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.

What You Need to Know About Gold & Silver Used In Jewelry-Making

Selecting the right metal beads or findings for your jewelry is important – but also can be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the options.  Below I will highlight some practical knowledge so that you are better equipped when selecting metals.

14k gold is a metal that contains 14 out of 24 parts of real gold, making it very unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.  24k gold, which is pure gold, is very soft and not practical for most jewelry.  Therefore, 14k gold is more commonly used.  The gold alloy that results from mixing pure gold with another metal retains the color of gold, but is much better suited for the every-day wear that the pieces are exposed to, as well as being less expensive.

Although harder than pure gold, 14k gold is still soft enough that it is best to avoid storing multiple pieces together.  Keeping a cloth between pieces will prevent them from scratching each other in your jewelry box.

 

20180906_104321
The stamp on this S-Hook reads “.925”

Sterling silver is an alloy, a mixture of two metals.  92.5% of the mixture is silver and the remaining percentage is usually copper.  This creates a very soft metal that is easy to bend, wrap, and cut.  If you’re not sure if you have a sterling product or not, look for the “.925” stamp that is on most sterling silver items.  It is a good choice for people who usually have an allergic reaction to metals since it contains very little or no nickel.

The copper in this alloy means that it will tarnish easily.  To care for your sterling pieces, use a polishing cloth or wear your piece often!  The natural oils in your skin will keep the tarnish from building up.  Storing your pieces with anti-tarnish paper will also help prevent tarnish on pieces that aren’t worn often.  Tarnish is easy to clean, so sterling pieces can always be brought back to their original beauty.

20180906_104523
This bar of the toggle is stamped with “1/20 GOLD FILLED”

Gold-filled pieces have a thick layer of karat gold (not pure gold) that is applied over abase metal (a cheaper or less desirable metal).  For both silver and gold-filled items, the weight of the outer layer of metal (silver or gold) must be at least 1/20 the weight of the item to be considered “filled.”  Jewelry containing gold-filled components can be cared for in the same way as 14k gold.

Silver filled pieces have a thick layer of sterling .925 or pure silver .999 over a base metal. Silver filled items are less expensive than sterling, since there is less silver content, but more expensive than silver plated metals.  The silver top layer of silver-filled items is thick enough that it is unlikely to wear off and reveal the base metal beneath.  These can be cleaned with a polishing cloth or spray, as with sterling silver. Silver-filled findings and beads are a good option for jewelry-makers who want a higher quality product than silver plated, but don’t want the cost of sterling.

Gold-filled and sterling pieces will likely be tolerable for those with allergies.  However, if the exterior of the bead or finding is thinned to the point that the interior metals are exposed, the piece will likely become irritating.

20180906_114715
Gold & Silver Plated items

Plated (Gold, Silver, Copper, Brass, Gunmetal) items will be the least expensive and the least durable of all the metal options for jewelry-makers.  These items have a very thin layer of the exterior metal over a base metal.  This outside layer can easily be worn off by rubbing next to other beads, other items it is stored with, or skin.  There is no reliable way to predict how long a plated piece will remain looking like new.  This will depend on how long the piece is worn, how much moisture it is exposed to, and the individual wearing the item.

Once the outer layer of a plated bead is removed through wear, it cannot be restored.  These components are usually so inexpensive that it is economical to replace worn and discolored parts.  These components are also not recommended for people with allergies since the wearer’s skin will be exposed directly to the nickel content.

Plated Rounds
After scratching the surface of these plated beads, the metal beneath starts to show

 

Now that you know a little more about these metals, you can use questions like these to select the beads and findings that are best for each product:

  1. How well do I want this piece to hold up over time?  Will it bother me or the recipient of this piece if the color changes over time?
  2. How much do I want to spend on this project?
  3. Is it important for me or my customers that this piece is made of high quality components?
  4. Do I or the recipient of this piece have metal allergies?  Do I want to be able to give or sell this product to anyone, regardless of whether or not the person has a metal allergy?
  5. Does the technique I am using require me to melt (with a torch) or hammer the metal?  Will the process I am using effect the exterior of the piece and exposing anything on the inside?

There may be other factors to consider depending on your particular project and who will be wearing the finished product.  For example, although nickel is the most common cause for metal allergies,  not every person with a metal allergy is allergic to nickel.

20180906_120941
Filigree, BowTrios, SnakeTrios, and Bezel Spacers

 

Working with metal beads and findings provide a look and function that often can’t be achieved with other materials.  Dive into creating with the unique shapes, colors, and textures available only with metal.  Share your designs incorporating metal beads and findings in the Beading & Jewelry Making (Hosted by Potomac Bead Company) Facebook group!  Inspiration and advice is always welcome 🙂

-Anna Taylor

PotomacBeads.com

 

 

 

 

 

5 Popular Miyuki Blue Hues that Won’t Get You Down

In our recent blog on the 10 Most Popular Bead Colors Today, Lindsay explored the top colors PotomacBeads.com customers use.  It was no surprise that these were mostly neutral and metallic since these colors can be paired with almost anything else and give beaded jewelry the metal-look that we see in fine jewelry.  These colors were also all Czech Glass coatings.  Although I love a good Czech coating, there is a whole other world of colors standard among Japanese Seed Beads.  I set out to identify the most sought-after original Miyuki colors.

As it turns out, we love blue!  As a young art student I was told that if I wanted to make pieces that were guaranteed to sell, “make it big, or make it blue.”  Apparently that was very good advice.  Most popular among the blue hues were these:

Miyuki Blues
Each color is available in a variety of Miyuki products
20180805_233536
Worked in Peyote

There is a blue here for everyone, no matter your style.  The warmth of the Matte Metallic Patina Iris (image 1) (a blue-green variegation) pairs well with warm colors such as Golden Touch Tangerine and Bronze.  I love using this color with vintage inspired pieces such as this Garden printed resin Cabochon.

Beads that have a lot of shine pair well with crystals, pearls, rhinestones, and other brightly colored pieces.  The Duracoat Galvanized Sea Foam and Montana Blue Gold Luster (image 2) will hold their own next to these iridescent Czech Glass beetles.  Using silver accents will keep the blues feeling cool and crisp.

 

 

Any Picasso color will always add a sense of rustic nature to your work.  I like to use Picasso Montana (image 3) alongside natural materials such as leather.  Earthy browns and golds will highlight the Picasso coating while providing a warm contrast to the cool blue.

Duracoat Opaque Eucalyptus (image 4) is a charming muted blue-green color.  Because it is a solid opaque color with no additional coatings, the bead has a clean, pure color, making it ideal to use alongside more complex colors such as a Green Iris, Green Luster, or Lila Gold Luster.

If you need more color inspiration, here are some of my favorite color pairings using these blue hues.

  1. Duracoat Galvanized Sea Foam & Crystal Copper Rainbow
  2. Picasso Montana & White Dark Travertine
  3. Montana Blue Gold Luster & White Teal Luster
  4. Matte Metallic Patina Iris & Vintage Copper
  5. Duracoat Opaque Eucalyptus & Metallic Dark Bronze
20180805_233856
(1)                           (2)                           (3)                           (4)                           (5)

 

Blue hues are very popular among jewelry makers.  It could be that they remind us of the crispness of a cool ocean or the calm that a blue sky inspires.  Whatever it is about Blue, we love it and can’t seem to get enough of it.  For more information about how to use blue and other colors, read Ashley’s blog on 6 Color Theory Tips to Enhance Your Beading Designs.   These are amazing fool-proof tips to make anyone an expert.

Share photos of your creations featuring blue in the Beading & Jewelry Making Facebook group.  Share your thoughts on how to use this popular color and be inspired by the work of other talented jewelry-makers!

I look forward to seeing your latest creations on Facebook and Instagram.  I’ll keep posting and I hope you do, too!

Until next time, Happy Beading!

 

-Anna Taylor

PotomacBeads.com

PotomacBeads.eu

 

 

 

How to Build a Collection and Make Your Jewelry More Marketable

Many jewelry-makers have a desire to share their work with others by selling their pieces online, at shows, or in shops.  This is the logical next step for many beaders, but getting started is more than half the battle.  For those of you who are interested in taking this leap, developing your design personality and building collections will make you more marketable and make your displays more appealing to potential buyers.

20180730_162505
With no underlying theme, there is nothing to establish a collection.

If you are a beginner who has just started your jewelry-making journey, trying a bit of this and that by watching tutorials is the best way to find out where you are naturally gifted.  After making a few of these and a few of those, your jewelry collection starts to look a bit disorderly.  No piece relates to another.  Anyone looking at your current collection may not even be able to tell that it was all made by the same person.  To the right are some of my own pieces from the past couple years.  Although they may be pieces of which I am proud, they don’t have much in common.

Narrow your focus onto one theme or technique and explore it fully.  A theme can be anything that gives your work continuity.  Here are some examples of themes I consider when working on a collection:

  1. Technique or Process 
  2. Materials used
  3. Colors, textures, or patterns
  4. Telling a story

Consider how you can narrow your focus in one or several of these themes to create 10-20 pieces.  The photo below represents this particular set of themes:

20180730_154337
Pattern, Texture, and Technique tie these pieces together to form a collection.
  1. Technique: Bead embroidery
  2. Materials: Seed beads, metal bangle, and UltraSuede
  3. Colors/Textures/Patterns: I developed a pattern that I named “Origami” and used it for all three bangles.  I changed the colors, but drew from a narrow selection of colors for continuity within the collection.

 

20180730_210756
Technique and Materials are the main themes in this collection.

Another collection I’ve been working on is focused on the use of Czech Daggers and Rizos.  If you find a particular bead shape you love working with, explore all the ways to use it.  The collection I have developed around Daggers is shown above.  This collection exhibits my love of bead weaving and my current interest in the exploration of the drop shape, like Daggers and Rizos.

When you are ready to zero in on what will be the theme or trademark of your collection, you must first decide what will be the limiting factors.  These are the themes that will be represented in each piece, hence making the collection.  Then, acquire the materials you need in sufficient quantities to make 10-20 pieces.  Anything less than 10 pieces may not be enough to display as a collection.

20180730_154921
Add or subtract elements to a basic design for variation in a collection . Here I’ve used the same earring bezel but added a tassel to the pair on the left and swapped out the 11/0 seed beads for 2mm Czech Glass on the right pair.

Collections don’t need to stifle your creativity .  Although you are setting boundaries, explore all your options within those boundaries.  For example, take the same themes and apply them to earrings, necklaces, and bracelets.  You also don’t need to create all 10-20 pieces one after the other.  You may want to bounce back and forth between a couple collections so that you don’t get bored.

Set a goal for completing the collection.  Decide on a number of pieces that will be in your collection, or at least how many pieces you need before you can consider it ready to present to your audience, and then set a date by which you’d like to have them complete.  It could be the date of a craft fair, the launch of your new site, or just a date in the future you feel will give you enough time to complete your pieces.  Telling a friend, especially a fellow jewelry-maker or artisan, about your goal will hold you accountable.  Offer to work together with a friend on their goals, too.  Join a beading group or find a mentor.  The best advice and encouragement comes from people who are tackling the same goals as yourself or have more experience in an area where you want to grow.

Seeing your collection grow is very rewarding!  You’ll become more proficient in your area of focus, have a homogenous display that is easy for customers to shop, and give each individual piece elevated importance.  All these things translate to more sales. 🙂

As you develop your own collections, share your work on Beading & Jewelry Making (hosted by PotomacBeads.com).  I look forward to seeing what you create!

 

-Anna Taylor

PotomacBeads.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Most Popular Bead Colors Today

Learn about which colors of beads are the most popular today across a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Many have asked us, “what are the most popular bead colors?”  That questions can change with the season, with the specific type of bead, and over time, but each day at the Potomac Bead Company our number one task and top priority is to fulfill orders and ship them out to our customers as soon as possible.

It is always fun to see the color combinations that our customers choose as we are picking orders. Some stick to earth tones, others to pastels, and some order a mixture of all different shades.  Regardless of the wide array of colors of beads we ship out each day, there are always a few popular bead colors in 2018 that we see as a theme throughout orders.

I thought it would be fun to highlight for you our top 10 most sold colors (across all bead shapes) for you.  Unsurprisingly, these popular colors are almost ALL metallics and are great accents to any color palette. If you’re stumped when choosing colors and having trouble finding a good accent color to go with your palette, try out one of these.  You can’t go wrong with having any of these colors in your personal bead stash! The good news is, they are available in almost any bead shape you’d like, from seed beads, to czech glass beads and more!

Most Popular Bead Color #1 – Black & Matte Black/Jet/Jet Hematite

As you know, black goes WITH everything and is AVAILABLE in almost everything!  It’s no surprise that this color takes the number one spot on our list. Colors-Jet-2

Most Popular Bead Color #2 – Crystal Labrador Full
This beautiful silver color bead flies off the shelves.  As one of the most pure silver colors on the market, it adds a beautiful sparkle to any design.1-MiyukiCrystalLabradorFull2

Most Popular Bead Color #3 – Aztec Gold
Aztec Gold has always been my personal favorite.  It’s a trendy, subtle gold, not too yellow or bright and makes beautiful jewelry.Colors-AztecGold-2

Most Popular Bead Color #4 – Aluminum Silver
If you want a silver shade but don’t want the high shine of the crystal labrador full, aluminum silver should be your go-to color.
Colors-AluminumSilver-2

Most Popular Bead Color #5 – Bronze
Bronze is another favorite of mine.  The deep chocolate brown is beautiful and especially popular during the fall.
Colors-Bronze-2

Most Popular Bead Color #6 – Ancient Gold/Metallic Mix
This color/mix on our list is possibly the most versatile.  Ancient Gold contains various soft metallic shades that all blend well together.  There are several Czech coatings that are a very similar blended coating, including Ancient Gold, Metallic Mix, & Purple Iris Gold.
Colors-AncientGold-2

Most Popular Bead Color #7 – Copper/Vintage Copper
The copper and vintage copper colors are gorgeous rust-like colors that are very on-trend right now.
Colors-VintageCopper-2

Most Popular Bead Color #8 – Jet AB (Full, Matte)
This high-shine bead has a handful of shades.. From blue to green to yellow and sometimes a little bit if purple.  

Colors-JetAB-2

Most Popular Bead Color #9 – Crystal Vitrail
You can spot so many different colors in our crystal vitrail beads.  You’ll notice pink, purple, yellow, gold, and more!Colors-CrystalVitrail-2

Most Popular Bead Color #10 – Lava Red
Last but certainly not least is this lovely color.  If you’re looking for a red shade but don’t want the bright fire-engine look of an opaque red, try out the lava red.Colors-LavaRed-2

Well there you have our top 10 most popular bead colors and not surprisingly, these colors tend to sell quickly!  We arrived at these colors by comparing 30 of the most popular styles of beads, and ranking the colors of each across a 1-year period.  Note, that this list does NOT include crystal colors, because crystals tend to have very different types of colors.  The popularity for those also tends to be more in favor of transparent and AB (aurora borealis) styles.  Look for an upcoming blog focused specifically on crystals :).

Do you ever struggle picking colors?  This list of most popular bead colors can give you a great place to start when making your decisions about colors and colorways.  Best of all, most colors on this top 10 list will match nearly anything you add to it!

Be sure double check each item’s detail page on our website to make sure the color you want is currently in stock. If it’s not, stay tuned, more will be back in stock soon! Lastly, if you’re in need of some inspiration or what to see how some of these colors are used in designs, check out our extensive list of patterns and tutorials.

What are your favorite colors?  Let us know in the comments and happy beading!

-Lindsay
PotomacBeads.com
PotomacBeads.eu

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.

IMG9509301

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

1905-2018-013146766024651690

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

IMG9527731

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

europe_slider_-_leafduo_20

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.

IMG9527761

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