Part of my bead stash is one, large drawer that is filled to the brim with strands and small bags of freshwater pearls. Yes, I'm a Pearl Junkie. Stick pearls, baroque pearls, coin pearls, button pearls, potato pearls — you name it, I have a strand (or two) of those pearls in my collection.
So when I was browsing the Lima Beads website a few weeks ago, I was curious to find out what their new shell pearls were like. These new pearl beads were described as being closer to a natural pearl than other types of imitation pearls, and the prices certainly fit right into my budget.
According to the Lima Beads website, these shell pearls are created with a core of solid, carved seashell instead of crystal or glass. They are perfectly round and extremely consistent in size and shape. The coating of these pearls, which is manufactured in the United States, contains real mother of pearl. It's the mother of pearl in this coating that gives the shell pearls their beautiful color and luster. This carved seashell core also makes a shell pearl more like a real freshwater pearl than a glass pearl bead.
Because the process is so highly controlled, you'll find little to no variation in shape, size and color between lots of these shell pearl beads. Shell pearls are less likely to chip or fade than other types of glass pearls and are less sensitive to perfumes, soaps, and other substances that can affect natural and glass pearls.
Shell pearls come in 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm and 14mm round sizes and in sixteen different colors, plus one variegated color. Prices range from around $4 for a 16 inch strand of 6mm pearls to $11 for a 16 inch strand of 14mm pearls, representing a good value for a good quality pearl bead.
The only aspect of the larger pearls that I wasn't entirely happy with was the irregularity around some of the bead holes. I noticed that some of the coating had been chipped off, presumably during the manufacturing process. However, when I tried to chip off more of the coating using my fingernail, a beading awl and a cutting blade, I was unable to do so. The coating of the rest of the pearl is also very resistant to scratching, making these new shell pearls quite a hard-working bunch of pearl beads!
I used half a strand of the new shell pearls from Lima Beads to make my two Cluster Beaded Beads for the Beadwork magazine 15th anniversary beaded bead contest, and I was extremely pleased at how they worked for bead-weaving. I was afraid that the bead holes wouldn't be big enough to accommodate several thread passes, but I got my Tulip beading needle and 6 lb. Fireline through each bead multiple times with no problems at all.
Head on over to the Lima Beads website to check out their selection of shell pearls, and if you've used these new shell pearl beads before, leave a comment here and let me know what you thought of them! Will you be buying any more of these pearl beads?