Glass Beads

Written by Sarah Provost
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Glass beads form an essential part of any jewelry maker's collection. Polished smooth, they gleam with gem-like color, clarity and serenity. Faceted, they sparkle with gaiety. Glass beads offer much of the beauty of gemstones at a fraction of the price.

These plain glass beads come in an amazing variety of shapes and colors, but your choices don't stop there. Vintage glass beads, Czech glass beads, dichroic glass and lampwork offer even more options. Czech beads are mostly mass-produced, and vintage beads may be mass-produced or handmade. Lampwork and dichroic beads are made by hand, and each bead is an individual work of art.

Lampwork Beads

Lampwork beads are made using a rod called a mandrel, sticks of glass and a torch. The artist melts the glass with the torch, then drips and swirls it onto the mandrel, in layers of varying colors. They can also "draw" decorations on the bead with molten glass. Then the beads are annealed in a kiln to strengthen them. Since these are handmade, no two beads are exactly alike.

Dichroic glass is similar, but in that case the artist starts with sheets of glass that contain two or more colors in a pattern. When the glass is melted, the colors and patterns swirl into a free-form design. These handmade beads, of course, are more expensive than manufactured beads, so they are often used singly as the focal point of a piece of jewelry.

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