What You Should Know About Gemstones For Bead-weaving

Mar 25, 2013

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.

Dye Jobs

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!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

bymyhands wrote
on Mar 25, 2013 4:59 AM

Maybe you can get their attention....I subscribed to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine 4 months ago and still have not seen one magazine!  Where is it?

Don't mean to get snarky but come on....I'd love to learn more about adding gemstones into a bead embroidered piece but I can't because I and my money seem to be invisible to them.  And yes I called about 2 months ago.  Ho Hum.......

Diana Redlin

bymyhands wrote
on Mar 25, 2013 4:59 AM

Maybe you can get their attention....I subscribed to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine 4 months ago and still have not seen one magazine!  Where is it?

Don't mean to get snarky but come on....I'd love to learn more about adding gemstones into a bead embroidered piece but I can't because I and my money seem to be invisible to them.  And yes I called about 2 months ago.  Ho Hum.......

Diana Redlin

on Mar 25, 2013 10:43 AM

Diana - I've forwarded your request/comments to the customer service team. Someone should be following up with you soon!

ms prim wrote
on Mar 25, 2013 10:47 AM

I was supposed to get a free pattern when I renewed Beadwork.  I did not receive it.  I send a query and got no answer.  Beware.

Kathryn@54 wrote
on Mar 25, 2013 1:39 PM

Do you have a pattern for the necklace that has the gemstone bead in it. If so how can I obtain a copy. Thanks

Jocille wrote
on Mar 25, 2013 10:58 PM

I'm disappointed that you didn't mention anything about using silk threads in your article.  That is the traditional method of beading with Semi Precious, and especially Pearls.

bymyhands wrote
on Mar 26, 2013 4:28 AM

Thank you so much for doing that Karen.

I will let you know what happens.

And I love Beading Daily.  So many times I have read your column and learned a new tip or a new way to do things-so thank you for that also!

Diana

bymyhands wrote
on Mar 26, 2013 4:30 AM

Why did I address you as Karen?  I have not one clue!

Thank you JENNIFER!

Diana

Gloria E wrote
on Mar 27, 2013 11:14 AM

Great information!  Thank you for sharing it with us.  I haven't made any jewelry using gemstones yet, so I'm saving this to my favorite posts to use later.  I try to avoid any beads that are dyed, for the reasons you stated in this article. You alsonhave to trust your bead sources to identify  'dyed' beads in their product description too.   I guess you could use 'dyed' beads on decorative items that will never get wet.  Not jewelry though...I've been caught in quite a few summer rain showers, without an umbrella handy.  8)

rince1wind wrote
on Mar 30, 2013 8:56 AM

I used a set of bead reamers for the first time this week just before this article came out. Does doing it underwater help the filing process as well? It was pretty difficult to accomplish in size 3mm emeralds, amethysts, and peridot without breaking the tiny stones.

I'm thinking I should be using a size 15 or 16 beading needle and silk or some very thin wire instead of NYMO. Any suggestions you might have would be appreciated!

ladamsmartin wrote
on Mar 30, 2013 3:37 PM

Jennifer,

I love this necklace and am still a gemstone beader.  Would you ever share this beautiful necklace pattern?  I have so many semi-precious stones and am still a beginner.  This knocked my head off!

losuki wrote
on Mar 30, 2013 5:30 PM

Very nice informative post. Will also be saving this one for future reference. Thank you!

bymyhands wrote
on Mar 30, 2013 6:14 PM

Dear Jennifer,

Lapidary Journal got in touch!

All is forgiven.

Thanks again for the help,

Diana

elsarjsrvr wrote
on Mar 31, 2013 9:31 AM

Gemstone Beading