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Archive for June 17th, 2020

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE. There are 18 video modules including handouts, which this is one of.

Not All Beads Are Alike

Not all beads are alike. When you see them in a store or a catalog or online, they might look the same in appearance. But appearances are deceiving. There are underlying quality differences which can be very wide indeed. Such differences will have a big impact, sometimes negative, on the success of your pieces.

Beads are made in many countries around the world, but few are made in the United States. Making beads is a difficult task. Bead-making is often done by workers who are exploited in some way, and this is a reality of the craft. Knowing what country the beads were manufactured in tells you a lot about their quality and usefulness. In fact, country-of-origin is your best indicator of quality.

[NOTE: Increased Globalization these days tends to blur geographical boundaries. What’s labeled “Made in Germany” might actually be manufactured in Pakistan. Austrian Crystal and Murano Glass might originate in China. Bali Silver might begin its creation in India or Turkey. Yet we still associate our understanding of “quality” by the country label stamped on the beads packaging, where we assume, that the primary “country” on the label of the product maintains its sense of quality standards, no matter where the product has actually been produced. So crystal labeled “Made in Austria”, which may have actually been manufactured in China, would have the higher qualities associated with Austria; whereas, crystal labeled “Made in China” and manufactured in China would have the lower qualities associated with China.

The journey of a glass bead might transverse 5 or 6 countries before it ended up on the retail shelf. One country might make a core bead. It may go to another country to do some shaping. Still another country to do some finishing. Yet another country for some coloration. And yet one more country to apply a special coloration effect. And, yes, still yet another country to get packaged up as retail-ready.]

Not all beads are useful for all projects. Beads come in all levels of quality and sophistication. Knowing which beads to select for your project, — whether you want to bead a professional jewelry designer, or not is a key skill every beader and jewelry maker needs to learn.

In this module, I’m going to focus on glass beads, and try to give you a sense of what “quality” means. My descriptions are broad generalizations, but will give you a good grounding in quality issues and considerations.

Picture in your mind a strand of 8mm round glass beads. We will call these “large” beads, as opposed to the “small” seed beads we’ll cover later in another module. For our purposes here, it does not matter what color or finish these beads are, only that they are glass, are round, and that we’re looking at several of them that are supposed to be the same bead, typically on a strand.

These are 8mm, Round, Pressed Glass Beads

Look at the glass beads in the image above. They are machine made (pressed glass). I want to give you a sense of what quality means, when it comes to glass beads. I am going to pretend they are made in different countries to give you a sense of what quality means.

Our criteria:
1) perfection in shape
 2) consistency in shape from bead to bead on a strand
 3) hole sharpness or smoothness
 4) hole size consistency from bead to bead on a strand
 5) whether hole is drilled through the center or not
 6) whether the color is in the glass, or applied to the surface of the glass using a coating, film or decal

CZECH GLASS: If these 8mm round glass beads had been made in The Czech Republic, we’d give them a grade of “B”. We would consider the price to be above average, by a good typical benchmark for quality jewelry.

NOTE: The “grade” and “price” refers to beads (and other components) for jewelry making purposes. The quality of the pieces you would use in making jewelry have to be of a much higher quality than those you would use to make something stationery, like a beaded Christmas ornament. All jewelry moves. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure and force on each component. So they have to be a higher quality. My reference in our discussions in on jewelry.

These 8mm round Czech glass beads would be considered “generally perfectly round.” They are not perfectly round, but close.

The beads on a strand from bead to bead are pretty much the same size and shape. They are not really the exact size and shape, just close.

The manufacturer produces thousands of beads, basically one at a time. At the point they are ready to get strung up as strands, they are piled in up into a huge pyramid on a table. Someone, usually a woman, sits there all day and eyeballs them and sorts them by quality. She separates the A-quality from the B-quality. B-quality beads may have some flat sides, the color may not fill the entire bead, the holes may have chips or other problems, the shape might be somewhat distorted. For the A-quality, she chooses which ones are similar enough to be included on the same strand, and the customer will think they are all exactly the same. This process of selection is less important for the B-quality beads.

The Czech beads have a good size hole. The holes from bead to bead on a strand are pretty much the same size. They are drilled through the center.

These holes would be called “generally smooth”. This is a marketing term. The hole of a bead is not very smooth. Instead it looks like a broken soda bottle. If I took a soda bottle and smashed it on the edge of a table, this resulting jagged rim would be what the hole looked like — rough, jagged edges, potential to cut your stringing material. Because you cannot see this roughness with your naked eye, marketers can get away with calling these holes “generally smooth”. However, you always have to worry about the holes of your beads cutting your stringing materials.

One last point. The Czechs use colored glass, so if the bead scratched or chipped, it would be the same color on the inside.

JAPANESE GLASS: If these 8mm round beads had been made in Japan, we’d give them a grade of “A”. The Japanese beads would cost about 3–5 times that of the Czech beads.

These beads would be “generally perfectly round”. They would not be perfectly round, but would be rounder than the Czech beads.

The beads on a strand would be very similar in size and shape, though not exactly the same size and shape.

These would have good hole sizes, and the hole sizes would be consistent from bead to bead on the strand.

These holes would be called “smooth”, and you would primarily be paying for a smoother hole. Note how I say smoother, not smooth. They would be drilled through the center.

The Japanese also use colored glass, so if your bead scratched or chipped, it would be the same color on the inside.

CHINESE GLASS: These round 8mm glass beads could also have been made in China. We would give these beads a “D” or an “F”. They would be 1/3 or less in cost than the Czech beads.

These beads would be “generally perfectly round”.

The hole sizes would be a good size hole and consistent along the strand from bead to bead.

We would call these holes “generally smooth”, meaning they look like a broken coke bottle. The holes would be a little rougher than the Czech beads.

Usually the hole is drilled through the center, but sometimes you’ll find that the hole is a little off-center. If off-center, this means the bead will more easily break when worn. It also means that the beads on a strand will not line up perfectly, which can be annoying.

The problem with the Chinese beads is that they tend to use clear beads and colored coatings. The coatings are very poorly applied. The coatings will chip off, and your beads will all-too-quickly look like chipped nail polish.

[Since 2005, the Czechs have gotten very much into coatings, as well. Their finishes seem more reliable, but will still have the issues of chipping off the core bead. But the coating technology keeps improving. For the Czechs, this has opened up great possibilities in color combinations and effects. The Czechs use their coated beads to supplement and complement their regular line of beads. ]

[NOTE, parenthetically: The best gemstone beads come from China. China gets A+ for gemstones. Their higher quality gemstone beads tend to be higher priced than gemstone beads from other countries. While India is catching up in quality and selection, they still have a ways to go. What I tend to like about the Chinese gemstone beads is that they are more careful in how they drill the holes. They know how to avoid the fracture lines in the stone, so that when finished jewelry is subjected to all the forces of movement and wear, they hold up well, and don’t break. Chinese beads have clean holes, and rarely have any cracks or wear at the hole. Chinese beads, when treated with dyes, heat, radiation, polishes and the like, seem more durable, and less affected by sunlight, water, detergents and general wear, than similarly treated ones from other countries. I usually try to avoid the beads from India, particularly the treated ones, but they are a lot less expensive. ]

INDIA GLASS: As a last example, we can picture these same 8mm round beads beads as if they were made in India. Here, we would give these beads an “F minus minus minus minus”. These beads would be a fraction of the cost of the Czech beads.

These beads would not be perfectly round.

Some holes would be OK, some too small, some too large.

Some holes would be drilled centered. Some off centered. Some somewhat at a diagonal.

These holes would be called “rough”. They can’t get away with marketing because your eye can see how rough these are.

While the Indians are beginning to adapt some of the Chinese production techniques, such as colored coatings and decals, to keep their costs down, for the most part today, you can assume that they have used colored glass, so if their beads scratched or chipped, they would be the same color on the inside.

So Many Beads, So Little Time, Which Ones Do I Choose?

This does NOT mean that you never use beads from India and China and only use beads from the Czech Republic or Japan. You always relate your choice of bead to what you’re trying to do — that is, your design goals, (and if you are selling things, to your marketing goals, as well).

For example, if you are making Fashion Jewelry, the Indian beads might be your best choice. This type of jewelry is often worn only once or twice and thrown away. Not only would the Indian beads be your best choice because they are cheap; their irregularities gives them a funky look, and this works hand in hand with Fashion jewelry. The Chinese beads would be OK because they are cheap, but there’s nothing funky about them. They look very machine made.

On the other extreme, if you were making an heirloom bracelet, and the person you made it for was going to wear it a lot, put it away, give it to their granddaughter or niece, and that person was not going to wear it, then the Czech beads might be your best choice. If the granddaughter or niece was, in fact, going to wear this heirloom bracelet, then, from a design stand-point, the Japanese beads might be your best choice.

From a marketing stand-point, however, if you were selling this piece, you might have to back down to the Czech beads. Say you presented your customer with a choice between a Czech-based heirloom bracelet and one Japanese-based bracelet, and the former might sell for $100 and the latter for $400. Four hundred dollars is a hard sell. To your customer, both bracelets would look exactly the same. The things that are different are either things they can’t see, or things that may not happen for 30 or 40 years.

So, in beading, nothing is perfect. At least should accept these facts: There is no perfect bead for every situation. No perfect clasp. No perfect stringing material. No perfect technique. Everything involves making choices and trade-offs and judgment calls. The more you understand the quality of the pieces you are using, and the clearer you are about your design goals (and if you’re selling your stuff, your marketing goals as well), the more prepared you’ll be to make these kinds of choices.

Yes, better prepared to make choices. That’s why you need an Orientation.

Making Beads By Machine

Pressed Glass. There are many ways to make glass beads by machine. The major way of making glass beads by machine is called “Pressed Glass” — basically molding them.

To oversimplify things, to make a round bead in pressed glass, you would fill two half cups with molten glass and then press them together. At the point they’ve been pressed together, this sometimes leaves a ridge, and sometimes a color change. While they are supposed to tumble the beads to smooth out the ridge, sometimes this ridge can be very pronounced. With the color change, sometimes this looks like a natural part of the bead; othertimes, it’s hideous.

The line down the center of the bead is where the two halves come together.

The Lesson here: Whenever you buy a strand of beads, you need to examine all the beads on the strand, to make sure you can live with what you’re buying. There will be production issues with some beads in any batch. You especially want to look at the equator or belly to be sure there are no ridges or hideous discolorations. You want to be sure there are no flat spots where none should be. That the shape of the bead is perfect and consistent from bead to bead on the strand. That the coloration is full and complete within each bead. And that the holes are drilled cleanly — that is, no chips around the holes of the beads, and that the holes have been drilled as a straight channel through the center.

The actual process of pressing glass into beads: The bead presser sits in front of a fiery kiln, with many rods of colored glass next to him. The tips of these rods are resting in the kiln, to make them soft. A die press (like two cookie cutters vertically hurling towards each other, then suddenly away again) is operating in front of the kiln, between the kiln and the bead presser. The bead presser grabs a rod, and moves the tip into the die press. The press stamps out the shape of a bead. Rods in the die press molds simultaneously create the hole. The presser continues to move the rod into the die press. Only a few beads can be pressed before the rod must be heated again. So the presser lays this rod next to him, with the tip in the kiln, and grabs another rod with a hot tip. The pressed glass cool as they slide into a holding container. The beads at this point are still connected to each other by the excess glass around the molded shape. The beads then get tumbled to break the beads apart from the rod. And they get tumbled again to smooth off the ridges. The quality of the beads relies mostly on the skill level of the master bead presser. These bead pressers vary widely in their craftsmanship.

Druks and Fire Polish Beads

I wanted to give you, at this point in our orientation pathway, a couple of terms for beads. The first is “Druk”. Druk means plain, smooth, roundish. Not necessarily just round. Roundish. You can have a round Druk, a Druk rondelle, an egg-shaped Druk. If you’re looking for a Plain Jane kind of glass bead, usually the word Druk will get you the furthest.

The opposite of Druk is called “Fire Polish”. Fire Polish beads have at least one slice or facet on it. Fire Polish beads start as smooth round beads and facets are grinded into them in a faceting machine. The faceted surfaces and edges can be splintery and sharp. So before these glass beads can be used, these surfaces and edges need to be smoothed out. One way this is done is to run the bead back and forth in a flame or a very hot oven so the surfaces melt, thus “fire-polishing”.

So you can have a round Fire Polish bead. A teardrop Fire Polish bead. A 5-sided Fire Polish bead. An 8-sided Fire Polish bead. A Fire Polish rondelle. If you’re looking for a faceted, dressier look, then usually the words “Fire Polish” will get you the furthest.


Now on some beads, there is a special coloration finish called an “Effect”. The most common is an AB effect. AB stands for Aurora Borealis. The AB effect looks like a rainbow or oil slick. This effect appears on just one side of the bead — it doesn’t go all the way around.

There are many ways to make this effect on the glass, and the technology is always changing and evolving — mostly to keep the costs down. Typically on glass beads, a chemical is applied to one side of the bead, and then the bead is subjected to some source of heat and pressure. The chemical explodes on the glass, adheres to the glass, and creates a certain coloration. The effect is typically “fired” on the bead; it is not typically a coating. The fired finish is more durable. There are about 40 different coloration effects — such as celsian, azuro, zairit, valentinit, clarit, vega, ½ silver (cal), ½ gold (Apollo), ½ copper, among others — , and new ones invented frequently. But most often, all you see is the AB effect.

Now, they do create this where it goes all the way around the glass. To go all the way around the glass, they have to repeat the production process twice. When the effect goes all the way around the glass, the color is called AB AB or FULL AB.

If we are talking about color names, the color name for black is “jet.” With no effect the color would be called “jet.” With the effect on one side, “jet AB.” With the effect all the way around, “jet AB AB.” [On crystal beads, the shortform color name would be “jet 2X.”]

Over time, this AB effect will begin to scratch and eventually wear off. On most quality beads, this usually takes a very long time. Occasionally this happens more quickly than you would like. If this is critical to you and your piece, you’ll want to experiment with your beads before you use them. Take one bead and see how easy it is to scratch off with your fingernail. On some Chinese beads, I think they spray it on, because I can literally flick it off with my thumb nail.

Sometimes the word “Rainbow” is used to denote the AB effect. Sometimes this word is used to denote a similar but different effect called “iris”.


Druks and Fire Polish beads are measured in “millimeters”. Typically, these are available in 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm. Less common are 5mm, 7mm, 9mm and sizes larger than 12mm.

Rulers are marked in inches on one side and millimeters on the other. There are 25mm in an inch. Thus 6mm would be approximately 1/4 inches (25 divided by 6).

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Preparers

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Controllers and Adapters

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

A Very Abbreviated, But Not Totally Fractured, History of Beads

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

When Choosing Colors Has You Down, Check Out The Magic Of Simultaneity Effects

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Everyone Has A Getting Started StoryThe Nature-Inspired Creations of Kathleen

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.

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Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

One of the first times I noticed that some people were treated differently than others had to do with Miss Divinity Daughtry — an heiress. I was in elementary school at the time. Miss Daughtry had an estate across the Raritan River from my Dad’s pharmacy. She had been in our store a couple of times, but mostly she stayed on the estate.

She had just killed — that is, allegedly, just killed — another boy friend. In the same way as the first. Car accident. Hit the wrong pedal, or gas pedal stuck, something like that. Man dead. She walked away without a scratch. Poor thing. Bored with her man. Disposed of the best way she knew how — allegedly.

Her estate was very large. She had given some of it over to local communities to use as a park. I spent many-a-day at Island Park — hiking, swimming at the dam, playing on the swings, picnicking. Beautiful park. They held the July 4th fire works there. The land was flat and wooded — flood plain. The ponds attracted many ducks and geese. People loved that park. Though they didn’t necessarily love Miss Daughtry. Few knew her, but all knew of her.

The local police never arrested Miss Daughtry or charged her with a crime. Accident, they said. Convenient accident, everyone else said. No investigation, no trial, no examination of the car. The accidents both took place on Miss Daughtry’s estate. On her driveways. Fast enough to kill the passengers, but not the driver. In the same way. Almost in the same spot. An act of God. An act with God’s blessing. Poor little rich girl. If there’s a boy friend of yours you’d like to get rid of, you might want to try this at your home, and see if it works for you.

It was clear to all that money bought extra understanding, a bigger dose of empathy, a larger amount of believability, more room for magnanimity, and a two-faced measure of justice. Like the drama masks, a tragedy if you looked at the situation from one angle, and a comedy, if you looked at it from another. The rules, the culture, the daily behaviors of life — all work differently for different folks for different measures of wealth.

Whether you’re a Dodge or a Helmsley, leaving $100 million or $50 million to your dog, when you pass away, there’s a certain disconnect you often find based on class and income. What’s important to one class, is not to the other. What are appropriate behaviors to one class, are not to the other. What are measures of success to one class, are not necessarily understood in the same way by the other, or are not necessarily achievable in one generation. Economic classes can be very distinct, and each class creates many social and linguistic behaviors which serve to maintain these distinctions.

So, when Miss Daughtry, again, for the third time, yes, Third Time, had a car accident, while she was driving, with her new boy-friend as a passenger in the car, on her estate, as before, near the same spot, she was again not questioned by the police, or had her car examined. In fact, she left New Jersey to spend time on another one of her estates, I think in Hawaii. Her boy friend was hurt, but not critically so. Miss Daughtry, this time, suffered a fractured bone in her leg. Her driving skills were obviously declining with age. They should at least have forced her to give up her drivers license.

Miss Daughtry died at 81 years of age. One day, she collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath. Her butler watched her choke on food or medicine and did not call for help. She passed away. He was obviously ready to receive her fortune — all of it which she left to him. Although he was eventually put on trial for murder, the jury found him innocent. This was as they should have. When someone rich mistakes the money-grubbing of a butler for loyalty and devotion, society has no other choice, though this innocence is not necessarily as the rich of society would see it. Her obituary told of all her philanthropic works. I remembered her in a different way.

As far as I know, Miss Daughtry didn’t bead or make jewelry or any crafts. Her main hobbies were sexual exploits and mystical explorations. But had she beaded, she would have found beading, as a hobby, to be very expensive, and as a social endeavor, to raise many interesting societal questions related to income and class. Beading, with its upstairs/downstairs implications, mystical and sexual connotations, the potential dangers and thrilling possibilities that come with needle, and scissors, and torch, might have been something she may have enjoyed.

While beading attracts people of all income classes, often there are funny, and not-so-funny, “Upstairs/Downstairs” qualities where beadwork and jewelry are made, where beads and jewelry are bought, and where beads and jewelry are sold. You might assume that this doesn’t concern jewelry makers, but it does. You bead and make jewelry in a social context, and Upstairs/Downstairs tensions are very much among the kinds of things you must manage, to be successful.

So when Nancy, who is middle class, was riding in a car with Letitia, who is upper class, on their way to a beading workshop in the mountains, Letitia complained and complained about having less money, now that her husband was retired. She had to edit down her European tour, cutting out 3 days and 4 countries. She had to change landscaping companies for a less expensive one. Her husband wanted to sit down and come up with a weekly budget. Which meant she’d have to cut back her spending on beads — running about $150–200.00 each week. She’d probably have to cut this down to about $100.00 per week.

Nancy was counting down the minutes — minute by minute — hoping their trip would end soon. Nancy’s husband recently lost his job. Her family was overextended financially. And she probably spent less than $100.00 a month on beads. All Letitia’s talk was making Nancy feel more and more uncomfortable. Nancy was ready to push Letitia out the window. “How will I survive the drive back?” Nancy thought to herself. They stopped to get gas, and Letitia asked Nancy if she wanted to split the cost of a soda.

Crissa points to a staff member at the shop. “Hey, you,” Crissa shouts, then snaps her fingers. “Over here,” she orders. “Get these trays out for me,” she continues. I witness part of this, but it isn’t the first time. I don’t think anyone on my staff likes to be finger-snapped at. All too often, some customers treat staff as servants. They aren’t servants. They don’t want to be. It’s very difficult to maintain a sense of dignity if people treat you that way.

And staff do respond passive-aggressively. “Here?” they say, pointing to trays not even close where to Crissa was looking. “Here?” again feigning interest and concern. When they arrive at the correct trays, they take them out one-by-one, very slowly. They don’t open up the lids. They take their time writing down what Crissa selects. And play as dumb and dumb-founded as they can. They will make Crissa wait and struggle and get frustrated. And delight in this.

Ernesta was another customer who was very haughty with staff. Her husband had been a special American ambassador to Japan. They had spent 15 years living a life of privilege in Japan. When they returned home, she picked up beading as a hobby to fill her time. She missed the people, the parties, the conversations she had had routinely in Japan. Nothing similar was to be had in Nashville, particularly since her husband had now retired. Beading would fill the void.

She came in weekly and, each time, spent hundreds of dollars on beads. She finger-snapped at staff. She asked questions which clearly showed her superiority, and staff inferiority. It came to a point where no one on staff wanted to wait on her. When she entered the shop, everyone found a place to busy themselves and hide. Several years later, her husband died. He left her nothing in his will. Nothing. She had little money of her own. But she had accumulated a bead stash worth thousands of dollars. One day she came into the store, and quietly, meekly, with pleading in her voice, she asked if she could bring back the beads a little at a time for money. Without hesitation, I said she could. But it’s unbelievably awkward each time she comes in. The thoughts going through my head, and what I imagine the thoughts going through her head — a lot to contemplate.

Neva loves to bead. She spends most of her time each week beading. She beads while she does the laundry. She beads while she prepares dinner for her husband and three children. She beads incessantly. Her husband works full-time some weeks and part-time in others. When he works, he gets some decent pay, but it’s never steady, and never enough. Neva works part time as a store clerk to support her beading habit. But she also has supported her beading habit with over $20,000 of credit card debt.

Beading and jewelry making are Neva’s ticket out of poverty. It’s a fantasy ticket to a fantasy island with fantasy riches. But at the same time, she gets to socialize with women who are upper class, who take the classes she takes and joins the bead society she belongs to and attends the same bead shows she does. She visits their homes for beading sessions, or meetings, or special dinners. She travels with them. She meets their friends. She shares their stories, their experiences, their excitement that only money can buy. Occasionally they buy her gifts, or give her hand-me-downs, which in Neva’s hands, are prize possessions. She gets to sell some of her jewelry at prices she could never afford herself. She feels she’s among friends. Among equals.

Sally lives in the wealthiest neighborhood in town. It’s not a stretch for her and her husband. It’s a place they feel they belong, and can easily afford. Sally discovered that she liked to design and sell jewelry. Marketing to her friends, however, has proven a challenge. First, she has to explain to them that, yes, you can make a piece a jewelry. A finished piece doesn’t magically appear that way on a store shelf. Then, she has to explain what “make” means. They assume that “make” means you fly to New York and buy it. Then she tackles the meaning of “design”. “Is that something that you can do?” they ask, implying that really no one makes jewelry, except a few designers whose names they can remember. And she dare not come across as if she has to make jewelry to bring in extra money. While money is not her motivator here, she has to subtly convey to others that she makes and sells for fun, not because she needs to.

Her potential customers in her neighborhood want jewelry. They just can’t make the connection between Sally, designing/making jewelry, and how a piece of jewelry would end up coming to them. Talk about hard sell! And Sally, bless her heart, when someone agrees to let her design something for them, she feels she needs to follow through, no matter what the request. Getting these people to make a request is so fraught with complications of life and meanings, she dare not say No! Even when many requests are unreal. Of course, they would be. Otherwise, they would just fly to New York and pick up what they need.

One woman asked Sally to make something that she could wear, when accepting an award for her horsewomanship. The jewelry had to match the horse’s colors — apparently, show horses have assigned colors — which she described as the pink-rose color in a famous rose given to Queen Elizabeth, the navy blue of an insignia at the local Club, and white. She wanted the necklace to look rich and elegant, and complement both she and her horse. Aside from the fact that making something that is pink and navy and white is difficult, especially if you want it to be rich-looking, we had to find that pink-rose color, and match it with beads.

Google IMAGES came in very handy. We found the Queen and her rose and matching beads. We used blue goldstone for the navy, minimized the white, and brainstormed a great design. Sally was not only making a necklace to go with a dress. She had to learn a lot about horses, horse colors, horse awards, and what kinds of statements her client wanted to make, when wearing the piece.

“Do you carry plastic?” People inquire over and over again. “No,” we say, “There’s a Michael’s craft store across the street. They carry plastic.” I don’t personally want to carry plastic beads. Yet, everytime I say No and Michael’s across the street, I feel a twinge of class consciousness.

Often a customer will say something like, “Are you familiar with the clothing line — ‘Lily’?” And may continue with a related comment like, “Is your dog Lily named after this clothing line?” I sometimes wonder why they would ask such questions? Is she trying to establish that she is somehow above everyone who has never heard of the line? Is she more superior because she is familiar with the line, and others are not? Does the line, and its brand name, relate in anyway to the types of jewelry she intends or make, or the particular beads and findings she wants to buy? Does she think she deserves special attention or more attention, because somehow she is more “in” than “out” than the staff and other customers around her?

Or you will hear the questions, “Are you going to Bead & Button?” or “Are you going to Tucson?”, or “Are you going to take that class with So-and-So?” Each trip involves a great expense, a big time commitment, and shows that the “go-er” has big bucks to spend on beads and related materials, or instruction. And the answer “No,” to each question shows that the “not-go-er” can’t afford the expense, doesn’t have that kind of time, nor does she have a lot of extra cash on hand to spend on things or instruction. The responses to these questions range from, “I have too many beads in my stash already,” or, “I have to work,” or “I can’t afford it right now,” or “I’ve bought her book”. And one person feels superior, and the other inferior.

Class distinctions, even class warfare, is not an acceptable topic of conversation in America. It makes people feel uncomfortable. They feel such discussion is dangerous and divisive. They feel that any beader and jewelry designer, if their work is great, the doors will open. They don’t want to see how class status offers advantages, or even disadvantages. They think that design is design is design, no matter what the income and class situations.

Rather than pretend that class distinctions have very little impact on beading and jewelry making, the good designer should be sensitive to impacts of class, and how to leverage this understanding in the jewelry design process, as well as the business promotion process.

A Revealing Tax Cut

I remember in the early 2000’s, President Bush convinced Congress to pass a massive tax cut. The taxes of the top 10% of the population accounted for 90% of the total tax cut amount. Very Republican. Republicans believe in “trickle-down” economics, and this was the first time in my life that I truly witnessed and slowly experienced a totally trickle-down policy.

Now, as I wrote before, Beading is an expensive hobby. Our customer base is definitely skewed to the up-scale, but we serve people of all economic backgrounds. Before these massive tax cuts, the economy had been faltering. Severely. People were scared. They were cutting back a lot.

In the bead store, we experienced this in a strange way. The first thing we noticed is that our Saturday business dropped to near nothing. Saturdays overall are the busiest days of the week. We serve three or more times as many customers, and usually have the strongest or second strongest dollar-day of the week, on Saturdays. So, what was happening on Saturdays was very surprising and very disturbing.

The next thing that began to waver was our late afternoon business during the week. We would always have a rush after 3pm and through closing each day. Now it was very quiet during the week-day afternoons. And getting more disturbing.

This left us living on the weekday morning business. And we had been living on this for about a year. Before President Bush’s tax cut, this weekday morning business was beginning to weaken, as well. God, how disturbing can things get?

I was forced to cut out the equivalent of 1.5 F.T.E’s — one and a half (thus 60 work hours) full time equivalents, which meant three staff were either out of a job, or had fewer hours. Over the year, I reduced our inventory by over $10,000. I let a lot of things not get done, like the cleaning of our floors, or the replacement of broken light fixtures.

Our usual daily ebbs and flows were breaking down. In the mornings during the week, our wealthiest customers were disappearing. In the late afternoons during the week, our customers on their way home from work passed us by. And on Saturdays, our mix of customers, people who don’t work or don’t make a lot of money, were no where to be seen.

Then came the tax cut. And Trickle-Down Economics. Within weeks, weekday mornings started to get very busy. It took several months, but all of a sudden, our weekday afternoon business started to kick in again. And after about a year and a few months, Saturdays slowly got stronger, and began justifying what I had to pay our Saturday staff.

But Saturday business never returned to its heights for many, many years.

The tax-cut moneys never could quite trickle down to everyone on the bottom.

Like the Colorado River.

On the map, it reaches the Gulf of California.

In real life, it rarely does. The river beds goes all the way to the Gulf. The water often doesn’t. Residents and towns and farmers use up more water than the river carries, and it often doesn’t reach the sea.

The economy, the tax cuts, trickle down, the impacts and effects — — these all made sharper the class distinctions among our customers.

The upstairs/downstairs dynamic shows itself over and over again in the bead business. Think about Jewelry. People wear jewelry to show wealth, status, importance. People get competitive with jewelry — Who wears more, nicer, pricier? Who sells more? To whom? Which stores, located in which parts of town, show-case your jewelry?

People in different income groups shop at different times. Not often crossing paths. They shop for different kinds of products. They make different kinds of projects. They treat staff differently. And they treat each other differently.

Dressing For Success

I was shopping in Green Hills the other day, one of the better parts of town, and dropped off some packages at the local post office branch. I was standing in line, waiting my turn, and noticed how so many of the women, also in line, dressed in a similar way. And I began trying to analyze and categorize all this — it’s so boring to have to stand in line waiting, waiting, waiting. What better thing to do?

And I came up with the idea that richer people, when they dress, emphasize the horizontal. And, with further thought, I began to visualize how working class people, in contrast, when they dress, emphasize the vertical. Classes operate and dress themselves on different planes. Whether this is learned or genetic or any kind of universal mathematical fact, I don’t really know. But look around you.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems to me that wealthier people wear boxier cloths. They emphasize the shoulder-to-shoulder, and de-emphasize their breasts. Their pants line up with the lines going hip-to-hip, and de-emphasize as much as possible, the crack-to-crotch. Shoulders are puffy or padded. If big hair, it’s some variation of left-to-right or side-to-side, like that of Princess Laia and her “ear-muffs”. And if not, it is straight and close to the head. The necklace contour line is a gradual curve, from side to side, as it moves around the neck. The whole profile is as if they were presenting a door for you to knock on. Doors seem all-too-alike, plain, flat, and do not unduly call for your attention. Unthreatening. Accommodating. Asexual.

The whole profile of working class people, on the other hand, and I hope I’m not stretching the metaphors too far for everyone — humor me — is like a sharp knife coming right out at you. The breasts are pointy and pulled together. Hair long and narrow — pony tail, mullet, or Mohawk. The necklace contour line forms a “V”, often long, with large focal point. Pants tight and creased. Pants draw your eye to a tight upside down “V” from waste to either ankle. Sharp. Aggressive. Sexy.

It’s like staring down at a compass. If you were looking straight down onto the compass, that class of people who shower before work would take up the great East-West plane. On the other hand, that class of people who shower after work would run up and down the sharp vertical line running from North to South. Each class would reinforce their compass positions through style choices about clothes, jewelry, hair-style, and accessories.

There’s definitely a different body form emphasis in the way each social class dresses. You see it in the construction of the clothes. You see it in the use of point, line, shape and silhouette in the jewelry. So, it should come as no surprise that class consciousness, even class wars, should enter your local bead store or society.

Luckily for us, class distinctions in America are as much behavioral as economic. You can dress-up as-if, and dress-up anyone else, to fit in. You just have to pick up the subtle clues which show the boundaries between one class and another. That Great Chain of Social Being, connecting the low with the high and the lowly with the sophisticated in America, is not person-specific. It’s situational specific.

Income Class Competition

I have to listen to this several times a week.

“Why is she so successful?”
“Her stuff is Ugly!”
“Cheaply made.”
“She doesn’t even make it herself. She hires people to make it.”
“How did she get into that trunk show?”
“She buys all these things, and has all these things manufactured for her, and she doesn’t charge a full price!”

The “She” here is always someone very wealthy, has access to the “right” and “better” people in town, and probably owns a business and sells jewelry as much for status, as for making money. The title of “designer”, the fact of “owner”, and the visibility of the jewelry design business have as much currency for her (or her or her or her) as making a real profit, or creating truly well-designed and appealing pieces.

And my employee bemoans the fact that she works very hard at creating jewelry, but doesn’t get ahead. Her jewelry is prettier and better made. But everyone seems to want to buy “the other Her’s” jewelry. Her jewelry is for sale in several stores throughout town, but not the best stores as “the other Her’s” jewelry is. She spends days researching opportunities to sell her pieces, when opportunities seem to find “the other Her”, without effort. And my employee has to mark up her pieces so that she actually makes money at this endeavor, and “the other Her” does not. Or worse, “the other Her” has her jewelry marked up many times more than it’s worth, and it sells, because of the particular stores who display it — stores who do not accept just anyone’s jewelry, just those of wealthy women who live in the same part of town as the store owner does.

It is easier to compete with yourself, on your own terms, than with others. The jewelry business, with all its money, status and wealth implications and connections, offers different people different kinds of opportunities. There will be many people who won’t have the resources with which to compete. Realize that, accept it, and move on. Work with the resources you have and can afford. In America, it’s relatively easy to move in and out of situations with different income-class characteristics. But don’t get competitive by class status. Compete against yourself.

This doesn’t mean, if you are not rich, that you have to consign yourself to a second-status role in jewelry design. The sky’s the limit. Smart design, smart planning, smart management, smart marketing will take you wherever you want to go. But don’t waste a lot of time trying to tame the shrew in others. It’s a waste of energy. Stay self-focused.

The Great Equalizers

Although our wealthier customers might be very familiar with the 4 C’s — cut, color, carat, and clarity — they are generally clueless about most jewelry making materials, and even more clueless about the skills, techniques and strategies for assembling pieces of jewelry. And these are the Great Equalizers — Materials and Techniques.

There are no class distinctions when it comes to knowing what “gold-filled” is — few know. Or the differences between A+ and AB quality gemstones — few know. Or which stringing materials are appropriate for which situations — few know. Or which stitch works best with which beads — again, few people know.

So, Beading, because it is an art and requires learning a bag of specialized ideas and tricks, it has certain communal powers and undertones. People become dependent upon one another, no matter their economic class, in order to select materials, learn construction, and create beaded objects d’art, including jewelry.

No matter what the contradictions. No matter what the conflict. No matter what the class warfare. No matter what the personal conviction.

The Beads always win.

And that’s reassuring.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

Shawn and Jessica brought their two adopted Korean boys to the Korean restaurant. It was important that they immerse their sons in Korean culture wherever they could. When they finished the meal, they told their two boys to say “Good-bye” to the hostess in Korean.

“Annyonghi kaysayo”

Good bye, the hostess replied.

And a little sparkle was added to their lives.

Each month, Laura and her co-workers would clean up their Adopt-A-Highway. The work was not hard. The camaraderie great. The task important. And each month she returned home with a great sense of self-satisfaction. And some sparkle was added to her life.

The two little Guatemalan girls were fascinated by the Spanish-English dictionary. They stood on the side of the road, giggling with eyes very wide open in amazement. With the Atitlan Volcano behind them and Lake Trinitaria in front of them, they marveled at seeing so many words in such a small book — so many more words than their teacher could ever write on their chalkboard. And some sparkle was added to their lives.

Like other things in life, jewelry adds a little sparkle to people’s lives. And the jewelry designer, in many ways, determines how.

Sarah had never been to a large fabric store before. So when she entered MOOD in New York City, she nearly collapsed with excitement. She was shaking. Where to begin? Where to begin? She ran here. She ran there. She ran her hands along yards and yards and yards and yards of material. She found fabric patterns to compliment the line of jewelry she made. And some sparkle was added to her life.

Sue and Allan had made reservations for the Chef’s table at Dandelion’s eleven months ago. And they were lucky to get the reservation even then, but someone had canceled just minutes before Sue called to make the reservation. This was their very special night. As they were ushered into the restaurant, past one dining room, then another, past patrons enjoying their meals, and then they entered the kitchen door and were seated at the very cozy table. The Chef greeted them. Sue lightly touched her necklace, in a reassuring manner. And their night was as special as they imagined. And, yes, some sparkle was added to their lives, as well.

Aldia was on vacation, and the store clerk asked where she was from. I live in The Villages near Orlando in Florida, she said. They have 45 golf courses in that community! Do you believe it? she continued. I love The Villages. Everyone says Hello! to you. Everyone will love the beads I bought here. And there was a sparkle that came to her eye.

And as in other situations in life, the jewelry designer not only creates sparkle, but also must be very sensitive to how this sparkle enters people’s lives.

Jewelry may help people feel attached to their surroundings, Be more aware of themselves. Their status. Their situation. Their power. Their sexuality. Jewelry may serve to open up a whole new world for someone. Jewelry may signify how people may safely interact, and not interact. It may start conversations. As well as end them.

The jewelry artist designs jewelry. She or he selects materials to use. An order or arrangement is decided upon. A hypothesis is formulated about how best to assemble the pieces. And the hypothesis is put to the test. And hopefully the finished piece is more than the sum of its parts. Because it has to add sparkle to people’s lives.

The crazy black-white-brown-black-white-brown-black-white-brown piece Lucinda wore to the Latin dance club.

The silken pearl necklace which adorned Gena at her wedding.

The long, multi-strand necklace, with strong navy blues, and very large beads with almost mirror-polished flat surfaces that Paula always wore on days of staff meetings.

The very tiny hoops with simple 3mm crystal dangles that Missy wore every day in her life, everywhere she went, every time she left her home.

Jewelry adds sparkle not only to the life of the person wearing it, but also to the person viewing it. So the jewelry designer, in actuality, has to be doubly-effective with his or her designs. The successful jewelry designer has to be able to come up with designs that create sparkled “squared” — a double dose.

Adding “sparkle” is not, however, only about bright, sparkly things. It doesn’t mean adding glitz. It is not about bling. It’s some more subtle thing. Sparkle is something that wells up within. It is completing, reassuring, reaffirming, self-actualizing, reconnecting. It is a momentary oneness with the air, a breathlessness, a feeling so good welling up within you. A smile.

So, we must have some insight, some clue, some fathoming of how the person — whether the wearer or the viewer — begins to sparkle from within. What are they seeing? What are they noticing? How are they interpreting? How are they understanding?

How is their eye and brain working, when it interacts with jewelry, on a perceptual level? What is the eye and brain really seeing? What is it really responding to?

How is their brain interpreting what it sees? How does the brain come to evaluate the degree to which any piece of jewelry meets a person’s needs, wants, desires, motivations? For sparkle.

How does all this translation of lines and points and shapes and colors and textures and patterns and lights and shadows and drapes and flows and movements and silhouettes result in a sparkling from within?

The search for these answers is very much a part of what it means to pursue a sense of design. Otherwise, you will never truly succeed, through your jewelry, at adding a little sparkle in people’s lives.

Except in a random sense.

And that’s not good enough.

The Jewelry Designer Is A Conductor … Of Sparkle

The elements in jewelry, and their arrangement, play a song. These can be one note. These can be many notes. Or chords. Harmonic. Orchestral. Symphonic. Jazz. Waltz. Hip Hop. Cacophony. The jewelry designer needs to be able to hear this song in their inner ear as they design. Because they are responsible for the arrangement. And tweaking or changing the arrangement.

The jewelry designer is a Conductor.

Of sparkle.

Avoiding discord.

Sparkle Requires No Non-Essential Elements

The best jewelry — the most attractive, the most powerful, the most functional, the most inner-sparkling — are pieces within which there are no extraneous elements. Adding (or subtracting) anything within the pieces no longer makes it a better piece.

Here’s where many prospective jewelry designers trip up. Most try to over-embellish their pieces. If one fringe works, 12 fringes will work better. If bead-bezeled cabochons worked, 6 more will be better. They think if one sparkle is enough, many sparkles will be better.

And others are afraid to add more pieces, for fear someone will think they are show’y. They are afraid of too much sparkle. They shy away from asserting power. They are uncertain. If someone says one piece is beautiful, they wonder if they could create it again. Successful jewelry scares them.

These kinds of jewelry designers substitute more sparkle (or less sparkle) as a way of avoiding making hard choices — choices to find that parsimonious array of sparkle and conclusion which works.

And sparkles.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »