How Are Recycled Glass Beads Made?
Ghana has long been attributed with the production of exquisitely beautiful recycled glass beads ranging from rough textured, frosted spheres, to shiny hand-painted cylindrical beads featuring abstract patterns and designs - like the Chevron Krobo Fancy Powderglass Beads, right here at The Bead Chest.
The Mirror Effect
If you browse through the diverse product selection under our “Powder Glass Beads” category, you'll find a stunning array of contrasting African beads (some quite worn in appearance) while others are highly polished to a mirror-like shine.
The Glass Beads Production Process
The glass beads production process is a refined process for the creation of intricate beads doesn't actually differ that much from the frosted, textured beads – its simply down to the type of glass, molds and decorative effects used. Our Blue and White Sandcast Beads are demonstrative of how recycled beads would have looked between the 15th-18th Centuries.
The eroded appearance and uneven finish are typical of beads produced at this time using a process known as sand-casting – similar to the methods adopted by the Krobo people of Ghana, to make the fancy Powderglass Beads of today. Kiffa
Various Forms of Recycled Glass
Beads were the most common variant of sand-casted beads. A ground glass powder would be added to a mold made of compacted, dried mud and sand, then a cassava plant stem gently pushed through the center of the powder. This would remain during the firing process within a kiln, burning away to leave a threading hole in the glass bead.
The sandy texture of the mold influenced the texture of the bead – friction causing the frosty exterior you see on many recycled creations. The method used for creating recycled glass beads hasn't changed much.
Glass remnants from broken drink/ perfume bottles, windows, jars, and other waste packaging is ground down into a fine powder by hand.
The Krobo people undertake the crushing of glass by hand too, wrapping glass shards within a cloth – then using a stone or heavy implement to smash it down into very small shards.
These are emptied into a mortar (wooden or stone bowl) and ground down with a pestle made of the same material. Once the powder is of fine consistency, its sieved to ensure no large fragments remain.
Unless glass was originally transparent, a natural dye cannot be added to influence color, therefore the color of the bead is influenced by the types of bottle(s) used. Bead molds are traditionally made from clay or porcelain.
Prior to the glass powder or “fritt” being added, the interior is lined with kaolin clay and water, ensuring powder residue doesn't adhere to the mold. Bead molds are usually clay trays comprising up to 20 individual molds, carved out by hand.
The Unique Unevenness of African Beads
This is why some African beads are endearingly uneven, or of slightly different proportions to one another. The molds are placed within a kiln for up to one hour, and once removed, will be allowed to cool prior to either being polished, or individually hand-painted.
Have you noticed some of the intricate designs of our mixed-string Fancy Powderglass Krobo Beads? Our Green Swirl Recycled Glass Beads on the other hand, represent the more traditional beads that were created several Centuries ago.
Notice how the natural colors of the glass have separated to produce the free-form swirl patterns?
We have an extensive range of recycled glass beads at The Bead Chest, with these beautiful characteristics, in colors from blue-brown to aqua-marine. These natural hues are ideal for fashionable Bohemian and Tribal jewelry creation . Perhaps the apple-red has caught your eye?