Stitch Pro: Galvanized Seed Beads 101
Hands down, my favorite type of seed bead is a shiny, metallic one. I just love the way they resemble hammered metal when they're stitched together, and they provide such a nice contrast to matte seed beads. Back in the day, I bought all kinds of these metallic seed beads, even though I'd been warned that their galvanized finish was unstable. Imagine my delight when the permanent-finish versions came on the market…I figure you can never have enough silver, gold, bronze, copper, or nickel seed beads (or, for that matter, metallic mauve, lime, cranberry, or pumpkin ones!). During my love affair with these metallic beauties, I've learned a thing or two about both the galvanized and permanent finish versions:
-Galvanized beads have a clear seed bead at their core to which a special finish has been added. This finish is pretty thick, so your galvanized seed beads may be slightly (we're talking micromilimeters) larger than other seed beads in your project. With a few beads here and there it won't really add up to much, but if you're using all galvanized beads, you might end up with a slightly larger finished piece than planned.
-If you had garlic and red wine for dinner the night before using a galvanized bead, chances are you're going to strip the metallic finish right off as you work with it. Same goes for nerves–whenever I've got a deadline and I'm stitching like mad with galvanized beads, the finish wears pretty thin. It has something to do with the naturally occurring acid coming from your fingers, and is definitely something to watch out for.
-Whether you're a garlic-eater or not, it's not a bad idea to spray your galvanized seed beads with clear Krylon before working with them so you can help seal that unstable finish. There are a couple of good ways to do this. For Czech seed beads, hang the hank outside (in a tree, on a pole, etc.). Spray the hank and shake it, spray and shake, then let dry. For loose Japanese seed beads, place a handful in a plastic baggie, spray the Krylon inside the bag (no huffing!), shake the bag thoroughly, and then dump them out on waxed paper to let dry.
-Once your piece is finished, consider dipping it in clear acrylic floor polish. This doesn't mean the finish won't rub off over time, since the polish can wear away, too, but it will sure help. (Learn how to "dip" by clicking here.)
-Contrary to the name, "permanent finish" galvanized seed beads don't really have a permanent finish, but they are much more stable than their predecessors. Oh, I've heard of red-wine drinking, garlic eating, nervous Nellie types stripping the finish off of these when they wear the pieces they stitched with them, but I'm at least a couple of those adjectives, and haven't had any problems so far. In any case, it's not a bad idea to seal them with the techniques described above, especially that dipping technique.
-I've found the coating of this type of seed bead to be especially thick, so they often have plugged-up holes that aren't really worth spending the time to ream out. Just be sure to carefully cull your beads, choosing only those with wide holes, especially if the pattern requires many thread passes. (Save the thin-hole ones for stringing, or throw them over your shoulder for good luck!)
-Because of their extra-thick coating (even thicker than the galvanized type), these beads often look one size larger than how they're listed. For instance, a size 11 seed bead might look like a size 10. It's not a huge deal, but if you're working on a pattern that uses a non-metallic bead and you interchange it with a permanent finish galvanized one, you may run into some sizing issues.
Want to learn more about using, interchanging, and substituting metallic beads? Melinda Barta is giving a really informative webinar this Friday, June 21 at noon (Mountain Time) that will touch on this. In The Dos and Don'ts of Bead Substitutions, she'll discuss not only seed bead substitutions, but all kinds of bead similarities and differences. It's full of must-know information, and if you do any type of beadwork, do yourself a favor and sign up to save your spot.
What has been your experience with galvanized or permanent finish seed beads? Do you love them like I do? Share your thoughts here on Inside Beadwork Magazine.
Senior editor, Beadwork magazine