Monday, February 18, 2008
Know how to Buy Lampwork Beads
Here is a question I recieved recently about Lampwork Beads and think it would be helpful to everyone.
Q: I bought a set of lampwork beads in my local store and after I got home two of them cracked, they almost exploded. I didn't droped them, they were laying on my desk and I heard a strange sound I turned around and saw pieces of them laying next to each other - what happened ??
A: The beads you purchased were not properly annealed. It's a special process of slowly cooling the beads after they were made.
All the glass beads are created under very high temperature, once it melts and becomes very pliable special molds are used to create shapes.
During this process all the molecules inside the glass structure start moving really fast and as soon as glass starts taking the shape it is important to cool it down very very slowly to let these molecules to calm down again and keep that shape. For examle: when hot glass is taken out of the hot temperature into cold it cracks, that's because the molecules don't have time to adjust so quickly.
The process of slow cooling is called anealing and hot glass is usually put into the kiln at a special temperature, which drops very slowly for a certain period of time ( depending on the size of the glass item). Once it's done, the molecules inside the glass are rebonded and the structure of the glass becomes more stable.
Lampwork beads have been produced for centures and become very popular nowdays. Today's Artists are really going wild and creating amazing beads, pendants and other shapes. No wonder, they've become a collector's item.
It all starts with a simple glass rod melted in a flame torch at a very high temperature, once it is soft the glass is rolled on a steel mandrell. There are so many different techniques to make it a desired shape, lots of different colors applied in layers and melted over and over.
It is a very slow process and requires a lot of skill to make a nice piece and make the glass to "behave". Very intriguing too, because you can't really see the colors untill the glass cools down. So once the bead is done, it is going into the kiln to cool down and the result can be amazing ! ... But you never know....
Buying lampwork beads, pay attention to the following:
1. It's best to buy from the person who makes the beads. They know all about the process and you can ask any questions directly. Plus, every Artist takes a great pride in their own creation, so you know you are buying geniune quality product.
2. Check for visible cracks, if you see at least one, don't buy it - the bead will fail aventually.
There are a lot of replica beads on the market today ( mass produced from the work of original artists - sometimes without their consent ). These, usually, have not been properly annealed to speed up the manufacturing process. Not only they detract from value of your jewelry piece, but can be dangerous, as they can sort of explode in peices at any time.
3. Check the bead hole. If you see a white chalky substance inside ( bead release, so the glass doesn't stick to the mandrell while hot) it means it wasn't properly cleaned. Serious artists clean their beads thoroughly before putting them up for sale.
In most cases it's an indication of a low quality mass production of beads.
These simple steps can help you to identify good quality, original lampwork beads, which certainly adds value to your design.