Handmade jewelry is hot right now, whether you're making it for your own personal collection, or to sell. Using large handmade enamel beads can add interest and originality to your creations, but sometimes can create fabrication and design challenges. There are a few tips that can help with these challenges, and give you a more professional looking piece of jewelry.
Handmade enamel beads are made with copper tubing at their center. The tubing is heated with a torch, and colored glass chips are melted to fuse to this tubing. The tubing usually has a large inside diameter and sometimes this causes the finished bead to hang improperly or the tubing can have a burr from cutting, or bit of glass stuck on the end that can damage stringing material. Fabricating a simple internal structure of seed beads to support the bead on the stringing material can help with both of these issues.
Things You Will NeedHandmade enamel beads
Variety of seed beads
Complimentary end caps, if desired
Additional beads for string, complimentary or contrasting
Step 1Sort through your seed beads to find those that will fit the inside diameter of the enamel bead and fit over your stringing material. Test them out before you start assembling your project, so that you can make sure everything fits well. On rare occasions the tubing may have a small dent or crimp inside that the seed beads will get stuck on. If a bead gets stuck, gently poke it back from the other side with a crochet hook or small gauge knitting needle.
You're going to be stringing the seed beads on your stringing material and then stringing the enamel bead so the seed beads are inside the copper tube. The idea is to provide a structure inside the tubing to both hold the stringing material in the center of the bead opening, and to keep the stringing material from rubbing against the edge of the tubing or on any bits of glass that may be stuck to the edge of the copper tube. Sometimes these bits have sharp edges and can cut through fiber based stringing material, and can weaken sterling silver wire.
Step 3Use a larger bead that nestles up against the enamel bead, or bead caps, at either side of the enamel bead to camouflage any seed beads that may be visible. Continue stringing your design as normal, until you need to add another enamel bead to the design. Repeat the above procedure.
Step 4Enamel beads may have the copper tubing exposed on either end, where the glass didn't adhere. The exposed copper can be used effectively in the design of your piece, but sometimes the oxidized color does not match the overall look of the work. To cover these end areas, you can use bead caps. They are available in sterling silver and vermiel from most bead supply catalogs and bead stores. If you've never used them before, they can add an extra dimension to your piece. The seed bead support in the middle of the bead also helps the larger enamel beads stay centered against the bead cap, making for a much more professional look to the finished piece.