Beads are available in a seemingly endless variety, so exciting! Whatever they are made from, wherever they come from - there is so much to say about materials, color, shape, texture and origins. Please enjoy reading a bit more about some of my most often used categories of beading materials.


Vintage Glass

Most of my Vintage glass beads come from Germany and Czechoslovakia, were made in the early to mid 1900's, and offer a wide array of hue and shape. They are often a type of pressed (think molded) glass and are very uniform in shape. The canes of glass that were used in this process frequently contain more than one color, sometimes even three or more. Using an opaque core often surrounded by a different transparent color created a tantalizing mixture and reflection of light. There are still some of these old canes in existence that are again being used to make beads. If the canes are old, but used to make the beads more recently, does that mean it can still be called a "Vintage" bead? Hmmm…
I also have collected quite a few Vintage Japanese beads which are quite different in shape from the European beads because they were most often made with the technique known as Lampworking or Flameworking. The glass was heated with a torch and wound around a wire or mandrel. Because these are usually made one at a time, the shapes are softer, more rounded and organic, and less uniform than pressed beads. This type of glass bead might well be my favorite.


Swarovski Crystal

The sparkle and shine of fine quality crystal is so versatile! They can be lavish in number or color, or subtle and uncomplicated. Either way crystals are just fun! Whether used as the primary bead in a design or as an accent, the color, sparkle and light are very popular. Faceted glass beads are often called crystal. To be labeled "Crystal" the glass they are composed of must have no less than 40% lead content. Swarovski crystal, made in Austria, is one of the most highly regarded in the world for both quality and color. The majority of the crystal I use is Swarovski and I'm occasionally able to find some vintage pieces to work with. Bridal jewelry often requires color matching with fabrics. Due to the wide variety of hues available crystal is great for this purpose.


Handmade Glass

In this category you will find beads made with several different methods. Primarily there will be jewelry made with furnace blown glass. These beads are also called "Cane beads" and are made using the same type of tools and furnaces used in off-hand glass blowing. I'm particularly drawn to this type of bead because I've taken several classes which have allowed me to try my hand at this -- its like being part of a very hot magic show. The bubble of air that is blown into the gather of glass at the beginning of the process is what eventually becomes the hole within the cane. There are numerous techniques used to color and shape the canes. A common feature is the use of an outer layer of transparent, colorless glass which magnifies the interior layers of color. These truly are works of art in themselves. There are many "hotshops" throughout the United States making this type of bead but some of the finest, and my favorites, are made by Olive Glass on Lopez Island in Washington.


Semi Precious Stone & Freshwater Pearls

The materials I work with often change with the season, fashion trends or the interest of my customers. Semi precious stones tend to have a more earthy feel than many other materials. Depending on the combination of accent choices, the style is usually rather organic or ethnic in impression. Some of my favorites are Fluorite, Tourmaline, Iolite, Fancy Jasper, Turquoise and Carnelian. The variety of material changes often, especially after I shop at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show!

Freshwater Pearls are very versatile as well as traditional, these are one of my favorite beads to work with. Most of those that I use are farmed in Japan and then sent to Hong Kong for drilling and export. Pearls are often treated in different ways to enhance the color or even to encourage the oyster to produce a specific shape. I prefer not to use any materials which are dyed in extreme colors, or those altered by faceting. The quality of pearls varies widely and I select the ones that I use by hand so that I can inspect the luster, texture, color and shape. When used in combination with stone, Freshwater Pearls seem to add a layer of especially feminine detail. Used on their own, pearls are universally appealing.