Lampwork Bead Artists Sell Quality Beads

October 10, 2014

The ancient art of lampworking was widely used in Italy in the 1300s. From there it spread to the rest of Europe and eventually further afield to the Americas and the rest of the world. Today there are lampwork bead artists found in most countries in the world.

The beads produced by these lampworkers are often quite unique. Each item is crafted individually using different color combinations, techniques and styles. They take great pride in their work and are usually prepared to give guarantees of quality to buyers. Some have developed a particular, well recognizable style from many years of experimenting with making beads.

The most commonly used types of glass are soda-lime and borosilicate. The first is soft and comes in many colors. Borosilicate is hard, more expensive and fewer colors are available. It also needs a higher temperature requiring use of larger torches and oxygen instead of air. However, it is less likely to crack.

Unlike glass blowers who require a furnace, these artisans use torches. A torch may be attached to a bench for a more stationary flame whilst a hand held one offers heat that can be maneuvered. A wire called a mandrel is used and it is coated with a substance that prevents the glass from sticking to it. A pick made of tungsten allows holes to be bored in beads and a reamer made of graphite is used to enlarge them. A kiln is necessary for annealing the beads.

A glass rod is gently introduced to a flame or it cracks from thermal shock. As it melts it is wound round the mandrel which has also been heated. Shaping of a bead is achieved with the use of the heat, gravity and tools like graphite paddles.

Decorating and embellishing of the beads comes next with many different materials and techniques used for this. Gold, silver and other metals may be applied in forms such as metal leaf, mesh or wire. A technique called striking is used to apply colors with a silver base. The surface may have fibers of glass melted onto it.

There are also techniques used for working with the beads once they have cooled. They may be etched with acid for a matte finish, sandblasted, faceted with grinders and polished or even painted. These techniques offer a whole range of creative possibilities. Annealing is a process of cooling down glass at the correct temperature. If it is cooled down too slowly, glass has stress and it can crack immediately, after a month or even after a few years. Mass produced glass objects may not be subjected to proper annealing and some are not annealed at all.

The beads produced by these artisan lampworkers are quality items that have been cleaned, annealed and finished off properly, unlike many mass produced products. These products often still have remnants of releasing agents producing a hazardous dust and the holes are roughly finished. The beads made by an artist are more costly but they are well worth the extra price and the jewelry made from these beads is worth more.

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