I really enjoy using art beads in my jewelry designs. If you are familiar with my work, you’ll know that I use a wide range of different mediums: ceramics, polymer clay, pewter, silver, and lots of lamp work glass. Also, I tend to spread the love when it comes to buying lampworked glass. I buy glass beads from many different artisans. I don’t believe that all lampworked glass beads are the same. It’s not the saying, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. No, not true.
Initially, color is the driving force, for my bead buying addiction. If it’s a pretty color, and unique, I’ve gotta have it. Not all lampworkers use the same types or colors of glass.
Next, I pay attention to the size of the beads. Keep a handy bead size chart near your computer when purchasing beads online. Heather recently mentioned a good one that you can get from Rings N Things.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the really important details of the beads from the photos that you are seeing online. It’s nice, but sometimes not always common, to see several pictures of the same beads, at different angles. Pay close attention to the holes. You want to buy beads that have smooth edges around the hole of the bead. Any jagged edges can eventually cut through your beading wire or cording over time.
Check the bead holes to see if the powdery bead release has been adequately cleaned out. If you are buying beads in person and not online, bead release should not sift out of the bead when it’s tapped. When shopping online, you should be able to see the bead release if there are pictures of the bead holes.
Stay away from beads with lots of air bubbles, as they can lead to future cracking in the glass bead. Check to make sure the beads holes are nice and centered. Beads that are annealed correctly will help in the overall strength of the beads. The annealing process happens in a kiln. The bead comes out of the flame and into the kiln to regulate the cooling temperature of the bead. The temperature needs to cool slowly so that stress points and cracking does not occur later. Although it’s impossible to know by a photograph if proper annealing has taken place, you can also read through the descriptions or ask the artist if the beads have been kiln annealed. Don’t be afraid to ask the artist lots of questions about their beads.
I also make sure to read through the seller’s feedback before buying. You can see feedback on Ebay or Etsy sellers easily, and it’s a good way to see how happy buyers have been in the past. Great places to find quality lampworkers is in beading magazines, on Etsy, or beading books.
You can read more about the process of making glass beads all over the web, but I found these tips to be helpful in understanding the process.