Ah, fire-polished beads. How we love those little sparkling nuggets of glass that are guaranteed to add that extra dimension to any of our projects. We could wax lyrical about them all day long; how pretty they are, why they’re so great and should be a staple in any beader’s collection. But first, let’s take you through a little bit of history…
Fire-polished beads have been around for a long time, as far back as 5 centuries ago! People created them as they wanted the versatility of beads that could be strung whilst looking like cut gemstones.Nowadays they are traditionally made in the Czech Republic, with some of the factories being so small the work is done cottage industry style.
So how do they get from being metre long glass rods, to small and rather simple plain beads that are then finished as those lovely faceted rounds, rondelles and pears, to name a few. We did a little research and found this video from Preciosa demonstrating the process:
Glass rods are fed into a kiln and are melted, stamped or pressed into moulds. Then they are broken into more manageable pieces and cooled in a vat.The beads are then briefly tumbled to separate them from the scrap glass. The beads are then re-tumbled with water and a special sand for different times, depending on the finish. Fire-polished beads don’t take as long to be tumbled as they go through additional stages of the process.
A machine is then used to grind off parts of the beads to create facets.The facet making process is controlled either automatically or manually, depending on the overall shape of the final bead.
And now here’s the really interesting bit; how the fire-polished beads are made. The faceted beads are fed into a long kiln. The heat polishes the beads by partially melting and smoothing the outer edges and rough spots. The heat also gives them very clean and glossy surfaces with extra sparkle.
The final stage is to add any coatings to the fire-polished beads. To do this, the beads are heated again, then chemicals are mixed to create a coating and poured over the beads. They are mixed thoroughly for several minutes, then allowed to dry. Later, they are put back into a kiln to cure the coating and reveal the final beautiful colours and finishes.
Due to the huge variety of shapes (rounds, pear, olive, flat and teardrop rondelle, cylinder, fancy and Preciosa Hill beads), sizes (from 2mm to 22mm) and finishes (iris coating, lustre coating, vacuum coating, coating with precious metals, linings, etched and many more), fire-polished beadsare extremely versatile and lend themselves to not just simple stringing but also more complex bead weaving, bead crochet, bead embroidery, and as embellishments to clothes, shoes and homeware!
The small facets on the fire-polished beads catch the light easily and help add texture and shine to a piece. With these attributes, fire-polished beads make great spacers in necklaces and bracelets (such as in this Half Moon Cuff project), as the main feature (like in this Wheel Criss Crossing Bracelet) or as a stunning focal (such as these Sparkle Plenty Beaded Beads).They are perfect for everyday jewellery, or designs that have a more casual, vintage or ethnic feel to them. They marry with any design and can cope with just a sprinkling being used or as the key player in a striking design. There’s great news for your wallet too - as they are made entirely of glass, they are a less expensive option than crystal beads, whilst still offering the sparkle and depth of colour that some projects demand.
So, we like them! A lot! And really, we just think the humble fire-polished bead is such a stunner that they really have to be seen and held to truly appreciate just how much they contribute to the success and happiness they can give designers when they produce a new reation, jewellery lovers who want something that shouts or whispers their style, or just those who can’t get enough of a little sparkle and glamour in their life.
If we’ve piqued your interest, Preciosa has a great synopsis of the fire-polished beads they manufacture, along with downloadable PDFs of their fire-polished bead shapes and colours here: Preciosa-OrnelaFire Polished Beads
Feeling inspired and ready to get your hands on some of those sparkly goodies yourself? Shop our range of fire-polished beads here: FirePolished Beads
And check out our new range of etched fire polished beads here: EtchedFire Polished Beads
Seen a fire-polished bead, colour or finish you love but can’t find it on our website? Let us know here and we’ll do our best to find it for you: Contact Us
We love to hear from you! Leave any comments below and share with us how you use fire-polished beads.