hole size and finish. Ones that are dyed may bleed dye onto your clothing or skin and the external coating may rub away revealing a completely different color underneath.
Larger sizes are sometimes referred to as Pony beads with the larger still being called Trade beads, and the largest are called Crow beads. The smallest are about the size of a grain of sand.
Sizes sometimes vary between manufacturers and some manufacturer’s quality is more consistent. So, if a consistent size is important choosing a Delica bead manufactured by Miyuki of Japan is probably your best choice. You will find Delicas for sale from top companies in our free RitzyToo Magazine. Also offered are seed beaks in bulk and wholesale.
Stitches, Colors, and Finishes
Weaving stitches are often used with needle and thread to create stitches such as peyote stitch, brick stitch, right-angle weave, herringbone stitch and netting. Kumihimo is also done using these tiny beads that come in a myriad of colors.
Some of the colors and finishes include transparent, translucent, opaque, matte, silver lined, copper lined, bronze lined, pearl lustre and aurora borealis. Manufacturers guard their color and finish formulas carefully so as to avoid duplication by a competitor.
If you are looking for colors to repair or repurpose antique jewelry pieces look for ones made in France.
Different Shapes Can Be Fun
The right jewelry making supplies is often the difference between just another piece of jewelry and a truly stunning creation. There are some often forgotten places to find unique, one of a kind, or antique beads.
RitzyToo Bead Magazine provides resources for unique beads and charms, findings, silver and glass beads, handmade, and antique beads along with designer patterns and a pattern resource library with over 1400 free patterns. In addition to the free pattern library RitzyToo provides complete jewelry making instructions created by award winning designers from around globe.
Check out the past issues to find a stunning pendant pattern by Eliana Maniero from Italy, bracelet, pendant, and earring patterns from Hundgry, a unique heart necklace made from copper and resin and so much more!
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro the bead suppliers and patterns featured in RitzyToo are second to none. Our featured suppliers carry Swarovski crystals, TOHO, Miyuki, lampwork beads, hand crafted wood beads, antique beads from europe and gemstones.
So, for all your beading needs and patterns be sure to get your free subscription to RitzyToo. Just click on the current issue on the home page and sign up so you will be sure to get each issue as soon as it comes out!