Lampwork Beads – Learning More About Them

Lampwork beads

CC Image courtesy of Sleeping cat beads on Flickr

Lampwork Beads

If you have heard of lampwork beads, but you aren’t familiar with them, you might be interested in learning more about them. They are some of the more artistic beads you will find and they are sometimes referred to as Murano glass beads, since the ancient art has been practiced in Murano, Italy, since the 1st century.



What are lampwork beads?

Lampwork beads were originally created in the flame of an oil lamp, but today’s artists use propane or natural gas burners to create and manipulate the glass into shapes and designs. Also known as “furnace glass” beads, they may have raised patterns and colorful designs, giving them a three-dimensional quality. In addition, they are individually created, giving them unique appearances and qualities.


Lampwork beads making process?

Lampwork beads are made by melting rods or tubes of glass, into a molten state. Once pliable, tools can be used to create raised dots or other patterns. Soda-lime glass is frequently used because it is a soft glass that melts at lower temperatures and it is available in pre-colored rods, for creating multiple-colored beads. Mixing glass is possible and it can produce a variety of colors or metallic sheens.


Much like glass-blowing, lampwork beads are shaped, smoothed or textured, depending on how the bead-maker decides to design the beads they are creating. Marvers are flat surfaces to roll out the glass and picks can be used to drag the glass around, to create raised dots or to poke a hole for stringing.


There are several steps involved, depending on the type of lampwork beads that are being made. Heating the rod and mandrel, shaping and decorating the bead, striking, annealing and cold-working are steps involved. Once the glass beads have cooled, they can be sandblasted, faceted or polished and given a matte finish through etching, if desired.


Are lampwork beads going out of style?

Lampwork beads may never go out of style and there are some people that believe they are just as popular as they have ever been. They might not be heard of quite as often, due to more recent economic conditions. It’s true they may be more expensive than other types of glass beads, but their unique and artistic qualities are part of the reason they are so popular. Lampwork beads can be considered miniature artistic masterpieces, designed to give a special look to your beaded jewelry projects.


Changes in today’s lampwork beads?

While lampwork beads have been around for centuries, today’s modern beads have benefited from finishing techniques, such as fuming. This technique has only been used the last couple of decades, but by heating silver or gold in the flame, a metallic layer of particles creates interesting effects. The precious metal coating can turn clear glass into pinks and reds, when gold is fumed or blues and greens or yellows, when silver is fumed onto clear glass. There are other new finishing techniques that make today’s lampwork beads more unique and interesting to look at, however.

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  1. Lampwork beads are definitely not out of style and are very ellegant, they look amazing on earings, its very interesting to know more about them.

    • Great to hear from you Marina. I’m glad you share my interest in lampwork beads as they can add such beauty and creativity in any bead design!

  2. I agree with Marina there will always be a following for lampwork beads. As more and more companies mass produce beads, I think the art of lampwork beads will grow. If for no other reason besides the beauty, for the individuality.

  3. I would love to learn how to make lampwork beads. This article has helped to inspire me!

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