Glass bead production involves lapidary, a process of cutting and polishing gems. Through progressive abrasion, all gems are cut and polished, using more and more fine grits of coarse substances. Glass beads are more modern and it was uncommon to polish glass in comparison to stone. However, the Czech bead makers founded “fire polishing”.
After pressing the glass into molds and faceted into desired cuts and run through and extremely hot furnace, to melt the top and gloss the beads. The technique used today, isn’t that different from antique methods, apart from a few instances. The modern day technician stands in front of an 8-foot in diameter grinding wheel. A ratchet is fixed to the wheel and has an attachable equipment with multiple holes.
The technician then scoops glass beads with this equipment and the beads go into the holes and are secured firmly, attaching this beads filled equipment to the ratchet and presses it against the revolving grinding wheel. The wheel is then run with water, the beads are grounded for a few seconds and then released. The beads are turned a little when the ratchet is applied. This repetition is done until the bead is fully faceted all the way around.
After the beads are coated, polished by fire and thoroughly inspected, they are strung in a cotton thread. Stringing of beads can be done either by hand or machinery. In Czech glass bead production companies, they often outsource to local villagers who themselves are on a mission to supplement their income with bead stringing. These factories provide the necessary requirements inclusive of instruction
Usually, the women and children are the ones who undertake this work. Sometimes, if the beads are round, a machine has used that looks more or less like a treadle sewing machine, with a huge bowl on top. Thereafter, the beads are poured into the huge bowl and 12 needles are then placed into it. The bowl is then spun and with centrifugal force, the beads get threaded onto the needles and eventually run along miles and miles of thread. When the thread is determined to contain a lot of beads it is measured off in the quantity required and tied off.
Some of the glass beads production factories are so small that they fall into the category of cottage industries. Where the work is done in small scale and the beads are pressed by an experience presser, transferred off to be faceted and eventually taken to a large factory where they are fire-polished and further distributed to the women or children stringers.
In case there is a need for coating, the beads are sent off to a coating facility before being fire polished and strung. After glass beads production process is complete, there is the aspect of the sale and exporting. Exporting is relatively easy if you are capable of handling it all, however, there are instances of small bead makers who still need to export their own beads. An export agent will step in to prepare the necessary documentation for the export process and moreover, handle the financing.
Glass Bead production process is a marvelous technique that involves intricate steps and all these put into consideration, it’s a wonder on how inexpensive they are!