The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

Warren Feld
19 min readJun 17, 2020

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE. There are 18 video modules including handouts, which this is one of.

Not All Beads Are Alike

Not all beads are alike. When you see them in a store or a catalog or online, they might look the same in appearance. But appearances are deceiving. There are underlying quality differences which can be very wide indeed. Such differences will have a big impact, sometimes negative, on the success of your pieces.

Beads are made in many countries around the world, but few are made in the United States. Making beads is a difficult task. Bead-making is often done by workers who are exploited in some way, and this is a reality of the craft. Knowing what country the beads were manufactured in tells you a lot about their quality and usefulness. In fact, country-of-origin is your best indicator of quality.

[NOTE: Increased Globalization these days tends to blur geographical boundaries. What’s labeled “Made in Germany” might actually be manufactured in Pakistan. Austrian Crystal and Murano Glass might originate in China. Bali Silver might begin its creation in India or Turkey. Yet we still associate our understanding of “quality” by the country label stamped on the beads packaging, where we assume, that the primary “country” on the label of the product maintains its sense of quality standards, no matter where the product has actually been produced. So crystal labeled “Made in Austria”, which may have actually been manufactured in China, would have the higher qualities associated with Austria; whereas, crystal labeled “Made in China” and manufactured in China would have the lower qualities associated with China.

The journey of a glass bead might transverse 5 or 6 countries before it ended up on the retail shelf. One country might make a core bead. It may go to another country to do some shaping. Still another country to do some finishing. Yet another country for some coloration. And yet one more country to apply a special coloration effect. And, yes, still yet another country to get packaged up as retail-ready.]

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Warren Feld

Beading and jewelry making have been wonderful adventures, from custom work, production work, and teaching. *Design is about the ability to make smart choices.