How Beading is Good for Health and Happiness!

The art of beading has been around for hundreds of years, dating back to the 14th century when the first glass beads were produced. What has made the art of beading withstand centuries and what is so lovely and beautiful about it? People of all ages have enjoyed the craft of beading for generations and each day more are getting themselves involved in beading and jewelry making. This beloved hobby is not only fun for people and a way to express creativity or earn a small profit, but the best part of all is that beading is good for your health! Oh yes you read it right, beading has many health benefits too! Both adults and children can experience the many therapeutic benefits of beading and jewelry making. Beading requires skills used by your brain to think, reason, and focus, but most of all, it relaxes us and makes us happy!

Beading for our Mental Health

Did you know that approximately 1-in-5 people GLOBALLY have a mental health disorder at any given time? From anxiety and depression to eating disorders and substance abuse, the mental health of the global population is on the decline. Our fast-paced lifestyles and constant hurrying to our next commitment is in no way beneficial to our overall well-being. We strive for success but barely give ourselves time to rest and enjoy the things that truly make us happy and calm our ever-moving minds. It is so important that we take into account our brain health and overall well-being and put into practice things that bring us joy, soothe and comfort us, and provide anxiety relief.

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Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on Pexels.com

One of those comfort-bringing practices is art and crafting, and beading falls into that category. But you may ask, how is beading actually good for my mental health?

Encourages Mindfulness and Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Beading keeps our hands busy and our minds at ease. The time spent beading necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and embroidery requires full focus and concentration on the present moment, allowing us to practice mindfulness, and helps prevent our thoughts from wandering. The time we spend beading is spent constructively, and with purpose, and helps us escape the world around us, slow down, and focus on one task, one bead at a time. Many beading projects are done by stringing beads one-by-one, forcing the beader to take his or her time and to fixate on a singular task.

The repetitive nature of stringing beads is calming, almost like meditation. It can help to relieve stress by preventing a beader from trying to multitask, encouraging them to maintain focus on a sole task. Starting a pattern and growing with it slowly helps a person to slow their mind, be patient, and witness their creation unfold gradually. Beading allows one to abandon other life stressors and escape into an activity that will sooth and calm the mind. As Pablo Picasso famously said, “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Boosts Our Creativity and Self-Esteem

Not only does beading promote mindfulness and relieve stress, it also encourages creativity and boosts our self esteem. The art of beading and the endless design and creative possibilities that come with that, gives the beader an area to let his or her imagination work. There are thousands of beads to choose from, in hundreds of colors and finishes, all ready to be used to create something beautiful. There are endless beading materials to choose from, from seed beads and Czech pressed glass, to gemstones and freshwater pearls, giving a beader endless possibilities.

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Photo by Avinash Patel on Pexels.com

Whether a beader is following a pattern, or developing their own design, the individual can play around with color combinations and textures and watch their design unfold. The end result of one’s imagination and creativity put to work is a finished piece that it’s creator can be proud of. After cycling through the entire creative process, the piece of jewelry can provide a person with a sense of accomplishment and bring them pride, joy, and satisfaction. Beading makes us feel happy, and when we as humans do things that make us feel good, our brains respond by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are the very chemicals in our brain that reduce stress and promote happiness. Art therapy is also proven to help alleviate anxiety by reducing the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies.

Encourages Socialization

Beading can be done is a group setting as well, allowing individuals to share ideas, stories and help one another out. In addition, it gives beaders the opportunity to provide each other with positive feedback and recommendations in design. Take Potomac Bead’s Beading and Jewelry Making Facebook Group for example. It is an online community where people can share their work, ask questions, provide feedback, and encourage one another.

Beading is Beneficial for Children Too

Imagine a situation where a child is beading, grasping the small beads one at a time and stringing them on thread. The repetitive motion of the beading process is extremely beneficial to a child’s fine motor skills as it strengthens their small, growing muscles. The act of grasping both small and large beads repeatedly for a particular pattern involves many hand movements. These repeated movements can help develop and strengthen a child’s grip and hand dexterity, which can lead to improved writing and coloring skills at school.

Encourages Creativity and Imagination

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Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Beading gives children the perfect outlet to use their creativity and imagination. With beading, there are no lines to color in or rules to follow, only creative freedom. Beads are available in all different shapes, colors, sizes and textures. From fun lampwork beads and colorful mixed magnesite gemstones, to wooden beads and metal charms. Children are able to play around and experiment with color combinations, patterns, or no pattern at all! A child’s unique creation is made possible by their own originality and imagination which is vital for their developing minds.

 

Improved Fine Motor Skills and Concentration

As children get older, they are required to concentrate more and more, whether that be in school, or doing chores, or while riding a bike. The art of beading requires a certain level of concentration from the beader. If a child is sticking with a pattern, they need to concentrate on which beads they need to pick up, how many beads to use, and in which order they need to thread the beads. In addition, the child needs to focus on threading a small thread or string through the small hole of a bead. All of these things require patience and focus while helping to fine tune visual motor skills and gross motor skills. These seemingly meaningless tasks are great tools in helping children sharpen their minds with persistence, concentration, and focus on a specific task.

Offering a Sense of Accomplishment

When the piece they are creating is finished, a child then experiences the joy and satisfaction of a job well done. In addition, children then have a tangible item, imagined and created by only them, that they can be proud of. The satisfaction and pride in their work will grant a child a sense of accomplishment and provide them with a boost of self-esteem that every child needs to feel.

Great Teamwork

Beading as a group activity will help a child create playmates and make the whole activity more fun. Forming ideas with other children teaches a child how to collaborate and work with other children. It promotes sharing and the importance of teamwork and allows children the opportunity to encourage and give compliments to one another. Being able to share ideas with peers also helps to build a child’s self confidence in their ideas and abilities.

Conclusion

Are you having a rough day or week? Are you experiencing anxiety symptoms, feeling lonely and uninspired, and in need of a confidence boost? It is no secret that art is therapeutic and helps relieve our stress and gives us a boost of happiness. There are many studies on this very topic. Beading will help calm your mind and anxieties, and propel you to beautiful creations that you can delight in.  Allow your imagination to run wild, grab your beading supplies, and start creating!

#Happy Beading! – No pun intended =)

-Lindsay

How to Tell if Your Gemstones Are Real Or Fake

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If you’re like me, you like a beautiful gemstone necklace, bracelet or set of earrings.  There is something about making or purchasing jewelry with genuine gemstones that makes it more unique and special.  I particularly enjoy gifting handmade jewelry to my friends, family, and my kid’s teachers around the holidays. There are thousands of affordable, semiprecious gemstones out there to choose from, in hundreds of shapes and colors.  Unfortunately, although many of these beads are labeled as gemstones, many of them are not. There are certainly 100% natural gemstone beads and cabochons available, but there are also many imitations, manmade, dyed, or altered stones as well.  Manmade gemstones are beautiful, and a great addition to any piece of jewelry, they just aren’t natural. If you do prefer authentic stones, you need to educate yourself on what to look for and how to make an informed purchase.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

To be clear, there is no fool-proof way to ensure your gemstones are 100% natural other than taking them to a certified gemologist and having them examined under a microscope.  There are, however, a handful of things you can take into account when shopping for gemstones that will help you to determine if you’re purchasing natural gemstones or fake gemstones.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for gemstone beads or gemstone cabochons.

DESCRIPTION PRICE COLOR SELLER


DESCRIPTION

The more information that is available for the gemstones you are purchasing, the better.  Thoroughly read product descriptions and look for ones that are transparent and forthcoming with information about the gemstone beads or cabochons they are selling.  In the description, look to see if the seller lists the origin of the stones or where they are mined. Knowing where a gemstone comes from or where it was mined will help in determining whether it is an authentic gemstone.  In addition, look to see if the description of the product includes terms like “dyed” or “manmade”. There are many stones available in the market that appear to be real gemstones, but in fact they are dyed or chemically treated stones made to look like natural gemstones.

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Mojave Turquoise

Let’s take turquoise for example. You’ve probably seen many beautiful turquoise beads available for sale but would it surprise you to know that around 90% of turquoise beads and other products are not actually turquoise? They are beautiful and certainly look like the real thing, but they are actually dyed howlite or magnazite.  Howlite is a white stone that is extremely absorbent and is dyed and treated to look just like turquoise. If a seller is selling dyed howlite, the product description should be transparent and tell you that.  So again, if you want authentic stones, do your due diligence and thoroughly read up on all available information on the product you are looking to purchase. Read descriptions closely, look out for the origin of the stone, and be aware of keywords that would raise a red flag such as “manmade”, or “dyed”.

One important suggestion I want to add is, if you’re looking to make gemstone jewelry that you will then resell, be sure to offer all information in your finished piece as well.  Be clear about where the stones are from, what they are, whether you’re using sterling silver, and another other information you can provide.  Buyers appreciate the information and will be more likely to make a purchase if they know exactly what they are purchasing.


PRICE

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

The price of a product is often a telltale sign of real or fake.  Have you ever wanted to purchase something and the price is so low that it makes you think, “this is way too good to be true”?  If you ever ask yourself that question when purchasing gemstone beads or cabochons, then it probably is too good to be true.  Authentic gemstones are unique and special and rarer than you think, causing their price points to be much higher than their imitation counterparts.   For example, real turquoise is in limited supply and only makes up about 10% of the market and therefore carries a high price. If you’re looking at a 16” strand of Kingman turquoise beads with a price of $75-$100, you are more than likely looking at real turquoise.  If you’re looking at a strand of turquoise with a price of $5, you can be pretty certain it’s not authentic but rather a dyed, altered stone. When making a gemstone purchase, do your homework and research the average prices of those stones and then some comparison shopping.


COLOR AND APPEARANCE

Another important factor to keep in mind when looking for gemstones is the color and overall appearance of the stone.  Truly natural gemstones like African Opal are only mined, cut, and polished and not altered in any way. They contain blemishes, flaws, and imperfections and no two beads or stones are exactly the same.  An authentic stone will have grooves and divots that you can feel when running your fingernail over the surface.

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Mixed Agate

If you come across a strand of gemstone beads that are especially colorful, vibrant, smooth, and shiny, like Mixed Agate, it is very likely these beads are dyed and altered in some way.  Let’s take goldstone for example. Goldstone is a very sparkly, copper-colored stone that was made to look like Sunstone, but is not an actual stone. Goldstone is actually made up of glass that is infused with copper to give it that sparkly, sunstone look. So, as you’re looking to purchase gemstones, take into account their overall appearance and be leary of a strand that is overly colorful, and bright.

 


SELLER

The last and possibly the most important factor in purchasing real gemstones is buying them from a trusted seller.  A reputable dealer will check all of the above boxes. They should provide a thorough description of the product and be transparent about where the stones are from. In addition, they should disclose if the stones are composite stones and whether they are chemically treated or altered in any way.  Be cautious of a seller that is not forthcoming with this information. Do some research on the seller by checking out their sales review. Consumer reviews are an excellent resource to find out information about a seller, whether that information is good or bad. Lastly, do not shy away from asking the seller for more details or information.  A good vendor should be readily available and willing to answer any additional questions you have about their products.


WRAPPING UP

The market is full of gorgeous gemstone beads and cabochons with hundreds of colors, cuts, and styles to choose from.  If you’re in the market for authentic beads, do your homework and take your time with your purchase so that you can make an informed decision and make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.  If you are on the search for gemstones beads or cabochons, the Potomac Bead Company has hundreds to choose from, including natural and manmade.  If you have any questions about any of the products available, we will be happily answer those for you and make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed purchase.  We will be able to provide you with any and all information you are looking for when making your purchase.  The Potomac Bead staff can also make recommendations to you for which beads or stones to choose that fits within your budget. And lastly, check out our Better Beader Episode on Youtube titled “Are Your Gemstones Real?” for more information and examples on what to look for.

Happy Beading!

-Lindsay

How To Price Jewelry to Sell

After watching a Youtube video on pricing handmade jewelry, I thought to myself, what if I could price and sell mine?  I dabbled with the idea of selling my jewelry creations in the past and assumed it was as simple as slapping a reasonable price on a piece and calling it a day.  Learning that there was a way to properly price my handmade jewelry so that it sells quickly and makes me a small profit, made me more inclined to give selling a try.

I imagine that there are many jewelry creators out there that have their pricing down pat, but I’m sure there are also many, like myself, who have no idea where to begin.  Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the jewelry making game and are interested in earning some extra income on what you love to do, check out these tips for pricing your jewelry.

THERE ARE FOUR MAIN POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN PRICING JEWELRY TO SELL:

        1. COST OF MATERIALS

        2. TIME SPENT ON THE PROJECT 

        3. TARGET MARKET

        4. competition

How are each of these considered when pricing jewelry?  Let’s break it down.


COST OF MATERIALS

Cost of materials may be the most important factor when pricing jewelry.  Making a profit on something requires an investment and that investment in this case are your raw materials.  When pricing jewelry you need to be sure to adequately cover the cost of the goods you are selling. This is where making a profit happens.  Materials can be expensive, especially gemstones, precious metals, freshwater pearls, crystals, etc.  The more expensive the materials, the higher the price point of the jewelry.

Let’s say you have a pair of earrings to sell and the materials to make those earrings cost approximately $8.00.  You’ll want to price those earrings for absolutely NO LESS than that amount.  Otherwise, you might as well throw some money out the window.  And who in their right mind would do that???

QUICK TIP:

As you’re making a piece of jewelry, write down the costs of your materials as you go.  Be sure to include EVERYTHING. Thread, crimp beads, findings, glue, etc.  IT ALL ADDS UP!  You’d be surprised by how much you actually use.  Put the finished piece in a plastic bag or a box with the materials and cost list in it so you don’t forget.  When you’re pricing your pieces later, you’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips

In addition to the raw materials of your jewerly, there may be some additonal costs you’re not thinking about.  Don’t forget to include any packaging costs.  Perhaps you provide a nice gift box with your jewelry or a simple earring hanger.  Don’t forget to include that in your costs.  Even further, if you’re selling online, you are incurring additional costs like postal packaging and shipping/handling.  Don’t forget about these and write them down!

Here is an example:
Beads: $4  
Thread: $2  
Findings: $1.50  
Glue: $.50
Gift box: $1.00 
Postage: $4.00 
Postal Packaging: $2.00 
TOTAL: $15.00
To markup or not to markup?

It is totally acceptable to add a markup to your raw materials.  Everyone does it!  Consider adding a 30% increase on your materials cost to cover hidden overhead costs.  It will make you a few extra bucks in the end.  You be the judge.


TIME IS MONEY

How do you value your time?  Have you ever asked yourself how much your time is worth?  What rate would you wish to be paid?  What rate do you think is fair?  Once you’ve asked yourself those questions, decide on a rate for yourself.  For each project,  be sure to reference the time it took your in your notes.

Quick tip:

As you’re working on a project, keep accurate track of how long it takes you and take note for reference later when planning a price. 

More intricate beading projects like the Tchacka Boom Bangle may take you a few hours, while a simple wirewrapped pedant necklace may take an hour or less.  Your time is valuable and the pricing of your jewelry should reflect that. 

Here is an example:
Hourly Rate:  $10/hour
Time for project(including color section, creation, and finishing): 4 hours

Total cost of labor: $10/hr x 4 hours = $40

In time, and with experience, a beader will be able increase their speed on projects.  What used to take 4 hours may now require only 3.  Don’t feel as though you need to lower your price because you worked faster.  You can if you want, or you can keep your price on that project the same and make a larger profit.

Current PRICE: Materials $15 + Labor $40 = $55, but we aren’t done yet!

The Market

For some of your pieces, the price tag is going to climb pretty high.  What if it took you 4 hours to make a bracelet at a $20/hour rate with materials costing you about $15? Your beautiful piece of work now costs $95!   Woah!
Can the market bear that price?  Or is that going to be a hard sell to consumers?

Bead weavers know the time it takes for quality work and many recognize that and are willing to pay the price.  Others may gasp at the high price tag.  Some consumers have large amounts of disposable income and if that is your target market, then you could likely sell higher priced items to them.  If you’re targeting a market where disposable income is lower, perhaps selling lower-priced jewelry to that market would be in your best interest.

Quick Tip: 

Who doesn’t love a good sale?  Another option would be to offer a sale on items (If you can afford the sale and still be profitable) to help draw interest and sell your jewelry faster.  Some consumers don’t care about sales, while others are always looking for a deal! 

It is great to have projects that take a long time and are a bit higher in price range.   However, try and add some inexpensive projects that are a little bit more accessible to the everyday person if you are selling at small craft fairs and markets.   You can be the judge on whether or not you think the consumers you are selling to will drop $100 on your beading work.  That said, items ranging from $20-$40 are going to fetch you more money, even in high end craft fairs because buyers get a piece of your beautiful jewelry without paying an arm and a leg for it.

Competition: What Makes Your Work Special?

Ask yourself – how many people are also doing what I do? How many alternatives do my customers and potential customers have?

Suffice to say the internet is an awesome place to sell your pieces. But also put in mind that it is flooded with people who make jewelry, making the competition pretty stiff. It is a great idea to go window shopping and see what other people are selling their jewelry for.  If your price points are higher than your competition, you  need to make sure to make it clear what makes YOUR piece special.  What makes it stand out?  Did you use sterling silver instead of a coated copper wire?  Did you use freshwater pearls instead of coated glass pearls?  Are you using real turquoise and not manmade turquoise?  Educate your consumers!


Wrapping It Up

Having considered the cost of raw materials and your time, and understanding the dynamics in pricing, it is fair to say that coming up with a price that a market will bear can be quite a task.  However, once you figure out what works for you, creating and pricing will be easy.

In summary, find a way to make your niche, make good quality yet affordable pieces, and consider your target market, as well as your sales location (i.e. a trade fair, a jewelry store, etc.).

Always remember to properly value your time to make a profit, as others will not value your time as much as you.

The more you create, the more skilled and efficient you become, and the less time it takes you to make your pieces. This in turn  lowers your prices. So, in the end your trade  becomes more profitable.

Are there other factors to consider in improving profitability?   Please do share them with us!

Here’s to becoming #betterbeaders together!

-Lindsay

Jewelry Men Will ACTUALLY Wear…

Have you ever wondered “what kind of jewelry would a man actually like?”  As a company that designs hundreds of tutorials & projects each year, we see this question pop up a lot.  Unfortunately we (as men) are REALLY bad at giving opinions or insight about some things.  Sometimes we are just bad about communication in general.   This probably surprises… nobody.  But, it also means that women/friends/spouses/partners are often left to guess what to buy/make/create/design for a man.
Often in PotomacBeads’ “Beading and Jewelry-Making” facebook group, designers try to guess what men would like, and helpfully pose many suggestions.  MOST of these suggestion though I would never wear.  This is coming from a very average red-blooded American male.  Yes, this blog is written by a man.  It is even about beads!  Having co-founded PotomacBeads.com with my wife Allie many years ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to have more experience in jewelry-making than most men in the world.  And to your benefit, I’m also very opinionated :).  Note, I will use the term “most” frequently, because there always are exceptions to any rule.
So, what would most men actually be willing to wear? Here are 4 easy rules to keep in mind when creating male jewelry designs:
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Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #1 —-  Cording > Beads
So, this is going to sound funny coming from a guy who owns a bead company.  I don’t like a lot of beads in my jewelry.  A few is ok, a LOT is not.  I would not want to wear a delicate strip of peyote with tiny little beads and/or crystals.  But, a simple strip of leather, or multiple strips of cotton, cork, or other fibers sounds great.  Often the more simple, the better.  Unless there is a very strong emotional connection with specific beads, I would avoid using too many beads in your pieces.  Try instead to place what beads you do use between layers of fibers, or spaced between fibers and metal.  Knots are another way to create spacing, without actually using a bead.  If you still want to be fancy, try to braid, macrame, or micro-macrame thinner fibers.  This can still work as long as it is balanced well with the other elements of the design.
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Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #2 —-  Matte > Shiny
Most women love glitter and sparkle.  Most men don’t.  Women’s jewelry should often be eye catching… men’s jewelry should often fade into the background.  Matte beads tend to draw less attention, and serve as an accent to a wrist, neck, hand, ankle, etc., rather than the focus of it.
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Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #3 —- Metal > glass/Crystal/Resin/Anything Else
Men love metal.  HERE is your opportunity to use beads, as there are LOTS of different metal beads.  Silver, copper, brass are all great choices.  Gunmetal can also work, though be careful not to overdo “black” colors in any design or it can feel forced.
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Men’s Jewelry Design Rule #4 —- Muted Colors > Bright Colors
If a man wants to find the end of a rainbow, he can eat Lucky Charms®.  He probably doesn’t want to “wear” the rainbow.  Generally, men will prefer more muted versions of each color.  Pick cool or natural colors (blues & greens, browns & grays).  A more organic look will generally be more popular.  Learn more about beading & color theory here.

These are my humble opinions, coming from one mid-30s man who has been in the fashion/bead/jewelry industry for 13+ years.  When you are done completing a project for a man, you may feel like it is too simple.  That is how you know you have done a great job!  Take that energy, and throw it into something for yourself :).

Nathan Buchman
Co-Founder, PotomacBeads

 

Potomac Beads Europe: From Idea To Reality

September 22th marked six months of Potomac Beads Europe existence. I thought it would be appropriate to stop for a minute and think about what we have achieved here.

It seems unbelievable to me that in a few days it will be a year from the day I met Allie and Nathan for the first time in Prague while they were on their “tour de Europe“. I was a biology PhD student back then, but I wanted to leave the university and find a full-time job when Nathan reached out to me with the plan of bringing Potomac Beads to Europe.  The idea was to bring the vast range of jewelry-making supplies that Potomac Beads offer to their European customers who wouldn’t have to pay customs and expensive shipping on Potomac exclusive beads, crystals and other items while receiving customer service and the rest of Potomac special features which made them so popular in the US.

You can imagine that after this meeting my life completely changed. I have been a beader for years, making and selling my own jewellery, and suddenly there was an opportunity to do what I love as a job. It was scary and exciting at the same time. I couldn’t be more thrilled for the launch, but there was a long way in front of us. Setting up a company is never easy because of the amount of bureaucracy you need to overcome. It was twice as hard for me being a biology student and beader while missing the necessary knowledge of a businesswoman. It took three very challenging months before I could hold the official founding papers and keys to our warehouse in my hand. Now when I think of it, I really try to not think about those difficult times 😀

A lot of great things also happened during the three months too. I got engaged which established the fact that my now-husband Pavel was willing to spend his life with me and a lot of beads at the same time. He supported and still supports me immensely. He is the one who tubes and bags most of the beads, so I can send you orders, do videos, write blogs (and come home to him at some reasonable hour 😀 ). Plus he is our IT guy in addition to his other two jobs. As you can see, like Potomac Beads US, Potomac Beads EU has become a family company.

Thanks to all of this, we also visited the United States last December, so I could see and train at Potomac Beads Headquarters in Haggerstown, Maryland, and  deliver the best service to you here in Europe as well! Allie and Nathan took us to Washington D.C., a place I’ve never dreamt of seeing in my life, the same goes for the Potomac Beads store which is a place of beaders’ dreams with great people working there.

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When we got back, the clock started ticking since a huge container with Potomac Beads EU initial inventory and warehouse equipment was sailing to Europe, to our warehouse-to-be, from which I still hadn’t got keys back then.

Nevertheless, after a number of sleepless nights for me, all ended up well: with the beads inside of our shop! Pavel, my Dad and our friends helped us to unload everything and build slatwalls where their names are forever burnt into one their columns to remember everyone who helped in this adventure.

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Finally, on March 22nd 2018, we opened the online store to public and it hasn’t been closed since. Since then we launched two new beads StormDuo and RounDuo Mini, another one, EVA, will launch soon. The inventory got much much bigger, new items are coming in every week. At the same we are trying to add specific items you would like to see on our site and create a lot of content, so you would get inspired or learn something new every day. Like I do myself.

In the “personal section”, a lot of happened too. Pavel and I got married in June, postponing our honeymoon to “some date” since I need to take of Potomac Beads EU now. We managed to squeeze in at least a trip to Amsterdam you might have read about already.

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Since I am rather a new member to Potomac Bead Family, I am trying to add my own touch to our creative content. Making original videos for you is one way to use my knowledge and experience gathered throughout my beading years. I am also trying to find new items you could enjoy and make your original jewelry from.

Looking back, it really has been a wild ride. Seeing what things are behind us, I am pretty sure great things are yet to happen for Potomac Beads Europe. I hope you will join and be there with us on our beading journey!

Bead on,
-Tereza
Potomac Beads Europe
http://www.potomacbeads.eu
http://www.potomacbeads.com

The Bead Hole Size Guide

Knowing the hole size and stringing potential of your beads!

Gemstones       fringe4.jpg     Layer Cake Allie

After 20+ years in the jewelry making industry and 12+ years since the launch of Potomacbeads, there is one thing that holds constant for me at the start of every project.  Every jewelry designer needs to know the hole size of the bead in the design.  Like everything in the beading world, there are countless options when designing and knowing the hole size of your bead will indicate which thread, wire, cable, cording, or stringing material is best for or can be used in your creation.

The variety in the hole sizes of beads is most often directly related to the method used in their production.  Many glass beads are made from molds which include the hole for the bead.

EU Slider - Potomac Exclusives
Potomac Exclusives

Because of this, many shapes and sizes of glass beads, especially Czech glass beads will have a very consistent hole size around .8mm.

 

The following Potomac Exclusives are all manufactured in the Czech Republic and have a .8mm : Ava Beads, RounDuo Beads, RoundTrio Beads, IrisDuo, cup buttons, StormDuo, DiscDuo, RounDuo Mini, & Eva Beads (Coming soon!). To further understand the production of these glass beads, check out Lindsay’s blog on Czech glass production.

Additionally, there are other shapes and sizes of Czech beads that have larger holes

Macrame
Maui Bracelet and Macrame’ design

such as O Beads and Rings.  Because of the larger holes, I recommend these to other jewelry makers to use in conjunction with leather or thicker wire projects. There are also Czech seed beads manufactured by Matubo which have a larger hole and work really well with leather and linen cording.  I used both the O beads and Matubo beads in the Maui Bracelet which is one of my “go to” jewelry pieces.

Like Czech glass, crystals which are also glass, have a similar production method.  Crystals, like glass, have vary consistent and similar hole sizes that vary insignificantly based on shape and size.  Both Swarvoski & Potomac Crystals have similar size holes which will accommodate 22 gauge wire or 0.018 beading cable.

Like the Czech & crystal beads, Japanese Seed beads like Miyuki & Toho also have very consistent holes.  However, based on the size of the beads, the hole size will vary.  If you want to delve into this further you can see the differences in an earlier blog of mine on the seed bead brands and their differences. 

Here is a chart to help you navigate some of the differences in sizes I have discussed so far as well as others!

POPULAR BEAD HOLE SIZES:

Bead Hole Size

When it comes to gemstones there is a huge variety of hole sizes.  Gemstones have different properties which determines how hard or soft a stone may be.  This hardness is measured by a standard called the Mohl scale.  This property allows some gemstones to be drilled straight by machine while softer stones may need to be drilled by hand.  Very small and or brittle stones sometimes need to be drilled from both sides and meet in the middle.  All of these factors contribute the to hole size of gemstone beads.  In the chart above, I listed the average hole size for 4-6mm round gemstones and the maximum width of the materials to be used with them.  But again, with gemstones, I can not stress enough how varied the hole sizes can be!  Keep on hand a variety of sizes of cording, thread, and various string materials so you are not frustrated by your beads.

Lg&SmHolePearl

 

Like many gemstones, freshwater pearls, which are soft and porous, have very small holes.  However, there are “large hole pearls” available which can be used nicely with thicker materials.  The jewelry and fashion trend of using natural stringing materials like leather, has also lead to an increase in the availability of other large hole options such as lampwork beads and “large hole” gemstones.  When using natural cording like leather and linen, metal beads which generally have larger holes, are also a great option to use in your designs.Stringing material - 2

In jewelry making, many patterns will tell you exactly what size cording or wire is required.  However, if you are designing on your own, it is often a good idea to be flexible with your materials.  I like to have on hand a range of 20-26g wire as well as .010-.024″ beading cable.  When in comes to cording, my two go to materials are Greek leather in 1-2mm and also linen thread.  Having these materials on hand allows my creativity to continue even if I am thrown a wrench by having a small or large hole bead!

-Allie

PS. For more on the hole size of beads check out my “Better Beader” episode on Youtube!

 

Czech Glass Beads: Hand Pressed VS. Machine Pressed

The making of pressed glass beads, dating back many centuries, began in North Bohemia in eastern Europe, now known as the Czech Republic.  It has often been referred to as a “Cottage Industry”, as many laborers set up the glass pressing machinery in their own homes or garages.

So what exactly is a pressed glass bead?

A pressed glass bead is one which is created with a mold.  The process begins when a large glass rod known as a “cane” is heated up and stamped  into a mold (whether by hand or machine) with a needle that pierces the a hole for the bead.  The glass beads are then cooled and tumbled in a sand mixture to polish out seam lines and smoothen the surface.  Glass pressing offers many benefits to bead production:

Benefits of Pressed Glass Beads

Versatile – By using molds, pressed glass beads are available in hundreds of colors, shapes and finishes.

Low Labor Costs –  As opposed to lampwork or drawn glass beads which are labor intensive and done exclusively by hand, pressed glass beads can be mass produced rather quickly.

Consistent – Molds allow for consistently shaped beads which serves beaders well who need uniform beads for their projects.

Czech Glass Pressed Beads
By creating molds, the same shape can be accurately produced over and over again. Shown here are: Faceted Round Beads, IrisDuo Beads, StormDuo Beads, Silky Beads, Flower Cups, and Faceted RounTrios.

Hand-Pressing vs. Machine-Pressing

There are two types of glass pressed beads: hand pressed and machine pressed.  To the bead consumer, the finished product does not reveal how the bead was formed.  Hand-pressed beads and machine pressed beads are virtually the same, you can’t tell the difference by looking at them, but there are reasons why certain beads need to be created via one route or the other.

AVA Beads
Pressing these AVA beads is only the first step. The seams need to be smoothed and excess glass that may overflow the mold needs to be removed by hand for each bead.

HAND-PRESSING

While the vast majority of pressed glass beads today are machine-made, some glass beads today still need to be hand-pressed for a couple of reasons.  For one, delicately shaped beads need to be hand-pressed because an automated machine wouldn’t be gentle enough not to break the bead during the production process.  Some beads are more fragile and prone to breaking than others.  And secondly, many opaque colored beads, such as opaque red, need to be hand-pressed because the glass for theses beads tends to be harder and would not work well in the machines.

The hand-pressing process is done by holding a glass rod by a large clamp. The end of the glass rod is heated until bright orange and the worker feeds the molten glass into the mold stamp by hand.  The process is very time consuming and results in limited runs of these beads.  Check out this video on hand-pressing and you can see for yourself how it is done.

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHT: The AVA Bead

One such hand-pressed bead that many of you are familiar with is the ever-popular AVA bead.  Because of the AVA’s shape and fragility, it can only be produced by hand. As many of our customers have pointed out, the AVA beads have a higher price-tag than other pressed glass beads and the production method is why that is.

I was fortunate enough to watch first-hand how AVA beads were made whiletraveling in the Czech Republic with Nate, Allie and my husband Bryan in October of 2017.  When we arrived at this particular bead factory it was almost like we were stepping back in time and the production process was fascinating.  We witnessed a factory worker making the beloved AVA beads just as is done in the video above, but there was even more that needed to be done to perfect the bead.  After the AVA beads are dry-tumbled to smooth out the edges and seams, they are then gone through by hand to check for discrepancies.  One issue that comes up with the making of the AVA is that during the tumbling process, the glass that sits in the “V” does not always get removed during tumbling.  As a result, the workers need to hand snip the glass at that joint.  Below is another video to show you what I’m referring to.  This problem in particular made it very clear to me how labor-intensive the creation of the AVA bead is and gave me an even better understanding and appreciation of it’s higher price point.

Machine Pressed
When glass colors are swirled, the seams that run down the center of a pressed bead are visible.

MACHINE-PRESSING

While pressed glass beads were first created by hand, the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century brought about automated machinery for the mass-production of pressed glass beads.  The new machinery allowed for a larger output of beads, lower labor costs, and therefore lower product costs for the consumer. In addition, it gave beadmakers the ability to create complex shaped beads quickly and ship them out to consumers worldwide.  The first part of the YouTube video below shows how machine-pressing is done.  

Potomac Exclusive Pressed Glass Beads

The Potomac Bead Company carries an array of EXCLUSIVE pressed glass beads that began as an idea, and were executed quickly with the creation of molds and produced by glass-pressing machinery by our suppliers in the Czech Republic.  Glass-pressing allows us at PBC to take an idea and turn it into a tangible bead that we can share with our fellow beaders.  Here is a list of our exclusive pressed glass beads:

AVAS  |  CUP BUTTONS  |  DISCDUO  |  IRISDUO  |  ROUNDUO  |  ROUNTRIO  |  FACETED ROUNTRIO  |  STORMDUO

Potomac Exclusives-2
A sampling of the Potomac Bead Company’s exclusive products, including many Czech Glass pressed shapes.