Different types of glass beads

Millefiori glass beads

The Venetian Millefiori glass beads are famous around the world.

Translated to mean "a thousand flowers", Millefiori glass beads are made by grouping many long pieces of glass together, heating them, then slicing small pieces from the resulting roll.

Many of these pieces are then melted onto the surface of a single glass bead. This makes the final result look as though the bead is filled with flowers.

They can also use other geometric designs, but are most famous for their floral patterns.

Lampwork glass beads

Glass beads that are made with the lampwork technique are made by hand. It takes a lot of skill to create these round, globe-like glass beads, and they can be fairly intricate.

Many European lampwork beads that are produced today have been passed down through each generation within a family. Their techniques produce highly artistic and beautiful designs.

They can have flower patterns, swirls, dots inside the bead or on the surface, and in themselves are amazing and artistic.

Pressed glass beads

Molds are used to create glass beads with this technique, particularly when a specific shape is needed.

Exterior detail is pressed into the bead, creating patterns, shapes and lines.

Blown glass beads

Glassblowing dates back to ancient empires, and blown glass beads today use the same technique.

Also known as furnace glass beads, these achieve quite attractive results.

A tube is used to shape the molten glass bead with air while it is in a liquid state. The resulting glass bead is hollow.

Crystal glass beads

Crystal glass beads contain lead, and refract light at a rate that approaches that of a diamond.

The lead content makes the bead stronger, allowing precise facets to be cut into the crystal glass bead.

Firepolished glass Beads

Often mistaken for crystal glass beads, firepolished beads have facets, but they do not have the lead content. The facets are cut and then melted until smooth to create an extremely distinct shape.

They can have metal in the middle to produce a glittering effect. The facets of these glass beads are emphasized by the metallic center, making this partnership of firepolish and metal extremely attractive.

Make sure your beads are annealed

Glass shrinks when it cools. The beads are pulled out from the flame to cool; they are left out in the open air which means that while the outside of the bead is rapidly cooling, its inside is still very hot. The uneven temperature resulting from this method will often cause a bead to crack.

Kiln annealing is a process by which both the inside and outside temperature can be closely regulated. The bead is placed in high temperature to make sure that all the glass is evenly heated. After several hours, the bead can now be put out at room temperature for cooling. But it is important to make sure that the glass beads you make or buy are all kiln annealed.

A kiln for annealing beads can be seen here

PS: Google books has some interesting books on Glass Beading and this one especially is a quick reference and some great photos of what can be achieved. Click here to read ( opens in a new window)

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