Saturday, September 3, 2011

Learning through Shopping--Types of Beads

As a person who always did my shopping for beads at local stores, I tended to go in, pick out whatever I liked the looks of, make my purchase, and be happy, just with the look and feel of the beads.  I might look over colors, trying to find just the right shade I liked, or pick out a shape I thought would be comfortable for a bracelet.  I would consider what beads would coordinate with other beads in a creation. 

Then customers started asking me what certain minerals certain beads where made of, and asked me to look for certain types of materials--such as natural crystals as opposed to glass crystals. (See "Crystals Delight" entry.) At that point, I had to do some research by getting books from my library, searching online, and visiting with my local bead store staff to learn more.

Most recently, my learning about beads has occurred in the most innocent of ways--I was in a situation where I couldn't go out to shop and decided to order some beads online.   You've been hearing me talk about this over my last several blog entries, but I have to share... 
...a few things I learned along the way.

Glass Crystal:

These are very popular beads.   (Think Swarovski, for example.)   I have used them at times, though  somewhat sparingly, generally preferring the look of ceramic, stone, blown glass, wood, or other types of beads. I tend to use them as accent beads rather than focal points in my jewelry.   

I know from my local bead shops that Chinese glass crystals are gaining in popularity.  Online shopping brought me in touch with Czech glass crystals
They can be less expensive than some of the well-known glass crystal providers, but in my experience (and in talking to and reading what others have to say), they can be of good quality and add fine detail to many pieces.   

I found them online for sale in many, many colors and shapes.   
They are typically more rounded (as opposed to bicone beads which are pointed in the middle of the bead), making them much more comfortable for bracelets.  The facets give them a lot of shine and yet they don't look "fake" or "plastic" as some beads do.   (It's a shame to buy glass crystals and have them mistaken for plastic beads!)

Many of the beads I purchased were "Czech Fire Polish Glass Crystal beads." I took a close look at the photos when ordering these.  Some had a richer, higher-quality look to them than others. I trusted my instincts from the photos and was not disappointed.  

When purchasing online, the seller would give the type of bead,  the size in millimeters, the number of beads or length of the strand, and the color.  It took my first order to realize that I needed to have a better concept of what a 4mm bead would be like (quite small), when what I might really want was more like an 8-10mm bead.  It seems like such a "beginner's" mistake, but not one I had to deal with when the beads were right in front of me in the shops!  So no harm done, I'm putting all the beads to use, and now I've learned to estimate the size and to get out a ruler if I'm unsure. 

Czeck Druk: 

Another type of bead I learned about was Czech Druk beads.   They are smooth round beads of pressed glass.   I have shopped for weeks on end to find a shade of red I liked, and  finally found it here.  It's called "Siam."   (These are 4 mm, so at the top of my next order wish-list are Druk beads, color Siam, size 8-10mm!) 

Of course I also bought mineral/stone beads, which I've always loved and used, but seldom bothered to learn the names of.   I'm trying to change that habit by naming them in my posts and on my jewelry labels.  (Like a new resolution I'm already breaking, I won't list all the minerals and colors in this photo, as there are many, especially in the square collection.)   

My last post talked about semi-precious fan bead sets.  These are also minerals, just sliced into multiple lengths (known as "daggers.")   I won't recap that, just include a photo and link back to that entry if you missed it.  

So, lots of beads and lots of learning has been taking place during my shopping trips and online ordering of late.  (See, shopping isn't just for spending money; it can be educational too!)   No matter how I learn, I enjoy a new discovery when it comes to jewelry-making!  

Enjoy!   --Sharyl 

P.S. This is the last in the series regarding the "online bead buying experiment."   Fresh new batch of topics coming up next week!   

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