Ask the Expert: Seed Bead Finishes Part 2 with Guest Blogger Beki Haley

Welcome back! In yesterday's post, we talked about metallic and galvanized seed beads. Today, we'll discuss the new hybrid seed beads from Toho, dyed seed beads, and ways to prolong the life of your metallic and coated seed beads.

Permanent galvanized matte seed beads from Toho
Rose gold metallic multi iris matte seed beads

Copper duracoat seed bead by Miyuki

New Hybrid Seed Beads from Toho

The coating on these new hybrid seed beads is applied in the Czech Republic, meaning the bead was made in Japan, and the additional coating was applied in the Czech Republic. There will always be issues now and then with durability. As we discover that a hybrid coating is not durable, it is not being reproduced. Most of the marbled or Picasso coatings seem to be holding up just fine. Testing against UV exposure, chemicals and wear have had great results so far. Some of the heavy metallic coatings did not hold up as well as expected. Several of them have been removed from the product lines and will not be reproduced. As more ideas present themselves for this innovative way to produce interesting colors and finishes, market testing will need to be the judge of what holds up over time.

Dyed Seed Beads

Surface-dyed beads, while very pretty with their bright pinks and purples, do not hold up well over time. They not only fade from UV light or any contact with chemicals, but they can also bleed onto other surfaces they may come into contact with. While I personally never use them (I just value my time too much to risk using a color that will not remain that color over time), I did carry them at one time, against my better judgment. We labeled them with bright orange labels and added a second label that noted the bead was dyed. We had signs in our store and in our paper catalog (pre-Internet days) warning people that the beads were not durable and that the color would come off eventually.

One particularly bad experience was with a very good customer of ours who made custom leather coats, extensively hand-embellished with beadwork. She sold her coats to musicians and actors. The staff member who waited on her one day neglected to tell her that one of the colors she was buying was dyed. She created a full-length coat in white elk skin for her client, with thousands of strands of hand-cut fringe. The custom beadwork for this coat took about two hundred hours to complete. Within three days, the buyer of the coat requested a refund because the bright pink beads she had used had gotten wet and bled into the white leather, destroying it. She called me in tears the next day. I removed all the surface-dyed beads from our stock that very day, and I've never looked back. The thought of that happening to one of my customers ever again would be horrific-any loss in sales would never equal what my one single customer went through.

So What Is a Seed Bead Lover To Do?

I never recommend treating seed beads with acrylic coatings for several reasons. The acrylic coating will wear off, just like nail polish wears off your nails, and then you're still left with an unstable bead finish. Coatings can dull or distort the actual color of the bead and can also attract dust and dirt over time, making the beadwork look dirty and dingy, which is never a good thing.

Instead, you should never wear your beadwork when coming in contact with water. Always store beadwork covered, either wrapped in material or stored in a dark box. Put your jewelry on after you have applied any aerosol sprays or perfumes. Know your pH level and if it is high (like mine), be aware that you will wear through even durable metallic finishes faster than the average person.

You can normally test how well a bead will hold up with your skin type by putting the bead in some of your saliva for a few minutes, then rubbing the bead to see if the color has altered. While not a fun thing to do in public, sometimes stores will allow you take a small sample home for testing. Many times just rubbing the bead in the palm of your hand will also give you an idea if the finish will alter with your skin type.

Some of the fancy (and more expensive) matte metallic finishes are also prone to wear because the surface of the bead is slightly porous after the matting process. These pores can fill up with your skin oils and alter the appearance of the bead. In this case, the color isn't necessarily wearing off but is being changed by your naturally occurring skin oils.

It helps to be mindful of these things when designing your jewelry. Don't use a metallic bead as the base for a bracelet – use a non-metallic color where the jewelry will be in constant contact with your skin.

Final Thoughts About Seed Beads

There really are no rules when it comes to playing with shapes, sizes, finishes, which country the seed bead came from, or which colors "should" go together. Just play. Explore. Have fun! Create and be happy.

There's no question that Beki Haley loves seed beads. As the owner of Whimbeads, she gets to spend her days (mostly) working around and with seed beads. You can visit Beki's website, Whimbeads, or find her at bead shows around the United States.


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