History of Bead Making

Beads have been around forever, and have been made out of almost everything you can think of. The earliest known beads date back 70,000 years and were made out of ostrich eggshell! Grooved animal teeth and bones were commonly used to make pendants. As trade culture grew and homosapiens became more thoughtful, beads became a commodity in the long distance trade markets because of how easy they could be carried. Cowrie shells, turquoise, agate and coral were some of the first beads thought to be traded in the Middle East. 

Glass, clay and mosaic beads made their mark around 3,500 years ago in Mesopatamia, and shortly after Venice became the bead making capital of Europe. Bead production was centered on an island outside of Venice, however, to protect the city from fire risk from kilns overheating, and to protect bead and glass makers' secrets.

How are Beads Made?

The most common material for beads is glass. Glass beads are made using a number of different methods to produce a number of different styles and looks. Wound glass beads are created by winding hot, molten glass from a heated glass rod around a metal wire, creating a glass spiral that is strong and sturdy once cooled. Mass produced glass beads, called drawn beads, are made using a large hollow globe of molten glass that is stretched and drawn out until the desired thickness is reached, and cut to make hundreds of beads at once.

Mosaic, also called fused, beads are a less involved process. Glass is arranged in molds then fired in a kiln until the glass is fused together. The colors and designs of certain mosaic beads usually is produced after firing, using heat and tools to intricately place details on the already formed bead mold.

Several small round stone beads in multi colors.

Chrome Diopside: The Impossible in your Hands

This is chrome diopside like you've never seen it before. Common thought makes us believe that fractures and inclusions are bad. But, if you're well taught, you've also learned that personality matters most. If you like the unconventional, you're in luck. This strand starts with ultra-thin slices of chrome diopside. Slices so beautifully thin that you can see the intricate patterns formed by the fractures. They are miniature studies in organic lines and random patterns.

Enter quartz, adhesive and a skilled lapidary. The same magic that gives us opal doublets transforms these wafers of chrome diopside into rose cut wonders. When it all comes together, what you see seems physically impossible: substantial, ideally colored chrome diopside with the translucence to highlight the natural characteristics of the stone, and it has the sparkle and shine of gem-grade material.

A strand of green teardrop shaped chrome diopside beads.

Putting the "Light" in Prasiolite

Prasiolite is referred to by some as Green Amethyst. With the "good stuff," you're looking for a mint shade so soft that in certain lights or backgrounds the color's barely visible. We got our fingers on two versions of a spectacular strand. One strand has beads ranging from the size of a table grape to a walnut snug in its shell. If that's a little too much statement, the smaller strand (only two of these, by the way, grab them here) graduates from smaller beads the size of a raspberry up to a center stone the size of an in-shell almond.

Either of these bead strands is perfect for mixing and matching with your favorite pearls. Personally, I'd grab my silk, some larger (8mm minimum) pearls, and knot a mixture of them together. Depending on your pearl size, you can use a single prasiolite bead as a focal, or a few interspersed. The lantern cut will look great with round, baroque, keshi or potato pearls. These ingredients are also perfect for the necklace stack!

A strand of translucent light green prasiolite gemstone beads.

If you need more beads in your life, check out our selection of beads for jewelry making and selection of focal beads! And don't forget that Jewel School offers plenty of educational and entertaining content on Facebook, YouTube and at JTV.com.