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S. C - Texas
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Florida Society of Goldsmiths
The Creation of a Venetian Bead
Handmade Venetian beads are formed with Murano glass known as Moretti glass. The company is now known as Effetre Moretti. Murano glass is a soda glass, it has a COE of 90, which is the coefficient of expansion which describes the rate of the glass expansion in heating and cooling. The bead maker must use compatible glass rods, rods that have come from the same batch to keep the color true. Different colors have slightly different COE. Minerals added in the glass can make the glass a different color. Outside temperature and humidity are also factors in the resulting color. The glass blower must make sure she uses the rod from the same batch when completing an order so there will not be a color variation in the beads. Glass rod batches must be made from the same time and the same exact recipe for the color to stay the same.
The tools that the bead makers use have not changed significantly for centuries. The glass blowers, majority Italian ladies, are exposed to extreme heat. They sit behind a shield to protect themselves from the flying bits of glass. The glass blowers wears cut-off socks on their arms, this added shield of cloth protects her from the heat. Not glamorous in anyway to her appearance, she wears these on her arms as added protection. The end result is a work of art, a hand blown bead that is sought all over the world for its beauty! Keep in mind that each bead maker’s quota is usually 3 beads a day!
First she heats a glass rod to make it flow, then using her mandrel, a copper wire in her other hand, she quickly wraps the flowing glass around the wire. Depending on what type of bead is being created, she will either place slices of millefore cane on the bead of glass or roll the bead in frite (tiny fragments of colored glass) She can also make a foil bead rolling the hot glass onto and around a square of gold foil. A bit of excess foil may poke out at the ends of the bead. There will always be tiny bits of the gold foil which escapes to the outside of the bead. This is not an imperfection; this is simply the nature of foil Venetian Glass Beads.
Special tools are then used to help create the shape of the bead. The beadmaker can create squares, coins, hearts and other custom shapes this way.
Years of experience with the bright, glowing red glass have given the bead maker a trained eye. She has the experience to detect the colors that only she can see in the glowing red hot 900 degrees glass. Then the bead must be cooled slowly, shaped and the design completed. This is done in an expertise, timely manner, as not too soon or too slow can alter the results of the bead. This bead is hand made; no two beads will ever be exactly the same. You might not be able to tell the subtle difference. Think of an artist’s painting, if the artist tried to produce the same exact painting on a different canvas, the brush strokes would be different.
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