Bead Sizes, Bead Making and Bead Variations
To learn about the sizing of beads, convert from millimeters to inches or to learn how the beads are made, read below. The bead variations is important reading as this will give you pictures on the variations which are considered perfectly normal for Venetian beads. Murano Glass Beads and Venetian glass beads are made by hand one by one, however, it is considered production work and as such it is important for the beadmakers to produce a large number of beads each day - which helps hold down pricing for you.
Venetian beads are sized in millimeters, not inches as that is the measurement used in Italy and throughout the world. To help you determine if a particular bead will work in your designs, below are pictured general sizing information and the conversion is shown for Americans who normally use inches. The Murano beads are all handmade so sizing is not exact and will vary bead to bead. Just remember a 12mm round bead is about 1/2" diameter, and a 26mm bead is over 1 inch. For a rough estimate, consider that your pinky finger nail is about 10mm which will give you a rough idea.
Sizes shown in millimeters in comparison to US coins. Smaller sizes are typically used as filler or accent beads.
Conversion: 25mm = 1 inch
To make a 16" necklace with size 9mm beads would require approximately 34 beads (with tied knots between). To use softflex or wire, you will need about 4-6 more beads or spacer beads to replace the space the knots occupy.
Visit a Beadmaker
Below is a typical Venetian glass beadmakers factory. The large pipes help ventilation and heat. The tools on the wall are used to shape the beads. The tools have not changed significantly in centuries. A supply of natural (or propane) gas provides the heat for melting the glass and the ladies work behind a shield to protect them from flying bits of glass. Cut off socks provide protection from the heat, a technique used also by many glass blowers. Like all the Murano glass industry, it's not glamorous nor exciting - but the beads are well worth the work and are sought all over the world for their beauty and clarity!
First the rod of glass is heated to flowing, then holding a copper wire (used as the mandrel) in the other hand, they quickly wrap the flowing glass around the wire. For decorations, they may roll the partially complete bead in frit (tiny fragments of other colors of glass) or place slices of the millefiore cane on the bead. For many of the shapes, special tools are made which help them create the hearts, stars, and some of the straight sides squares and coins. This is how all Venetian glass beads are made.
During this process, all the glass, is a brilliant glowing red, so they must work from experience and learned touch. Only a trained eye can detect the colors. To complete the bead is shaped using the tools on the wall and then cooled slowly. Production is limited as each bead is made in this fashion. Naturally, given this process, no two beads are ever exactly the same. And sizing is never exact given the nature of this handwork.
Handmade Venetian beads are formed with Murano glass known as Moretti glass (now the company is known as Effetre Moretti). This is a soda glass with a COE of 90, the coefficient of expansion which describes the rate of its expansion in heating and cooling. In making beads it is important that the beadmaker use compatible glass. Even within the Moretti glass, there are some colors which are have slightly different COEs as the addition of the minerals which give the glass its color change the chemical composition of the beads.
The individual Murano glass rods which are purchased from Moretti have slight color variations depending on the batch. This is much like carpet lots in that batches of glass made at different times, using the exact same recipe will have variations in color, which can be due to such things as humidity or temperature.
We size the beads (approximately) as it is a norm within that particular bead type. Individual beads will vary in size as they are handmade. Imagine that you are making cookies or bread. Does each of your cookies come out exactly the same? Take a look above at how the beads are made, they are working at temperatures in excess of 1700 degrees (F) or about 900 degrees Centigrade, so its hard to measure exactly. They are measuring using their eyes and the feel of the bead on the mandrel. So if you want beads to be exactly round, exactly the same size you will need to stick to machine made beads. Humans simply cannot do this.
Goldfoil, Silverfoil on Outside:
All beads begin as a round ball, as that is the natural flow of the melting glass rod over the mandrel (whether the mandrel is copper or stainless steel). Then to apply the foils to the Venetian beads, using a small square of foil, the round ball is rolled over the small square. Now think of trying to giftwrap a ball in a square. You have a bit of excess at the ends of your ball. This is exactly how the beads are made and there will always be tiny bits of the goldfoil which escapes to the outside of the bead. This is not an imperfection nor is it a reason for rejection. This is simply Venetian Glass beads.
Sharp Ends and Stringers
When these Murano glass beads are being made, they are working at the temperatures of 900 degrees. The glass is quite fluid and as the beadmaker works on the bead, to make the point of a heart or to finish off a round bead, thin bits of the glass remain adhered to the mandrel. These sharp edges are a normal part of Venetian glass beads, Murano glass beads and are not considered a defect, nor an imperfection. Here you can make use of a bead reamer, or very fine grit sandpaper and carefully remove the tiny shards.
Blown Bead Holes
Blown Venetian Glass beads will always have irregular holes on the two ends. The beads are made in a furnace, using the traditional canna glass making techniques or in the case of our transparent glass hearts, they are made in lampwork technique starting with large Murano Moretti glass which they first melt, then blow. The blowing of these beads is an art form, the blowing must be done quickly and it is impossible to rework the holes as they are quickly jacked (the glass term for using the tweezer shaped tools to make the indention where they can be broken off from the balance of the blown tube). To use these in your jewelry and designs, bead caps are essential and can hide large and small holes. Making a tight wirewrap on these Venetian blown glass beads will secure them straight in your designs.
Here are some differences you can expect to find in our handmade Venetian Beads. These are normal and not considered flaws.
The exact shape of the end of hearts vary.