Glass is something we don’t really think about. In fact, most of us don’t think about it at all.

It’s a product we take for granted, never giving it a thought to how it’s made – it’s just there and however it’s made it ends up on our kitchen table, our bedroom window, on the windshield of our cars  and in thousands of other products.

It would take a whole other article to describe the process of making glass but in short form, it starts as sand and through heat and manipulation ends up as glass. Another great gift Mother Earth gives us.

And although the manufacturing of glass is the same, automation & technology have vastly changed the techniques for large production.

There are still however, Artisan glass makers handcrafting glass in the age-old tradition of glass blowing or Lamp Work.

In short form, glass beads are created out of molten glass using an age old technique known as Lamp Work.  Oil lamps were once used for heating the glass hence the name Lamp Work.

Today, the process is much the same using a torch and kiln.  Colored glass rods are heated over high heat and when hot, wrapped around a steel tool called a mandrel which is continuously turned over the flame to form the bead.

While the glass is hot, multiple layers of color can be added and with special tools, decorative lines & designs can be formed.  Once complete the beads are then put into a kiln at extremely high temperatures to “set” the bead.  This is done to ensure the inside & the outside of the glass heats and cools at the same time to avoid cracking. And then on to the next one.

There is beauty, skill and artistry involved in making Lamp Work beads. Each one is a unique piece and no two are alike. Though they look similar there are always subtle differences in each bead whether in size or the pattern and/or color distribution. 

Unfortunately, with modern production, it’s a little more difficult to tell if a bead is genuine or not. However, if a bead’s size or pattern is too uniform or the jewelry piece is selling too cheaply that could be a sign it isn’t genuine.

Even as a jewelry designer, I am very cautious purchasing beads that are selling too cheaply. I, as do most artisan jewelry designers purchase our Lamp Work  beads directly from the artist. These beads are not uniform in size, and the patterns, though similar are not perfect.  

But that is the beauty of Lamp Work. When you purchase your earrings, bracelet or necklace with Lamp Work beads, you are not only purchasing a one-of-a-kind jewelry piece, you are purchasing a work of art. 

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