We all have our own reasons why we choose stone in our designs- but I feel we all share one commonality. We like working in a natural product- something that formed naturally over time and each bead is unique to itself- a little piece of art. The issue with natural materials is that there is very little control over how it looks, availability or inherent flaws.
Here are a few tips when buying a strand of gemstones to help minimize unusable beads...
Top to bottom. Often when we pick up a hank of beads, we hold it in the center letting 50% of the strand drape. The top and bottom few inches is typically where the bad beads are strung. Lay a strand down and look over the entire length. A few bad beads are acceptable. Hopefully the good far outnumber the bad.
Wear n tear. Check between the beads for wear and chipping at the holes. Beads will rub together over time and can damage the hole. A little dust from the beads is acceptable and will wipe off.
It’s all in the drill. How a bead is drilled is very important to how it will work in a design. This is never more obvious than a poorly drilled rondelle. This is one of the most difficult shapes to drill. To check a drill pull the strand tight from both ends and see how the beads lay. Occasionally the drills are good, but the strand is strung to tightly which causes the beads to look catawampus (yes, it is a scientific term,
take my word for it).
These are few techniques you can use when evaluating a strand of stone. Keep in mind that natural flaws, inclusions and that strange black spot that looks like the state of Florida is what makes stone natural and interesting to work with.