Monday, November 12, 2012

Woman in Black Jewellery!

I wrote a blog post back in October called Woman in Black!  It was all about a set of lentil shaped beads I made after I had read the Novel - The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.  I know I am repeating myself here but if you get the chance to read it, please do ...... and if whilst reading you hear the wind howling outside, the windows begin to rattle and a very un-familiar creak on the stairs ........ don't worry ......

I decided to use the set of beads to make a bracelet.  Each lentil shaped bead was enclosed within sterling silver saucer beads.  Between each group of beads I added a 6mm swarovski crystal to add a touch of sparkle.  I finished the bracelet off with a sterling silver hallmarked lobster clasp.

I was really pleased with the result.  The beads became part of a very elegant piece of jewellery! I wanted to make more, a pendant maybe and a pair of earrings to match.  There was only one problem.  I had used up all of the beads.   

I couldn't decide whether to make a pendant or a necklace.   So the next day I made enough beads to keep my options open.  Of course, making the beads is only part of the bead making process.  I make each bead individually and once they are made I place them directly in my kiln.  They remain in the kiln overnight to anneal.  Basically, the beads are held at a certain temperature to 'soak' for a set period of time and then they are cooled down very slowly.  This gives the beads their strength and durability.  If I didn't place the beads in the kiln and just left them to cool in the open air, they would probably crack.  If they didn't crack immediately they would over a period of time.  Kiln annealing your beads is a very important part of lampworking.

When the kiln reaches room temperature the beads can be removed and are then soaked in water and removed from the mandrel.  I don't think I have mentioned the mandrel before.  Each bead is made on a metal rod called a mandrel.  The mandrel's have to be coated in a substance called 'bead release' before you start melting any glass on them.  The bead release does what it says .... you make the bead by melting the glass on the coated part of the mandrel so that when the bead is cool it can easily be removed.  If the glass was melted directly onto the mandrel without bead release then it would remain on there forever.  The photograph below is taken from my 'Shrooms Tutorial' but you can clearly see the metal rod (mandrel) and the light grey bead release.

Bead release is a nasty substance and it has to be removed from the inside of each and every bead.  For me, this is not the most interesting part of lampwork bead making.  I usually put on a good film and set about removing all the bead release from every bead.  I then give them all a good clean and polish on the outside so they are ready to be used.

It is quite a long process from start to finish and is usually why handmade lampwork beads are so expensive.

As soon as my beads were ready, I sat down with all my silver and threads (that would make a good name for a jewellery shop) and started making a pendant.

The pendant had to continue in the same theme as the bracelet .... obviously ... or it wouldn't match.  I strung one of the lentil beads onto a sterling silver wire core, I placed a sterling silver saucer bead either side of the lentil bead and finished it off with a 6mm black diamond swarovski crystal.  It looked unfinished at this point so I added a few little dangles on the bottom of the pendant to add interest and of course lots of sparkle ....

The set wouldn't be complete without a pair of lentil shaped earrings! I like making earrings! I added the same combinations of silver beads and swarovski crystals to create these .....

All of my lampwork bead jewellery can be found in my shop on Wow Thank you!

Sarah xx


  1. Great to hear a bit about the process of making the beads - i've always wondered. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Whitney, I have meaning to write a blog post about the whole process from beginning to end but just haven't got around to it yet! .... well I have written it but haven't got around to taking photos .....

    Sarah xx

  3. Hi Sarah, love this Woman In Black style jewellery - very gothic and victorian. The pendant is lovely. I didn't realise all the work that went into making beads either - really interesting!

  4. Thank You! When I have the time I am going to write a blog post following the whole process from start to finish. xx