Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quality Beads - Which Ones Are Best?

Agate Focal Bead with Jade and Agate Accent Beads
In my research, I come across many bead artists' blogs and I'm always surprised when I find posts that express a dislike for beads from China or India. What I find most important is the condition of the beads - are they well taken care of? Or are they chipped, cracked, badly shaped, poorly cut? Those are the ones I consider unsuitable for my work. Some beads, such as the gemstone agate bead in the necklace above, have their own little quirks and foibles, like a rough spot or a color splotch, and this always reminds me of the Native American saying that nothing is perfect in this world, perfection only lives in the world of Spirit. In fact, in many of their artistic beaded creations you can find what they call a "Spirit Bead," one that doesn't fit with the rest of the design, which is added to honor that understanding.

The origin of the beads I use isn't necessarily a factor in my decision when purchasing them, in fact I love the exotic origins of the beads I work with, and the ones I get from China and India are exquisite when set off by accent beads that complement their colors. Like people, they really shine when they're in just the right setting.
Oblong Puffed Glass Swirl Focal Bead from China
 I could tell from the energy when I was making the necklace above that this bead really wants to be a necklace. Everything went so smoothly when I was doing the metalwork and choosing the sister beads that would go with it. And when I took the photo and saw how the bead catches and throws the light I knew it was made for someone special. Beads are like that - they hold energy, they have "personality" in that some of them really love to twirl around on their sterling eye pin, and they warm against your skin when you wear them.
East Indian Flat Oval Glass Bead
Here's an example of a Rainbow Necklace I made with East Indian Oval Glass Beads. These beads are somewhat heavy, with bubbles and imperfections in them, and sometimes the sides aren't perfectly smooth. But when I wear my Rainbow Necklace it feels so good, the weight of it and the little nuances of shape that entertain my fingers. The necklace feels earthy and lends a wonderful grounding energy, plus I can wear it with anything, even, on occasion, some of my other pendant necklaces, or just plain silver chains.
Czech Oval Glass Beads
In contrast, here's another Rainbow Necklace I made, this time with oval glass beads that come from the Czech Republic. I bought them, not because I thought they were better, but because I couldn't find the ones from East India! It was very interesting to create the same design using different quality beads. These are very well manufactured, as you can tell by the uniform shape of each bead, its smoothness, the color saturation, and the form. Of course they are more expensive to buy, but they're not necessarily "better." When I wear this necklace, it feels much lighter, doesn't have the same weight and heft as the other one when you pick it up, and when I run my fingers over the beads, they feel uniformly the same, which is neither good nor bad, but definitely different. The level of color saturation is neither good nor bad either, but it makes a difference when I'm choosing what to wear. Some outfits (and moods) lend themselves best to the clean lines and uniformity of the Czech necklace, and others meld best with the earthiness of the East Indian Beads.

So there you have it - my thoughts on which beads are best. A beautiful bead is a beautiful bead, and like people, the beauty is in the eye (or mood!) of the beholder.

Both necklace designs are available in my Etsy shop, Dreamkeeper Creations.

Garden Gnome with Handpainted Chinese Focal Bead

Speaking of earthiness, I've been busy making lots of new necklaces, and you can see many of them in my Etsy shop. I spent a great deal of time figuring out an affordable way to wear them, and have found good vendors for round leather in a multitude of delicious colors, so I can make the necklace part. I think many other beaders are doing the same thing, because I find that the sterling silver hook and eye fasteners are mostly out of stock. Don't worry, I have a good supply, so you'll see more necklaces becoming available. I love these leather necklaces because it allows me to choose the best color that will enhance the colors in the overall design itself. I don't sell the leather necklaces separately, but you can request a different color for a pendant you're considering if you have a preference - just convo me on Etsy.

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Ah sweet spring with summer just around the corner! Back to the enchantment of gorgeous weather, soft sunrises, fireflies, and gorgeous earthy creations.

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