Monday, July 26, 2010

Favorite Beads: Quartz Gemstones

Everyone has a favorite bead The materials that we are most drawn to can say a lot about us as designers, and as people, too. Our favorite beads always call to us when inspiration is low, and usually when our budget is low, too!

Fellow Oh Canada Team member Molly, of Little Bear’s Mom, shares some thoughts about her most treasured beads.

Hot Pink and Juicy Orange Chalcedony Necklace by Little Bear's Mom
Hot Pink and Juicy Orange Chalcedony Necklace

Inspirational Beading: What is your all-time favorite bead? Why do you like them?

Molly: My absolute favorite material to bead with are beads made from stone. Since that's a pretty broad answer, I'll narrow it down by saying the I particularly like stones from the quartz family. The quartz family of minerals is huge, and includes not only varieties like rose quartz or smoky quartz, but also things like chalcedony, amethyst, chrysoprase, carnelian, citrine, jasper, and agate.

I love that it comes in such a wide variety of naturally occurring colors and that's it's generally quite affordable. There's the lovely minty color of chrysoprase, and rich caramels of carnelian, lovely purple amethyst, and beautifully clear crystal quartz.

Botswana Agate Earrings by Little Bear's Mom
Botswana Agate Coin Earrings

Although I do have a preference for beads made from natural stone (undyed), this is a stone that tends to take dyes well so you can find some really wild colors out there if you're working in a particular color scheme. And the naturally occuring features - like the stripes in agates - can really be enhanced by dyes.

Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite technique or method to use them?

Molly: Most of my jewelry is made by using wire wrapping techniques. I primarily work with silver because it's personally my favorite metal/color, but I also use copper and gold. Sometimes I'll have some beautifully striped agates which are the focus of a piece, and other times I'll use a type of quartz merely as an accent bead among pearls, crystals, or other stones.

If a stone is particularly "showy", I'll form a piece around it. But if I'm just looking to create something in a specific color I'll consider all types of beads within that color scheme. I mostly make charm-style bracelets, so with those I've got to consider what works with what, but with earrings I'm freer to just use one type of bead and focus on its particular beauty.

Smoky Quartz Teardrop Earrings by Little Bear's Mom
Smoky Quartz Teardrop Earrings

Inspirational Beading: Of all the creations you’ve made with these beads, which one is your favorite?

Molly: I absolutely love my smoky quartz teardrop earrings. These beads are so amazingly clear that they have no need for a fancy design or the addition of crystals. They're perfect in their simplicity.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have any tips for making the most of these beads?

Molly: Know when enough is enough. Some varieties of quartz like agates or rutilated quartz, can be quite busy, so it can be better to pair them with plainer or solid color beads, or just use them on their own. On the other hand, some, like rose quartz or chalcedony, make a lovely backdrop for something a little more eyecatching like pearls or sparkly crystals.

Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite bead or material to pair these with?

Petoskey and Tourmalinated Quartz Bracelet by Little Bear's Mom
Petoskey and Tourmalinated Quartz

Molly: I use crystals in nearly all of my pieces, though I also like to use metal and glass beads, and beads made from other types of stone. Tourmalinated quartz, for example, which is milky white shot through with bits of black tourmaline, goes quite nicely with petoskey stone I find, which is grey, but has the added interest of coral fossils. I also like to add something in red to make it pop.

Inspirational Beading: If you were stranded on a deserted island, and you could have only one kind of bead with you, would you choose these?

Molly: Well, since flint is a form of the mineral quartz, yes, I guess I would! This is the advantage to having chosen such a large category. The ability to start fires on a deserted island would be quite useful, and I could also use it to cut things.

Inspirational Beading: In your opinion, what is the best source for these beads?

Molly: For something like faceted chalcedony briolettes, the best source is really other Etsy sellers - those that sell supplies. This sort of bead is more expensive, and if you're not going to need a huge quantity, why order more than you need?

Also, they tend to have better quality stones than the larger retailers. I've ordered a few things that I just don't feel that I can use in my own creations because the stones are too flawed...too many occlusions, strangely shaped, or the holes are all wonky.

Rutilated Quartz Earrings by Little Bear's Mom
Rutilated Quartz Earrings

Actually, even when I'm not looking for briolettes, I prefer to buy most of my stone beads from Etsy supply sellers because the quality is really hit or miss at other places like Fire Mountain Gems. I use larger retailers for things like crystals, glass, and metal beads, sometimes pearls, but smaller is better when you're dealing with stones.

Also, you've got a real person sizing up the beads (if you're looking for matched pairs), and describing the quality, and they generally take better - and more - pictures so you've got a clearer idea of what you're buying. And living in Canada, when you order in small quantities you're usually under the radar in terms of duties, but ordering from a "store" you're not.

Copyright 2010 Inspirational Beading and Little Bear's Mom


  1. wow - a gem of a post, fascinating & informative. thank you Molly & Mortira! I love petosky stones ♥

  2. Very interesting post. Love the choice of stone for a desert island.

  3. Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects - beads! And for being so patient with me :)

  4. Well done, Molly and Mortira!!! So interesting!


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