"They don't make them like they used to" is a saying which epitomizes vintage beads, a popular commodity in the beading world these days.

Myrna's grandmother's beads pictured here were estimated to be at least seventy years old. At first glance, I thought they were a strand of multi-coloured tourmaline gemstone beads. But on closer examination, they were glass. But oh, such pretty glass. They were irregular in size but that was part of their charm. Myrna restrung them onto beading wire as she was afraid the string they were on would eventually break.

How can one tell if the beads are glass or gemstones? Look really closely and glass will have very tiny bubbles of trapped air. Pressed glass i.e. glass made with molds have tell-tale lines where the two halves were fused. Long ago, before modern instruments, people used to tell the difference and check for fakes by putting the "stone" in their mouths. Gemstones like rubies, sapphires and so on are good thermal conductors which means they draw heat from the body and will feel cold. Whereas glass is a poor conductor of heat and will feel warm.

The pictures on this article A History of Beads, show a wide range of lovely vintage beads from different periods dating back to the late 1800's. The 1930's blue satin Czech beads with an embossed pattern demonstrate the mastery of these bead makers. Also of note - gold and silver foiling of beads were not exclusive to the Italians (Murano) but Czech, Japanese and German bead makers used this decorative technique too. Another factor in the popularity of vintage beads are the wide ranger of colours available compared to modern offerings.

So don't throw out old beads! Rescue attic finds. Haunt garage sales. These old beads getting harder to find and pricier with time.

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