We have two goals when we buy beads:
1)We want the broadest range possible of colors, glass types and
That's why, whenever possible, we pick out our own raw glass canes at the factory and have our own bead makers produce our beads, just for us. Then we personally specify the surface finishes we want.
2)We want the highest quality possible.
Quality for us means large holes and overall uniform size and shape, so you don't have to spend a lot of time culling. Quality also means permanent color.
Unfortunately, these two goals are often mutually exclusive. Some of the most popular surface finishes (metallic colors) and colors (bright pinks and purples) are not permanent under all conditions. Spray these non-permanent beads with a high-quality artist's fixative to increase their life. Don't handle these beads excessively.
Some of the most beautiful colors are made by the Italian factory in France. These are also some of our most irregular beads! We feel that the special colors (real gold pinks, greasy turquoise, rich opal lavenders), which no one else provides, compensate for the irregularity of shape. These beads do have big holes.
Antique beads vary from near perfect consistency to terrible blobby things. Again, when you need that one special color, you put up with lengthy culling.
The Japanese make the most consistently shaped beads, with large holes. They also make the most exotic surface finishes, specializing in various breeds of iridescence: matte iridescence, metallic iridescence, color-lined iridescence. Their dyed and painted beads are also very durable. Whereas the Italians are re-creating pre-1900 colors, the Japanese have a limited range of colors, which they compensate for by having a wide range of exotic surface finishes first developed by the Czechs!
What about Czech seed beads? We think that the Czechs do cuts better than anybody. We're thrilled they're making Charlottes and 3-cuts again.
We like the French 11° for their colors. The Czechs don't want to make gold pinks yet, and the Japanese can't or won't. We like Japanese beads for the range of good surface finishes and for uniformity of size and shape.
The Czechs don't make 14° regularly, so that forces us to go Japanese on those. Unfortunately French and Japanese beads are more expensive, especially the Japanese.
We're keeping an eye on the Czech beads. New technological advances in the Czech bead making industry may revolutionize their offerings. We're getting real size 16°s from them now, as well as 14°s and 15°s. No one makes a bead with a more beautiful shape than the Czechs, and the size of their holes is much larger than it used to be.
We buy antique beads whenever and wherever we can. However, recently we've just not found any. Those that we do have, are distinguished by an Ø.
Since all the tiny antique beads (size16° through 24°) are unique and irreplaceable, none of the beads in the Baby Beads catalog section is marked with an Ø sign.
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