Pearls bring to mind different images of elegance, like a bride on her wedding day or a classic Hollywood starlet. There’s a reason why these gems are a symbol of timeless beauty—they’ve been enchanting us for thousands of years. From ancient China to the Egyptians and Imperial Romans, pearls are one of the longest valued gems. Working with pearls in jewelry involves a number of things, such as knowing how to care for them, understanding color and being able to distinguish quality. Today, we’ll focus on the origins of the pearl.
How Pearls are Made
What exactly is a pearl? Well, first, there are freshwater pearls and saltwater pearls. Freshwater pearls are formed inside mussels and other mollusks found in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. Most pearls you buy and the ones used in jewelry are tended by pearl farmers who use a cultivation process of placing mantle tissue (known as an irritant) inside the mollusk. The mollusk then begins to grow layers of nacre around it, forming the pearl over time. Freshwater pearls are more durable and most common in the jewelry market, which could be due to the fact that a mussel can produce up to 40 pearls. A saltwater pearl is produced in a similar way, except it occurs in tropical oceans and lagoons. These types of cultured pearls tend to be more round than their freshwater cousins because saltwater mollusks are rounded inside. The exception to this is a keishi pearl (free-form pearl). A Tahitian pearl is an example of a saltwater pearl.
Treat your pearls like little treasures because that’s essentially what they are! Each one begins as a tiny speck that slowly grows, patiently perfecting itself inside the safe haven of a mollusk.
Stay tuned for more exciting facts about pearls coming soon, like how freshwater pearls get their color! Check out our website to learn more about beading with pearls today!
Creative juices seem to flow a little easier with help from music. Heck, I’m plugged in to some my favorite tunes while I write this! Jewelry designing, or any form of art for that matter, is all about creativity. To get the fingers flowing at just the right angle, or to place the right beads into the perfect position, is all about one’s mindset.
Our jewelry designer Teri McCamish turns out beautiful, breathtaking ideas—and she admits that there are certain songs that get her into the jewelry groove. Teri shared her beading playlist with us, which is an eclectic array of jazz and blues. For Teri, these styles of music help stimulate the creativity but keep her mind mellow. The funky melodies are enough to keep her hands swinging to the stereo without moving too fast or too slow. Our idea Twist and Sprout is a wonderful example of how influential music can be to an artist. You can tell by the explosive colors, tiny twists, and branches that curl every which way that Teri’s music player was on shuffle when she created this piece!
If you’ve witnessed the amazing shimmer from an AB finish bead, then you understand why it’s worthy of being named after the Aurora Borealis. This extra sparkly finish on your favorite crystals is the brainchild of Swarovski and Christian Dior.
AB, short for Aurora Borealis, is a bead treatment inspired by the Northern Lights. Invented in 1956 by Swarovski in partnership with Christian Dior, this treatment is applied to glass beads and creates a rainbow—or iridescent—effect. The creation of AB finish was one of the first times that Swarovski partnered with a renowned designer on a product development. Swarovski began experimenting with the manufacturing processes by coating crystals with extremely thin layers of metal and vaporizing it in a vacuum. As a result, Swarovski was able to increase the sparkling power of the crystal! This finish makes any color come alive, but it’s absolutely stunning when applied to clear Swarovski crystal beads.
Following the AB finish, Swarovski stepped things up a notch and introduced the AB 2x finish. This brilliant touch gives beads a bold sparkle that reflects beautiful rainbow coloring when it catches the light just right. You can find many of your favorite Swarovski crystals in AB 2x finish. The color Jet in AB 2x finish looks especially wild!
The next time you’re bead shopping, you’ll know that beads with an AB finish are sure to make an eye-catching accent in your designs.
Every woman wants to shine, and every woman loves shoes. Strassing combines these two loves into the perfect pair of pumps. The term strass is traditionally a synonym for rhinestone, named after Georg Friedrich Strass who invented the flint glass as an alternative to gemstones. This technique is simply put—not simply achieved—as the act of covering your shoes in Swarovski flatbacks. Some designers stick with just the heel while others go all out in a crystal-encrusted shoe surface.
The trend of dialing up the dazzle on expensive shoes exploded after designer Christian Louboutin fashioned a pair of fierce high heels for Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City 2, a fabulous off-white pair covered in glistening gold sprinkle. If you’re willing to shell out more than one pretty penny you can get the exact same shoe, or roll up your sleeves for an all-night DIY project at home!
Shimmer like a movie star and re-vamp some old favorites at the same time by flatbacking an old pair of high heels. If you have an idea of which shade of Swarovski crystal you’d like to use but are having trouble finding the right color shoe to match, take your shoes in to get dyed. This may be more difficult or easy depending on the type of material your shoe is made from. Next, gather an assortment of flatbacks in various sizes and have a placement pattern in mind. You can use loose Swarovski flatbacks and glue then with an adhesive like E6000, or work with Swarovski hotfix flatbacks that come with heat-activating glue on the back of the stone. Hotfix flatbacks are not recommended for leather, water-resistant material or other porous surfaces, and both Hotfix and no Hotfix flatbacks should be tested on the material with one or two stones before a full application. This will ensure the adhesive you use will work.
After all of the prepping it’s just a matter of patience to get the final result. Strass may be a good way to relieve stress by keeping your hands and mind busy! You can try recreating our A Brilliant Night shoes with our FREE instructions and putting your own twist on it with different colors!
Jewelry links are an excellent way to create a multi-stranded design or to make a dangling focal for an elaborate piece. There are so many ways to use links it often becomes overwhelming and beginning beaders shy away from exploring new options. The simplest way to use a link is to create two separate strands and then connect them to a link with jump rings. This will add length to your looks and create more dimension! Here are few more ways you can add links to your next idea:
Set off a focal point in a necklace
Create an asymmetric look with one side single strand and the other side multi-strand
Embellish with flatbacks to create a unique pendant
Add a dangling charm to an earring idea
Discover what fun new creations you come up with when you work links into your designs. Check out some free jewelry ideas below to incorporate links for some inspiration!
We’ve just launched some cool new anodized aluminum sheets from Lilypilly that are a great way to create unique jewelry components. You may be wondering how anodized aluminum is made. Well, we’re here to explain. Much like anodized niobium, the process of anodized aluminum increases the natural layer of oxide on the material by soaking it in a solvent bath, manipulating the electrodes with an electric current in order to achieve a specific color. This makes the aluminum much harder than natural aluminum and also increases resistance to corrosion.
First, wrought allows are cleaned in either a hot soak cleaner or a solvent bath. Then, a direct current is passed through the electrolytic solution and the aluminum piece is used as the anode, or positive electrode, to complete the current. This current releases hydrogen at the negative electrode and oxygen at the surface of the aluminum anode, creating a buildup of aluminum oxide.
The electric current running through can be manipulated to change the final color and the layer thickness, but this all depends on the chemical makeup of the solvent bath.
You can browse our selection of anodized aluminum sheets that are finished with beautiful colors and patterns. You can even make cute components like this heart clasp from our Mama’s Boy bracelet, a free idea from the Learning Center.
Want to create a dazzling display of seed beads around your favorite cabochon for a remarkable hand-made bezel? This simple two-bead backstitch is perfect for beginners. We’ll show you how to create a border around a large pendant, and then how to embellish it with floral accents. Just choose your favorite cabochon or pendant to work with and thread in a complementing color. We are using red in order for you to better see it. The first thing you will need to do is glue your component to one piece of Lacy’s Stiff Stuff using Gem-Tac permanent adhesive. Allow the adhesive to dry completely.
Cut a long piece of thread for your project. A good rule of thumb when making seed bead designs is to use no longer than an arm’s length. Thread one beading needle and tie a knot at the end to secure. Condition the thread with beeswax or Thread Heaven.
Thread two seed beads onto the needle and line them up along the edge of the cabochon. Push the needle down through the Stiff Stuff and pull it through.
Come back up through the Stiff Stuff, closest to the first bead.
Bring the needle back through both seed beads.
Thread two new seed beads onto the needle.
Push the needle down through the Stiff Stuff, closest to the last bead.
Count three beads back from the last bead, and bring the needle up between this third bead and the first bead. Be sure not to pierce the needle through the thread as this will damage the design.
Pass the needle through the first three beads.
Continue this process for the remainder of your piece. You can create multiple borders along the edge using this same technique.When you’re finished, trim the excess Stiff Stuff.
We added flower embellishments to hide the large stringing hole in our pendant. First, cut approximately 3 feet of thread and condition it as before. Bring the needle up through the stringing hole.
Thread the desired flowers onto the needle and allow them to rest on top of the pendant.
Thread 3 seed beads onto the needle. Run the needle through the second bead, skipping the first. Bring the needle back down through the stringing hole to create a loop.
Repeat Step Three to make a second loop for the flower.
Do this for as many flowers as you like and then sew a knot on the back of the Stiff Stuff to secure the flowers. Trim any excess thread.
Once you are finished, cut a second piece of Stiff Stuff and glue it to the first and then trim the excess. This will hide your stitching. You can use felt or permanent marker to color the Stiff Stuff so it matches the colors in your piece.
Lampwork glass is created by manipulating molten glass and shaping it into delicate beads. If you remember from our previous post, What is Borosilicate Glass, we explained that boro glass is a hard composite that can sustain extreme temperatures. Not all lampwork glass is made from borosilicate glass, though. Some is made from soft glass, also called “soda-lime glass.”
Borosilicate glass is a much harder glass which must contain at least 5% boric oxide. This oxide is what allows the glass to resist extreme temperatures. Although this glass has to be melted at a much higher temperature than soft glass, it is more resistant to chemical corrosion and will snap if it breaks, rather than shattering.
Soft glass gets its alternate name, soda-lime glass, from the composites used to create it. This type of glass is made by melting raw materials like sodium carbonate (soda), lime, dolomite, silicon dioxide, aluminum oxide and traces of fining agents such as sodium sulfate or sodium chloride. These are all melted in a glass furnace and then molded. Soft glass is sometimes favored because it melts at lower temperatures, but is much more sensitive to extreme heat and cold so it can crack easily.
In the past, these two types of glass had very different color palettes. Soft glass was available in a variety of different colors for artistic purposes while boro glass was used for laboratory glass, so having colors for aesthetic reasons was not necessary. However, with borosilicate glass becoming more popular with artists, and soft glass workers wanted to use the silver strike found in boro glass, these two have become much more similar in appearance.
You can explore our entire collection of lampwork glass beads and browse the different types of glass used in some of our favorite beads. Lampwork beads always make wonderful focal points in jewelry and are so beautiful they can even be strung alone. Because every lampwork bead is made by hand, each one is special. This means your designs are sure to be unique!
Learn how to make a love knot bracelet in no time! This simple yet stylish jewelry design has long been regarded as a symbol of love, representing the everlasting and constant bond between two people. You can make a love knot bracelet for a friend or family member as a thoughtful gift. We’ll show you how to make this bracelet using SilverSilk knitted wire in two different colors.
Cut two pieces of SilverSilk approximately 7 ½ inches. Fold one strand in half and insert both ends into one double strand end cap. Clamp down using nylon jaw pliers for a firm hold. Repeat this process for the other SilverSilk chain. Connect them by threading one loop through the other, folding the top loop over itself and pulling it through. Finish each end with one 1.27×6.3mm open jump ring and connect your clasp to the jump rings.
If you need a little extra help you can watch the video above or visit our SilverSilk resources page for more helpful hints and quick videos. Remember, if you cut the chain to the length as instructed, your bracelet will be approximately 7 inches long. This may fit too snug on your wrist or fit too loosely depending on the style of clasp you use. If you decide to finish with a lobster clasp, you can create an extender chain using jump rings or view our selection of finished extender chains to make your bracelet adjustable.
You’ve probably heard of our wonderful base metal jewelry supplies, but do you know what they’re made of? Here’s a quick definition of base metal, pulled from our Glossary in the Learning Center:
Base metal is metal that oxidizes easily when exposed to air or moisture. These metals are more common than precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum, and thus are more widely used when making jewelry supplies. Base metal gets its name because it is often the type of material which precious metal is bonded to. Base metals include aluminum, brass, copper and nickel.