Bead Finishes - How to Keep Your Projects Looking Good
We all know that with time and wear jewelry, as with anything, starts to loose that ‘brand new’ look. For example, even if we don’t wear a piece, silver can tarnish. But we have discovered that the beads that show the most wear are the seed beads. Most beads have their color ‘cooked’ inside them. These colors should hold fast, and not be problematic. When the finish is on the outside (or in the lining) of a bead, its appearance can change over time. This can be very upsetting, especially after we went to so much trouble finding the ‘just perfect’ bead color. So we decided to do a little research about what to expect from certain finishes, and how we can best preserve them.
Outside finishes are applied as a coating to the exterior of beads after they have been made. These finishes are usually the eye-catching pretty ones. They are usually easily identified in the color name – metallic, matte metallic, galvanized and plated. For most people some of these finishes may slowly wear off over time, however, some people have very acidic skin and the finish can come off almost immediately.
A ‘lined bead’ has the color inside the hole of the bead, which is applied after the bead is produced. These are often silver-lined, ‘S/L’, beads, but can come in other metallic colors such as gold and copper. The beads may also be lined with a color. These beads may fade over time. All lined beads are identified in the color name on our labels.
A ‘dyed’ bead is dyed a certain color after it is produced. Just like with fabric, the color may not hold fast, and may ever rub off between your fingers. We designate these beads with ‘dyed’ on the labels.
TIP: Some of the Japanese seed bead manufacturers have recently developed a permanent finish for their galvanized beads. As the colors become available we will bring them into the store. They are designated with a ‘PF’ on our labels. These will maintain their finish for a very long time. Needless to say, this special finish is more expensive to manufacture.
So – what can we do?
Take good care of your pieces. Avoid getting them wet. Store them away from sunlight. Put on hairspray before putting a necklace on. Avoid the use of lotion or perfume where the jewelry touches your skin.
Plan pieces so that beads with delicate finishes do not come in contact with the skin (such as the inner bead of a spiral).
Use Japanese seed beads whenever possible. Besides being cut more uniformly, the Japanese seed beads also retain their colors and finishes better.
So, when selecting your colors enjoy the full spectrum of what is available – just make sure you read the labels and plan accordingly!
We conducted experiments with three different products that have been recommended on various websites and beading magazines as protective coatings for beads. The three we used were Krylon, Jewelry Shield, and White Rain hairspray.
Krylon is a floor-finishing product that comes as an aerosol spray. Krylon must be used in a well-ventilated space. We put sample beads in a zip lock bag, went outside and sprayed Krylon into the bag, rolled the beads around in the bag to get even coverage on the beads, sealed the bag and left it outdoors for 24-hours. The next day the Krylon was still wet, so we opened the bag and left it outside to dry. It turned out we used way too much Krylon, and after it dried, the coating cracked when rubbed. When spraying the Krylon into the bag, it is better to just ‘puff’ into the bag.
Lastly we used Jewelry Shield. Jewelry Shield is a product that was designed to protect sensitive skin from jewelry. Mostly our customers use this if they have an allergy to metal. This seemed like the perfect product to try since it was actually designed to coat jewelry. Jewelry Shield is applied with a brush, like nail polish. We strung the beads on a wire and attached each end of the wire to the clamps on a Third Hand (the Third Hand is a stand with two clips to hold projects, which frees your hands for actually working on the project). This was applied indoors and there was no noticeable odor. As you can imagine this was a slower method of applying a coating than the spray methods mentioned above.
The procedure we used for the White Rain hairspray was the same as with the Krylon, except that the beads were dry the next day. It was easier to control the amount sprayed into the bag because it is a pump.
The metallic beads we tested were the 6/0 Silver Metallic and the 4mm Silver fire polish. We chose these beads because the coatings have worn off on these beads for customers who have acidic skin. Variations in a person’s skin acidity determine who has problems with coating wearing off.
The results of this experiment showed that the Krylon and Jewelry Shield worked the best, as long as they were applied properly. We found that it is easier to coat small quantities of beads with the Jewelry Shield. When working with large quantities of seed beads, it is easier to use the Krylon. The Krylon can be applied after a piece is made, as long as the piece does not contain crystals, pearls or gemstones. The Jewelry Shield can also be applied after construction, as long as care is taken to not let it get on crystals, pearls or gemstones.
The most important thing we can recommend is that you start with using a couple of beads for a trial, until you are comfortable applying the coating.