I have had a lot of inquiries about my post regard glass stone beads. Many have asked about more information regarding Lampwork beads so I thought I would go into a bit more detail. Lampworking is a type of glasswork where a torch or lamp was primarily used to melt the glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements. It is now sometimes know as flameworking or torchworking because the modern practice no longer uses oil-fueled lamps. However from a bead standpoint, lampwork is still the standard terminology. Lampworking dates back to the fifth century BC and became widely practiced in Murano, Italy in the 14th century.
Early lampworking was done in the flame of an oil lamp, with the artist blowing air into the flame through a pipe. Most artists today use torches. Lampworking is used to create artwork, including beads, figurines, marbles, small vessels, Christmas tree ornaments, and much more. It is also used to create scientific instruments as well as glass models of animal and botanical subject. Since I own a beadstore, I will discuss how lampwork beads are created but there is so much more that lampworking can create. Look at your Christmas tree and I bet you have a few lampworked ornaments!
So how exactly is a lampworked bead made? The beadmaker starts by dipping a mandrel or wire, cut into lengths, into a release agent. Release agents are either clay based or man made. The flameworker selects rods of glass to heat in the flame of the torch. When both glass and mandrel are sufficiently warm, the beadmaker starts rotating the mandrel while allowing the glass to wind upon it. Beads are shaped using a combination of heat, gravity and tools such as graphite paddles, mashers, tweezers, and picks. Presses to create shapes and indent patterns into the glass are also used. Beads can be decorated by melting stringers, or fibers of glass on the surface, creating dots or lines. With a sharp pointed tool, feathers, hearts or other designs may be produced. Metal decorations of copper, silver, gold, palladium and platinum are applied as metal leaf, wire, mesh or fuming. If silver based colors are used (striking colors), the bead must be heated for a few moments in the torch flame or kiln to allow crystals to reform in the glass. This temperature is slightly above the stress relief point. Once completed, beads should be heated until the piece reaches its “stress relief point”, held at that temp for a short time, then slowly cooled to avoid thermal shock. The cooled bead can be further decorated. Standard cold working techniques can be employed such as sandblasting, faceting and polishing. Etching the finished piece with acid leaves a matte finish.
So when you order your beads on-line and create a perfect Holiday piece, think of the time and effort that goes into creating a lampworked bead. Modern technology has made this process easier but there is still significant artistry that goes into every bead.