Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bead Spotlight: Natural Bone

The art of bead making is hundreds of thousands of years old, and one of the first materials that primitive humans used to create their jewelry and adornments is bone. Readily available, easy to carve, and receptive to dyes, bone was ideal for bead making, and continues to be so today.

Most bone beads available to crafters and designers are made from the discarded bones of domestic animals like cows, camels, and sheep. They can be carved, polished, and dyed to create a wide variety of accent beads and unique focals with primitive, traditional, or modern styles. Here are just a few examples of fabulous bone beads for jewelry making:

Blue Bone Rondelles
From World’s Edge Beads

Bone Dice Beads
From Happy Mango Beads

Natural Bone Rondelles

Carved Bone Skull Beads
From Hemp Hutt

Yellow Tan Carved Bone Tubes
From Happy Mango Beads

Carved Ox Bone Koi Fish

Elephant Motif Three Hole Beads
From Nepal Beads

Red Bone Oval Frame Beads
From Dragon Bead

Found Fish Bone Beads
From Original Cyn

Most bone beads are created with common bead shapes, and can be used in the same ways as gemstones or glass. Here are some fun project ideas using bone beads, including a few that are inspired by the bones themselves:

Ancient Roman Glass Necklace Tutorial
by Keirsten Giles

Carved Bone Flower Bracelet Project
by Lorri Ely

DIY Pebbles Flintstone Necklace
by Look What Melissa Made

DIY Sparkly Bone Necklace
by Cateaclysmic

Bead Collector's Bone Necklace Project
by Marlynn McNutt and Fire Mountain Gems

Also check out a copper and bone necklace tutorial by Cyndi Lavin at Beading Arts, and how to make a lampwork bone bead on For the Love of Beads.

For the more adventurous designer, carving and shaping custom bone beads is a lot easier than it sounds. Nature provides a great many sources for found bones that can be used as-is - with a little bleaching and drying - or carved and dyed to make unique beads. This Maori hook pendant tutorial by Calvin of Maker Weekend uses pre-dried bones from pet supply stores! If you’re thinking of giving it a shot, remember to wear protective gear, including goggles and a quality dust mask, as the tiny particles from cutting and sanding bone pose a health hazard if inhaled.

Blooming Vertebrae Pendant
By Silentcheesecake

What do you think of bone beads? What’s your favorite way to use them?

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  1. wow, blooming vertebrae...interesting piece :)

  2. Bone beads are great and you've got some yummy examples here. I like've inspired me to use them more! :-] Outstanding photos btw.

  3. My favorite bone beads are those carved in a scrimshaw style. Am always amazed at detail in the carvings and how the off white bone accents the lines. Wonderful post!


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