I belong to a group, Beading Back in Time, and we have quarterly challenges. This quarter, the challenge was Early Civilization (3500 BC – 500 AD). I decided to make faux roman glass beads and share the tutorial with you. I’m assuming if you’re a lampworker and you’re reading this, you know certain things, like safety, applications, etc. This is a more intermediate tutorial.
The first step is to make a bead in a color you think resembles roman glass. I chose light aqua and medium blue. You could also probably use cobalt. Make your bead as usual, paying attention to the nicely puckered ends. Once you have your basic bead shape, dip it in baking soda. I use a pyrex glass bowl for mine. Then put your bead back in the flame, allowing the baking soda to burn off and create the pitting. If you want more pitting, put it back in the baking soda for a second time. Next, shape your bead how you want – I used a brass paddle to shape my beads into a nugget shape – then put them back in the flame quickly so they don’t shock, and put them in the kiln. Run your regular cycle.
Here’s what they look like when they’re done – they are wet from soaking. You’ll have to soak them, they are really hard to get off the mandrel. They will feel slimy as well – that’s normal. That’s the baking soda.
You will probably ruin some mandrels, as well. The baking soda really makes the beads stick on the ends; I had to use a locking pliers to get the beads off, even though I soaked them in water for quite a while.
Next, you need to soak them in vinegar for about 20-30 minutes. This arrests the acid in the baking soda. I have also read that you can use a very mild, watered down solution of etch-all – I haven’t tried this method, so can’t speak on it!
These are my beads out of the vinegar. You will still see a good amount of baking soda on the beads, it’s a good idea to take a wet toothbrush and brush the beads to get as much of the baking soda residue off as you can.
For the next step, I tumble etched my beads in my tumbler with the solution of silicone carbide, size 6 glass seed beads, water and a drop of dawn dish detergent – tutorial here. At first, I ran it for a couple of hours; when I took the beads out, I was not satisfied with the result, so I decided to just run it overnight and see what happened. I have to say that I am quite pleased with how they look.
When I took them out of the tumbler and rinsed them off, there was a still a little bit of baking soda residue left on them, so I simply took my wet toothbrush and brushed them again. I’m quite pleased with the look. I can’t, however, attest to whether they hold up over time. I have heard that baking soda beads continue to degrade – while I don’t know this for sure, I thought I would put it out there for you.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you’re not a lampworker and would like some, please contact me and I’ll be glad to oblige!