A CLOSER LOOK AT CZECH BEAD COATINGS

giveaway_previewSometimes, walking into a bead store or shopping for beads online can be totally overwhelming.  Even for the seasoned beader. The selection is often enormous, with many options, styles, shapes and types to choose from.  Aside from the questions we receive about choosing colors that compliment each other well, we often get questions about the coatings of those beads.  There are many types of coatings, with varying durabilities, textures, looks, and benefits. The most widely popular are the Czech finishes and I figured it would be helpful for our customers to shed some light on these finishes and unpack all the details here for you.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Before any type of coating is applied, the glass beads need to be thoroughly washed, dried and then heated to a temperature of around 120 degrees.  This initial process helps to ensure the integrity of the coating and allows the beads to take a better and more even application of the coating.

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Some Czech finishes require a single coating process, while others may need a few extra steps to achieve a certain look.  For instance, the magic finishes on czech beads such as crystal magic wine, or crystal magic blue are first put through vacuum coating and then are sent for another layer of coating.  To keep things simple I’m going to go over the 4 main types of Czech finishes.

VACUUM COATING

Vacuum coated beads are some of the most popular among beaders.  Some examples of vacuum coatings are crystal labrador, AB, sliperit, crystal amber full, jet hematite, crystal capri gold, etc.  By definition, vacuum coating is the deposition of a film or a coating in a vacuum environment. It can also be referred to Physical Vapor Deposition and this technique is used for many consumer products, not just beads.  I’ll stop there with the extreme scientific terminology before all of our heads explode. To put it in Lehman’s terms, after the beads are heated they are placed in the vacuum coating machine which operates well below normal atmospheric pressure.  A fine metal powder is deposited into the vacuum which serves as the coating to the beads. The vacuum creates a very clean environment, with minimal air and water pollution, where materials can be deposited on the beads in a consistent, even, thin layer.  Vacuum deposition is also very reproducible, allowing for more consistency in coatings from one batch of beads to the next. The vacuum coating of beads can only be done on one side at a time and therefore after the first side is complete, the beads need to be flipped and the process is repeated again on the other side.

The durability of different vacuum coatings tend to vary.  Most are very durable and stand up to extensive wear and environmental factors but a few others aren’t quite as durable.  Crystal capri gold and crystal amber tend to be some of the least durable and rub off more easily than others.

MATTE METALLIC COATING

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The matte metallic beads are some of the most popular.  Aztec gold tends to be a top seller along with aluminum silver, vintage copper, ancient gold and many others, especially during the fall, when those shades are most popular.  At the base, these are glass beads that are covered in a thick, metallic, even lacquer coating, that in the end, proves to be extremely durable. To achieve the soft, matted appearance, the beads are then tumbled for a precise amount of time.  The longer beads are tumbled, the more polished they become, so matte finished beads require a shorter tumbling time. In some cases, the matte effect is achieved via immersion in an acid solution, although tumbling tends to be more popular.

ENT COATING

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ENT coating, also known as Estrella Nano Technology is a new technology for bead finishing.  This process is used for the production of metallic and pastel coatings. An extremely thin lacquer is applied to the beads in multiple layers through a spray process.  The coating is absent of heavy metals, has high chemical resistance, stable in alkaline and acidic environments and adheres extremely well to the glass beads to which they are applied.  As far as durability goes, they have a great resistance to scratching and ultraviolet radiation, leaving you with a fade resistant color.

LUSTER COATING

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Not unlike the above three types of Czech finishes, the luster coated beads are also a very popular finish among beaders and tend to fly off shelves as well.  Some specific examples of these beads include the baby blue luster, lila luster, lila vega luster, teal luster, etc. The luster coating is a glossy, transparent coating, heated and applied to beads like a thin glaze.  The coating is poured into a large pot over the base glass beads and stirred and spun to ensure an even coat. The beads are then placed in trays to dry and then heated in a kiln for up to 2 hours. The final step of the kiln brings out the true color of the final product.   A luster coating is typically applied to an opaque white or jet bead but they can be applied to crystal beads and many other colors to achieve different looks.

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Here is a video from our 2013 trip to the Czech Republic that focuses on luster coating.  Check it out!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IcMLDgKtP8&w=560&h=315

Well there you have it, the four main types of czech glass coatings.  As you can see, so much science goes into making the colors and finishes of czech glass beads just perfect.

 Thanks for reading and happy beading!

-Lindsay

Review of Popular Bead Coatings and their Durability

 

We have all been there.  You find a gorgeous new beading pattern or video and can’t wait to start it.  Then, after selecting the colors, spending over an hour hunched over your bead mat, and sharing your accomplishment on your favorite online beading group, the finish on your beads starts wearing off!  You want to scream!

This is an experience far too many of us have had.  While it is impossible to predict exactly how each particular coating will wear over time, there are some finishes that have a better track record than others.  I recently conducted an experiment of my own to test the durability of some of the popular coatings in both Czech Glass and Miyuki Seed Beads.

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Galvanized Smoky Mauve & Duracoat Galvanized Champagne Miyuki Seed Beads

THE EXPERIMENT

I began by selecting a number of colors of DiscDuo bead.  I selected this bead for it’s flat surface.  This allows for more of the bead to have contact with my skin allowing for maximum wear.  I also selected Duracoat Galvanized Champagne and Galvanized Dusty Mauve to test the durability of Galvanized compared to Duracoat Galvanized.

I used peyote stitch to create my project.  Using 4 of each color DiscDuo, I worked my pattern keeping each set of 4 together.  This allowed the color blocks to be compared easily from week to

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week.  The Miyuki seed beads were alternated in stripes at the beginning and end of my project and throughout the peyote stitch.  The length of the experiment ran for 30 days, wearing the bracelet about 5 days per week (and occasionally in the shower).

THE RESULTS : CZECH COATINGS

After the 30 days were up, I documented the bracelet for the last time.  I compiled the photos that best showed the progress over time.

Bead Coatings
Colors listed in the left column show the most wear at that specific stage

 

TOP OFFENDERS

1. Capri Gold Full: This finish, on a jet color bead in this case, wore off the fastest of all the colors tested.  After only 2 days of wear, it was obvious that is was coming off quickly.  After the 30 day mark, almost all of the coating was off on the side of the bracelet that had been worn facing my skin.

2. Amber:  Amber’s change was less noticeable since it was over a crystal bead and the contrast was less striking.  The wear was slightly less than the Capri Gold, but still showing signs of wear at day 2.

3. Sunset: Crystal Sunset was the third color to start showing signs of wear.  Similar to the Capri Gold and Amber, it was almost completely gone from some beads at the end of 30 days.

4. Crystal Sliperit Matted: It was a surprise to me that this color wore off as much as it did.  The other matte color I used, Vitrail Matte, did not show any signs of wear.  At the end of 30 days, the color seemed to have rubbed off the surface, but some had remained in the crevices of the textured (matted) surface.

5. Aztec Gold: The previous colors mentioned seemed to gently rub off over time, however the Aztec Gold was more susceptible to getting scratches.  At the end of my experiment, there was some noticeable wear from rubbing against my skin, but very little in comparison to Capri Gold, Amber, or Sunset.

 

THE RESULTS: MIYUKI GALVANIZED COATINGS

As I expected, the Miyuki Duracoat Galvanized coatings showed much less wear than the Galvanized.  On the Galvanized seed beads, the color at the end of 30 days was either

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The Galvanized seed beads have almost completely lost their color.

flaking off or completely off all the beads.  The color did hold up better in areas where there was less chance for beads to rub against each other or my skin.

The area of most wear was the loop I created for the button closure.  The Galvanized Smoky Mauve is much lighter, or gone, on the beads of this color used in the loop.  This is most clearly seen on the bead at the very bottom of the picture to the right.

LESSONS LEARNED

While there are many factors that play into how well the finish of a bead will hold up over time, you don’t have to feel completely helpless when you select the colors for your next project.  My experiment showed that some colors were very resistant to wear.  Coatings that appear thicker and slightly matted tend to hold up well, like the Pastel Light Green, Aztec Gold, and Metallic Violet.  The Azuro, Marea, and Hematite coatings also held up very well.  Lusters, represented by Teal and Lila Vega, did fairly well, too.

Keep in mind that it isn’t only the coating itself that is the cause of discoloration or wear.  Other factors may include:

  1. The amount of moisture to which the beads are exposed
  2. Your skins pH balance
  3. Conditions in which the jewelry is stored when not worn
  4. Exposure to sharp edges (like keys in your purse)
  5. Topical skin creams and make up you use
  6. Exposure to cleaning chemicals

Every person is different, just as every coating is different.  The chemical ingredients in each coating react in their own way to all these outside influences.  No one can predict how well a coating will wear over time, but you can learn from your own experience and reduce the wear to which your jewelry is exposed.

For those of you who want to reduce the risk of wear and discoloration to 0%, plain

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Right to Left: Red, Op Turquoise, Amber, Op Blue, Violet, Op Jade

opaque or transparent colors are the way to go.  The color in these beads is not on the surface, but in the glass used to make the bead.  If the bead is cracked in two, the color will be the same all the way through.  All beads start out as a transparent or opaque color, but some have coatings applied to the outside.

In an upcoming blog, you’ll learn more about the Czech coatings from a scientific point of view.  There are a few different processes that are used as well as an array of chemicals used.  Don’t worry – there wont be a test later 🙂  Understanding the meticulous, lengthy process each bead has to go through will give you a better appreciation of the final product.

Happy Beading!

-Anna Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rivoli, Chaton, Montee Oh MY!

Crystals are frequently used in the vast world of jewelry making. They can be stunning without carrying the hefty price tag of real gemstones. Whether set in a metal bezel, embedded in surrounding beads or hung by a bail, there are an infinite number of ways to incorporate them into a piece.

Obviously, there are crystal beads — those that contain a hole for stringing wire or thread.  But what about the crystals without holes?  How do you know what you are looking for and what shape crystal to get for a specific project? A few months ago this was the topic of one of my Facebook Live session.  There are so many sizes, shapes and cuts that the crystal varieties can be confusing and overwhelming.

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Crystal Sizes
Let’s first tackle the sizing issue.  Unlike beads, that are only measured in millimeter sizes, crystals without holes are often measured with an “SS” number.  “SS”, or Stone Size.  These SS sizes refer to the hole-less crystals often refereed to as rhinestones.  To help convert the SS sizing to millimeters I have created the chart below:

Rhinestone Crystal SS to Millimeter Conversation Chart

Size in Millimeters Stone Size Size in Millimeters Stone Size
1.5-1.7mm 4 SS 5.9-6.1mm 28 SS
2.3-2.5mm 8 SS 6.3-6.5mm 30 SS
3.0-3.2mm 12 SS 7.1-7.3mm 34 SS
3.4-3.6mm 14 SS 8.4-8.7mm 40 SS
4.2-4.4mm 18 SS 8.9-9.2mm 42 SS
4.6-4.8mm 20 SS 9.5-9.9mm 44 SS
5.3-5.4mm 24 SS 10.9-11.3mm 48SS

The Potomac Bead Company carries a variety of crystals without holes such as pointed back, rivolis and chatons, as well as flat backs.  These come in a plethora of sizes and colors and are produced by Swarovski, Preciosa and PotomacBeadss.  In some beading patterns, these shapes are referred to specifically by name and SS size.  However, other patterns will simply state a millimeter size and general shape description such as “round”. Knowing the difference between the most popular crystal shapes and the SS description (in chart above) will make it easier for you to search for your supplies.  Here are some of the basic crystal shapes we carry at The Potomac Bead Company:

  • RIVOLI: Their key characteristic is the faceting, like a tradition round brilliant diamond, that comes to a center point in both the front and back of the stone… faceting is completely balanced on both sides.   The sparkle is often enhanced by a silver coating on the back. The most common sizes of the Rivoli shape is in millimeter sizes 10-18mm.  At The Potomac Bead Company, our most commonly ordered size of Rivoli is 14mm which also, the size we most commonly use in our YouTube video designs.

Rivoli Peacock Bracelet or Necklace Tutorial      Rivoli Oasis Pendant Tutorial

  • CHATON: Like the rivoli this shape comes to a center point at the back of the stone, but features a partially flat front.  The chaton is generally smaller and measured in SS sizes ranging from ss20-ss47.  There are also smaller sizes that are commonly used for clothing an other decorations.  You will also want to note that the back of the chaton comes to a more drastic cone shaped point (a steeper angle) than the rivoli.

Northern Lights Necklace Tutorial            North Star Pendant Tutorial

  • FLAT BACK: As the name suggests, these crystals are flat on the back and often plateau on the top.  They are traditionally the smallest in size and style of crystals starting at 4SS.  These are used often in the fashion industry and are glued to the desired surface. As you  can see below with our flat back Chessboard Crystals.

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Flat Back Rhinestone Sizes

  • ROSE MONTEE: The Rose Montee is actually a setting that contains a flat back crystal.  Again, this is commonly referred to as both the size of the crystal it contains, in an SS measurement as well as a millimeter measurement for the entire piece, including the metal setting.  Often, the rose montee will have a cross section setting in which the back of the metal looks like an X with two holes for the stringing material to pass through.

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While the rivoli and the chaton shapes are round, there are also other crystal shapes in both pointed and flat back.  These include oval, navette, square and rectangular shapes.  When they are a non rounded shape, the crystals are most often measured in millimeters.

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Potomac Exclusive Crystal Shapes

-Kimrie Merrill, Allie Buchman, & Ashley Krzanowski

5 Essential Stitches in Beadweaving

Beadweaving is without a doubt an amazing type of beading and for many also the ultimate beading style. It attracts people for many reasons.  Its intricate look, countless variations in use, and wide range of results with different beads while using the same technique are some. There are also an amazing variety of beads and supplies that can be used for beadweaving. Because of the variety of materials available to use, Beadweaving yields an unlimited amount of projects for various skill levels.

#DoNotPanic

It may seem to a beading beginner’s eye that there are so many beading stitches and that it might be better to avoid this beading discipline completely and only admire it from afar, rather than to start exploring this vast realm on his or her own. On the other hand, more experienced beaders can see that there is only a limited number of different stitches which, when combined, always create something new and complex.

If you don’t feel like exploring the beadweaving web of stitches alone, we are here to help with our list of essential stitches you should know in order to be able to start beadweaving. This collection of stitches will also help you decipher and understand more intricate beadwork, so you can one day create such jewellery too!

01_dontpanicAll pieces designed and created by potomacbeads.com team member, Anna Taylor.

#Supplies

Since we are talking about beadweaving, it, of course, means that you will need thread, a needle, and beads.
Concerning the stringing material, it depends on the project which thread you will use. When you don’t have to pass through beads more than two or three times, then the best choice is Beadalon Wildfire. In other cases, it’s better to choose a beading thread. Then it’s mostly up to you which one you like. You can use One-G, KO thread, Hana thread, Nymo, Superlon, SoNo thread, or even mono-filament Illusion cord. Some of these brands offer different diameters, so you can choose a thinner or thicker thread according to your project.
You will also need a beading needle. If you are lost in sizing, then simply remember that for the often used .006” (i.e. .15 mm) Beadalon Wildfire, you will need a size 10 beading needle. For most of the other beading threads, you will need a size 12 needle which allows you to go through small beads many times. In some cases, you may opt for a size 13 needle when working with really small beads, for example Czech Charlottes.
And what kind of beads? Any kind!

02_suppliesDesigned and created by potomacbeads.com YouTube instructor, Marissa Vallejo.

#KnowYourStitch

Furthermore, there are different styles of each stitch. Almost all of them you can make in a flat, circular or tubular version. Each version is more or less for a specific situation. For example, flat stitches are often use for bracelets, while tubular stitches are used mostly for ropes to hang your focal piece from. Of course, nothing is set in stone, you can make a long necklace using flat peyote and tubular herringbone to create a bracelet.

Which stitches are the most essential for you?

  1. Ladder stitch
  2. Herringbone (Ndebele) stitch
  3. Brick stitch
  4. Peyote stitch
  5. RAW (right angle weave) stitch

When you master these five, you can then have fun with other basic stitches like netting stitch, very similar Chenille stitch, square stitch, or St. Petersburg Chain. And if these are not enough for you or you might want to try something less traditional, you can dive into more recent stitches – Diamond Weave, Hubble stitch or Albion stitch. We will introduce these to you in another blog.

One last thing before we plunge into stitching, sometimes you can work using either one needle, or two needles at the same time. I personally don’t like to handle two sharp objects at the same time, so I am a fan of just one needle. Nevertheless, I would recommend to a beginner to try both methods to find what suits her or him the best.

Ladder stitch

Ladder stitch is probably the most basic stitch of them all. I wouldn’t personally even call it a stitch. Most of the time it is a starting point of your beadwork, followed by other stitches. You can work with one or two beads at the time, creating a base which you then use for adding other rows of herringbone stitch, brick stitch, or the above-mentioned Chenille stitch. You can work with both one and two needles.

Ladder Stitches Beadweaving Instructions – working with two needles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6Vvrd4VXqc

How to Ladder Stitch with One Needle:

https://youtu.be/xftxayncB_s

Herringbone (Ndebele) stitch

This is one of my personal favourites because of its many variations in use, look and versatility. It gained its name because of its distinctive look reminding people of the actual herringbone pattern. Some people call it also Ndebele stitch.
Flat herringbone stitch is great for bracelets of many styles which you can get by combining different beads, colours, inserting extra beads between rows and more. Try first the basic version.

Flat Herringbone Stitch How To:

https://youtu.be/eqKJt5UrFxs

Flat Herringbone Stitch (tutorial):

https://youtu.be/knxqv-ab904

If you mastered the basics, you can try an upgrade:

Multiple Row Scalloped Herringbone Stitch

https://youtu.be/ZaqruUQez3Y

Herringbone stitch is also great for making ropes. The rope can be used to complement your focal piece, or it can stand on its own after adding some slight alterations to this style. You can create different designs just by changing the starting number of beads, you can begin with two, four, six, … You can make it simple or twisted, you can use different beads, you can insert beads between rows, or what have you.

How To – Tubular Herringbone Stitch:

https://youtu.be/JjFMNn6rlQw

Twisted Tubular Herringbone Stitch:

https://youtu.be/uTakIcyHL6Q

Embellished Tubular Herringbone Stitch:

https://youtu.be/e-7iBicBZxM

To cover all possibilities, herringbone stitch also has a circular version which is usually used together with a peyote bezel done on a cabochon or a crystal.

03_herringboneLook at the amazing use of circular herringbone stitch in Chammak Challo earrings by Nela Kábelová.

Herringbone stitch is also a great alternative to this peyote bezel where you mix different bead sizes.

You can find more ways to play with the herringbone stitch on our YouTube Channel, just search for “herringbone”. https://www.youtube.com/user/Potomacbeadco/search?query=herringbone

Brick stitch

Brick stitch is currently undergoing its renaissance since it is widely used in minimalistic jewellery, made mostly from Miyuki Delica beads, fine chains and geometrical or boho metal ornaments. You can check out lots of such inspiration on our Pinterest, to be more specific, on our BRICK stitch inspiration board. https://www.pinterest.com/potomacbeadco/brick-stitch-inspiration/
Nevertheless, brick stitch was always a popular stitch, especially the flat and circular variation which you can attach to various metal ornaments to give them an extra nice touch.

04_brickBrick stitch earrings with filigree components made by a member of PotomacBeads.com team, Bridgette Davidson.

How to Brick Stitch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5FcLqAfovg

Brick Stitch Filigree Earrings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=delc9EX9Avo

How to Circular Brick Stitch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmo4QZbE40k

You can find more ways to play with the brick stitch on our YouTube Channel, just search for “brick stitch”. https://www.youtube.com/user/Potomacbeadco/search?query=brick+stitch

Peyote stitch

Peyote stitch is an absolute must! It looks great by itself, it is very similar to brick stitch, but turned by 90°. Some projects even use them together – peyote for bezel and brick stitch for a bail. It can also serve as a base for the rest of a project that you build upon with other layers of your beadwork. After a peyote cabochon bezel, you can continue with already mastered herringbone, or not-yet-uncovered netting stitch. There are two basic types, the classic even count peyote and the odd count peyote which people often replace with brick stitch if possible (me included). Again, you can work with one or two needles.

Peyote Stitch Instructions – even count:

https://youtu.be/PmDeiixumjY

Odd Count Peyote Stitch Instructions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dK52o0ITr8

How to Make Hollow or Tubular Peyote Stitch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zql7bDx3RH8

Circular Peyote Stitch;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWcQSKXG0vA

Circular peyote is also great for making beaded beads as you will see in our upcoming videos. You can use seed beads, Superduo  beads, and other kinds of beads.

05_beaded beads.jpgBeaded beads made with circular peyote stitch by a member of PotomacBeads.eu, Tereza Drábková.

And what about a peyote bezel? Count me in! Peyote stitch for me is the one to reach for when I start a new project. It might be beadweaving, soutache, bead embroidery, whatever, but peyote is the thing I start with almost every time.

06_marieleMariele bracelet with bezeled Potomac Rivoli crystals using peyote stitch; made by a member of PotomacBeads.eu, Tereza Drábková.

You can find more ways to play with the peyote stitch on our YouTube Channel, just search for “peyote stitch”. https://www.youtube.com/user/Potomacbeadco/search?query=peyote+stitch

RAW (Right angle weave stitch)

Simple, yet very appealing, that is right angle weave stitch, aka RAW. Based on groupings of the same number of beads, most often four, creates a regular web of beads that can then be embellished with new layers of beads. You can work with one or two needles which, in the case of RAW, are probably used more often than just one needle. For me, RAW is the most complex stitch which offers you countless ways for enhancing your project. Very often jewellery made with RAW, or CRAW, looks so complicated (in a good way), but when you look closer, you realize that it’s just four by four beads repeating the whole time… and some embellishment.

Right Angle Weave Instructions (RAW):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSQ9wo01ccg

Cubic / Circular / Tubular Right Angle Weave (CRAW):

https://youtu.be/Vx1gtE4Qdyk

RAW stitch is also suitable for bezeling a cabochon. This technique might take some time to master, but it is worth it!

Make an 1920’s Art Deco Cup Chain Ring!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eotkzxEve4M

You can find more ways to play with the RAW stitch on our YouTube Channel, just search for “RAW” or “CRAW”. https://www.youtube.com/user/Potomacbeadco/search?query=raw

rightanglenecklaceThis CRAW necklace was designed and created by potomacbeads.com team member, Ashley Krzanowski.

#FinalTips

My final recommendation would be to persist in learning. Some master a new technique immediately, others may require more practice. If you are a visual learner, search our plentiful YouTube channel full of beadweaving and other videos to find what you need. If you are missing an essential video tutorial in our channel, let us know! There are also many beadweaving patterns on our website that can inspire you to create and learn new things. You can also join our Facebook group for Beading and Jewelry-Making where other members might answer your questions and help you as well!