Saturday, April 2, 2011

About Czech Glass Beads

Czech Glass Beaded Earrings
By DJAjewels on Etsy

I use a lot of Czech glass beads in my jewelry designs - like the one pictured here.  So I decided to learn a bit more about these beautiful beads.

Czech glass beads are, of course, made in the Czech Republic.  Sometimes we hear these beads referred to as Bohemian glass since this area used to be called Bohemia.  During the 1800's, the Bohemian and Venice glass makers competed intensely against each other for the glass market.  Industrialization, however, during the 19th century brought about major changes in the way Bohemian glass makers produced their glass.  During this time, Venice continued to produce handmade glass beads, while the Czechs perfected the art of mass producing them using machines.  These machines pressed molten glass into heated molds producing many glass beads at once instead of one at a time.

World Wars I and II nearly caused a collapse in the Czech bead industry but it survived and was even thriving again by the 20th century.  Today the Czech Republic dominates the mass production of glass bead making, and they are known for their highly consistent quality and wide array of finishes.  Some of these finishes include:

Aurora borealis (AB):  An iridescent somewhat metallic finish with a highly reflective quality.  The beautiful shimmer of these beads is obtained by applying the finish to only some areas of the bead.

Fire-polished:  Faceted beads polished by tumbling them in a heated container.  This process adds sparkle to the facets.

Crackle:  These beads have a crackle appearance obtained by heating the glass until it cracks and then re-heating it enough to create a smooth finish on the surface.  The crackles are then visible beneath the surface.

Matte:  Non-shiny appearing beads.  These beads have a softer look than the shimmering AB beads.  Other names include Satin and Frosted finishes.

Vitrial:  Reflective glass beads with a silver colored coating applied to a portion of the bead's surface.

The many colors, finishes and shapes of Czech glass beads available today allows jewelry designers to create unique, interesting and even one of a kind designs!

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