I love jewelry made with vintage glass beads, especially necklaces. In this post, I discuss a few of the most popular type of glass beads and show some beautiful examples.
Crystal beads are created by adding lead oxide to glass, a process invented in the 1600’s by English glassmaker George Ravenscroft. When it comes to crystal beads, Swarovksi is the industry leader. In 1892, young Bohemian Daniel Swarovski invented a crystal cutting machine. He moved his family and business to Austria in 1895. In 1913 Daniel and his three sons, Wilhelm, Friedrich, and Alfred built a crystal production plant.
Swarovski continues as the leader of the highest quality crystal today. Their cutting and polishing techniques are superior, as you can tell from the beautiful sharp edges on their crystal beads. They also provide many colors and shapes, allowing the company to dominate the market. When examining Swarovski crystal beads, look for a nice heavy weight, great sparkle, and sharp edges.
The Aurora Borealis finish seen on many crystal beads is a thin coating applied to the bead. The technique for applying this finish was invented by Swarovski in the mid 1950’s. The sparkling rainbow colors of this finish mimic the Aurora Borealis of the Northern Lights. This technique was licensed by Coro for its high end Vendome line.
NOTE: Crystal or glass beads from the Art Deco era, or from any period earlier than the 1950’s will NOT have an Aurora Borealis finish.
Vintage Millefiori glass was made in Italy. The term “millefiori” means “a thousand flowers” and the colors and designs in the beads do resemble many flowers. These beads were produced in a variety of colors and make such beautiful necklaces, like the lovely rare aqua blue and white necklaces shown here.
Millefiori beads are still produced today in Italy, Japan, and other Asian countries. If you prefer the vintage beads, look for hand knotting and the older clasps used on vintage necklaces.
There are many other types of specialty glass beads, such as givré beads (givré means “frost” in French). These beads have a translucent core, usually colored, with a clear transparant glass bead fused around the core.
I’ll discuss specialty glass beads in more detail in a future post. I hope you found this information helpful and informative.
Please come back soon and learn more about vintage jewelry styles, design, and materials. Thanks, Christine