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

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Beading and biking in Amsterdam

For the first week of August, I left the warehouse for the first time since our launch in March for a few days. I had a great reason – a beading event in Amsterdam held by Erika Sándor to celebrate International Beading Week.

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Goodie bags ready for IBW participants

For five years already, the first week of August is for many beaders marked as the International Beading Week (IBW) organized by the Beadworkers Guild from United Kingdom.

Beadworkers Guild is a registered charity dedicated to supporting and promoting the art of beadweaving and is open to bead workers and bead artists everywhere. They publish their own magazine, back in the day they were also organizing the “national beading week” which got so popular, it turned into International Beading week with ambassadors across the whole world, with most of them based in Europe.

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Me and Erika getting ready for the event!

What the Guild says about the event: “The original ethos of our idea was (and still is) to educate and encourage the wider public to participate in beading, to support bead traders so we could continue to have an excellent source of supplies and to have some fun sharing our passion with others in our local area.”

One of this year’s ambassadors was Erika Sándor, a very talented jewellery designer educated in all the aspects of this art, and also my dear friend who lives in Amsterdam. She prepared a special event for IBW which was a beading class for (not only) Dutch beaders where everyone could make her Star Anise pendant. The pattern can be downloaded for free from Erika’s and Beadworkers Guild website, so everyone could join us in celebration of beading anywhere and anytime. Erika also invited me and Potomac Beads Europe as an honoured guest, and I couldn’t say no, of course!

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Preparing my humble jewellery display at the event location

For the beaders joining us on this event, I prepared a special package with our pattern and a goodie bag full of our Potomac Exclusives like StormDuo, AVA beads, RounDuo, RounTrio, Faceted RounTrio, DiscDuo, IrisDuo and also brand new EVA beads and RoundDuo Mini which we will launch soon.

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A little bit of introduction for the beginning

It is always amazing to meet fellow beaders in person, to look at each other’s finished jewellery while chatting about the craft, beads and experience. I joined other ladies and made my own Star Anise pendant. It was rather refreshing to step away from my own original designing and let myself be guided by someone else’s pattern. It is a great way to learn something new while making something beautiful. And I am still considering making a pair of statement earring to match the pendant as well :))

The event was a great success, the only issue was, it was too short! Time flies by when you are having fun! We decided though to stay for a few days in Amsterdam, enjoy some time out in the sun while sightseeing and biking in and around the city.

Since we visited Erika last year, we were already recognizing some places, returning to the favourite ones and visiting new ones as well. I can only recommend visiting local markets which are changing all the time. One day offering great food, the other turning into an excellent and inspiring flea market where my only wish was for my luggage to be bigger!

To deserve all the great food and local beer, we needed to do some proper biking, so Erika and her husband took us for a trip outside of Amsterdam to see the sea 🙂 More than the sea I enjoyed the local way of life on small islands where sheep and cows can roam free thanks to the natural barriers made of canals, and where you can find amazing ice cream for 1 € in an old cowshed! I am telling you, stroopwafel flavoured ice cream is a thing you want to have in your life!

We decided to spent our last day by visiting museums which Amsterdam has plenty of. Little did we know that you need to preorder tickets to Van Gogh Museum days in advance. So we took a picture of the building at least and moved over to Micropia, an exhibition of microbes, bacterias, algae and other little things 🙂 I am originally a biologist, my husband is one too, so you can understand our motivation!

One would also think that going to North Sea would mean that you escape the heat waves which were going on in the Czech Republic, but we were greatly mistaken. That meant we spent the rest of the day in Amsterdam zoo which was right next door. And it was, a bit surprisingly, a great idea! I had so much fun there 🙂

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As a former ornithologist, I couldn’t leave without measuring my wingspan!

Although catching up with things after this trip was very demanding for me, we enjoyed a few days away. I hope you have enjoyed this little tour through Amsterdam too! I got a lot of inspiration for the future of Potomac Beads Europe, both the website and the warehouse, and also possible future events we might not only attend, but even hold! Stay tuned 😉

-Tereza
Potomac Beads Europe

 

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.

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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:

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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.

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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

Untitled-1
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

20180518_132218
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.

20180511_115958

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.

20180511_120129

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.

20180511_120057

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.

20180511_123610

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!

 

 

The Ultimate Delica Bezel Directory

Learning to Bezel

I really enjoyed learning to bezel.  The evening I learned, I was attending a monthly Wine and Bead night at the Potomac Bead Company, where we learned to make the Queen Victoria Earrings.

bezel

The evening ended up taking longer than expected because all of the rookies in attendance were brand new beaders or not beaders at all. But, it was was a fun time nonetheless.  After I left that evening, I wanted to bezel more on my own and purchased some black 10 mm Potomac Crystal Rivolis and some Miyuki 15/0 seed beads.  I messed around with the stitch and really liked using a peyote stitch for the bezel, which is different from the stitch in the Queen Victoria Earrings mentioned above.  My finished product was a cute pair of black and gold studs earrings that I love!

bezel2Arriving at this finished product was not without its frustrations.  I ended up wasting lots of thread and not just a few feet.  I’m talking YARDS.  I couldn’t quite get the starting number of beads right and wound up ripping out my work and restarting four times or more.  I also ended up breaking a few beads from too many passes with the thread and needle, causing me to start over yet again.  After I moved on from that project and went on to others I made sure to keep note of all the “starting numbers” of beads and type of beads to use for each size item I was bezeling, hoping to avoid starting and restarting over and over again. Surely, I’m not the only one who has started bezels, and restarted them trying to get the size right and so I wanted to share my bezel directory with you!

Best Bead For Bezeling

After working with Miyuki 11/0 and Miyuki 15/0 seed beads (link), Toho 11/0 and Toho 15/0 seed beads and Miyuki 11/0 Delicas, I found that the delicas were my favorite to work with when starting a bezel and I’ve decided to focus this directory on using Miyuki Delica 11/0 seed beads to start.

 Here is why they are my favorite:

  • Size Consistency – They are incredibly consistent in size which makes the belowbezel3 bezel directory more reliable.
  • Shape – Their cylindrical shape with straight sides allows for a consistent, neat, and tight-fitting bezel to start.
  • Large Hole – A larger hole will allow for more passes through a bead with the thread and needle.

I’m recommending starting a bezel with delicas but after the first few rows are complete and you want to start decreasing the beads around what you are bezeling, you can move on to using smaller beads such as Miyuki 15/0 seed beads and even Czech 15/0 Charlottes depending on how small you want to go.

bezel4

The Beaded Bezel Directory

And finally, here is the bezel directory I want to share with you.  You may find that there are some sizes and dimensions of items you are making a beaded bezel for that are not included here.  You can most likely figure out, based on the numbers below and the size of what you are bezeling, on how many beads to start with.  If you do have some information to add, please share your secrets with us and we’ll expand this directory!

BEZEL DIRECTORY USING 11/0 Miyuki Delica Beads
Shape Dimensions # of Delicas to Start
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round

10mm 26 Delicas
12mm 32 Delicas
13 mm 34 Delicas
14mm 36 Delicas
16 mm 42 Delicas
17 mm 44 Delicas
18 mm 46 Delicas
23 mm 56 Delicas
25 mm 62 Delicas
27 mm 68 Delicas
30 mm 76 Delicas
 

 

 

Oval

13 mm x 18 mm 40 Delicas
18 mm x 25 mm 56 Delicas
20 mm x 30 mm 66 Delicas
30 mm x 40 mm 88 Delicas
 

Square

14 mm 42 Delicas
18 mm 52 Delicas
 

Drop

13 mm x 18 mm 40 Delicas
18 mm x 25 mm 56 Delicas

If you’re looking for something to bezel, check out Potomac Bead Company’s awesome selection of cabachons including Par Puca Cabachons, Cameo Cabachons, Czech Pearl Cabachons, Lunasoft Cabachons, Druzy Cabachons, Mood Cabachons, and more.

In addition, check out Potomac Bead’s exclusive crystal products including rivolis, squares, drops and more!

-Lindsay Seifarth