The Beauty of Recycled Glass Beads
Did you know that artisans have been creating recycled glass beads for centuries? That's right. Throughout the world discarded and scrap glass has been used to create beautiful and unique glass beads.
There is just something about glass that I find so beautiful. It's a remarkable material that can take on so many different shapes and colors. It can be as common as a spaghetti jar or as elegant as a handblown vase. It is commonly used throughout the world so there is a huge quantity of glass being made every day. There is also a huge quantity of glass being thrown away everyday. It breaks and is discarded. It is used one time and is discarded. It does not biodegrade... but it does recycle.
This was discovered many years ago and one way this has been put to very good use is in the creation of recycled glass beads. Thanks mainly to the Internet we have easy access to a wonderful supply of recycled glass beads from different parts of the world. For the crafter, artisan, bead or jewelry lover it's a joy finding these little treasures.
Recycled Glass Beads
In developing countries like Africa and Indonesia glass bead making techniques have not changed much through the years. It is a very labor intensive and time consuming process to make recycled glass beads by hand. Men are mainly responsible for making the beads while women string the beads. The beads themselves have an interesting rustic looking handmade quality where each bead is truly unique and beautiful.
It is particularly important when buying beads from regions like this that you look for fair trade sources that sell genuine recycled glass beads not some phony machine made glass beads.
Different Methods of Using Recycled Glass
Recycled Glass Beads Techniques
Glass scrap is collected and crushed by hand into very small pieces called frit another name for ground glass. No colors or dyes are used to color the glass so to create the most beautiful colors the glass is sorted by color before grinding.
The frit is then placed in molds that have been coated with kaolin clay to keep the hot glass from sticking and heated in kilns until the glass melts. Knowing the exact time to remove the glass from the kiln is a skill. In some regions once the beads are removed from the kiln the beadmaker will now spin and work each bead into the right shape and form the bead hole with an awl all before the glass has a chance to cool. Sometimes the bead hole is made by inserting a cassava stem in the frit. This burns up in the heat but leaves a hole in the bead.
The finished beads come in soft colors of blues and greens but also earthtones and some pastels depending on the available scrape glass. They have a cool handmade look with a finish that looks like frosted glass. Similar in appearance to beach glass but not as smooth.
African beads usually have round smooth lines while Indonesian beads are often faceted or cut and shaped. Indonesia is one of the biggest suppliers of recycled glass beads.
Powdered Glass Beads Techniques
This is a similar technique to above except the recycled glass is ground to a very fine powder before being poured into prepared molds. This powder is colored often with chemical dyes. When various colors of glass are layered in the molds beads with greater intricacy of patterns and a wider range of colors are available. Cassava stems are inserted in the center to create the bead hole.
The powdered glass is then fired in a kiln that is not as hot as with the first method. The glass is only fused together not melted in a slower, longer process that can take up to an hour. After which the beads are removed and polished.
These beads can be found in brilliant layered colors, colorful solids or are handpainted. They are not a smooth glass bead but have a slight rough feel and they are available in a greater range of shapes.
Formed Glass Beads
A very unique formed glass bead is made by a small group of artisans found in Anatolia, Turkey where masters of a thousands year old technique of bead making create beads called evil eye beads. Here recycled glass and coloring chemicals are heated to very high temperatures in pine wood furnaces. This liquid glass is wound around coated steel rods in a pattern that looks like an eye when finished. These beads are used to ward off evil and negative energy. If they crack they are thought to have been doing their job. To learn more about the fascinating traditional way of making evil eye beads visit Evil Eye Bead Masters
While these beads are made only in this region other people use the same method of heating glass pieces into an almost liquid shape and then forming the beads. Formed glass beads are sold in solid or mixed colors or sometimes can be found painted or decorated. They are mostly smooth glass beads with a shiny look and handcrafted appeal. Not as easy to find as recycled glass beads formed in molds but there are individuals who handcraft these beads like Sundrop Jewelry mentioned below.
Where To Shop
eShop Africa Recycled Glass Beads
Buy fair trade beads direct from the artisans when you shop here. They have a beautiful selection of colors and shapes. The beads on the right are just a small sample of their beads. I ordered these so I could see what they were like and as you can see they are very beautiful. Since I now no so much about the bead making process I like to imagine the African artist who worked so hard to make these beads and I know that they were paid well for their efforts.
Happy Mango Beads
This bead store has a large selection of beads from Indonesia and Africa. They carry an impressive collection of beads in different shapes and colors with finishes that are clear, frosted and even painted.
If you are looking for jewelry made from recycled glass beads possibly one of the best places to shop is Etsy. Many jewelry artists on this site use recycled materials of all kinds. This is a fantastic site to spend some time browsing and seeing what some very creative people are doing with recycled materials. Check out Etsy
Also check out the Recycled Style Boutique for beautiful jewelry made from formed recycled glass. Jewelry here made by Sundrop Jewelry which heats recycled glass until glass liquifies and then droplets of glass are allowed to cool. These little drops make unique glass beads and jewelry.
Other Pages Of Interest
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