Archive for the ‘Rings & Things Products’ Category

CzechMates Memory Wire Bracelet Tutorial

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

I love the Picasso finishes and and unusual colors of CzechMate 2-hole tile beads and other CzechMate 2-hole beads. But it’s hard to find a project with them that doesn’t involve needles and intricate beadweaving.

So … here it is! When I discovered pliers designed for looping ends of memory wire, I decided on an ombre chevron cuff bracelet. This 4- to 6-row ombre chevron design takes advantage of the CzechMate color combinations, and is easy to “string” on memory wire.  The outside row uses a few seed beads (or bugle beads) near the edges, because their sizes are so compatible with these 2-hole beads.

Memory Wire bracelet made with 2-hole CzechMate tile beads

My first 2 ombre CzechMate bracelets. Rather than wrapping the memory wire around your wrist three times like most memory wire bracelets, these are cuff bracelets.

For a petite wrist, use standard stainless steel memory wire. For larger wrists or a looser fit, use stainless steel anklet memory wire. (Don’t be swayed by the word “anklet” — it’s actually an excellent bracelet size for most people.)

Cutting Memory Wire:

When cutting any type of wire, wear eye protection, or at least make sure your bits of wire will end up someplace safe, not in anyone’s eye. Cup your free hand over the end, and aim the wire downward at a soft surface like a flocked bead mat.

Tools and Memory Wire:

Memory wire is strong, springy steel — much tougher than most jewelry wire. It requires strong, durable tools, both for cutting and bending. I tried cutting steel wire with my cheap cutters and one blade SNAPPED, shooting across the room in 3 pieces. I also dented high quality cutters that were not designed to cut steel. I strongly suggest a pair of heavy-duty flush cutters and a pair of memory wire looping pliers. They aren’t too expensive, and they work great for lighter-duty projects as well.

Step 1. Practice Making Loops:

Although Memory Wire Pliers make it easy to make consistent-sized loops, steel wire is tougher to bend than other jewelry wire. I highly recommend practicing memory wire loops before you begin adding beads. This helps you make all your loops at the same angle, and avoid chipping your end beads.

CzechMate Memory Wire Bracelet - Practice

Cut 4 2″ pieces (each about 1/4 of a circle). Practice making a loop at each end, with both loops on the same plane (or angle).

Memory Wire - How to Make Nice Loops

How to Make Nice Loops with Memory Wire

1. Grip one end of the wire firmly in the pliers and use your fingers to smoothly wrap the wire around the small side of the pliers. Don’t let it twist upward or downward.
2. About halfway around the pliers, release the plier grip on the wire, and get a new grip so you can finish making your circle.
3. Close the loop ALL the way — don’t leave a spot for beads to slide down inside a gap in the loop.

Repeat at other end. Grip the wire’s tip, push around, release, re-grip, and finish pushing. Take a look at your circles — are they the same size and angle, or are they twisting ickily in random directions? Make a few more until it’s easy to make nice consistent loops on the same plane. Also note that these loops are all to the OUTside of the circle, not the inside:

Memory Wire Loop - Do and Don't

For bracelet comfort, make all loops curve to the outside, not the inside of the arc.

Step 2. Assemble your beads:

Appletini TOHO Seed & Bugle Bead Mix

Appletini TOHO Seed & Bugle Bead Mix

TOHO seed bead mixes work excellently with CzechMate 2-hole tile beads. There are great color mixes to choose from, and you can use 3 large seed beads, 4 small seed beads, or a single bugle bead as perfect-size spacers.

A few beads from each assortment are too tiny to fit on memory wire, or too big to fit next to a Czechmate, so save those for future projects.

Step 3. Make the bracelet:

Cut 4 pieces of wire, each about 1-1/8 coils long (Like going all the way around the clock face from midnight to 2pm.).

3a. Cut 4 pieces of wire, each 1 to 1-1/8 coil long. Make sure they are all the same length
Carefully round 1 end of each wire.

CzechMate Memory Wire Bracelet Step 3b

3b. For a 2-color bracelet, count out 21 tile beads of each color, in sets of 3.

For a 1-color bracelet, use approximately 42 beads. For a 3-color bracelet, count out 15 tile beads of each color in sets of 3. Lay them out in the order that you’ll use them. You might not use all the beads you laid out, but it’s easier to keep your pattern going correctly if you lay out the beads in advance.

String 1 bead.

3c. String 1 tile bead.

Pick up a 2nd wire, and string 1 bead. String a 3rd bead onto both wires.

3d. Pick up a 2nd wire, and string 1 tile bead.
String a 3rd tile bead onto both wires.

String 2nd color using same pattern.

3e. String 2nd color using same pattern.

Don't worry that the beads and strands flip and flop around at this point.

Don’t worry that the beads and strands flip and flop around at this point.

End with 2 tile beads. Make sure you have at least 1/2" (12mm) of wire left.

3f. End with 2 tile beads. Make sure you have at least 1/2″ (12mm) of wire left.

3g. After your last 2 beads, push beads snug (but not super tight), and trim wire to approx. 1/2″ if necessary. Next, very carefully round the end wires for both strands (one wire at a time). Abrupt / harsh movements may chip the end bead.

Take another of your prepared wires, and string 4 seed beads, or a single bugle bead. Place these next to your strung CzechMates … do they look good? If not, pick a different color or size and test it before you begin the next step.

Back at the beginning, feed a new piece of prepared wire through the other hole in one of your first beads.

3h. Back at the beginning, feed a new piece of prepared wire through the other hole in one of your first beads.

3i. Where the wire comes out, add 3-5 seed beads (or a bugle bead) so they are the same total length as a Czechmate tile bead or slightly shorter.

Feed through next CzechMate, add bugle or seed beads, repeat to end of bracelet.

3j. Feed through next CzechMate, add bugle or seed beads, repeat to end of bracelet.

Repeat for 4th row, trim excess if necessary, and carefully round the ends.

3k. Repeat for 4th row, trim excess if necessary, and carefully round the ends. (Click image for close-up.)

Tips & Errata:

Do your best to make the loops all face the same direction, but don’t be hard on yourself if they don’t. Here is my first bracelet, with wonky ends and a chipped bead. When I taught a class on how to make this bracelet, I introduced the “practice making loops” step, and not a single person chipped a bead!

Example of bad loops on my first memory wire bracelet.

Close-up of bad loops on my first bracelet. The tips listed above should help you make better loops and avoid chipped beads.

By my 3rd bracelet, I realized it’s much easier to finish the ends if the strands (after looping) are tiny bit shorter than one full coil, so now I design these more like cuffs than bangles.

Czechmate and Memory Wire - Finished Cuff-Style bracelets

It’s much easier to finish the ends, if each strand, after looping, is slightly shorter than one full coil, more like a cuff than the bangles I originally envisioned.

You’ll soon perfect your ability to make all your loops at the same angle.  After that, these are quick and easy to make, so make a bunch for gifts or to sell!

Czechmate Memory Wire Bracelets

Variations on a theme.

Depending on the size of your spacer beads, some bracelets spike up a bit in the middle, and others curve up at the outside edges. This is part of the fun with these designs. Used in this pattern, I think the CzechMates™ Two Hole Triangle Beads look like tiny Stegosaurus / dragon spikes.

Parts & Supplies:

Any questions? Please ask!  (Click on “Comments” or “Leave a Reply” below.)

Say it Your Way with Easy Metal Stamped Jewelry

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

You don’t have to be Frank Sinatra to do things your own way! That’s the beauty of metal stamping as a jewelry technique. Not only do you get to assemble components, you get to make your own components – and they can say whatever you want them to say!

 

Young Love Bracelet Tutorial

This Young Love bracelet is a perfect example of how you can easily customize jewelry with metal stamps! Click the image for a full tutorial.

 

Letter stamps are the perfect way to create monogram jewelry, plus jewelry with names or inspirational sayings. Design metal stamps are the perfect way to add cuteness and panache.

 

Hootie and the Sodalite Earrings

Learn to make these simple metal stamped earrings – just click the image above for the complete parts, ready to buy.

 

Designer Amy Mickelson’s “Hootie and the Sodalite Earrings” feature custom owl charms she made using an ImpressArt Metal Stamp and a JBB Antiqued Copper Plated Square Tag Charm. These JBB tags are plated especially for stampers – pretty amazing! For more on these components, see the full parts list and tutorial here.

 

Supplies for metal stamping a charm.

First, gather your supplies.

 

The basics of jewelry stamping are easy and only require a few tools. The tools are a small investment, but will last for years and thousands of impressions!

Supplies you’ll want:

 

The basic steps to jewelry stamping:

Getting ready to make a metal stamp impression.

Once you’ve planned your design, secure your metal tag or blank onto your steel block with tape. Stamp Straight Tape by ImpressArt is more expensive than masking tape, but it offers a sturdier edge and does not leave sticky residue.

 

How to get a good metal stamped impression.

Strike the perfectly vertical stamp with one firm blow. This is important for achieving a clear impression.

 

A successfully stamped metal blank charm.

Now you’ve got a custom made charm that’s uniquely made by you!

 

That’s all there is to it! It really is that simple. Then, you can use your completed stamped charms to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets, gift tags, and more!

 

Ava's Ladies in Waiting Necklace Tutorial

Click this picture for all the parts and instructions you need to make these pretty necklaces.

 

For a great monogram jewelry tutorial, see “Ava’s Ladies in Waiting” Necklace Tutorial in our Design Gallery.

 

Hootie and the Sodalite Earrings

Click this picture for all the parts and instructions you need to make adorable metal stamped owl earrings.

 

To make fun owl earrings, see the “Hootie and the Sodalite” Earrings Tutorial.

 

Young Love Bracelet Tutorial

Click this picture for all the parts and instructions you need to make a simple metal stamped bracelet.

 

For the full how-to on making a metal stamped chain bracelet, see our “Young Love” Bracelet Tutorial.

Rings & Things offers a huge variety of metal stamping blanks, plus jewelry stamping tools and supplies with fast shipping and free returns.

So what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time to say things your way! ~ Melissa

Make a Simple, Dainty Sterling Silver Necklace

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Sometimes when it comes to jewelry, less is more. That’s the case when it comes to these adorable river rock and sterling silver charm necklaces designed by Rings & Things’ Amy Mickelson. This project is easy, yet really pretty! Plus there are a ton of different sterling silver charms to pick from!

 

These lovely necklaces by Amy Mickelson combine rustic river rock and dainty sterling silver charms!

These lovely necklaces by Amy Mickelson combine rustic river rock and dainty sterling silver charms!

 

These necklaces only require one tool and a few simple components to make! The sterling silver chain necklaces are already finished with a clasp, making them a breeze to use. Plus, I just adore the contrast between the natural river rock and the dainty sterling silver charms.

 

This project is so easy! Only one tool and a few components necessary!

This project is so easy! Only one tool and a few components needed!

 

Supplies and Tools Needed:

 

Simply layer the items on the sterling silver jump ring. Chain first, then river rock pendant, then sterling charm.

Simply layer the items on the sterling silver jump ring. Chain first, then river rock pendant, then sterling charm.

 

Creating this necklace couldn’t be easier! Using your chain-nose pliers, pry open the jump ring a little. You only need to open it enough so that you can layer the three elements together. When opening jump rings, remember to always twist the ends in opposite directions to separate them. Do not “oval” the ring by pulling the ends apart.

 

Place the chain first, then the rock pendant, then your sterling silver charm onto the jump ring. Close the jump ring carefully, so that the ends line up flush.

 

These dainty pendants are so cute! And smaller than a penny!

These dainty pendants are so cute! And smaller than a penny!

Each finished dangle is smaller than a penny!

So cute in the palm of my hand!

So cute in the palm of my hand!

 

If you like this look, buy the parts to make these necklaces now!

These lovely necklaces by Amy Mickelson combine rustic river rock and dainty sterling silver charms!

All the parts are ready to buy in our Gallery – just click this image to go there.

You can check out additional possibilities by browsing our huge selection of sterling silver charms and sterling silver chain necklaces! My personal favorite chain is the sterling faceted ball chain, because it sparkles!

~ Tiffany

How to make Wire Links with Wubbers Mandrel Pliers

Thursday, August 7th, 2014
How to make wire links with the four shapes of Wubbers mandrel pliers

That’s right, happiness is a pair (or more) of Wubbers Mandrel Pliers!

 

If you are looking to expand your tool selection, Wubbers® Pliers are a great addition to any jeweler’s bench.  The pliers have comfy padded handles, are made of high quality stainless steel, and have box-joint construction.  Wubbers offers traditional jewelry pliers in two sizes (which are awesome), but the pliers that caught my eye are the mandrel pliers.  Mandrel pliers are available in several shapes and sizes.  And best of all, they are perfect for forming wire links, like those featured in designer Polly Nobbs-LaRue’s two blog posts on making soldered-link bracelets: “I Love Copper Solder!” and  “Copper Soldering Tutorial – Part 2“.

 

Blog Wubber Mandrel Pliers12-001

Captured Aventurine Bracelet” by Rings & Things’ designer Polly Nobbs-LaRue

 

Wubbers mandrel pliers come in four shapes:  round, square, triangle, and oval; availble at www.rings-things.com

Wubbers mandrel pliers are available in several shapes: round, square, triangle, oval, and half-round (not pictured). Each shape is available in a variety of sizes. Plus each pliers’ jaw has two mandrel sizes.

 

Wubbers packaging includes guage recommendation for wire and sheet metal--plus an access code for Wubbers University.

Check out the Wubbers packaging for gauge recommendations and an access code for Wubbers University.

 

An added bonus, inside each package is your invitation and access code for free online classes and tutorials at Wubbers University.  You will find a wide variety of classes for the beginning to advanced jewelry maker; just what you need to build new skills.

 

Wubbers Mandrel Pliers wire and sheet metal use chart.

Follow the wire and sheet metal gauge recommendations for your size of mandrel pliers–an easy to follow chart is featured on each package.

 

Recommended tools for the jeweler’s bench:

 

Follow these steps to form and cut wire links using Wubbers mandrel pliers and a jeweler’s saw:

 

Use nylon-jaw flat-nose pliers to easily straighten wire for jewelry making.

Step 1: Begin by straightening the wire. Pull the wire through nylon-jaw flat-nose pliers to easily straighten it. If you are planning to solder your links, avoid plated wire; instead use solid brass, copper, nickel, sterling or silver-filled wire.

 

To make wire links for jewelry, twist the wire around the Wubbers mandrel pliers.

Step 2: Begin wrapping the wire around your mandrel of choice. As you coil, maintain even pressure so the links come out uniform. With the round mandrels, you can rotate the wire on the mandrel to make a continuous coil; for other shaped pliers, you will need to open and close the pliers’ jaw with each complete pass.

 

Continue coiling the wire to make wire links for chain making.

Step 3: Continue coiling the wire. Make a coil that is two wraps more than the number of links you need; the first and last coil will not make a complete link.

 

Tape wire coils before cutting with a jeweler's saw.

Step 4: Pinch the wire coils tightly together, and apply a layer of low-tack masking tape around the coil. This will keep the wire in place while sawing. Slide the taped coil off the mandrel pliers.

 

Sawing metal wire links with a jeweler's saw and bench vise.

Step 5 – Version A: Attach a swivel vise to your workbench and place the wire coil in the padded jaw. Gently tighten the jaw so the wire coil is held firmly in place–but not so tightly the coil becomes misshapen. Thread your jeweler’s saw with the blade’s teeth facing down and out. You are ready to begin sawing. To avoid nicking the wire, angle the saw blade slightly so the blade only touches the wire being cut.

 

How to cut wire links with a jeweler's saw frame and saw blades.

Step 5 – Version B: Attach a bench pin to your workbench and firmly hold the wire coil on the edge of he pin. Use a jeweler’s saw to cut the wire coil from top to bottom. To avoid nicking the wire, angle the saw blade slightly so the blade only touches the wire being cut.

 

Align the ends of your wire links with flat-nose pliers so the fit is snug.

Step 6: Use flat-nose and chain-nose pliers to align the cut ends of the wire links. The cut ends need to fit snugly together for soldering.  Your wire links are ready to solder.

 

Wubbers Mandrel Pliers are perfect for forming handmade wire jewelry components.

Wire links in four fun shapes — handmade and ready for your jewelry-making project.

 

Make things!

Mollie

Vintaj® & Leather Go So Well Together!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Vintaj Natural Brass findings and leather bracelets go together like butter on bread! You can unite them with rivets, thread, jump rings and more.  Here are two examples highlighting how to combine Vintaj jewelry supplies with leather bracelets.

Leather cuff bracelets together with Vintaj® components.

Leather cuff bracelets together with Vintaj supplies.

With just a few supplies, you can create stylish and unique cuff bracelets, incorporating popular and trendsetting Vintaj Natural Brass findings. For this riveted version, all you need is:

The supplies needed for this easy project are minimal.

The supplies needed for this easy bracelet project are minimal.

1. Colorize the soaring sparrow connector with Patina™ ink. For step-by-step instructions, see our blog post : “Customizing Tim Holtz idea-ology® Word Bands for a Handmade Look”  where Rings & Things Jewelry Designer Mollie Valente shows us how to apply Patina ink.

Colorize the metal with VIntaj® patina

Colorize the metal with VIntaj® patina

2. The ready made loops on the connector are a little small for the 3/16″ rivet. Using the riveting system, pierce the existing loops in the connector so the rivets will fit through.

Use the piercing end of the riveting system to enlarge the holes to 3/16".

Use the piercing end of the riveting system to enlarge the holes to 3/16″.

3. Place the focal piece where you want to rivet it on the leather bracelet, and mark where to make the holes in the leather.

Use an ultra fine tip marker to mark the hole placement.

Use an ultra fine tip marker to mark the hole placement.

4. Use bracelet bending pliers to curve the focal for a better fitting bracelet.

Curve the metal with bending pliers.

Curve the metal with bending pliers.

5. Use the piercing side of the Crafted Findings tool to make holes in the leather, then use the setting side of the same tool to rivet the focal piece to the leather bracelet.

TIP: Include a washer or riveting accent on the back side to keep the rivet secure in the leather.

If you haven’t yet used a Crafted Findings riveting system, check out the video!  

Name of the bracelet.

Soar With Me Cuff Bracelet

Our second example begins with a leather cuff bracelet that I have already added eyelets too. To see how this is done, check out our blog post: “How-to-set-eyelets-in-leather” where I show step-by-step photographs and instructions on this very bracelet.

Start with adding eyelets to a leather bracelet, then add the fun!

Start with adding eyelets to a leather bracelet, then add the fun!

Add some Vintaj Natural Brass charms to the eyelets with brass jump rings.

When you open and close jump rings, twist sideways instead of “ovalling” them. This keeps their shape better, which makes them easier to close all the way. To prevent marks on the ring, use non-serrated flat-nose pliers.

How to open jump rings

Twist ends away from each other. Don’t pull apart sideways.

After adding some Vintaj natural brass bling, you now have a fun and trendy leather cuff bracelet!

leather-vintaj_lilac-bracelet

Lilac Locks Leather Bracelet

 

Hopefully this has inspired you to have your own fun combining beautiful Vintaj findings and leather cuff bracelets!

~Val

Fast & Fun DIY Flower Cabochon Bobby Pins

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Cabochon flowers are a super easy way to add a splash of color to your life! With flat backs for easy gluing, they’re a cinch to add to any number of craft projects. This tutorial shows you how to embellish the flowers then add them to bobby pins to make sparkling DIY hair accessories. It’s a great project for kids, seniors, girly get-togethers and parties.

Only a few supplies are required:

Flat Pad Bobby Pins
Flower Cabochons
Adhesive Dots
Paint Dabbers
Glitter!
White Glue Paint Brushes or Cotton Swabs for Glue

If desired, color the flower using paint dabbers. While the paint is still wet, dip the outer petals into glitter. If you’re not coloring your flower first, add a light layer of glue to the outer petals before dipping them in the glitter.

Apply the adhesive dot to the pad of the bobby pin.

 Attached your embellished posie and you’re done!

Have fun & sparkle on!

Did you know? …
You can buy the supplies to make this project now:

Shop Cabochon Flowers

Click to Shop Resin Cabochon Flowers

 

bobby pins with glue pad

Click to Shop Bobby Pins with Glue Pads

 

adhesive dots

Click to Shop Adhesive Dots

How to make chain maille (from a kit)

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Rings & Things has added a whole new line of enameled copper jump rings and clasps from Weave Got Maille, and a handful of Byzantine kits and box chain kits to go with them.

Weave got Maille Bracelet Kits and Jump Rings

Weave got Maille Bracelet Kits and Jump Rings

Melissa and I tested the kits, to produce some quick example pieces for our website, and I have to say, I think the kits are a great way to go for anyone who is new to chain maille, or to a specific weave of maille.

 

Weave Got Maille kit Chain Maille Bracelets

Weave Got Maille kit Chain Maille Bracelets

I chose to use the Morgana kit, which produces a 3-color byzantine chain maille bracelet. There are enough rings in the kit to make a bracelet up to 8 1/2″ long, but the final length can be shortened easily by stopping at the end of any completed unit.

Morgana Bracelet Kit

Morgana Bracelet Kit

The instructions are the property of the kit maker, so I won’t be listing the step by step instructions here, but the step-by-step sheet included has great close-up pictures and is easy to follow (and once you have made up the kit project, you have the instructions to make as many more as you like, by just purchasing additional jump rings and clasps).

Jump rings from Weave Got Maille kit

Jump rings from Weave Got Maille kit

Here are my thought and hints for weaving chain maille painlessly.

  • Yes, you do need two pair of chain nose pliers. Do not try using a pair of flat nose or a pair of round nose as a substitute. They can both be regular, or bent, or a combination of styles, but you want smooth pliers, because serrated nose pliers will mar the finish on the rings. The smaller the rings that you are using, the more important it is to have pliers with a narrow tip, and ones that are comfortable to hold. My personal choice for comfort and pricing are the full size wubbers pliers. The longer cushioned handle helps prevent hand fatigue and the tips are reasonably narrow. For extremely narrow tips, lindstrom pliers can’t be beat, but they are a definite investment.
Wubbers Chain Nose Pliers

Wubbers Chain Nose Pliers

  • To weave the maille quickly, you will need to pre-open some rings, and pre-close others. Only open the rings as wide as you need to slip them over the appropriate quantity of other rings. If you open the rings too wide, it is harder to close them neatly and tightly. For the pre-closed rings, make the closure as seamless as possible. It is much easier to close the rings neatly at this stage than it is when weaving. An illustration of the correct way to open and close rings is included in the instructions.
Opened and Closed rings from Weave Got Maille Kit

Opened and Closed rings from Weave Got Maille Kit

  • Use a soft surface to work on. The bead mats are ideal, since they allow you to “scoop” up the closed rings without catching on the material, and the rings that you drop (and you will) don’t go very far.
  • When weaving, rest your hands on the surface, or as close as you can comfortably be to the surface. The extra support will help prevent the project from slipping and rings from escaping.

One of the tools in the kit is a large paperclip. Attaching this to the beginning of the project accomplishes two things, it gives you a “handle” to work on the chain while it is short, and it reminds you which end you are working on.

Byzantine Chain first unit

Byzantine Chain first unit

Here is my finished project. You may notice that the design doesn’t quite match the design on the box. This is because I made a mistake on the second unit of the chain, by reversing my “b” and “c” colors. Rather than take it apart and re-do the section, I chose to work with this as a new pattern, and alternated each correct unit with an incorrect one. I kind of like the variation in the design. Sometimes errors allow for new ideas.

Melissa made a box chain bracelet, and then, having learned the pattern, designed this pair of Night in Emerald City box chain earrings, which also use Rings & Thing exclusive Swarovski ELEMENTS Karma Chameleon Crystal Jam and
Cubic Zirconia pendants

Night in Emerald City earrings

Night in Emerald City earrings

Are you a chain maille maker? Let me know if you have any great hints to share.

 

~ Rita ~

How can you tell if gemstone beads are genuine or imitation?

Monday, April 28th, 2014

We recently received this email asking whether gemstone beads (especially from China) are fake, and it’s a great opportunity to address not only her question, but related questions that we frequently get over the phone and in our Showroom.

Hello,

I have recently come across some articles that say gemstones exported from China are fakes or contaminated. As a large distributor, do you test the products or suppliers before you re sell the items? If so, what are your findings? In general, do you think there is much truth to the speculation about gemstones and semi precious stones exported from China being fake or contaminated? Thank you for your help.  -Lauren

 

Russ’ reply:

This is a great question. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to describe how we deal with misinformation and misleading names in the bead industry. We’ve struggled with this for years ever since I learned from a rockhound that most black onyx started out as chalcedony treated with sugar water and then heated.

The simple answer is yes, there is a lot of misrepresentation and misleading information about beads from China and elsewhere.
No, it’s not just beads from China that are enhanced or misrepresented. It’s not that simple. Enhancing or misrepresenting gemstones is not limited to Chinese suppliers.

Most buyers do not realize that gem enhancement is ancient, easily 2500 years old. Black onyx enhancement is reported in the notebooks of Pliny the Elder.

Some examples of treated or commonly misrepresented stones:

Black onyx is treated with sugar and "carmelized" with heat.

Black onyx is treated with sugar and “carmelized” with heat.

Red carnelian is treated with acid in which iron has been dissolved and then heated.

Red carnelian is treated with acid in which iron has been dissolved and then heated.

Most blue sapphires are heat-treated yellow sapphires, often by the miners.

Manmade Hematite Beads and Pendants

Most hematite beads are a manmade sintered iron oxide product, leading to names like Hematine, Hemalyke and hemalike.

All the "fruity quartz" names from a few years back are merely pretty glass.

All the “fruity quartz” names from a few years back are merely pretty glass.

"Opalite" is not a laser treated quartz. It's a pretty glass with an opalescent quality.

Opalite” is not a laser treated quartz. It’s a pretty glass with an opalescent quality, similar to milky opal glass crystal beads.

Turquoise dyed magnesite beads

Magnesite is a neutral stone that takes dyes and treatments very well.

Most beads sold as “Chalk turquoise”, and too many beads on the market as “turquoise” or “stabilized turquoise” are really dyed magnesite.

Broken (and cut) magnesite nuggets showing both natural and dyed versions.

Broken/cut magnesite nuggets showing natural and dyed versions. (Click image for close-up.)

Turquoise Beads

Most turquoise beads on the market are stabilized turquoise, hardened with resins. (This enhancement is usually revealed, but confusion exists between stabilized turquoise and dyed magnesite.)

We are not gemologists at Rings & Things. We don’t have lab facilities or an X Ray Def machine to test everything, but we do use tried-and-true simple tests when we’re unsure about a batch of beads. When we receive unusually bright beads, or lovely even-colored beads strung on cord the exact same color, we put them in a bin of water for a few hours (or even weeks) to test if they are colorfast. We break occasional beads to see what color and/or texture is inside. We send out samples from metal suppliers for destructive assay to verify silver content and lack of lead or cadmium content. There is no equivalent testing facility for most gemstones sold as beads. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) does a great job testing precious stones but they are not much help for inexpensive stone beads.

We break occasional beads to see what color and/or texture is inside.

We break occasional beads to see what color and/or texture is inside. (Click image for close-up.)

We ask a lot of questions from our suppliers. We research on the internet and ask others in the gem and bead industry. We track new stones names on the gem forums (particularly mindat.org.)

We make mistakes, but when we discover we’ve used the wrong description or name we quickly change to the correct one and admit our error.

Editor’s note: One example is Thunder Agate:

Thunder Agate beads, mined near Thunder Bay, Ontario, and cut in China.

Thunder Agate beads, mined near Thunder Bay, Ontario, and cut in China.

Our first batch of Thunder Agate was sold to us as Lake Superior Agate (the official gemstone of the state of Minnesota), but a customer in Minnesota told us “…it would be very hard to get any large Lake Superiors and the colors are not those of our area”. So we looked closer, and questioned the vendor, who said the rough is from the Thunder Bay area of Ontario (which is close, but not quite the same as the official stone). So we immediately re-tagged our beads, and sent a corrected email.


Part of the problem with beads from China is language and culture. Chinese names are often descriptive rather than technically mineralogical. The characters for turquoise in Chinese mean “Green tree stone.” Anything that looks like “Green tree stone” might be called turquoise.

chinese characters for turquoise stone

The characters for turquoise in Chinese mean “Green tree stone.” 

Jade is very important in China but the word “Yu” for jade is used for many different stones that are used the way jade is used in China. Here is a quote that Barbara in Beadcollector.net wrote during her visit to Beijing Geological Museum:

 ‘Jade’ in China describes all polycrystalline and cryptocrystalline mineral aggregates and a few non-crystalline materials that are suitable for carving and making into jewellery. The characteristics are beauty, colour, moderate hardness, tough and fine texture, and as well as nephrite and jadeite includes opal, serpentine, quartz, turquoise, lapis lazuli, malachite, dushun yu, marble, natural glass, rhodocrosite, sodalite, and rhodonite.

You see the problem this causes? In the West, only jadeite and nephrite are really jade.

I agree that many stone beads coming from China are sold with inaccurate names or descriptions.

  • Some misrepresentation is intentional because the fake will sell better if the buyer thinks is is a more expensive stone.
  • Some is misunderstanding the level of mineralogical detail or accuracy we in the West want.
  • Some is that the importer does not ask enough questions of the cutter or Chinese exporter and passes on inaccurate names.
  • Some is mislabeling by the Chinese exporter because they do not understand the English words.
  • Some is simply lack of knowledge about stones and not caring to find out what they are selling.

For example, a Chinese seller understands that dyed magnesite is not real turquoise and that “stabilized” means the stone is enhanced. This leads to a dealer with 2 piles of blue beads, one labeled “Stabilized Turquoise” and the other called “Natural Turquoise.” The stabilized pile was really blue dyed magnesite. The “natural” was real turquoise hardened with clear resin. Natural to us means that nothing has been done to enhance the stone. “Natural” to that dealer meant that it started out as real turquoise.

On Etsy and on Chinese sites I see blue dyed magnesite sold as dyed howlite. They tried to be accurate (and knew it wasn’t turquoise) but are using the wrong stone name.

Examples of Natural and Dyed Howlite

Examples of Natural and Dyed Howlite.  Shown: Untreated white howlite donut, surface-dyed howlite donut, and strand of dyed howlite beads represented by the seller as “natural turquoise.” (I paid $75 for this strand in the 70’s. It’s part of Rings & Things’ collection of fake turquoise. We learn from mistakes. ~Russ)

A lot of stones can be dyed or enhanced with stronger colors. Lately we’ve seen many common stones with intense colors added to them. Stones this intense should almost always be labeled as “dyed” or “enhanced”.

Bright Dyed / Enhanced Agate beads

Bright Dyed / Enhanced Candy Jade and Agate beads.

We try to accurately label enhanced and dyed stones. From our catalog:

Some stones are simply dyed, which is not always colorfast. One way to avoid getting caught with stones that “run” when they are worn, is to look at the cord or plastic line the beads are strung on. If the cord is stained with blotches the same color as the beads, then beware. We avoid stones that look like they will “run”, so our altered beads are generally enhanced with various trade secrets such as the centuries-old methods for coloring black onyx and carnelian, or dyes that only come off when exposed to acetone or acid.

We label gemstone beads in our catalog and online store with the following symbols and terms:
      + enhanced,
      * manmade, and
      ~ descriptive name.
There isn’t room on the tags for explanatory paragraphs, so our free online Gemstone Beads Index has more information about each stone (where it is mined, and how to care for it, as well as common enhancements or other important information).

+ Enhancements can include:

Dye/stain/acid to change the stone’s color or make natural color more pronounced or uniform.
Heat treatment to produce an effect such as crackling or color change.
Irradiation (harmless to the wearer) to create a new color.
Plastic/resin/wax to harden the exterior, making it more durable.

~ Descriptive Name

The names for these beads are meant to describe what they look like, rather than identify what they are made of. These are generally accepted, common terms including “new jade” (a serpentine) and “African turquoise” (a jasper). They are genuine, natural gemstones that resemble more-expensive stones, and make excellent substitutes.

* Manmade

You’ll find that many online sellers, and nearly all of the “big box” stores don’t clearly label manmade gemstones. Goldstone, for example, has been made in Venice since the 17th century, but few end consumers are made aware this is a fancy glass rather than a gemstone grown by nature.

Stones carved from “block” should be called manmade, but many sellers call them “stabilized” or “reconstituted”, or don’t question them at all. Genuine malachite has become rare, very expensive, and nearly impossible to find as beads. Our manmade malachite is a nice imitation carved from block.

Large pile of manmade imitation turquoise block at a Chinese Materials seller visited by Russ Nobbs in 1996.

Large pile of manmade imitation turquoise block at a Chinese Materials seller visited by Russ Nobbs in 1996. (Click image for close-up.)

I’ve collected many pictures of fake and misrepresented turquoise on my Pinterest page to help educate buyers: http://www.pinterest.com/russnobbs/turquoise-imitations/

What can you do to avoid buying misnamed and misrepresented beads? Buy from dealers you trust and who can tell you about the material. Ask questions when you shop. Ask detailed questions. If you are uncomfortable with the answers or the prices, don’t buy. Do some of your own research with our free online Gemstone Beads Index or other sites and lapidary books.

I hope this answered most of your questions. I appreciate your business and your questions.

—————————————-
Russ Nobbs, Founder & Director
http://www.rings-things.com – Spokane, WA – USA

 
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