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!