Alternatives to Using Crystal Beads In Your Beading Projects

What I'm about to tell you is something that I've never before declared publicly. You may be shocked. You may be appalled. You may even urge me to seek counseling. But it needs to be said, so here it goes:

I designed this necklace using just vintage glass stones and vintage glass pearls. No crystals needed for some serious bling!

I've never particularly liked using crystal beads.

Now, it's not that I don't enjoy using a crystal bead or stone in my work from time to time. They're pretty, they sparkle, and crystal beads are available in a huge range of colors, finishes, and shapes. But still, I sometimes feel like their sparkle can be a distraction from the beadwork itself. Being kind of a bead maven for the last ten years or so, I've always tried to keep an open mind about the materials that I used in my bead-weaving and jewelry making projects, but if you took a good look at my enormous bead stash, you'd notice a distinct lack of one particular type of bead: crystals.

And, really, I've never seen myself as a sparkly-kinda-gal. Maybe it was because I was more of a tomboy growing up, or maybe it was because I've always felt drawn to natural gemstones for my beading projects.

So whenever I've come across a beading project that calls for crystal beads or stones, I turn to my enormous bead stash to see what I can come up with to substitute for the crystals called for in the materials. Chances are, you probably have a lot of these in your stash, too!

Czech Glass Beads As Substitutes for Crystals

Ever since I was a baby beader, I've been drawn to the amazing range of colors and shapes of Czech glass beads available in bead shops and online. The last few years have been very exciting for me as a beader as I've watched new shapes, styles, and colors of Czech glass beads hitting the market.

My favorite type of Czech glass bead to use as a substitute for crystals is the round glass druk. With all the colors and finishes available, I can easily stock up on these beautiful glass beads for use in all of my beading projects. Another good option is to use a fire polished bead, with an AB coating for extra pizazz, if that's what you want.

Czech glass bicones may not work in a beading project that calls for crystal bicones, since their shape is often a bit "fatter" than than the crystal beads. But if you feel comfortable making a few adjustments to your project instructions, you can discover new ways to include these beautiful beads in your jewelry-making projects.

Gemstones As a Substitute for Crystals

Instead of using crystal drops, you could easily substitute gemstone briolettes in Marcia DeCoster's Little Black Dress Earrings.

If you want to give your crystal beading project an earthier look, there's no better bead to use than a gemstone bead. Gemstone beads are available in an incredible array of shapes, sizes, and materials these days, and given the choice, I'll splurge on a strand of tiny 3mm gemstone rounds over a packet of crystal beads.

Briolette cut gemstones are more popular than ever these days, and they can be substituted very easily for a crystal briolette or crystal drop bead in most beading projects.

Keep in mind that some gemstone beads can be heavier than crystals, so you may want to or need to reinforce your beadwork with extra thread paths to make sure it holds up well.

Vintage Czech Glass Stones As a Substitute for Crystal Stones

Vintage Czech glass stones work just as well as crystal stones for many beading projects.

Sure, crystal stones like Rivolis are sparkly and all that, but something about them just leaves me cold. If a beading project calls for a crystal stone, I'm more likely to turn to my extensive collection of vintage Czech glass stones as a substitute.

I can't remember where I bought my first vintage Czech glass stone, but it was most likely at a trunk show at my local bead shop. Since then, I've found a few great sources for finding these little glass treasures, mostly on eBay and Etsy. Other great sources include A Grain of Sand, Beadin' Path, and Earthly Adornments.

What I love about the Czech glass stones as a substitute for crystal stones is their subtlety. They're clear and sparkling and beautiful in their own right, without all the flash of a crystal stone, allowing the beadwork to take center stage.

When using vintage Czech glass stones in your beading projects, be mindful that some of them can be fragile and chip easily.

Why Use Something Besides Crystal Beads?

There are lots of reasons why I can think of to substitute gemstones or glass for crystal beads. If you use a slightly different type of bead in a beading project, you give that project an entirely new look — which can be a good thing. You may find a color of glass bead or a particular gemstone that speaks to you, and substituting that type of bead for a crystal bead is a great way to express your own individuality through your beading projects.

Cost may or may not be a factor when considering a substitute for crystal beads. Some gemstone beads can cost just as much or more than their crystal bead counterparts, so really think about making substitutes for your crystal beads more about a way of expressing your own personality than about saving money when it comes to your beading projects.

If you're looking for more ways to express yourself through your jewelry-making projects, you won't want to miss Beads, Baubles, and Jewels Series 1800. Each of thirteen episodes in Series 1800 is full of great jewelry-making tutorials, tips, and ideas from some of today's top jewelry artists. Whether you're an experienced jewelry artist or just a beginner looking for new ways to get creative with jewelry, make sure you pre-order your copy of Beads, Baubles, and Jewels Series 1800 on DVD.

Do you have a suggestion for swapping out crystal beads with another type of bead? What's worked for you, and more importantly, what hasn't worked? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your experiences with us!

Bead Happy,


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