Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tree Frog Jewelry

handmade glass frog bead pendantThe lampwork glass frog beads at kincaidesigns.com were designed after the tree frogs found on the Caribbean island of Saba. These small creatures are known to consume their habitat with their noise at night. Extremely similar to the sound of crickets, the frog's symphony will carry throughout the night. They are about the same size as the frog you find on your glass bead.

Each of the glass frog beads seem to look at you with their own unique facial expression. Because they are handmade, each one is different, so you can keep collecting them without receiving a duplicate.

The glass frog beads come in all colors, and the most popular are those whole coloring resembles the Red-eyed tree frogs, who are characterized by their bright red eyes and bright green and blue bodies. Their toes are also a bright orange, making them a beautiful frog species. You'll find them commonly photographed, because they look so bright and colorful in pictures.

glass frog bead red eyed tree frog pendant beadThese tree frogs are nocturnal, which is why their eyes are red, it helps them see. Those who wanted photographs of these frogs would have to venture out at night and peek into the bottom of potted plants, into flower blossoms, or any other small moist habitat. Due to their size, they don't require a large living space.

They are a beautiful species, and easily inspire many to create art based on their kind. You can find more treefrog art at www.frogstore.com.

Read more about the Saba Tree Frogs at the Sea Saba Diving website.

To shop for your unique handmade glass frog bead or glass frog pendants, visit Kincaidesigns.com. We have many to choose from, or have yours custom made.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Buying gemstones: Are they genuine?

buying gemstones handmade jewelry genuine gemstones
When buying gemstones, it's easy to become mesmerized by their sparkle and radiance. However, you should do your research before buying expensive jewelry or gemstones, because you never know what you might end up with. Dealers pass of fake gemstones for the real thing all the time. You just have to know what you want, and do your research, and stay on your toes.

Before you venture out into the jewelry maker, remember there's no such thing as a deal. Gemstones have a value, and anyone who tell you they will sell you a diamond for half the price it's worth, is a liar. Always buy for a reputable company or individual that you trust, and make sure you receive a certificate of authenticity from them. If they don't have one, ask for verification from a reputable laboratory before you purchase it.

Study and compare pricing so you know what the value is of the stone you are looking for. This way you can be aware of any red flag pricing that might come your way. And don't neglect the other components of the jewelry you are buying, such as the setting structure and precious metal. As questions about the security of your setting, and make sure your purchase comes with a lifetime warranty. As long as you have your setting checked every 6 month, or the amount of time specified by the dealer, your jewelry purchase should be covered under a lifetime warranty.

You should also know that imitation, synthetic and treated stones are still very beautiful, and they are used in some unique jewelry designs, however, what you want to know is, are these dealers passing these stones off as the real thing? Are you about to pay more for your jewelry than it's worth? Below you will find some gemstone facts, and what to look for when buying your gemstones and jewelry.

What is a natural gemstone?
A natural gemstone is exactly as described; it's natural, untouched by humans. Most natural gemstones are treated to improve their appearance. However, the most coveted gemstones are naturally brilliant in color, and have the fewest flaws. Their price is determined by their quality, desirability and their availability.

Gemstones are treated? What do you mean?
Natural gemstones don't usually have the perfection as described above. Although they are genuine gemstones, they must be chemically treated with heat and radiation to enhance, or even change their colors. These treatments can make a beautiful stones, and if your price matches the quality, it can be a great choice. Just make sure your dealer is honest with you, and you aren't paying too much for a misrepresented gemstone.

What is a synthetic gemstone?
First of all, these are not fake gemstones, they just aren't natural. A synthetic gemstone shares all the characteristics of their natural gemstone counterpart. The only difference is, they are grown or manufactured in a laboratory. They are so similar to their natural gemstone counterpart that they are hard to detect, even by experts. The only clue that a gemstones is synthetic, is they are usually flawless. However, there are some rare natural gemstones that are also flawless.

How do you know when a stone is fake?
First of all, when a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is. Most fake gemstones can be easily detected by a jewelry, but there are some substitutions and imitations that are even fooling the experts. So, what do you look for?

Imitation gemstones
Imitation gemstones look like the real thing, but that's where their similarities end. They can be made out of anything, and are usually color treated to look like a specific stone. For example, cubic zirconia is an imitation diamond. Other common imitations, or substitution gemstones are listed below.

• Black Diamond: Often substituted with Hematite

Diamond: Often substituted with colorless Quartz, colorless Topaz, cubic zirconia, colorless Zircon (Not to be confused with Cubic Zirconia.)

Emerald: Often substituted with Green Sapphire

Jade: Often substituted with Serpentine, Aventurine Quartz, Chrysoprase Quartz

Red Sea Pearl: Often substituted with Coral

Ruby: Often substituted with Garnet, Spinel or Tourmaline

Sapphire: Often substituted with Lolite

Topaz: Often substituted with Quartz

Smoky Topaz: Often substituted with Smoky Quartz

If a dealer is trying to sell you a gemstone with an alternate name, then it probably isn't genuine. There are a lot of big words, root words and origin names, but don't be fooled. They might be trying to confuse you, or trying to convince you they know more than they do.

Foilbacks
Foilbacks are used to give gemstones a more brilliant color, or even to change it's color. This is done by mounting the gemstone with a foil coating on it's underside to reflect as much light as possible. Foilbacking is commonly seen in costume jewelry, rhinestones, Swarovski crystals, and cheap gemstones. If you can see underside of your gemstone in your setting, and it's not coated, then your jewelry is not foilbacked. However, ask your dealer if your gemstones have foilbackings if you cannot see the bottom of your gemstones. For example, you usually cannot see your stones in a channel setting, where you can only see the top surface of the gemstones.

Synthetic Doublets
Doublets, also known as "gemstone sandwiches," are gemstone that are assembled with smaller gemstone pieces, glass, or crystal rock, then covered with a thin slice of a genuine gemstone. This is usually undetectable without magnification and is common with Opals. Make sure to look at all your gemstones under magnification. If you don't know what you are looking for, ask a reputable jewelry and do your research.

Glass
Glass is a common substitute for a gemstone that is easily detected by a jeweler. Many gemstone fakes are made from lead glass, also known as crystal. Crystal can be very beautiful, and Swarovski crystals are a very high quality brand of crystal coveted by jewelry lovers everywhere. But they shouldn't be passed off as a genuine gemstone.

Plastic
Plastic is another common substitute for a gemstone that can easily be detected by a jewelr. Gemstones made from plastic are meant to look like a big fancy gemstone, but it's usually much lighter in weight and the edges aren't as severe as the facets of a genuine gemstone. This is because plastic gemstone are usually made from a mold. Plastic is usually used in costume and fashion jewelry.

Reconstituted
Reconstituted gemstones are considered imitation gemstones, however, they are created from small gemstone fragments of from a larger piece. They pieces are gathered, heated and then pressed to form a solid pieces. These pieces are then cut into individual gemstones.

To sum up
Do your research and shop at a reputable dealer. Don't fall for the "to good to be true" deals, because they probably are. If you want something valuable, you need to pay for it. Jewelry and gemstones are appraised and valued, and there is no reason a dealer should sell it to you for less than it's worth, unless they are passing off fake gemstones as being real.

To shop for unique handmade bridge jewelry, visit www.kincaidesigns.com. We have handmade jewelry using handcrafted glass beads, semi-precious stones, pearls, Swarovski crystals, sterling silver and 14kt gold fill. We use only quality materials and we guarantee you are happy with your purchase. See our 30-day return policy.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Buying Handmade Glass Beads

Handmade Glass Bead Frog Jewelry Frog BeadsWhen you are in the market for handmade glass beads, or handcrafted jewelry with glass beads, there are some details you should be aware of. Glass beads can be bought locally, imported from overseas, or handmade by the jewelry artists themselves.

Lampwork Beads
Lampwork glass beads are usually made by an artisan using colorful glass rods. The rods are heating with a tabletop torch and wound around a steel welding rod, known as a mandrel. The mandrel is not only used as a holding tool, but it also created the hole, making it a bead.


Annealing (Heating and Cooling Glass Beads)
Glass beads need to be properly kiln annealed. The glass needs to be heated to a molten state before it can be made into a bead, then it needs to be placed into a kiln, usually heated between 900-1000° F, depending on the brand of glass being used. Different types of glass require different cooling processes. The kiln is an environment for the glass beads to
stay very hot, but not hot enough for the glass to slump, or become a glass puddle. The beads maintain at a the required temperature, which strengthens the glass by eliminating its interior stress When the bead is finished, or the day of bead making is over, the kiln is cooled very slowly so the beads aren't shocked, which causes cracking.

Annealing beads can take 6-10 hours, depending on the type of glass being used, the heating and cooling process required, and it depends on your kiln. For larger glass objects, the annealing process takes longer, from a few days to a week or more!


Tell me again, why should glass beads cool slowly?

If a glass bead cooled at room temperature, the exterior of the glass bead would cool faster than the interior, causing stress, which causes the bead to crack or even shatter. For example, when you run an ice cube under hot water, it cracks, but if you run it under cold water and gradually make the water warmer, the ice cube simply melts. In the same way, glass needs to be heated and cooled slowly, to prevent cracking.


Side Note:
Why can you put a Pyrex dish in the oven without it cracking?
Pyrex is a
brand which was originally made from borosilicate glass, which requires a unique heating and cooling process. Borosilicate is more resistant to thermal shock than any other type of glass. It's the same glass used in labs for beakers and test tubes, as well as your Pyrex cookware. Unlike other types of glass, Borosilicate is is placed in a kiln at room temperature, then it heats up to 1150° F, which releases the interior stress. Then it's cooled slowly.

Clear Borosilicate is the most common, but colored Borosilicate has been developed for the glass art market. It is commonly used in sculptural pieces such as ornaments, paper weights and figurines. The glass mermaid ornaments, starfish ornaments and starfish ornaments at kincaidesigns.com are made from Borosilicate glass, and it's actually the Pyrex brand.

Unfortunately, the Pyrex brand kitchen glassware is not longer made from Borosilicate, but the similar soda-lime-silica glass. Borosilicate is a better quality, so if you bought your Pyrex cookware before 1998, then hold onto it. Soda-lime-silica glass is still a high quality and durable glass, and it's used for windowpanes, glass containers, bottles and jars for beverages, food, and some commodity items. However, Borosilicate is still the superior type of glass, and it's unfortunate that they've switched.

Do you use Pyrex glass for your glass beads?
No, I don't use Pyrex for glass beads, but I do use it for glass ornaments, including starfish, mermaids and seahorses. You can shop for these Pyrex glass ornaments on our website at kincaidesigns.com. Al the glass beads at kincaidesigns.com are made out of Moretti or Bullseye glass. These brands have a vast selection of colors, and they are the preferred brands by most bead makers. This glass can't be used for larger objects because they don't have as much resistance to thermal shock. Larger objects take longer to make and the entire object can't always be heated evenly as glass beads are, so Pyrex is a great alternative for this.


What to ask the bead maker

• Do you make your own lampwork glass beads?

• If not, where are your beads from?

• Are your beads properly kiln annealed?

• Do your glass beads and jewelry come with a guarantee?

• How long have your been making lampwork glass beads?

• Do you clean out the bead release?

• Are you beads properly inspected before use in your jewelry designs?


Imported glass beads
Lampwork beads imported from India or China are usually mass produced and have not been properly kiln annealed. There are some things to look for to identify these imported glass beads. Many of these beads have cracks, and although the bead isn't broken in 2 pieces, it will break at some point, leaving you with worthless glass beads or jewelry that needs replacement beads. You can also look for a glass seam, which means these beads have been made in a mold and melted in a kiln. You may also notice the glass is less pure, with a grainy substance such as dust or bead release mixed in. This is because enough attention isn't being paid to each bead, as they are commonly made in a factory in mass quantities.


Cracked beads

Usually beads have cracks because they haven't been properly annealed. However, occasionally a lampwork artisan bead isn't put into the kiln in an adequate amount of time, and the bead was doomed before it entered the kiln. Most artisans will find these cracked beads immediately and throw them away. However, when lampwork beads are mass produced, they don't have the resources or patience to check every single bead, and you end up with a number of unusable
glass beads. So if you are in a craft store and you see a beading kit that includes a mixture of glass beads, beware, these are mass produced and many of them will be unusable, cracked and not properly kiln annealed. It's worth the extra money to buy quality, handcrafted, lampwork artisan glass beads.

Bead release
Bead release is a clay-like substance that the mandrel is dipped in before the glass is melted onto it. If glass were melted directly onto the mandrel, then the glass would be permanently attached to it. The bead release allows the bead to come off the mandrel easily, however, the substance remains coated on the hole of your bead. Most mass produced lampwork beads will still have the bead release stick to the inside of the bead's hole because they commonly miss the proper steps needed to make glass beads. If you are buying individual glass beads, you can easily see the bead release if it hasn't been removed. However, if you are buying a finished piece, you make not notice it as much. But the bead release can start to come off with the wear of your jewelry, and you'll find a dust like substance your clothing here and there. The artisan should have individually cleaned the bead release off their lampwork glass beads, so look closely. If they aren't cleaned, you should ask yourself what other steps were missed in the lampwork glass bead process.


Shapes and design
Glass artist have varied talent and taste, some prefer to make elaborate focal pieces while others use more simple glass beads as accents. The taste of the artisan doesn't determine their talent, however, are the shapes and designs pleasing to you? Does each bead fit neatly against each other? Symmetry, or lack of, is very noticeable in earrings, if a glass beads is uneven, the earring will hand crooked. This doesn't prove the jewelry artist has much attention to detail. Keep in mind that each bead is individually handcrafted, so there will be some variance. However, quality jewelry is only as good as the artisan who designed it. If they have an attention to detail and a high quality standard, it definitely shows.


Gold Leaf Lampwork Glass Bead Focal Glass BeadGold and Silver Leaf
Some gl
ass beads have silver or gold leaf embedded inside them. This creates a unique reflection of light in the glass beads and is used for various effects. It also adds value to the individual glass bead because the leafing is actually silver or gold. At kincaidesigns.com, gold or silver leaf is used to make large focal beads. See an example of a focal glass bead. They are also used in the glass fish beads to create the illusion of scales. See an example of a glass fish bead.

Sharp edges

A sign of well-made glass beads are smooth edges. The edges are the area where the exterior of the glass bead meets the outer edge of bead's hole. If they are sharp, or come to a point, they may cut your stringing material. You can usually identify these beads just by look or touch.


Bubbles

Bubbles in glass bead can be intentional and beautiful, or a sign of bad craftsmanship. How do you tell the difference? If a glass bead has random, multiple bubbles, then it probably wasn't intentional. These bubbles can weaken the strength of the beads structure. Bubbles usually happen when air is caught between the glass as the glass rod is being wrapped around the mandrel. However, when the glass rod gets too hot, it boils, and those bubbles from the boiling glass can cause tiny bubbles that look like spit. This is also not intentional, and it doesn't look pretty either.


Bubbles can be intentional though, so look for a pattern or specific use for the bubbles. Lampwork artist will often capture a bubble in the plundge of a flower, or create bubble around a fish bead design. These can be extremely beautiful and add a unique detail to their glass design. If you see intentionally placed bubbles, it's a sure sign of good craftsmanship.


To sum up

Most artisan lampwork glass beads aren't cheap, you can pay anywhere from $3-$100 per glass bead, depending on the size, details, and additional materials such as gold leaf. If you find yourself being sucked in to a variety pack of glass beads that are extremely cheap, be aware, only a handful will be usable and they wont have the same charm as artisan crafted lampwork beads. They will also lack the proper care in annealing and cleaning, so, is it really worth it?


When buying artisan glass beads, shop around and look for a lampwork glass artist that fits your tastes. Look at the beads overall appearance, shape and design. Check the glass beads for bubbles, bead release and sharp edges. And don't forget that artisan glass beads are a truly unique work of art, and each bead will have unique characteristics because close attention was paid to each individual glass bead.

Find quality handmade glass beads at kincaidesigns.com. We have glass frog beads, silver and gold leaf glass beads, fish beads, unique focal beads, ladybug beads and glass beaded jewelry. We have beautiful handmade jewelry for casual everyday wear, for brides and bridal parties, and even for babies. You can also buy individual handmade glass beads to make your own jewelry. Not sure what to buy for a gift? We have handmade glass bead wine charms, keychains, glass ornaments, or buy a gift certificate if you are more confused than before. Visit kincaidesigns.com for a truly unique shopping experience.

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