Bead Fair Report & Lampwork Beads

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Bad news for bead fairs: Norwich is off! The George Hotel inform their latest Health & Safety guidance says all fairs now are not allowed.

Borris said on Thursday: trade shows previously given the light for October ‘are now off’. All these constant changes are ridiculous! The latest figures show just 20 in every 100,000 in Norwich have the virus, and dramatically less for the whole of Norfolk.

However, we keep a positive view after four successful fairs last month. For all confirmed shows click 2020 Bead Fairs – but fairs are going on and off like light bulbs, so check the site before travelling.

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Post Lockdown Bead Fair Report
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It’s going well! So far we’ve done four shows since the break, and all were good. Cornish Bead Fair was covered in the last newsletter, the others were:

London Highgate Bead Fair
This was very good: better than expected. Good attendance and takings – but hard work lugging the beads up and down the slope to the hall. A few regulars’ visitors, but most were new guests.

No problem social distancing, as a steady flow of visitors arrived spaced out with masks. As usual in London, our larger semi-precious were popular.

Some guests lived between London and Essex, and couldn’t decide wherever to see us in Highgate or Great Bromley. The two shows back-to-back are convenient for us as Essex is on our way back to Norwich.

Essex MrBead Bead Fair
Busier than usual in this beautiful Essex village. It’s so easy setting up in this hall, especially after Highgate – lots of space, wide doors and all flat. A pleasure to work, and it’s always sunny at this one!

Newark Gem n Bead Fair
Newark went much better than expected. Fewer visitors, but overall takings were still good because the average order was up, and less exhibitors meant less sharing of sales.

The local council made it difficult for the organizers, insisting on lots of space between stands and the hall with a hollow centre. Looked terrible, but wasn’t a problem.

We only had space to display around 2/3rd of our usual show stock. This meant ‘only the best and new’ on display, with no £1 strings. Everyone had to wear masks all the time. Causing exhibitors’ to feel dry at the end of the day – but easily refreshed in the pub afterwards!

See us this Sunday at Norwich Bead Fair – Best Western George Hotel, 11am to 4pm. Socially distanced, free face masks, and only 20 in the hall at a time.


The “lamp” in lampwork came from the oil lamps and blowpipes used in seventeenth century France and Italy.

Blowing by mouth or bellows into an oil lamp flame with a small pipe makes just enough heat to soften and form this type of glass. It’s amazing the great work the early lampworkers were able to do with so little equipment.

Hot glass-working skills originated from the Syrians around 1700 BC, the Egyptians 1450 BC, the Chinese around 550 BC, and the Romans at the turn of the first millennium.

Today lampworkers usually use an oxygen torch, but the technique to form and decorate the glass hasn’t changed much for thousands of years.

Choosing Lampwork Beads
As usual with handcrafted items, the quality is equal to the expertise of its maker. Choose beaded jewellery in a style you like, but remember that style isn’t the only thing you must consider when buying handcrafted glass beads.

Air bubbles shouldn’t be visible in the bead – although some beadmakers use of these as design elements. The bead hole should be free of nicks or burrs. Jagged edges around the hole produce a wobbly bead that can eventually cut through beading wire. Check that the shapes of beads. They’re handcrafted, so expect some variations, that’s part of their charm, but the overall look should be attractive.

How are Lampwork Beads Actually Make?
Lampworkers use a torch to melt the tips of glass rods, and then wind the molten glass around a mandrel, a narrow stainless steel rod. Later, when the bead is removed, the space occupied by the mandrel becomes the hole used to string the bead. Glass cools from the outside in and the outer layers shrink as they cool.

Bringing a bead out of the flame and leaving it in the air allows the outside of the bead to cool rapidly around its molten interior.

However, a stress point between the cool shrinking glass and the hot center, which can cause a bead to crack. To prevent cracks, the beads are soaked in a kiln to ensure all is the same temperature. Then the artist reduces the kiln’s heat over several hours to bring the beads to room temperature.


Authentic Murano glass beads are the best lampwork in the world, hand crafted from Effetre glass cane on Murano Island, Venice.

The Venetions copied the process from Syria in the 15th and 16th centuries, and continue to blow these glass beads today. This time-consuming process produces beautiful beads, far superior to any other lampwork.

In the 20th-century, the Chinese copied the process, producing beads almost as good at a fraction of the price. This has caused most Murano glass-making factories to close. If you want the real thing, make sure the beads come from Italy.

However, they are very expensive. So unless you have really up-market clients for jewellery, then genuine Murano beads are not for you.

Pictures on the web version are genuine Murano beads in shop windows on Murano Island, Venice. Note price per bead – MrBead’s China-made lampwork looks very similar, but cost about 1/10, think how easier to sell your glass bead jewellery!

See All Our Lampwork Beads


These shows are all confirmed on by the halls – but in these uncertain times, please check on our website before travelling: Bead Fairs 2020.


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To get the discount Key LAMPWORK at checkout now, as offer ends Friday 9th October 2020. Use at


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