The Advantages of Glass Beads, and Aquamarine - March's Stone

This month explains why glass beads are the jewelry maker's best friend, plus March's gemstone aquamarine. Scroll down, or click a link on the html version. Scroll down, or click one of the links below on the html version to go to a certain section.

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The Advantages of Glass Beads
Aquamarine - March's Stone
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The Advantages of Glass Beads

Why use glass beads?
What's the advantage using glass beads to make handcrafted jewelry? Glass is not only cheaper than crystal, but offers more shapes and colors, and looks almost the same.

Variety available
Glass beads come in bright colors like yellow, red, green and blue - as well as more sparkling shades like aqua, magenta and rose. Many are multicolored with abstract designs as seen on glass vases. Mix these beads with other types of gemstones when designing jewelry. A formal necklace may incorporate a few crystal beads threaded with the glass beads to give an impression of style and expense.

Different types
Most glass beads are made from matte glass, dichroic and lamp worked glass, allowing them to be cheaply and easily produced. They can be bright individually, but cost less by the strand. Old vintage glass from Europe incorporates lots of glass beads. These are usually handmade, more expensive, and hunted by collectors for customers requiring a rare piece of jewelry to be made. As other beads, glass are usually sold with holes ready to thread.

Millefiori Glass Beads
Millefiori means "a thousand flowers" in Italian, first crafted in Venice in the 15th century. Traditionally, glass rods were made like candy rock with different colors running down inside. These were then heated under the flame to cut off slices which could be pressed into mosaic patterns, producing unique high-priced beads.

However, these days a similar technique is applied to polymer clays which don't need to be reheated. Making it possible to mass produce hundreds of thousands of different designs of millefiori beads at an affordable price.

Lampwork Glass Beads
"Lampwork" is glass that is moulded in a flame. Traditionally, oil lamps and blowpipes were used to melt the glass in seventeenth-century Italy and France - although glass working skills originated by the Syrians and Egyptians around 3,500 years ago. Today, gas torches are used, but the basic techniques haven't changed much in Millenniums.

What are Swarovski crystal beads?
Swarovski beads are manmade, and have a greater brilliance than other crystal because they contain around 32% lead. Daniel Swarovski invented the idea of using crystal for jewelry, rather than just chandeliers, by patenting an electric cutting machine in Austria in 1892. Swarovski crystal allows light to reflect in a rainbow spectrum producing a fairytale magical appearance. This is achieved by coating half of the crystal face with a special metallic chemical. When the crystal is turned you see the crystal color on one side and the coating color on the other.

Difference between glass and crystal
Crystal is glass with lead added. As little as 1% lead is all that's needed for glass to be called crystal in the United States. However, defining the exact difference is difficult with a grey area in between, despite the molecular structure being different - and although crystal beads weigh more, glass can sparkle almost as much.

As you can see, glass beads are the jewelry makers' friend. They allow you to design jewelry with imagination because of the variety available - and glass also allows you to sell your designs at an affordable price.

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Aquamarine - March's Gemstone

Aquamarine is March’s stone – a blue-green gemstone from South America, meaning Water of the Sea. The stone of sailors, believing it protects them. Folklore also says that aquamarine protects against gossip, but will pick up spirits. It is an excellent stone for meditation, bringing great peace and serenity.

Aquamarine is the treasure of mermaids, and those legends have it that for aquamarine to be truly powerful, it must be immersed in sea water and bathed in sunlight. The gemstone is also supposed to have powers that reach to land too, helping married couples solve their problems and drive off evil. Aquamarine is associated with the thymus gland and is very soothing worn as a necklace. It will also help coughs, reduce fluid retention and calm the nerves. The Romans used aquamarine for stomach troubles and believed it could cure liver and throat problems. Aquamarine brings courage, aids quick intellectual response, and gives peace while protecting the aura.

Color ranges from a very light turquoise blue to a bluish green. Darker blue colors are the best with greener being less valuable. Check the clarity of the stone. Because aquamarine has a light pastel color, it is important that it be free of flaws or inclusions. Examine the cut and check light reflects evenly off the surface of the gem and that there are no scratches. Look at the stone from several different angles to be sure. Aquamarine is usually heat treated and sometimes irradiated. However, it will become paler if left out in the sun. Clean aquamarine in with warm soapy water and a soft bristle brush. As with all gemstones, protect from scratches and sharp blows.

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Sample our beads with a whopping 20% off any order from our MrBead bead store, just key in "glassbeads" at the checkout (without the commas) and click "Redeem Coupon".

No minimum order, but offer only valid until Tuesday 1st March 2011 only - so act now!

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