Discover what are beads made of and how they are made. They are composed of all different types of materials ranging from plastic to glass.
Beads are made of many different types of material. In ancient history, they were made using a variety of natural components e.g. bone, wood, seed etc. As time progressed, humans developed techniques to create synthetic materials and new ways to process natural ones.
I have already listed the materials that natural beads are made of so, in this post, I’ll discuss all the other components that I haven’t talked about before.
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Glass beads are some of the most popular on the market. There are several different shapes, sizes and colors.
Most are pressed glass — made by pouring a molten batch of colored glass into molds to form the desired shape.
Fire-polished beads derive their name from a two-part process. The beads are created by pouring glass into round molds and then, they are faceted using a grinding wheel. Next, the shaped beads are placed on a tray and briefly reheated to melt the surface. This polishes any minor irregularities caused by the grinding wheel.
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There are also lampwork beads which are made by melting narrow rods of glass by hand over an open flame. The glass is wrapped around a thin metal rod called a mandrel and that forms the bead hole.
In beading, crystal beads usually refer to leaded glass beads. Adding lead to to glass makes the beads sparkle more. The higher the lead content, the better the quality.
Crystal beads come in all shapes and sizes. Swarovski is the most popular manufacturer of these.
Many plastic beads are made using a technique similar to the one used to create their glass counterparts. Colored liquid plastic is poured into molds and left to harden.
These beads are cheap and cheerful and are great for kids to work with.
Paper beads are literally made using paper.
It’s a craft that dates back to the Victorian age. Young ladies would gather socially and roll scraps of wallpaper onto knitting needles. Then, they would polish them with beeswax, string them onto long pieces of yarn and hang them as door curtains.
Making paper beads is a great way to recycle junk mail and scrap paper. Of course, you always have the option to go out and purchase paper just for a paper bead-making session.
Metal beads are available in an extensive array of shapes and sizes. Many have beautiful patterns and textures on their surfaces.
They are made from alloys (mixtures of various elements) e.g. brass. Some are plated which simply means they are coated with a thin layer of metal.
The word “ceramics” refers to items made of clay that are then fired in a kiln. Ceramic beads are durable and the styles can be quite sophisticated.
Porcelain clay is a ceramic material comprised of quartz, clay, feldspar and kaolin — a silicate material produced by the weathering of certain rocks.
Porcelain is made by firing the clay at very high temperatures (~1200°C or 2600°F). The silicate in the clay turns to glass and gives the porcelain its characteristic strength and translucence.
Typically, porcelain beads have a smooth surface and a high level of detail.
Polymer clay beads are made of man-made clay that is soft and pliable. When heated or baked, they become hard permanently.
This clay is available at many craft stores in a variety of colors.
Here’s a simple polymer clay necklace tutorial.
Enamel beads are made by applying an opaque or semi-transparent glassy substance onto metal, glass or ceramic beads. The enamel is heated and once it coats the beads, acts as a protective coating and decorative finish.
Some enamel applications are quite detailed and contain many colors. These became very popular in the 1960’s.
Learning what are beads made of can be quite fascinating. It’s amazing to think of the sheer number of options you have for jewelry-making.
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