It’s Just Stringing a Bunch of Beads Isn’t It?…..

….Of jewellery made with hand-crafted glass beads, this comment is made to the artisans of the lampwork community on a regular basis.  But as we know, lampworked art glass bespoke or one-of-a-kind (OOAK) items of jewellery are a gorgeous treasure to own and are really not JUST a bunch of beads threaded on a string!  In this post, I would like to take you through the design process.

In a previous post, I gave a brief account of how a hand-crafted bead  comes into being.  So now I would like to take things a little further. 

Whether for a commissioned piece or a piece for a collection, the design process is similar.  For commissioned pieces, really good communication and sketching skills are required, to translate what your client sees in their imagination into a reality!

I undertook a commission recently for a client who wanted an item of jewellery for each of his daughters.  He provided me with a short paragraph about each young lady, including a bit about what their interests are and instructed me to come up with some designs.  So work starts on a piece of jewellery way before the stringing part!


 Research is undertaken! 

A design sketch is made for each piece, which is a long way from what will actually be made!  Not only do you decide what colour it’s going to be but also things like shape of each individual bead, how many beads, inclusion of spacers, size of finished piece, special effects such as those shown in some images below – fire opal finish, dragon scale finish, encased flowers etc.

For instance, one of the pieces my inspiration was a Japanese antique jade carp surrounded by bubbles.

This gorgeous necklace with antique aqua beads encrusted with sparkling drops of fine silver and etched spacers was the final result.  My client was really happy with the commissions.

Then there are the technical issues, bead sizing, especially if they are complicated in design, finish, what is it to be strung on and what are the final touches going to be!

In the case of all of my ‘Arabian’ collection pieces,  each of the beads that make up the necklaces were individually designed to portray the effects I wanted to elicit – that was 89 individually designed beads that needed to compliment each other for shape, colour, pattern design/technique and size!  When it came to the string part, it meant thinking very carefully about the balance because the beads are all different and although placement may appear random they have been carefully placed to achieve that important balance necessary for comfort and aesthetics!  Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself……


As important as the colour and pattern of each bead, technique used, whether silver or other types of glass, murrini or millefiore is added, is the final finish.  In the case of the Arabian collection, many of the beads are etched or partly etched.  This is where the shiny surface of glass is slightly eroded to give a smooth silky finish that is very different to the highly polished shine of glass!

Quality control is very important.  Each bead must be carefully examined after they have been annealed and cleaned.  There must be no sharp edges, hairline cracks or other imperfections that would render the piece liable to breaking.  Obviously glass can break but the process used to produce the beads means they are very strong and durable – if you dropped them on concrete, they would most likely survive intact …….. but I don’t advise you do this!

Once all of that is done, then stringing can commence!  When stringing, all of the components must be assembled and laid out in the sequence to be strung.  I tend to make a ‘test run’ piece, stringing  the beads on nylon thread first, to check for balance, harmony between beads, placement of spacers, size of necklace in relationship to the design of the beads and the type of clasp that will look best.  This can take a fair amount of time and I always end up restringing quite a few times before I am happy with the result – which means that the outline of ideas that begin in your head evolve into the final piece of jewellery!

So, when you wear your hand-crafted OOAK designer piece of art glass jewellery, you know that much time, thought and the utmost care has been taken to produce it!  Enjoy!


2 comments on “It’s Just Stringing a Bunch of Beads Isn’t It?…..

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