Trade Secrets: The Making of Glass Beads
Humans have been using glass for centuries, and glass beads have been fashioned for use in jewelry making for almost as long as that. They are inexpensive, but not tacky, and they are exceedingly versatile. This type of bead can be used in bracelets, necklaces and earrings, as well as on other fashion accessories. Glass beads are available in hundreds and hundreds of different shapes, sizes and colors, so they are a jewelry maker's delight! If you have ever used these beads in your jewelry making, you may wonder exactly how they are made.
Glass beads can actually be made by hand or by machine, and you can create some stunning results be either method. Because it is much quicker and less labor intensive to make these beads using a machine, the ones which are made via this method are usually far less expensive than handmade items. Machine made beads are so cheap that you can buy large packs of them for a very small amount of money.
Craftsmen who work with these beads must have a well lit and comfortable workstation due to the complexities involved with glass work. They must have all the necessary tools close at hand (glass rods, torches, pliers, mandrels etc) because glass work must be done quickly and precisely, lest the glass cool below a suitable temperature to continue working with it.
Lamp working is one of the most common methods which is used to create glass beads. Hot glass is wound around a special tool known as a mandrel, then put into a furnace to make the glass as malleable as possible. Once the glass is hot enough it can be molded and cut into a plethora of different shades which may be required for these beads. Square beads, round beads, diamond beads and heart shaped beads can all be created by using this method. The space where the mandrel was will be used to form the hole in the centre of the bead, which will allow the bead to be threaded onto a bracelet or a necklace as soon as it has completely cooled.
Although the majority of glass beads on the market are machine made, it is possible to buy handmade glass beads, albeit at a slightly higher price. Some home jewelry making experts even go to the extent of making their own beads, although it is not advisable to attempt this if you do not have a separate studio area and if you have not been trained in how to use this bead making equipment.
If you do decide to try making glass beads at home, the necessary equipment is available to purchase from internet suppliers. However if you do purchase this equipment is must be used with extreme caution. Because the equipment which is require for making glass beads can become exceedingly hot during the bead making process, they should never be used by children or near children, and they should always be kept out of the reach of children.