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Pressed Glass Beads
By Sandra Paluzzi
You have probably all seen pressed beads.
Pressed glass beads are a relative newcomer to the bead world, dating from the mid 19th century. The press process brought an ability to quickly produce quantities of beads all having approximately the same size and shape.
When I first saw a pressed bead, I imagined glass being poured in a mold, as ceramics are poured into a mold and then baked. But no, that process of bead making is called molded glass. No big surprise there. Pressing glass is a very different process than molding it. When a bead is pressed, the glass is heated on a mandrel (rod) the same way that it is done when lampwork beads are made. Then a press is put around the molten glass to form the shape. A press basically resembles a pair of cooking tongs.
Pressed beads all have
seams on them. The seams are polished. On a high end bead, the
seam will be hand polished until it is removed. On a mass produced
bead, the bead will be put in a tumbler to remove the seam. In the
tumblers, some beads are tumbled more smoothly than others.
While the process of pressing glass beads did not originate in Bohemia (The Czech Republic), it truly became an industry there. The designs of the beads were based on shapes popular in Europe (particularly France and Germany) in the early 19th century. To this day, the Czech dominate the pressed glass bead market.
The Czech frequently sell their old dyes and presses to other companies, notably India and China. These other countries than produce beads in the same shape as the Czech pressed beads. However, shape alone does not make a bead a bead. The Czech use much better glass than do their competitors. Furthermore, the polishing on the Czech beads far surpasses the polishing of beads by their competitors.
Pressed beads are one instance where the industry leader has remained the industry leader for many, many years. While anything can happen in the future, it appears as if the Czech will continue to dominate the market in the near future.
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