Monday, November 11, 2013

Chinese Glass Beads - You Really Do Get What You Pay For

It's happened time and again at shows and online. "Real" glass bead artisans find themselves next to a poser. Someone pretending to be an artisan but she really imports the beads from China and sells those glass beads for pennies on the dollar. You sit there in your booth, hoping just to break even while the fake "artisan" is selling hand over fist. People really don't understand the vast differences in price between artisan beads and Chinese. And they more frequently than not will opt for savings.

So... let's take a look at what you get for your hard earned pennies when you go for cheaper Chinese glass beads. I ordered the beads below from a Chinese reseller on Ebay over 15 years ago before I knew what quality in a glass bead was. I just wanted something with a pink ribbon on it for my sister.  Upon first glance, they seem ok. But not really... see that while line in the middle of the bead? That's bead release that has not been properly removed. These are dirty beads...
When I took a needle nose tweezer to them, look at all the release I scraped out with very little effort:

When you make jewelry with dirty beads, the beading cord rubs against the bead release and soon, the whole piece looks nasty. Over time, the dirt breaks down the beading cord cutting years off the wear of the piece.

But that's not the only problem. Chinese beads are never annealed. Glass must be returned to room temp from a liquid state in very specific and controlled stages. This takes time and costs money! Digital kilns are not cheap and are often the most expensive tool in the artisan's possession. When you don't take the time to do this, the beads can break easily, often right along the hole.

I am a klutz and you know I make big beads. I have often dropped one of my big honkers on my tile kitchen floor and.... NOTHING happened to it! It did not break because annealing made it strong!

But I dropped one of these on my tile floor just to see what would happen. Being a small bead, I thought it might not break... but it did!

Jewelry makers have to realize that their reputation can depend on the beads they choose for their work. Are you happy getting quick sale or do you want to be known as an artisan of quality pieces? Which one is likely to create repeat business? Is the money saved on these crap beads really a value or simply wasted??

You have to take responsibility when shopping. Grace, Austin Hamilton and their ilk import Chinese crap and try to pass it off as artisan glass, when it is dirty, not annealed and made in a factory for pennies.

When shopping in person, if you see someone selling glass beads much cheaper than other booths at a show, ask them who makes their beads. Is it one person or many??? Do they have boxes and boxes of the same bead? That's a dead giveaway. Most true artisans make 3 -5 of a similar bead but opt for greater choice at a show.

Online, know that even spacer beads should cost at least a buck a piece. If you are buy six or seven beads for $7 including shipping, you are getting Chinese beads. You most certainly won't even receive the beads in the photo.

Photos that show many sets in the same style are another giveaway. So is seeing the same exact item (often using the same photo from the manufacturer) for sale in different shops.

Narrow your search functions be searching for specific glass artists you know of or using the term sra. Be a responsible shopping and you'll find quality glass beads that allow you to create lifetime treasures!

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