The Heartbreak of Tucson: Ancient Roman Glass

Feb 7, 2012

As many of you know, this was my first year attending the Tucson shows, and I was so excited! I had heard stories about the amazing bead, gem and mineral shows, and saved my pennies so that I could bring home a healthy supply of beads and treasures for my new beading and jewelry-making projects.

My heart broke the same way as this piece of ancient Roman glass. How would you fix it and use it?
One of the best parts of my time in Tucson was getting to spend time with Tammy Jones of Jewelry Making Daily. Tammy and I had never met in person before, and we were both excited to finally be meeting face-to-face after all the emails and phone calls we'd exchanged over the last few months!

On my last day in Tucson, we went to The Best Bead Show. Earlier that morning, we had been talking about ancient Roman glass and how much we loved it. And wouldn't you know it - as soon as we got to the bead show, there was a vendor with a whole table of ancient Roman glass! Tammy and I were all over it, and my eye fell on one particular piece.

It was a very unusual piece of ancient Roman glass. A thicker piece with beautiful shades of green and purple had been soldered (somewhat clumsily) into a lighter, more delicate ring of glass, with two little loops for hanging. After a little bargaining with the vendor, she slipped it into a plastic baggie and I put it in my pocket, afraid that it would be damaged in my heavy tote bag without any bubble wrap.

We continued to shop, and while I was browsing at Whimbeads, I found the perfect seed bead mix, appropriately named Margarita, to stitch up a lovely rope from which I wanted to hang my ancient Roman glass treasure!

At the end of the day, Tammy and I sat on a bench and waited for a taxi to take us back to the hotel. I started to look through my purchases, and I suddenly remembered the piece of ancient Roman glass in my pocket. I reached in to take it out and felt a slight "crack".

Yes, you guessed it. The delicate ring of ancient Roman glass had cracked in two.

Now, if I had thought to take a picture of Tammy's face, that would have appropriately conveyed what I felt inside. My beautiful piece of glass had cracked right in two! So much for stashing it safely in my pocket, right?

I'm still determined to use this ancient Roman glass in a piece of beaded jewelry. Tammy suggested that I try gluing it back together, but I'm worried about what effect the glue might have on the glass. I'm leaning towards wrapping the remaining piece of glass ring in a soft cloth, gently breaking it off, and then using one of my glass files to smooth out the edges. It's still a beautiful piece of ancient Roman glass, even if it's not exactly the same as it was when I purchased it, and I still want to use it.

I'd love to hear some suggestions from readers as to what I can do with this piece! Feel free to leave a comment on this blog and let me know what you think I should do!

Stay tuned for more blogs about the amazing seed beads, vintage charms and components and lampwork glass beads that I brought home with me from Tucson!

Bead Happy,


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cool_moon wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 9:19 AM

Oh, how heart 'breaking'.  Sorry for the pun.  But seriously, if you can file off the sharp edges of what remains, can you add a seed bead piece to the focal, that would make the ring look as though it disappears into the work?  I would hate to have you lose the rest of such a beautiful piece.

Karen7 wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 9:39 AM

I would try E-6000 cement or, better still, UV glue. Many stained glass shops are very familiar with UV (ultraviolet) glue, which reacts with UV light to form a very strong, nearly invisible bond.

on Feb 8, 2012 10:06 AM

I was at the Tucson show, it was also my 1st time there. A bit overwhelming, don't you think? Bought a lovely chunk of Tiger Eye, Ethiopian Opal, & African Rubie rocks. Now to find time to work with the raw materials.

on Feb 8, 2012 10:06 AM

I was at the Tucson show, it was also my 1st time there. A bit overwhelming, don't you think? Bought a lovely chunk of Tiger Eye, Ethiopian Opal, & African Rubie rocks. Now to find time to work with the raw materials.

Jeanni wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 10:28 AM

It might be possible to wire wrap the pieces together with silver wire.  Just a thought.

TashaMc wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 10:44 AM

You should be fine with an epoxy resin - some friends of mine who work in the British Museum have tested it on ancient glass and ceramics (their own collection, not the Museum's property!) and are happy with the results.

Ricki Ayer wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 11:22 AM

Since you are thinking about breaking off the glass ring anyway, I think you should try to glue it back together first.  If it doesn't work, you can always go to plan B and break it off.

Another thought - check to see if there is an art restorer in your area and if they repair glass etc. they might have a suggestion as to what to use.

I was so sorry to hear about the damage to your lovely ancient glass - I can imagine how devastated you must have been, but I know you can still make something lovely from it.  Keep us advised.


D.M.Z wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 11:46 AM

J: I would SO glue it back together............ I would have bought that piece also and something like E6000 or the UV glue that someone else mentioned would work well. The WhimBeads mix must have been "made" for that glass. Donna

TammyJones wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 12:35 PM

I'm still heartbroken for you! Not to be overly dramatic, but no words could describe that moment. But I can't wait to see what you make of it!

Phirestorm wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 2:11 PM

I know just how devastating this is.  I really feel for you.  If it were me, I would use an industrial cyanoacrylate (Krazy Glue) to bond the pieces back together.  Then bind the 10 & 2 o'clock positions with a tight wire wrap in Silver.  Then wrap the broad area from 5 to 7 o'clock with a seperate coil.  The glue bonds, the wire reinforces and hides the fractures.

Another possiblility is to make a copper or bronze backing ring to reinforce the glass that hides behind it without contrasting with the Silver.  Although I guess one could do the same with Silver to match the rough formed look of the central piece.

Best of luck, please let us all know how it turns out!

auntpamela wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 2:58 PM

glue it back together and use a wire wrap to cover the glue area.....or since you stitch seed beads, use a seed bead cover for the glue could look like you wrapped it or covered it on purpose .....good luck and keep us updated on what you decide to do :)

digichic wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 3:53 PM

How about taking the tragedy and turning it into an opportunity.  Turn it so that it will hang from the left ring.  Do something pretty between the two rings to tie them together.  then dangle the broken piece just below the rest of it.  I am sure you will find a way to do that beautifully.

Jan@272 wrote
on Feb 9, 2012 10:22 AM

I love it just the way it is! I would just smooth out the broken looks like a quotation mark.  Serendipity here!  

I'm not sure but maybe you could even use the fragment as a component in another piece

SandFibers wrote
on Feb 10, 2012 11:09 AM

Oh, Jen.... :(  I'm so sorry that happened.  I have no advice to add to that given above. The colors in the glass and Beki's bead mix  (which I will now have to order for myself) are gorgeous.

Lucy@61 wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 7:18 AM

Why not find a way to wire wrap the two pieces together or design a bezel around the two pieces to connect them.

Suzan Gill wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 8:20 AM

As a wirewrapper, I would carefully glue the ends together with a glue appropriate for glass.  Then, I would wrap a few wraps around each break to both hide the break and enhance the design.  Good luck.

MarieG10 wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 8:33 AM

Ohhhhh.   I'm sure you felt like crying.  I think, like you, I'd break the remaining piece(s) off and sand the edges then elaborately wire wrap them to showcase the glass pieces.  The shapes would be truely unique and could still make an incredible piece of jewelry.

jjg4 wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 8:42 AM

I have just started learning about polymer clay and all that can be done with this product...You may want to consult with an experienced clay artist as how to incorporate the glass and clay into a pendant....I have seen some mind blowing things done with polymer clay,,Just a thought on  trying something different...Good Luck...JJG

ssari wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 9:34 AM

Hi! I fuse and slump large glass pieces. We use a special UV activated glue and you can  glue the 2 pieces together very securely. If you try to break off a piece, you will have no control over exactly where the break happens - even if you score the piece before and use special pliers.

I would definitely glue.


Sari from South Africa

on Feb 11, 2012 10:59 AM

Hi Jennifer,

I would glue it, wrap a small length of metal around it to secure it even further, maybe incorporating three seed beads from the mix for the rope. It is a beautiful piece and I am sure you will end up with a lovely necklace.


_bead_bum_ wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 11:27 AM

I think Phirestorm has the right idea...put some sort of backing on the ring. It looks so fragile, even if you can successfully glue it I see it breaking again, maybe even in a different spot. What if you set it into a ring of resin, or a ring-shaped metal bezel, or even wrapping the edges in narrow strips of silver foil like that used for stained glass?

It's a beautiful piece...good luck whatever you decide to do!

aweed wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 11:53 AM

What about filing the edges, and adding silver endcaps to each end, connecting them with soldered jump rings?

Show us what you end up doing!

Luvzhorses wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 1:02 PM

Okay - here's what I'd do.  I'd break off the other side, then using a sort of embroidered seed bead piece, I'd incorporate the two ring pieces into the seed beads to form a bezel around each and with other colors of seed beads, make the "skip" at the broken off spot just below the two loops part of the design.  Whether you glue a piece of thin leather to the back of the main soldered piece is a choice, but you could create a sewn bond along the top using the back side of the two large rings to attach it.  Kind of like a back flap with the embroidered seed beaded piece extending past the main piece.  Sheesh - this is hard to explain, but if you'd like to see what I mean, I'd be glad to sketch it up and send it to you. rae @ luvzhorses dot com.  I can just SEE the piece in my mind and it would still be the original shape of the piece but decorated.  



ScottyMom wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 1:17 PM

Method 1: Use a back plate of metal (color and type up to you) slightly larger than the ring was to start with. Clean up the ends of the broken glass. (Be sure to sand in water!).  Mount prongs to hold both pieces and the focal. Make a rope with the matching beads.

Method 2: Use a backing piece of Lacy's Stiff Stuff. After cleaning up the broken pieces, mount them and the focal onto the Lacy's (glue). Coordinate the colors of your beads in bead embroidery, and back with ultrasuede. Either way would protect and support the ancient glass pieces. No doubt the colors are amazing!

Lastly, give thanks for receiving the opportunity to use your design skills to remake this JUST FOR YOU!  Have fun!  Roberta

Radiance@3 wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 1:21 PM

I think you're right -- the outer ring is just too fragile to incorporate and will have to be removed.  But with a solid metal backing to support them, the broken pieces could be used in a mosaic design to wear as a brooch or pendant.  

Ancient Roman glass is my deepest beading desire... I surely feel for your loss.

Gail@159 wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 1:37 PM

Have you thought of putting the whole piece is a bazel setting, either with the metal or using metal clay?  I have a pair of earrings of Roman glass and cherish them.  I can only imagine how you feel.  Good luck.

on Feb 11, 2012 1:37 PM

I think the glass ring was way too fragile to be used as a piece of wearable jewelry.  The vendor should have known better.  At any rate, if you want to repair the glass ring itself, I would look into museums who deal with Roman glass and how they conserve and repair the pieces for posterity.  But I would seriously reconsider actually wearing the this piece at all.  I think trying to remove it from the secondary piece without taking steps to stabilize the fragile ring would result in a pile of shards on your worktable.   Good luck!

NevaG wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 1:42 PM

use glass glue, I broke a beautiful vase that was a clear glass and my husband used glass glue (carefully and it looked perfect)

JeanY3 wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 2:01 PM

I would embed it in something which would not detract from its beauty. I notice that the inner part looks, on my computer,at least like a signet crest or seal--you could play up that look!  I think it is stunning and I am glad you have it--broken or not, it is a true treasure.

jean yates xox

MyLadyK wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 2:27 PM

I would certain use it as is! I agree with some of the artists on using it as a bead embroidery center piece. I can see a strand of light/dark green ivy twining itself over and around the piece of glass. A backing of light weight leather would help to protect the entire piece.

cherrybowers wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 7:33 PM

how about wrapping it with silver wire, glue the pieces together then wrap use some decorative  way

beadbeader wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 10:52 PM

Hi Jennifer,

I collect miniature glass animals.  Unfortunately some of them get broken over time.  I usually am able to find a person who makes these animals locally.  They usuually have a booth at shopping of the shopping malls around Christmas or at Craft Fairs.  I start out by call some of the larger malls to see if they have anyone listed.  Also, if you call one of the larger housecleaning coimpanies, they usaully have a conatct on someone who could repair it, I had to do this when one of my cats knocked over a very tall antique pitcher(ceramic) and The Maids, had a number to call, lo and behold, when I picked it up from the fellow I could see anything that looked like that handle had been broken righyt off.  

Just a couple of suggestions, Good Luck

Sharan Green

lw4beau wrote
on Feb 12, 2012 3:23 PM

I am heartbreakingly familiar with that awful "crack" and sympathize totally. You could try gluing it together with an adhesive formulated for glass. I don't know what stitch you planned to use for your chain but you could try to stitch small bands (possibly tubular peyote?) around the mended areas as a design element. If the area is very fragile, you might even be able to epoxy a small "splint" of some type behind the repair, such a small piece of thin sheet metal. This could be concealed by the stitched band. If it doesn't work, you could always resort back to breaking the remainder off and filing it. Good luck!

JanSchultz wrote
on Feb 12, 2012 11:39 PM

What if you made two delicate bead tubes... maybe with 15/0 beads and slipped each end of the broken glass into a tube to hide the break?

Then it would look like a circle of glass with two little bead sleeves on it.

Jan Schultz

btrimble wrote
on Feb 13, 2012 12:48 PM

How about if you glued it back together and at those points peyote stitch a 1/2 in.- section around where you glued.  If you needed to balance it out you could do some on another area of the ring also.  I think I probably would've cried!

BuC wrote
on Feb 13, 2012 3:29 PM

Being a fan of Roman glass I would have been too distraught to think at first.

Next I would pack a 1 foot square of bubble wrap for the next show.

Now hmmm...

I like the placement in the photo of the broken piece just offset from the ring. My suggestion would be to wrap it with a stained glass foil tape (the glue on it is made to stick to glass) to seal and reinforce the ring. That way you would be incorporating the soldered part into the design, appearing that the break is a part of the design.  Bezel the ends very slightly, and then weave a light draping rope spiral from the top right break down to the lower left.

Another possibilty would be to make some "spokes" radiating out from the soldered piece to wrap and catch the broken arc.

I hope you will post whatever you come up with as we have all had a broken treasure and now your treasure has an even bigger story.      

Faith13 wrote
on Feb 18, 2012 9:59 AM

I would glue the entire piece onto a flat piece of metal and glue some seed beads over the cracks.