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I have various types of bone beads in my collection. Sabrina spotted these bone ring beads which she used to surround tiger eye beads in her copper earrings design. She added a dash of color with lime green rectangular tags. All in all, a truly one of a kind design Sabrina is sure to enjoy wearing.

Sabrina didn't ask but at one beading party, one beginner beader looked up with alarm when I mentioned bone beads. With slightly tremulous lips, she asked if they were - you know, human! Well, I reassured her they are likely from animals such as cows.

I did do a search to see exactly where they come come. Harlequin Beads and Jewelry says in their article Making Bone Beads most modern bone beads come from animals such as cows, sheep or even camels and yaks. They are most often byproducts from the food industry and are thus a readily available material i.e. cheap.

The beads are hand carved but first the bones have to go through a cleaning process which is long, tedious, smelly and potentially dangerous. All the meat and sinew have to be first removed. It's not just about soapy water and a stiff brush but the bones have to be degreased by boiling in dilute acid. They are next soaked in dilute bleach to make sure every last bit of protein is gone. If not, continued decomposition will give the bone a stench. After rinsing, the bones have to be dried for several days before they are carved into beads.

Bone is a good substitute for ivory so the natural cream color is the most popular. Bone beads are often stained black or brown to "antique" them.

Beader Design #: 533

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  1. I knew that the bone used for making beads was from leftovers from the meat industry, but didn't know about the processing.
    Harlequin will always be my favorite bead shop, as I shopped there for years and years when I lived in Eugene. I watched them grow from a tiny shop to the amazing store they are now. I miss all my friends there! :D
    Thanks for the great article!

  2. In think I'd rather leave the bones out in a patch of desert and let nature clean the bones. Yuk! Pretty earrings though.

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  4. I love the look of bone beads though I don't use them very often.

  5. If you are referring to the honey color disc in the earrings, I think the beads are horn, not bone.


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