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quick links: swarovski crystal | czech glass | lampwork glass | furnace glass | seedbeads | glass pearls |

Crystals and glass offer boundless opportunity for color and style combinations. Austrian Swarovski crystal is known worldwide for the quality and precision of its faceted crystal; its shine and sparkle are without compare. Czech glass and crystal are also popular for color clarity and unique cuts and finishes. Lampwork glass is turned over a torch, often by hand, giving it a unique shape with trapped air bubbles. Furnace glass is extruded into rods then cut and tends to be very uniform with high clarity. Japanese Delica seed beads are tiny glass beads and well known for their color richness and tubular uniformity; Czech seed beads tend to be more rounded in shape.

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Since 1895, Swarovski has been creating dazzling crystals and decorating everything from couture dresses to elegant tables. I was first introduced to Swarovski crystals at a local bead store in 2003, and both the saturated color and terrific sparkle were simply a cut above any other glass bead. At that time, there were about a dozen colors and handful of cuts readily available. Today, there are more than 60 colors with a variety of finishes and more than 100 different shapes, from faceted rounds and bicones to intricate pendants and fun fish.

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Pink Delight
Fairy Godmother
Water Lily
Lilac
Mythbusters

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The Bohemia region in the Czech Republic has long been home to the art of creating fine glass and crystal. The first kilns appeared in 1548 and glass engraving arrived soon after. The tradition continued for centuries, providing beautiful products for royalty and the world at large. Under communism, Jablonex was the state-controlled factory suppling glass products, including glass beads. In 2009, much of the holdings in the Jablonec region were acquired by the new company, Preciosa Ornela. Preciosa is located in the heart of the historic "Crystal Valley" region and they have grown product lines comparable to Swarovski crystal. Czech pressed glass is found in a variety of shapes, including leaves, petals, teardrops, daggers and the recently popular spikes. Specialized shapes for beadweaving projects have also gained popularity with the boom in creative beading.

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Bed and Breakfast
The Rain Fell in Sheets
Daffodil
The Pointed Arch
Kunzite No. 4 Robin Goodfellow

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Lampworking describes the process of heating glass with a flame and shaping it. Since the heat source can be a hand held torch, lampworking studios don't require the same footprint as large glassworking factories. Glassblowing demonstrations show the versatility and beauty of the art, and lampwork glass beads can be art in themselves! With sites like Etsy, eBay and others, it's possible to find terrific variety of awesome lampwork beads, such as ones found from Unicorne Beads and Grace Lampwork Beads. Unicorne Beads feature dichroic glass and borosilicate glass for outstanding color and durability; Grace Lampwork Beads use Murano and Raku glass in their darling owls.

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Family Araucariaceae
Lite Delight
Beep, Beep
To the Sea
The Briny Way

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Furnace glass is also known as cane glass and it's formed from extruding long rods or tubes of heated glass then annealing them in a furnace before cutting and polishing. Much like the candy of the same name, cane glass gets its color and pattern by layering thin rods over the core color and twisting for variation. Fire Designs in Washington is popular for outstanding colors and variety.

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Sherbet

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Small glass beads have been used for decoration or currency throughout history, but it was the Italian glassworkers in Venice that developed a process for manufacturing seedbeads on a large scale. Long thin rods or tubes are pulled, cooled, cut and polished to create small pieces of delight. Today, most seedbeads come from Czech or Japanese factories, including the popular Miyuki Delica brand of highly uniform cylindrical beads. Seedbeads may be colored glass or clear glass treated with various coatings on the inside or outside of the clear bead. Metallic coatings are popular, such as thin layers applied in the "aurora borealis (AB)" coatings first advanced by Swarovski in the 50s.

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Tall Tales
Gone Fishing
Flotsam and Jetsam
River Trader
Miners

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Until the development and manufacture of cultured pearls by Mikimoto out of Japan, natural pearls were rare and available only to the most wealthy. Even the wealthy were reluctant to travel with or wear their pearls for fear of damage or theft, all of which fueled a thriving market for glass pearls. Today, inexpensive glass pearls are readily available from popular crystal and glass makers like Swarovski and Preciosa.

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South Seas
Ombre
Exquisite