Monday, 6 July 2009

10 Standards For Selling Good Lampwork Beads

In the excitement of starting to make lampwork beads is the amazement that other people like our beads and are wanting to buy them. So when are we ready to sell our beads.

1. Good holes.

The holes of your beads need to be neat, to not have any sharp points. Quite simply if your beads have sharp points they could cut the stringing material a bead worker is using damaging your buyers jewellery and potentially affecting their reputation.

You are also selling something with a sharp point, which after all is glass and so could cut the buyer.

People recommend that you should have good puckers, what that means is that there are nice dimples so the whole thing is smooth. There different recommendations for different shapes and different personal preferences, but I would recommend that the holes always go in a little.

I do know that some people “drill out” the holes to get rid of the sharp points. This will leave an etched look on the bead and a rough surface. There is no harm in doing this for beads you intend to keep but it is best to avoid on beads you intend to sell.

2. Shape of the bead

The bottom line is that most people who are buying our beads are buying them to make jewellery and generally they need the bead to hang right in the design.

S13aIt is fairly obvious when beads are off centred and don't hang right. One of the surprises for me was with my signature peacock beads. With the way that the glass is place to form the body, it causes the beads to be unbalanced and turn meaning that designers have needed to be careful how they have used them. I have subsequently changed the orientation of the design which makes a huge difference.

There is no problem in making an off centred design if that is how it is intended to be. You just need to let your buyer know, you don't want buyers returning your beads.

3. Structurally sound – No cracks or defects

In my mind it goes without saying that beads should be structurally sound. What has scared me when I have looked at beads the number of people who sell damaged beads. I even found some at a bead show on a lamp workers stall and they were telling me how wonderful their work was. Unfortunately my thoughts were you are unintentionally affecting me by selling stuff which is substandard

4. Stringer design well attached

It is so exciting when you begin to get design on beads. It is really important however that it is well attached. The bottom line is if the dots or stringer are under cut and not flush to the bead, the glass will come off at some point. Not great if you’ve already shipped the bead and someone is wearing the bead as it can lead to sharp glass … ouch.

5. Annealed.

It is strongly recommended that you anneal your beads in a kiln before you sell them. This is often the main difference between mass produced beads.

The basic science is that cooling the bead at a slow rate allows the bead molecules to line up rather than being random. Having random molecules means that the glass is more likely to break or crack at some point in the future.

Annealing your beads means that in the future it could be your beads that archaeologists dig up because they have survived years. It also more practically means you will have happy customers.

6. Cleaned.

One of the things about mass produced beads is that often they are not cleaned properly. From a designer point of view this leads to a yucky white substance coming from the beads. What I didn't realise for a long time is that this powder can be cancerous if breathed in. Frankly any fine dust breathed in is bad for your lungs.

Look after your customers by cleaning your beads and look after yourself by cleaning your beads underwater.

7. Chill marks.

These are little rings and ridges which appear on your beads when you use tools or press your beads. They appear because different bits of the glass cool at different rates. The bead need to be warmed to clean these marks off to create a nice smooth surface.

Having said all this I have seen a friend create lollipop beads where she deliberately left the marks as part of the design. Some people just have to be different hey.

8. Bubbles

Bubbles are the curse of clear or transparent glass especially when you are encasing the bead. The aim is to create a bead free of bubbles. Some people like bubbles in beads and my understanding is that they don't affect the structure of the bead but a good bead is bubble free.

9. Pricing.

This is a hugely touchy subject but the bottom line is if as a designer you sell a handmade bead for a cheep price you are teaching the guys who buy beads that lampwork beads are not worth much. This then affects the other lampwork bead makers.

You may only be making as a hobby, you may no feel you are good enough but the recommendation is that you charge 50p a minute whilst making the bead. That will cover the cost of the making the bead and promotion. If you feel a better lamp worker would make the bead faster then charge for the time you think it would take them.

10. Insurance.

The unfortunate reality of selling is that it makes sense to have Public Liability Insurance. Should the glass you sell harm someone, it makes sense to be able to protect you and your family financially.

Enjoy melting glass, it is the most amazing thing you can do. Hopefully this article should give you an idea of when it is a good time to start selling your precious orbs of glass.


  1. hmmm, interesting. I have never worked with glass- this was fun to read!

  2. thank you Lori. Molten glass is an incredible medium to work with but like anything we do I think its important that what we sell has a degree of quality to it


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