Although lately I've been incorporating more and more glass beads into my bead-weaving projects, when I first started learning how to bead, I used lots and lots of gemstone beads in my designs. There's something about the look of gemstones in bead-weaving designs that still appeals to me. Maybe it's the organic nature of the material, or the colors and patterns you find in my favorite agates and jasper gemstones.
But using gemstone beads in your bead-weaving is a little different than using glass beads. Gemstones mix beautifully with seed beads, if you keep a couple of things in mind before you start to stitch.
Holes and Needles and Threads, Oh, My!
Most gemstone beads can be quite a bit heavier than my favorite glass beads, so when I decide to use them in my beading projects, I usually use a heavier weight beading thread. 10 lb. WildFire beading thread is a great option for bead-weaving with gemstones, as is 8 lb. or 10 lb. Fireline.
But before you break out the heavyweight beading thread, check the bead hole by passing your beading needle through it a few times. Gemstone beads are sometimes drilled from opposite sides to meet in the middle, and the lower-quality beads will often have uneven bead holes. (I think the technical term given to those uneven bead holes by my friends is "wonky".)
If the bead hole is straight, but too narrow, use your bead reamer to widen it a bit. (Always remember to use your bead reamer with the bead under water to cool the bead and the reamer and to prevent any particles from flying into the air.) You can also smooth out any rough edges on the bead hole before you start stitching, too, to prevent your beading thread from becoming frayed.
Before stitching with any gemstone beads, always find out if the bead has been treated in any way with dyes or colors that may run if the piece becomes wet or damp. As a general rule, I try to avoid bead-weaving with any gemstones that have been dyed, particularly agates or howlite, because those colors can run and ruin the finished piece of beaded jewelry.
If you're unsure as to whether or not a gemstone bead has been dyed or colored, drop one or two of them into a cup of diluted dish soap and let it stand in a window for a couple of days. If you see the color of the bead leaking out into the water, you might not want to use it in your beading project.
Learn More About Your Favorite Gemstones
You can learn so much about your favorite gemstones and their properties in the pages of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Magazine! It's my number-one source for fascinating information about the sources and characteristics of all my favorite gemstone beads. Subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Magazine and get six issues of great tips and techniques for jewelry makers of all kinds!
What do you love most about using gemstones in your bead-weaving projects? Leave a comment and share your thoughts, tips, and advice with us here on the Beading Daily blog!
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