Glass Beadmaking - additional materials.

Last time I talked about the glass used for beadmaking including frit, little bits of glass which can be used to decorate the surface of glass or swirled or encased within clear glass. I will come back to glass again in the future to talk about some of the different reactions and effects that can be given by combining certain colours.

This time I'm going to talk about a few of the other materials that can be added to beads to give different effects. 

Almost certainly the most common addition in beadmaking is that of pure or fine silver. This is usually in the form of silver leaf or foil. These are similar but he leaf is much thinner so you can get the reactions and effects for less cost, but it can be tricky to handle and can blow away very easily. Foil is more substantial and more likely to be used if you want to capture some silver under a transparent or clear glass possibly with some reaction as well or possibly just for the look of the metal. If you have ever looked at a lampwork bead and seen a sort of veined, stone type look that is probably created by the use of silver. The tree on this bead is made from silvered ivory stringer. That is ivory glass coated with silver leaf/foil and then heated and pulled to make a thin piece of glass, or stringer. Stringer  can be used to draw a design onto the bead,  assuming you find exactly the right place in the flame to soften the stringer without just melting it into a blob. It's one of the trickier skills to master. 

Fine silver wire can also be added to a bead. As you melt into the surface of the glass it will ball up giving little specks or dots of glass along the original line of wire. It's important to heat it sufficiently for the silver to adhere properly and to make sure there are no sharp, scratch points of silver sticking out of the bead. These beads have a line of silvered ivory stringer with silver wire melted onto it. 

Gold leaf can also be used in beadmaking but it is expensive and like silver leaf it takes a bit of care to handle.  It is something I have used but not often. 

It is also possible to fume the surface of beads by super heating gold or silver so that it vaporises on the surface. This isn't something I have tried...yet.

There are an increasing number of products on the market to add to beads in order to give a bit of shimmer or shine. Mica powder or flakes are now made by several manufacturers. The large pot on the left in the main picture is a powder giving a subtle shimmer, the little pot in front of it is a type of small flake that can give a more dramatic effect. 

To the right of the main picture you will see what looks like a golden brown rock. This is actually a type of glass called goldstone or aventurine. It has sparkly particles suspended in it and can be smashed into small pieces and pulled into stringer and added to beads. It can be tricky to keep the sparkle if you're not careful as it can burn away in the flame so an increasing variety of ready made stringers and ribbons of this glass have become available to buy. It is also possible to get sparkly green or blue aventurine 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible additions to glass beads but it does cover the most common materials used to add interest. 

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