Archive for May, 2009

Featured bead: Czech (Bohemian) glass beads

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The original Boho!

czech_basic

A staple of the bead world, Czech glass beads come in so many varieties that we couldn’t easily pick one out to feature today. But we’d love to take you on a tour through the history of these great beads.

  • Roman times: Beads are already being made in what’s now Bohemia (the Czech Republic).
  • 900’s AD: Bohemian graves include local beads.
  • 1200’s: Bohemian glass factories make many items, including beads for rosaries.
  • 1550’s: A glass industry is founded in the cities of Jablonec, Stanovsko, and Bedrichov. Glass beads are made by cottage crafters for use in major jewelry factories.
  • mid-1800’s: Czech “sample men” travel the world, taking notes and sketches of what kinds of beads people want.  Back home, the factories make these new designs, which sell well and in turn increase the demand for beads.
  • later 1800’s: Technological advances, like multi-bead molds and machines to handle some of this work, make Bohemia a center for pressed-glass beads.
  • 1920’s: The Czechs are the leading bead exporters in the world.

The Czech bead industry has had its ups and downs since, due to economic conditions, wars, and politics, but Czech glass beads remain one of the most important elements in the jewelry-maker’s tool kit.

czech_firepolish

What’s special about the way the classic Czech beads are made?  It’s all about the contrast with older bead-making techniques.  Previously, beads had been made by winding hot glass around a form, or blowing it (either into a mold or freehand).  The Bohemian innovation, around 1860, was to place hot glass into a mold,which was sometimes built into a pair of tongs.  The molded glass was then pierced by a rod, slowly cooled, then had the mold “seams” ground off to leave a smooth bead.

Unlike the older techniques, molding or “pressing” was easy to automate, which meant production could increase to meet significant demand and maintain high quality.  A less obvious benefit of the pressing technique is that holes for stringing can be put in the beads at any angle imaginable.  Even multiple holes are possible.  The reason why this only became possible with molded beads is that these are pierced only after being formed — previously, beads were formed around a rod, in effect predetermining where the hole would be located.

czech_fancy

Today, Czech glass beads are available in a multitude of forms from the basic to the fanciful.  Firepolish beads, one of the earliest imitations of crystal, are beloved for their heat-smoothed faceting.  “Fancy” Czech beads range from flower spacers to glass bead caps to faux turquoise, and from leaf-shaped drops to skulls to ladybugs.

Sources:

Suggested further reading:

Want to suggest a featured bead?  Leave a comment!

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!

Does this resin-ate with you?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Last Friday, Rings & Things people test-drove some new resin products that we’re adding to our store soon.

Here’s a fun glimpse of some kinds of stuff you can make with resin!  If any of the words below have a particular sparkle, they were borrowed from Sunny Barrington.  (I’m trying to get her to blog here!)

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wee-little clothespins (in goo)

  • Tiny powder blue and soft pink clothespins safely ensconced in a protective resin coating, nestled inside a mold for shape-a-tivity. These strange little creations may eventually be turned into something quite suitable for a mother-to-be with a fondness for bric-a-brac.

Monkeys, weeds, hardening goop...who could ask for more?

Monkeys, weeds, hardening goop...who could ask for more?

drink monkey & the living weeds

  • A sprightly monkey takes the big drink and commits to a life inside a resin rectangle.  It’s doubtful whether this pending creation will contribute to the world of jewelry creations much beyond the eye candy level…
  • Next to the monkey, you will find some weed blossoms that were submerged (while alive) into a receptive resin-y grave.  Not too sure how this will turn out, but determined that the posies were positioned to look best from the back… oops-a-daisy.

See more unbridled resinaceous inspirations in the Rings & Things resin photostream!

Have something you’d like to see dipped in this stuff?  Leave a comment to request an experiment…

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!

Beads as a war memorial

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

A simple idea for a sober occasion.

warmemorial_scan-090119-0001Beads as a war memorial.

We hope your Memorial Day was safe and rewarding.

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!

Thank-you Friday

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Thanks to a number of kind people who talked about Rings & Things in the last week…

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Bead Origami has already made some splendid beaded beads she shows in her blog, that use amethyst just bought at our trunk show.

In other tour-related blogging, KJ at the Silver Parrot tantalized us with a promise to show off her discoveries at our latest bead showAJ at Erthefae managed a mini-vacation to our BeadTour show and to the Bead Museum in Arizona…lucky!  SoftFlex Girl Sara also managed to visit us at the Phoenix show, and blogged about it.

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Heather at Humblebeads paired some Rings & Things brown lava beads with some cool, lustrous-toned beads and a striking handmade wing pendant in her Earth Angel necklace.

Heather also posted a nice-looking “Luna Flor” (Moon Flower) bracelet design at the Art Bead Scene blog.  Dawno at Dawno’s Beaded Badge Lanyards devoted one day’s post to interviewing me.  I’m humbled…  She also wrote up an informative review of Rings & Things’ black rattail cord!

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Tish over at JustATish wrote up a nice project using some of our hammered-oval gunmetal chain for a necklace and matching earrings!

Margot Potter put up a fun design of her own, the Peekaboo mixed-media necklace, at her Impatient Crafter blog.

A discussion over at Etsy about “what free gift do you include in your sent-out orders?” mentioned our candy in a positive light.  The conversation generated a huge amount of response, by the way, and is really worth reading to get your marketing gears turning.

Thanks so much to everyone who found us worth talking about this week!

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!

Craft business tip: win a contest

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Sometimes the craft business tips I share come from a lot of people’s hard work & experience…

Today I want to talk about the few, the proud, the lucky winners.  And what winning can do for your business.

It's not a gift certificate, but you can cash in on it! (Image from Zoya Gutina's blog)

It's not a gift certificate, but you can cash in on it! (Image from Zoya Gutina's blog)

Earlier today I noticed someone’s item on Etsy that was already familiar to me.*  Know why?  Because it had been one of the really great, and memorable, winners in a Rings & Things design contest.  It’s been awarded other prizes too, so we’re talking about a proven, multiple winner.  I knew all that already.

The remarkable thing to me today, though, was the price on this item.  I’ll just estimate that it’s now going for five times what it would otherwise sell for.  As a jewelry artisan, you know that your creations are legitimately worth money.  Entering them into competitions and being independently judged as high-quality jewelry backs up that claim.

I’m very proud of the jewelry artist whose winning creation I’m talking about.  Assuming you’re going to sell that superb jewelry item that you made, it’s wise to set its price to reflect your reputation.  Good move!

We all know you can’t sell every one of your items at a high price.  But it says a lot about your status as a serious jewelry artisan, if you have some “high-end” items.

Think about what designs you can come up with, create, and enter into design contests.  Besides the prizes available in these contests, and the sheer glory of winning, you may find yourself recouping your investment of materials and labor many times over.

And that can grow your business!

* I’ve kept the artist’s name and the title of the piece anonymous.  They’re tangential to my point!

Have your sales benefited after you’ve won a design contest?  Share your story in a comment!

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!

Featured bead: orchids (or propellers)

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

The featured bead this week is the CRYSTALLIZED™ – Swarovski Elements #6906 orchid pendant.  Here’s why:

orchid_06-906-20-01

The crystal orchid pendant is lovely to start with.  But you can get more for your money, and so can your customers, if you multi-purpose this bead into fashionable steampunk designs.

orchid_06-906-20-150

Given the steampunk affection for making things industrial look pretty, how about a crystal propeller?

orchid_06-906-20-160

This pendant comes in various colors, so blend it into an overall color “blueprint” in your designs.  For starters, we’ve thought of using these on leather cuffs from Tafuri Tough.  Here’s a similar idea recently made by Cindy Gimbrone using glass beads:

Steampunk watch/propellers jewelry by Cindy Gimbrone

Steampunk "Deconstructed watch" / propellers pendant by Cindy Gimbrone

This is a good illustration of how you can add in some cogs, maybe some wire, watch parts…the sky’s the limit for propeller beads!

Do you have a steampunk inspiration?  Lots of components can be re-purposed to use in this style.  Share your ideas in a comment!

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!

“Bike to Work” with Rings & Things Girls

Friday, May 15th, 2009

One good cause that gets a lot of support at Rings & Things is Bike to Work Week.  That’s this week, so there’s still time to promote it here!

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Bike to Work Week 2009 in beautiful Spokane!

The Rings & Things Girls challenged the Boys to recruit the bigger Bike to Work Week team this year.  With the week almost over, the Girls have eight bikers registered.  The Boys had, um, seven.

The Girls win!

A big old hand signal and a tip of the bike helmet to all of the winning team’s members!

As you know, it’s not always easy to arrange everything so that you can commute by bicycle.  One of the Girls suddenly found herself without a bike, but went out and rented one to come through on her pledge.  Others had various adventures too…the weather at the BTWW kickoff breakfast in Spokane’s Riverfront Park being one of them. :)

Thanks to Nate for providing a group portrait of our commuter heroines with their favorite wheels:

09_btw_week_girls

Did you bike to work any day this week?  We’d love to hear your story too.  Leave a comment!

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!

The price of amethyst, and how to benefit from it

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

A showroom customer asked about the price of amethyst, particularly the “A” grade amethyst we carry.  We had not noticed the recent price of this, so we asked our supplier who specializes in amethyst.

a-grade_amethyst

A-grade amethyst beads from Rings & Things...an investment?

She told us,

“Yes, Amethyst rough has kept increasing for the last two-three years.  For the same price, we won’t be able to get the same quality rough.  Since last year, I notice vendors in [market shops] are now selling the “A” grade amethyst by grams, just like peridot and aqua.”

So take a tip:

FYI for all birthstone / purple lovers.  Don’t wait till you’re old to get hold of genuine amethyst beads, if they’re your thing!

Have more insider gemstone tips?  You can share them with enthusiastic readers right here, in a comment!

May giveaway:
* You enter by leaving comments this month
* At the end of May, 2 winners will receive coveted Rings & Things goodie packs!
*
So read the blog regularly, to enter a lot & to see if you won!